While Realme has made a major impact in India’s smartphone market in the span of just two years, the company isn’t stopping there. The brand has already entered into the wearables, audio devices and TV segments in India, and plans to expand to IoT and lifestyle products this year.
One category that’s ripe for the picking is TWS earphones, and the brand already has two devices in this segment – the Realme Buds Air and Buds Air Neo. While both these earphones featured an AirPods-like stem design, Realme has now launched its first in-ear TWS earphones in the form of the Realme Buds Q. Priced under Rs 2,000, these affordable earphones are designed to take on the Redmi Earbuds S. To find out if they can deliver at their incredibly low asking price, I’ve been using them for the past couple of weeks.
Design and comfort
The Realme Buds Q come in a ‘cobble’ inspired case, which is smooth and oval-shaped, and can fit easily into a pocket. The shape and smooth finish of the case do have drawbacks though – you can’t open the case with one hand. I tried, and it practically slipped out of my hands. Made out of plastic, the entire unit is pretty lightweight. The quality of the plastic does leave something to be desired however, with the case picking up several scratches during my usage. The case features a micro-USB port at the back, which is expected given its pricing. You’ll also find Realme branding on the lid. My unit was black, but you can also pick up the Buds Q in yellow and white colours.
Opening up the case, you’ll find the earbuds sitting inside. The magnets are reassuringly strong, and the earbuds didn’t fall out even when I held the case open upside down and shook it a few times. As for the earbuds themselves, they feature the same cobble-shaped design with slightly angular eartips. You get three sizes of eartips in the box, and I like that Realme has paid attention to the design here by adding its signature yellow accents to the tips. The earbuds respond to touch controls, with the touch sensitive area featuring a shiny finish to make it easier to locate.
Among the touch controls on offer are a double tap to play/pause music or answer a call, triple tap to play the next song, long press to end a call, and long press on both sides to enter or exit the gaming mode (reduces the latency to 119ms). If you connect the earbuds to the Realme Link app, you can further customize controls for each earbud, with even an option to enable Google Assistant. Unfortunately, the touch area is quite small, and isn’t very sensitive. The short taps usually required a couple of tries to work, but long-press controls were more reliable.
The earbuds are incredibly lightweight at just 3.6g, and you can barely feel them in your ear. They offer a snug fit, and are comfortable for wear for a couple of hours at a stretch. It’s also worth mentioning that the earbuds are IPX4 certified, which means they should be sweat resistant and therefore safe to wear while working out.
The Realme Buds Q feature 10mm dynamic bass boost drivers and support the AAC codec, which is an improvement over the Redmi Earbuds S which support only up to SBC codecs.
In terms of audio quality, the Buds Q feature a bass heavy sound signature. Unfortunately, the bass is so heavy that even tracks like The Chainsmokers’ Closer sound artifically boomy, with the vocals getting muffled in the process. The sharp beats of Skrillex’s Make it Bun Dem sound muddy on the Buds Q too, making the track seem less energetic than it actually is.
Speaking of the vocals, those by female singers sound sharper on the Buds Q, with a bit of sibilance creeping in. The imaging leaves something to be desired as well, with the chaotic beats and various instruments sounding completing garbled on Mr Brightside by The Killers.
While the default audio tuning leaves a lot to be desired, the good news is that the Buds Q respond well to equalizer tuning. The Realme Link app doesn’t offer an equalizer, so you’ll have to do this via a third-party app, like Wavelet. Given that the average user may not know how to tune earphones though, I wish Realme had paid more attention to how they’re tuned out of the box.
As for call quality, the Buds Q do surprisingly well, despite the in-ear type form factor which results in the mic sitting far away from your mouth. Callers on the other end reported loud volume and minimal distortion.
Battery life and connectivity
Realme claims the Buds Q offer up to 4 hours of playback at a stretch, with the case being able to recharge them completely 4 times, working out to about 20 hours of usage. In my experience, the Buds lasted over 4 hours, so the battery life is definitely one of the best you can get in this price range.
The Buds Q come with Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. Realme says they connect automatically when you open the case, and I found this to be the case when used with Android phones. During my usage, the connectivity was rock solid, with not a single drop.
The Realme Buds Q go up against the Redmi Earbuds S, which are cheaper at Rs 1,799. I haven’t had the chance to check out Redmi’s earphones though, so I can’t comment on how the two stack up when it comes to real life usage.
However, even at Rs 1,999, the Realme Buds Q are among the most affordable TWS earphones you can buy. They offer a lightweight design, excellent battery life and good connectivity. The biggest issue with these earphones is the default sound quality, but fortunately for Realme, this considerably improves with an equalizer. The Buds Q offer good value for money should you choose to pick them up – just be prepared to do some EQ tuning first.
Pricebaba’s rating: 7 / 10
- Ultra light
- Good battery life
- Solid connectivity
- Good call quality
- Bass-heavy sound
- Flimsy case