If you’re not ready to cut the cord with true wireless, or you can’t stand a bulky charging case, or you don’t want to spend the extra money, then Apple’s PowerBeats 4 may be the ultimate gym headphones, offering the best of all worlds.
The Powerbeats lineup has been arguably the best gym/everyday headphones for years now. PowerBeats 3 were great, but the PowerBeats Pro were the first in the series to look and sound like Apple headphones. Powerbeats 4 combines the best of all worlds: incredible battery life, they’re ultra-portable, they offer great usability, water and sweat resistance, an Apple H1 processor, and they’re packed with Apple’s emphasis on speaker and microphone quality.
The design of Powerbeats is iconic at this point, and Powerbeats 4 is a big improvement over the 3s. To that effect, they look almost the same as the Pros. The cable that tethers the bud is thicker and now comes out of the bottom of the ear hook. It’s better if you like the cable wrapped around the back of your head, otherwise, it doesn’t make such a huge difference. The buds feel noticeably more durable than the 3s, which is good because it only comes with a little soft pouch instead of a rubberized shell.
Like the Powerbeat Pros, the controls are built into the buds and not attached to the cable. This is a solid usability upgrade. One of the bud’s “b” logo is the multi-function button for pausing/playing, skipping tracks, and activating your voice assistant. If your iOS device supports “hey, Siri” then you can activate Siri hands-free. The Apple H1 chip makes this possible. Siri will even read your updates/messages as they come in. There’s a volume rocker on the top of one bud and a power/pairing on the other. Like many aspects of these new Powerbeats, the buttons are an improvement over the predecessor but not quite as good as the Pros. The Pros have a volume rocker and multifunction button on both buds.
The battery lasts for an insane 15-hour battery. It charges with a standard lightning cable and there’s a USB-A version included. There’s a “fast fuel” speed charge feature that gives you an hour of battery with a five-minute charge. Fast Fuel has been a workout saver.
We applaud Apple for having some of the best headphone microphones out there. Few microphones sound as clean and crisp as the actual handset’s mic. We take all of our work calls on these headphones, even if they’re not handy at the time of the call. The call and microphone quality is about on par with the Powerbeat Pros and AirPods, and they blow most headphones out of the water. They excel at focusing on your voice and reducing background noise. They’re also just really comfortable and natural to speak into.
The sound quality on Powerbeats 4 is good but a bit light on bass. They’re as great for everyday listening as they are at the gym, with superb detail, clear mids, and crisp highs. Voices shine through with a lot of power and detail, and the headphones are generous to just about every genre. They’re more bright than warm, considering the light bass. There’s, unfortunately, no tuning options or even an app for configuration.
The Powerbeats lineup is still among our favorite in-ear headphones for the gym and on-the-go. The ear hooks make them the most secure and comfortable headphones we’ve used. Even through intense runs, there’s never the feeling that a bud is about to fall out. You rarely, if ever, need to even push them back into your ear to re-set them. Considering there’s a pretty big price difference between the Powerbeats 3s, 4s, and Pros, it’s a tough call which to choose. The Pros price in at about $250. They offer all the best features and the only drawbacks are the premium cost and the bulky case. The bulky case had us using the 3s whenever we ever needed a pair of buds we could easily pocket. The 3s cost just $80, but are missing “hey Siri”, the more durable build, class 1 Bluetooth, and the new usability.
The new Powerbeats 4 cost $150 and really offer the best of all worlds. Other than light bass, we have few criticisms. They’re portable and easy to pocket, the 15-hour battery lasts seems to last forever, the usability and “hey Siri” make life easy, our phone calls sound incredible, and when it comes to sonics they sound great! We’d absolutely recommend a pair of Powerbeats, especially if a secure fit has ever been a concern for you. That said, choosing between the three is a tough call and depends on your needs and budget. Powerbeats 3 are a great deal at $80 but Powerbeats 4 should last you longer with their improved internals and externals. If you can get the Pros at a discount and don’t mind the bulky case, that’d be a great purchase too. Thankfully you can’t go wrong. The Apple Powerbeats 4 are currently available from Amazon for $149.99 in black, white, and red.