Beats Powerbeats review – Cheap Powerbeats Pro alternative packs a punch

Easier on the wallet and with longer battery life, these 'non-Pro' Powerbeats still make an excellent training partner

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Beats Powerbeats Review: Pictured here, young woman using a slm ball in a gym
(Image credit: Beats)
T3 Verdict

Sweat-resistant and featuring an excellent, snug fit in the ears, the Beats Powerbeats remain a brilliant set of running or workout headphones. The addition of a cable may annoy some, but it equates to jacked-up battery life over its Pro siblings, with all of the same hands-free telephony tech.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Perfect fit

  • +

    Very punchy sound

  • +

    Innovative features

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    The cable might irk some folk

  • -

    If you don't like over-ear hooks you won't like these

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Beats Powerbeats review in a sentence: if you aren't ready to make the move to true wireless – these have a wire between the buds, which makes them harder to lose but a little more annoying to wear – there are no finer workout buds than these.

We've covered some of the best workout headphones in our extensive best running headphones feature, which highlights what we believe to be the best sweat-resistant fitness buds currently on sale.

It might come as no surprise that the Beats Powerbeats came top of the list, featuring all of the brilliant properties of the wireless Powerbeats Pro, but at a much lower price point. 

Beats by Dr Dre may now be affectionately known as simply Beats since tech giant Apple parted with $3 billion to acquire it, but they still pack the same iconic sound, albeit one with a slightly toned down bass note, and great features that make them perfect for donning during a gruelling gym session or long run.

Granted, users will have to put up with a small but ergonomically designed wire that dangles around the back of the neck, but it is a small price to pay for the savings you can make over the true wireless versions. 

Beats Powerbeats on white background

(Image credit: Apple)

Beats Powerbeats review: Design

Much of the overall design has been crafted with some form of exercise in mind, with an innovative adjustable ear hook looping around the user's ear to keep the unit in place and a selection of different-sized rubber tips pushing up into the ear canal.

Admittedly, getting things in place the first time takes a little getting used to, but once the method is nailed, it is very difficult to shift the Powerbeats, even when performing some aggressive HIIT workouts or leaping around a challenging fell run... or head-banging.

The cable, which is something you don't have to contend with in the more expensive Powerbeat Pro models, is routed from the rear of the ear hooks, as opposed to bud casing, which means it naturally curls around the neck and generally keeps out of the way.

Said cable also features a rounded rubber sleeve, which is said to minimise contact surface area with sensitive skin, but it is so light a narrow that many won't notice it at all. The headphone units aren't light and narrow though, because they have been robustly reinforced for improved sweat resistance and ingress from the British weather.

In fact, I would go so far as to say they feel pretty chunky when compared to something like the Bose Soundsport Wireless or the Urbanears Stadion, but then you do get a 15-hour battery life, which is darn near double that of the aforementioned rivals. 

Skater performing an ollie on his skateboard in an outdoor skatepark

(Image credit: Beats)

Beats Powerbeats review: Performance

The fit of the Beats Powerbeats for any form of fitness is absolutely brilliant and even some fairly energetic jumping around fails to knock them loose. I might be a complete weirdo, but I tend to grit my teeth when bracing for big weight lifts (it's a breathing method one employs to avoid snapping my spine), which has a tendency to have wireless earbuds like this shifting around the ear canal during reps.

A little experimentation with the various included tips pretty much banished this mild annoyance from my daily workout, as the snug fit and adjustable earhook meant I could get the wireless buds to stay in place no matter what. A bonus in my book.

The location of the smart playback controls takes some learning but the use of physical buttons is also a major plus, as fancy touch surfaces or gesture controls very rarely work effectively.  Here, there is a two-way volume rocker and the main B button that plays/pauses tracks and accepts incoming calls.

Person looking at his smartphone

(Image credit: Beats)

On the subject of calls, the dual 'beamforming' microphones used here do a great job of picking up the voice in all manner of conditions. Accepting a call during a windy winter run is no longer a nightmare for the caller. So long as they can put up with lots of gasping and heavy breathing.

Users can also make the most of their favoured smartphone voice assistant using these mics, while audio sharing between fellow Beats and Apple AirPod headphone users is also possible.

Finally, it's also worth noting that a mere 5-minute charge is enough for an additional hour of playback. This is thanks to the Lightning to USB-A charging cable (included) but proves a proper godsend when it comes time to work out and you've got flat batteries.

Plug it in while you don your gym gear and there will be enough juice in the tank to cover your average 45-minute workout. Fantastic.

Fit young woman running at dan wearing running headphones

(Image credit: Beats)

Beats Powerbeats review: Sound quality

All you really need to know is the Beats Powerbeats house the same audio technology as its pricier Pro sibling. Yup, it means you get the same pistonic drivers, which are designed for what Beats refers to as a "a precise acoustic response".

In reality, this equates to a very clean sound with very little distortion when toonz are pumped. Beats of old (when Dre's name was slapped all over the branding) used to pack serious bass prowess, which was loved by some but loathed by others.

Modern incarnations go a little lighter on the bass notes but the overall sound quality is better for it. There's also a DSP (digital signal processor) to help tune to the desired sound output, which means you get the right kind of sound depending on the tunes you like to accompany a workout. 

Of course, true audiophiles will be able to namedrop a bunch of other headphone brands that offer better sound than these here Beats, but very few (if any at all) offer the same kind of fit that can withstand the battering of athletic endeavour and many will cost a lot more. 

Person plugging a cable into the Beats Powerbeats

(Image credit: Beats)

Beats Powerbeats review: Verdict

The excellent fit and minimal intrusion of the slender wire will be enough to sway many fitness fanatics in the direction of these Beats Powerbeats, but they offer a lot more than mere in-ear security.

A claimed 15-hour battery life is mightily impressive and although I didn't exactly scientifically time that, I can say that I barely charged my pair during the week or so I tested them.

The same can't be said for my faithful B&O Beoplay E6 wireless headphones, which now require charging every other workout. They sound brilliant, but the battery life is becoming a real bore.

The Beats Powerbeats Pro are a firm favourite here at T3 towers, purely because working out without any form of wire is massively liberating, but the Powerbeats offer a cheaper alternative with much the same technology and that can only be a good thing.

Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage over the years, all without injuring himself.