Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020 – earphones with a long battery life and sweet sound

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020
100% human

The Galaxy Buds+ 2020 is an upgrade to the already notable Samsung Galaxy Buds 2019.

I am waiting for Samsung to run out of room in this Galaxy – the proliferation of Lite, Standard, Plus and Ultra is wearing thin. Perhaps it is time to move to a new Universe! All jokes aside the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020 are a reasonable step up from the already quite good 2019 model.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020 has improved on the 2019 Buds in quite a few ways (2019 in brackets)

  • 2-way Dynamic Woofer and Tweeter (1-way dynamic)
  • Three adaptive noise cancelling mics (2)
  • Ambient sound mode (no)
  • 11-hour battery life (6)
  • A further 11 hours with Charge Case (13 hours)
  • Faster charge (no)
  • Qi charge case (no)

Review: Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020

  • Australian Website here
  • Price: $299 (Buds 2019 are $179)
  • Warranty: 12-months
  • Country of Manufacture: Vietnam
  • Samsung is a South-Korean global supplier of smartphones, tablets, TVs, home appliances and more.

First impression – EXCEED

Buds are buds, and we get an awful lot to review – yawn! The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020 join a plethora of true wireless buds (each comment to BT independently) in a very crowded market. At $299 they need to offer something special, so that is what we are looking for!

When you open the box you see a cute, small white pill-shaped (Qi/USB-C charge case), a USB-A to USB-C cable, spare comfort ear tips and wings (medium fitted – these are small and large).

Key differences include:

  • Put the charging case on a Qi charger, and it does the rest! Real convenience.
  • Wingtips offer a pretty good level of correct fit inside the outer ear. They also position the inner ear-tip correctly so that sound projects into the ear (not off-centre as many cheap buds and AirPod like stick buds do).
  • Come in white, black, sky blue and red – for a little difference
  • Pair seamlessly to Samsung Galaxy devices via the Samsung Cloud but work with any BT device.

Setup – EXCEED

Curiously, I saw that there was a Window or Mac “GalaxyBudsManager’ app (on the website support page) so I used the Windows one first on a Surface Pro 7. It found the buds, said they needed a firmware update and told me that the current battery level (which was different for each bud). I could have simply used Windows Bluetooth but would not have had the firmware update.

Windows uses the standard SBC codec and sees these as a hands-free device (speaker and phone) so uses the lower bandwidth A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile). This uses PCM 2.0 as well as a backchannel for the mics. Be careful you don’t select HFP (hands-free profile) as the sound is mono. If you have the choice connect with AVRCP (Audio / Video Remote Control Profile) for the best quality from the Windows device.

Next Android. Download Samsung Gear Wearable app, put them in your ears, touch both pads to enable BT pairing mode. You can pair with a tablet in the same way. If you have Samsung SmartThings installed it finds them automatically and starts the pairing.

If it connects to a compatible Samsung device, it uses a proprietary Samsung Scalable Codec (similar to aptX Adaptive). Otherwise, it uses SBC for all Android devices and AAC for Apple devices.

BT 5.0 allows you to store up to eight device connections and auto-switch from one to another, although you may have to disconnect the buds from some devices before swapping.

Verdict:  The sound quality, when paired to a Galaxy device, is far better than when paired to a Windows device.

Build and wear – EXCEED

Vastly improved dual drivers cover a wider frequency response. They are solid, will withstand drops and are IPX2 (sweat-resistant) although we recommend higher IP rated dedicated gym buds if that is your prime use.

These are not noise-cancelling, so it is important to get a proper fit – hence small, medium and large tips and wings.

Once you get this right, they fit closely, and there is no risk of them dropping out. If you don’t get a good fit, then ambient noise becomes an issue.

Touch – PASS – a little too sensitive

  • Single tap on either bud to play/pause
  • Double and triple taps skipping forwards and backwards
  • Tap and hold on one of the pads activates Google Alexa or Siri
  • Double-tap the edge of the right earpiece to increase volume and the left earpiece to reduce it (to match volumes)

Overall touch is too sensitive although you do get audible indicators.

Hands-free – EXCEED

Dual external mics on each bud allow for precise beamforming and to help eliminate external sounds. One internal mic helps reduce ambient noise intrusion. It is not noise-cancelling.

It is one of the better hands-frees I have used. They were perfect in a Microsoft Teams video conference and did not look as dorky as AirPods.

Overall, they work well but still suffer from wind noise in that environ.

Ambient noise – PASS – not noise cancelling

Amplifies the external ambient noise – off plus three levels. It is good for walkers/joggers that need to be aware of their surrounds. It slightly affects the music quality. I found the two highest levels induced a form of white noise.

Battery – EXCEED – longest life yet

We managed a total of 12.5/10 hours at 50/75% volume. The charging case supplies a further 11 hours charge.

