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Compared: New AirPods versus AirPods Pro

Credit: Apple

Apple has launched a new generation of AirPods that borrow both the design and features of the AirPods Pro. But how do the third-generation AirPods compare to their Pro counterparts?

The third-generation AirPods, released during Apple's Oct. 18 "Unleashed" event, bring a slate of changes to the widely popular earphone lineup. However, they're still missing a couple of important features that can be found on the AirPods Pro.

Here's how the new third-generation AirPods stack up against Apple's existing AirPods Pro.

New AirPods versus AirPods Pro: Specifications

 AirPods (Gen 3)AirPods Pro
Dimensions (inches)1.21 x 0.75 x 0.761.22 x 0.86 x 0.94
Weight (ounces)0.150.19
Case Dimensions (inches)1.83 x 2.14 x 0.841.78 x 2.39 x 0.85
Case Weight (ounces)1.341.61
Battery Life (earbuds)6 hours4.5 hours with ANC
Battery Life (with case)Up to 30 hoursUp to 24 hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.0
MicrophonesDual beamforming microphones,
Inward-facing microphone
Dual beamforming microphones,
Inward-facing microphone
SensorsSkin-detect sensor,
motion-detecting accelerometer,
speech-detecting accelerometer,
Force sensor
Dual optical sensors,
motion-detecting accelerometer,
speech-detecting accelerometer,
Force sensor
Sweat and Water ResistanceIPX4IPX4
Active Noise CancellationNoYes
Spatial AudioYesYes

New AirPods versus AirPods Pro: Design and Dimensions

Third-generation AirPods are now housed in a more squat case, like the AirPods Pro here.
Third-generation AirPods are now housed in a more squat case, like the AirPods Pro here.

Apple's third-generation AirPods measures 1.21 by 0.76 by 0.72 inches and weigh 0.15 ounces.

AirPods Pro, on the other hand, are marginally larger and heavier at 1.22 by 0.94 by 0.86 inches and 0.19 ounces. You probably won't notice the weight or size difference unless you happen to be wearing one of each.

On the design side, both of the AirPods models are more similar to each other than previous base model AirPods. They feature the same angled design that's reminiscent of a hairdryer. The primary difference is that AirPods Pro sport interchangeable ear tips, while the third-generation AirPods do not. Additionally, the earpiece on the third-gen model isn't quite as thin as the AirPods Pro's.

The cases are also fairly similar in design but differ in exact dimensions. The third gen's case measures 1.83 x 2.14 x 0.84 and weighs 1.34 ounces. The AirPods Pro case is 1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85 inches and weighs 1.61 ounces.

The third-generation AirPods case, although more squat than their predecessors, is still slightly taller than the AirPods Pro case. The AirPods Pro case isn't quite as tall, but is slightly wider and heavier.

Apple AirPods 3 earbuds

AirPods (3rd Generation)

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) feature Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking. Prices are in USD and are subject to change at any time.

New AirPods versus AirPods Pro: Features

As an improvement over the second-generation AirPods, the new third-generation AirPods have additional features previously seen on the Pro models. That includes Spatial Audio support and adaptive EQ.

The AirPods Pro, of course, also have those features. The most important distinction between the two models is that the AirPods Pro also offer active noise cancellation (ANC), as well as a transparency mode.

On the sensor side, the two models are pretty evenly matched. The third-generation AirPods have the same force touch sensor as their pricier counterparts allowing users to control audio playback and summon Siri. However, the third-generation AirPods use a skin-detect sensor instead of the dual optical sensor suite on the AirPods Pro.

New AirPods versus AirPods Pro: Battery Life

Both the third-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro now feature MagSafe charging cases.
Both the third-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro now feature MagSafe charging cases.

Apple says the third-generation AirPods offer six hours of listening time. However, that estimate goes down to five hours if you're using Spatial Audio. When used with the MagSafe Charging Case, the third-gen AirPods model offers up to 30 hours of total listening time, and up to 20 hours of talk time.

Apple's AirPods Pro actually have less listening time if their active noise cancellation feature is enabled — just 4.5 hours. Its included charging case offers up to 24 hours of additional listening time.

The third-generation AirPods case features MagSafe-compatible wireless charging. With the launch of the third-generation AirPods, Apple has added that same compatibility to the AirPods Pro case, though you'll need to make sure it's the correct and updated model if you're buying one from a third-party retailer.

New AirPods versus AirPods Pro: Connectivity and Other Details

Both the third-generation AIrPods and the AirPods Pro sport an Apple H1 chip and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. That means you should be similar connectivity performance across both models.

In a change from the previous generation, the third-gen AirPods also carry an IPX4 water-resistance rating — the same as the AirPods Pro. It's not rated for submersion, but should be resistant to splashes, sweat, or a light rain.

Both models are only available in white, but can be personalized with an engraving. It remains to be seen whether AirPods Pro covers and case accessory are compatible with third-generation AirPods, given the slight differences in size.

New AirPods versus AirPods Pro: Pricing

Third-gen AirPods and AirPods Pro are similarly spec'd, but the former lacks the ANC capabilities of the latter.
Third-gen AirPods and AirPods Pro are similarly spec'd, but the former lacks the ANC capabilities of the latter.

Apple's third-generation AirPods cost $179, which is a price reduction over the previous full retail price of the second-generation AirPods.

AirPods Pro cost more, retailing for $249. However, as mentioned, that price now includes a MagSafe-compatible charging case — provided you buy the appropriate model new.

New AirPods versus AirPods Pro: Similar feature set, but know what you're missing

The third-generatiopn AirPods are an improvement over the second-generation, bringing a suite of incremental but welcome changes. However, comparing them to the AirPods Pro is a bit trickier.

If you're in the market for a new pair of wireless headphones and don't necessarily need active noise cancellation, then you'll probably be well-served by the third-generation AirPods. They're cheaper, feature-rich, and have a longer battery life than the AirPods Pro.

However, users who are looking for headphones with ANC should look to the AirPods Pro. The sound quality is exceptional, and both ANC and Transparency Mode are incredibly useful features to have on a pair of headphones.

It's also worth noting that second-generation AirPods don't fit into everyone's ears, given their lack of ear tips. Although the interchangeable ear tips provide a more custom fit for all users, they may be the only Apple earbuds that can fit for others. Just something to keep in mind.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can generally find AirPods Pro cheaper online than buying directly from Apple. If both AirPods and AirPods Pro are in the same general price range at a third-party retailer, it gets harder to recommend the third-generation unless you don't like the ear tips or you absolutely need an additional few hours of battery life