The realme Buds Air was quite a decent pair of True Wireless Earbuds for its price, offering premium features such as a USB-C interface, and wireless charging combined with a sound that’s likable in many ways, it was also priced reasonably well.
Now though, the game-changing brand is back at it with a new iteration. The realme Buds Air Neo shares most of the core features of its predecessor, but here’s the thing, these are half the price of the regular Buds Air.
As such, it’ll be very interesting to find out as to how this product fares, given the trimmed features, which could affect the user experience.
Here’s a quick specs comparison:
|Buds Air||Buds Air Neo|
|Dimensions (Case)||51.3 x 45.3 x 25.3mm||51.3 x 45.25 x 25.3mm|
|Weight (Earbud)||4.1g (Single)||4.1g (Single)|
|Driver||Dynamic Bass Boost||Dynamic Bass Boost|
|Google Fast Pair||Supported||Supported|
Design, Build Quality, Controls
If you put them side by side, you probably wouldn’t notice any difference between the Buds Air and the Buds Air Neo. realme has retained mostly the same design for the case and the earbuds themselves, but if you look at the actual specifications, the latter’s case is actually only a tiny bit smaller.
The hinge on the Neo is slightly smaller than on the regular variant. The company has also gotten rid of the product information at the bottom of the Neo’s case. Lastly, the Neo uses a standard microUSB port compared to the Type-C port on the Buds Air.
Despite being made of plastic (mostly), the case and earbuds didn’t really feel like they’ll break with one drop. They actually feel well-made. I’ve already dropped the case of the unit I was using for review, and so far, no scratches, and the device still works.
The case of the Buds Air Neo also weighs around 10 grams less than the Buds Air, though it’s kind of hard to tell. The earbuds themselves weigh the same on both products.
Like the Buds Air, Buds Air Neo also has an LED light to tell you how much battery is left in the case, and a dedicated button for pairing the earbuds. The touch panels on each earbud allow you to control playback (play, pause, skip, return), answer calls, launch your voice assistant, and enable or disable super-low latency.
There’s a noticeable delay in response, around 1 to 1.5 seconds before the touch gesture “registers.”
What I find odd is that there’s no gesture to control the volume. This means you’ll have to pull out your phone or whatever device it’s connected to, which can be a hassle in certain situations.
The absence of an optical sensor means that the Buds Air Neo does not recognize when it’s being worn or not, and therefore, it will not stop playback automatically when you remove them from your ears.
Comfort and Isolation
While I’m not a fan of the AirPods-like design of the Buds Air Neo, they certainly feel very light and comfortable when worn. Getting a good seal can be a chore, and even when you do, these still don’t block as much noise as in-ear models do.
But then again, in-ears could cause a bit of discomfort when worn for long hours, while the Buds Air Neo, I can wear these for hours without any issues.
Connectivity, Latency, Stability
realme claims an effective range of 10 meters, which is more or less where I got to before the sound started to experience major drops.
Within effective range, the earbuds consistently remained connected even when the source device was in my pocket, or when I was moving about.
A long press on both earbuds will activate Game Mode or Super Low Latency, which literally reduces the audio delay between your device and the earbuds. Helpful when you’re gaming and communicating with your teammates.
While not for bassheads, the Buds Air Neo offers a well-controlled punch on the low-end. In Nothing Really Matters by Tiesto, the lows offer enough impact to get things going without overpowering the other frequencies as if it knows when to claim the spotlight and when to give it back to the singer.
Vocals aren’t too forward, but are given enough emphasis to shine. “s” sounds come across with good clarity and body. In Emotions by Destiny’s Child, vocals aren’t in your face, they are distant enough that you can still enjoy the details.
The treble on these earbuds can be quite sharp at around 80% volume, perhaps a bit too sharp. Go below that though, and you’ll experience a properly sparkly high-end that’s not piercing, and not too bright.
Buds Air Neo can be quite loud. Depending on the genre, I usually listen to around 60% at most. Soundstage? not in your face, definitely. It’s as if the band was playing two to three rows ahead. Instrument separation isn’t as emphasized, but there’s enough detail so you can discern the pieces.
Unlike in the Buds Air, you don’t get ENC or Environmental Noise Cancellation here. In any case, the sound through the microphone shows average clarity, enough for the person on the other end to understand you.
realme claims three hours of uptime in a single charge, which is what I got with continuous music playback at around 50% to 60% volume. While that doesn’t look seem impressive, it should be enough for a typical commute to school or work. The case should be able to give at least four more full charges.
It may not have wireless charging, auto-off when taken off your ear, or even ENC, but you still get good sound quality and comfort plus decently responsive touch controls.
It’s not free of room for improvement – battery life is dismal compared to some of the other TWS Earbuds I’ve tried, you can’t control the volume via touch, microphone performance is only average at best, and the microUSB port makes me feel like we’re back in 2018.
But then again, do remember that this only costs PhP1,990 – that’s half the price of the Buds Air. If you really want the missing features, definitely go for the regular Buds Air, but the Neo is still a great option for those who prioritize sound and comfort over the added features.