Apple Airpods (3rd Gen) review: an excellent choice for music-lovers and workout fanatics alike

We put the 3rd Gen Apple AirPods to the test at home, on-the-go, and during more rigorous activity to assess their performance. Find out how they fared.

Woman running and wearing Apple AirPods
(Image credit: Apple AirPods)
Livingetc Verdict

The newest AirPods offer great, high-quality sound and weather resistance, making them perfect for workouts and prolonged use. Though they may not fit everyone perfectly, iPhone users will appreciate Siri integration, which allows for hands-free control in certain situations.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Excellent spatial audio

  • +

    Sweat and water resistant

  • +

    Upgraded, super-sleek design

  • +

    Solid battery life

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    May not fit everyone's ears comfortably

  • -

    Physical controls take a while to get used to

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As Apple's entry-level wireless headphones, the AirPods (3rd Gen) are a way for most people to get the benefits of the company's own product at a slightly less eye-watering price point. With the original AirPods launching back in 2016, the outer design and inner technology have developed somewhat, and they have become some of the most popular earbuds around.

The third-generation Pods boast advanced features such as background noise filtering, optical sensors for detecting their position in the ear, and in-built Siri support - all alongside excellent audio playback and a wireless charging case for extended battery life on the go.

Having tried out some of the best workout headphones over the years, we were very keen to test the latest Apple AirPods ourselves, assessing them based on comfort, audio quality, effectiveness (and usefulness) of those additional features, and more. Keep reading to see what we thought.

Apple Airpods: Key info

  • True wireless? Yes
  • Water resistant? Yes
  • Built-in microphone? Yes, with Siri quick access
  • Battery life: 6 hours listening time (30 hours with case)
  • Dimensions: H1.2 x W0.72 x D0.76in

Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) beside their charging case while being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Airpods: Design

The AirPods have had a slight glow-up compared to previous generations, with a new contoured shape with shorter stems. In pure white with black controls, the shape is designed to fit comfortably in the ear, but there are no ear tips as you might find in other wireless buds. The charging case is all curves, with a lightning connector at the bottom for charging.

There's no doubt that the AirPods look great, with a sleek, smooth surface that feels high quality straight away. We have traditionally had a lot of problems with earbuds fitting our ears comfortably, and unfortunately, these were no different. Over thirty years of having this problem does suggest that it's an us problem rather than something wrong with Apple's design, however. 

The loose, slightly uncomfortable fit also meant that they gradually worked their way out of the ears even when sitting down, and we were forced to regularly adjust their positioning while walking. We also found the stem squeeze method of controlling the AirPods a little hard to master, but it worked well after we had gotten used to it. 

Apple AirPods battery life display on writer's iPhone screen

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Airpods: Set-up and performance

The setup for the AirPods is ludicrously easy if you have an iPhone. After sitting down at our desk to open the package, we were confronted with a message on our phone screen before we even unpacked the headphones themselves. We tapped 'connect,' and from there, we were free to use the AirPods as we pleased.

Without expectations about the headphones beyond their role as wireless earbuds, we were blown away by what they could do. We've never tried in-ear headphones that sound as good as this, for one, and music sounds sublime. Whether it was Fleetwood Mac or Girls Aloud, songs were clear and resonate every time. We also tried the devices out with private listening on our Roku TV, and the roaring engine sounds from a Netflix documentary about the missing MH370 flight sounded absolutely fantastic.

The compatibility with your iPhone is also really impressive. Much of this isn't new for the 3rd Gen AirPods, but the way the buds can sense when they've been removed from the ear, pausing playback, is so useful. Even better is their ability to resume what you were listening to when reinserted.

Of course, as workout headphones, the AirPods are also sweat and water-resistant (IPX4), and there is Siri integration for hands-free control. There's, unfortunately no support for Apple Music's lossless audio, but they do have spatial audio and adaptive EQ. This puts them in line with the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.

The 3rd Gen AirPods also have solid battery life, stretching to up to 30 hours on certain settings. This drops significantly if you have spatial audio enabled, but we were able to get several charges out of our case before needing to plug back in for more juice.

Apple AirPods (3rd generation)

(Image credit: Apple AirPods (3rd generation))

Apple Airpods: Our verdict

The latest Apple AirPods are truly excellent headphones for immersive audio in a high-quality, sleek, and modern package. Battery life is excellent, and sweat and weather resistance make them ideal for working out and wearing for long periods. Unfortunately, we still found the buds slightly uncomfortable and insecure in our ears, but this could be particular to us rather than a universal problem. 

Still, iPhone users should be delighted with the overall performance here, and Siri integration is amazing for those who want truly hands-free control of their earphones in certain situations. 

More on Apple Airpods

Caroline Preece
Smart Homes Ecommerce Editor

Caroline is the smart home ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.