OnePlus Buds Z review: a cheaper, better alternative to the OnePlus Buds

On: December 29, 2020

OnePlus made its debut into the TWS earphones category with the OnePlus Buds back in July this year. While the earbuds offered good battery life, an IPX4 rating and decent microphone quality, they didn’t fare so well when it came to sound. Plus, the semi in-ear style didn’t appeal to many users given that the eartip size can’t be customised.

Also read: OnePlus Buds review: a great buy for OnePlus users

Cut to a few months later, and OnePlus announced the Buds Z, a cheaper alternative to the OnePlus Buds. The Buds Z feature an in-ear fit, and after over a month of usage, I’ve found them to be better than the OnePlus Buds in many ways.

What do you think of the design and build quality?

The OnePlus Buds Z come in an oval-shaped case that’s made of a glossy plastic. The case gets scratched quite easily, and the while colour means it gets quite dirty. It’s also quite slippery, and difficult to open one-handed. At the back, you’ll find a Type-C charging port and pairing button, while the LED indicator is in the front.

The buds look very similar to the regular OnePlus Buds, complete with the CD-inspired touch panel. The main difference is the use of ear tips instead of a semi in-ear fit.

The earbuds are placed flat inside the case in an odd diagonal pattern, which isn’t intuitive when you need to re-insert the earbuds. Even after weeks of usage, I still end up placing the wrong earbud in the wrong slot, which is frustrating.

Do the OnePlus Buds Z have a comfortable fit?

Yes, I found the OnePlus Buds Z to be one of the most comfortable earbuds I’ve used this year. You get three sizes of ear tips in the box, and I used the smallest size. I’ve worn them for 2-3 hours at a stretch without any ear pain. I’ve also worn the Buds Z for my online yoga classes these past few weeks, and while they did pop-out occasionally while doing inversions, they were a snug fit for the most part.

Are the OnePlus Buds Z waterproof?

The OnePlus Buds Z come with an IP55 rating, which means they aren’t waterproof. However, they are sweat proof, making them fine to use for workouts. They can also withstand a walk in the rain thanks to their hydrophobic nano coating.

What are the available touch controls?

The OnePlus Buds Z support double tap touch controls on each earbud, which can be configured to play/pause, go to the previous track, go to the next track or summon the voice assistant. On a OnePlus phone, you can customize these controls by going to the Bluetooth settings of the OnePlus Z. There’s also an option to find the earbuds by playing audio.

For non-OnePlus phones, users can configure the double tap controls by downloading the Hey Melody app. The app also lets you check battery life and download firmware updates, which is a huge plus.

A neat feature is the ability to switch between paired devices by long-pressing either earbud.

Do the OnePlus Buds Z support wear detection?

Yes, wear detection is supported. This automatically pauses music when you remove a bud from your ear, and resumes playback when re-inserted.

What’s the sound quality like?

While the OnePlus Buds have a bass-heavy sound, the Buds Z have a pleasing U-shaped sound signature. And unlike the original Buds, these have an in-ear fit for noise isolation. Vocals really shine on the Buds Z, especially in tracks like Alan Parsons Project Eye in the Sky. However, in some tracks, like Diana Ross’ Upside Down, there is a bit of sibilance that creeps in. There is a slight inflation of bass at the low end, but it’s not overpowering. This results in most upbeat tracks sounding punchy.

How’s the microphone and call quality?

The call quality on the Buds Z is one of its best features. Users on the other line have reported crisp sound without any interference. I’ve used the Buds Z on phone calls, WhatsApp voice calls and Zoom calls, and there haven’t been any issues with clarity or volume.

Do the OnePlus Buds Z support wireless charging?

No, wireless charging is not supported on these.

What’s the battery life like, and how long does it take to charge completely?

The buds last about four hours, with the case providing another four recharges, taking the total battery life to 20+ hours approximately.

As is expected, the case supports fast charging, and OnePlus claims a 10 minute charge results in 2-3 hours of usage.

Any issues with connectivity?

The OnePlus Buds Z feature Bluetooth 5.0, and feature a standard connectivity range of 10 metres. I didn’t find any issues with connectivity, and was able to leave my phone in the bedroom and walk to the living room while using it for calls.

Should you buy the OnePlus Buds Z?

The OnePlus Buds Z fixes everything that went wrong with the OnePlus Buds for a cheaper price. They have a comforable fit, are great for calls and most importantly, feature pleasing sound. The ability to tweak controls even for non-OnePlus phone is also a huge plus. In short, if you’re looking for TWS earbuds under Rs 3,000, the OnePlus Buds Z would get a recommendation from me.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works

  • Comfortable fit
  • IP55 rating
  • Pleasing sound
  • Fast charging
  • Good microphone quality

What doesn’t

  • Flimsy case
  • Awkward placement of earphones inside of case
Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.