While Samsung touts that three minutes charge will give one-hour playtime the time to charge the case depends on the charger voltage. You can use anything from 5V/1A to 3A. Over four weeks of testing, we were able to try several charging scenarios

Tests (charge case from 0-100%)

  • 5V/1A/5W typical USB-A charger – 3.7 hours
  • 5V/2A/10W – just under 2 hours
  • 5V/3A/15W typical USB-C charger – 1.5 hours
  • USB-C PD all wattages – can reduce the charge time to just over an hour
  • Qi 5V/1A/5W – 5 hours
  • Qi 5V/2A/10W – 3 hours
  • Wireless Qi 5V/3A/15W – 2 hour
  • Reverse charge from Galaxy S20 Ultra – six hours
  • Buds pair (0-100%) – approx. 1 hour
Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020

Sound – PASS at $299 but EXCEED if you get a bargain

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ have a 2-way dynamic speaker that has a separate woofer for bass and a tweeter for high notes. For the most part, they do a good job – it is a pretty flat, neutral sound curve.

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020

I would say the music is pleasant rather than impressive, warm rather than rich. It is easy listening, and ample clear dialogue comes to mind.

The sound stage is pretty limited. Where some buds project a sound stage well outside your head, these tend to have a much narrower left and right from somewhere inside!

You will get better sound quality/clarity from Sony’s WF-1000xM3 and Thomas Bartlett has fallen in love with Sennheiser (even better). I like the Jabra 75t for its classical bass.

Subjectively based on all normal EQ settings (because we cannot measure in-ear) on a scale of 1-5

  • Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – 0
  • Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – 0
  • High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – 2
  • Low-mid: 200-400Hz – 3
  • Mid: 400-1000Hz – 5
  • High-mid: 1-2kHz – 5
  • Low-treble: 2-4kHz – 5
  • Treble:4-6kHz – 4
  • High Treble: 6-1kHz – 1
  • Dog whistle: 10-20kHz – 1

Volume – maximum is 80dB as mandated by smartphone makers (but you can override that in developer mode). Comfortable listening is from 50-75% with no noticeable distortion.

The App – PASS

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020

Adds functionality that reinforces the capability of the Buds+.

The equaliser has normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear and treble boost. I prefer Dynamic, that is a mid-boost.

Latency on a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra and Note10+ (BT 5.0) was negligible. However, when tested on a low-cost MediaTek Android BT 4.2 device, we could detect a decent latency to between audio and video.

We cannot recommend them with Xbox or PS4 due to around 150ms latency.

GadgetGuy’s take – Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are for Samsung devices

At $299 RRP there are better buds.

Thomas Bartlett prefers the Sony WF-1000XM3 (review here – RRP $319 but online from $213 plus freight) that have NFC pairing, noise-cancelling, outstanding sound quality and hands-free (A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP) as well as SBC, AAC and Sony LDAC codecs.

I like the Jabra 75t (review here RRP $299 but online from $230 plus freight) that sound great (terrific EQ and more bass oomph!), ANC, and have an IP55 rating.

It is outclassed at $299. But, it seems that you can get the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ online from around $155 plus freight – about half price. If you compare these to similarly priced buds from other brands, then they are well ahead. Here the superior battery life eats similarly priced competition.

Rating is harder. If I rate them at $299, then they score high 3s to low 4s out of 5. If I rate them as $150-200, then they are stellar value. So if you can get a bargain, they are a good buy.

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ 2020 Specs

  • Audio crafted/tuned by AKG
  • Hands-free speakerphone mode
  • White, black, red, pink or blue
  • Battery 85mAh for 11 hours at 50% volume (comfortable listening)
  • USB-C and Qi Case 270mAh for an additional 11 hours
  • Fast charge 3 minutes for 1-hour use
  • 17.5 x 22.5 x 19.2mm x 6.3g each
  • Case 38.8 x 70 x 26.5mm x 39.6g
  • BT 5.0 LE: Samsung Scalable, ACC, SBC
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, IR, Hall, Touch
  • Small, medium and large wingtips, earbuds
  • IPX2 splash/sweat resistant
  • Voice assistant: Google, Alexa and Siri
  • Find my buds – emits a noise to help locate them
  • Spotify integration (Android smartphone only)
Value for money
Ease of Use
Lightweight, comfortable and fatigue-free
Great battery life – longer than most and convenient Qi charge
Windows, Android, Mac, iOS
Qi charge
Can hear your voice while using hands-free (sidetone)
Don’t look like dorky AirPods
Seamless with other Galaxy devices
No auto-off/pause when removed – place them in the case
Over-sensitive touch
No aptX Adaptive codec for non-Samsung devices
Not noise cancelling
No BT Multi-point or NFC pairing