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The Best AirPods Max Alternatives

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A photo of the Sony WH-1000XM4, Bose NC Headphones 700, and Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones.
Bose, Sony, Sennheiser

Apple’s AirPods Max are among the best high-end headphones available today, but they suffer from two major problems. First, the price of the AirPods Max is high, and they offer many of the same features and sound quality as much cheaper headphones. And second, the AirPods Max have a frustrating battery drain issue that Apple has yet to acknowledge, much less fix. So here are the best AirPods Max alternatives, without the inflated price tag or battery problems.

Sony

For a time, the Sony WH-1000XM4s were the most popular wireless noise-canceling headphones. I believe that the WH-1000XM4s would still hold that crown if Sony hadn’t blessed the headphones with a gibberish name. Not only are the WH-1000XM4s over $200 cheaper than the AirPods Max, but they have nearly identical ANC and Transparency features, customizable EQ settings, head-detection, and a 30-hour battery life with ANC enabled—a much longer listening time than what the AirPods Max has to offer.

But features aren’t everything. The Sony WH-1000XM4s also sound fantastic, with a “flat” frequency response that’s similar to the AirPods Max. When you consider all the features, battery life, and sound quality, Sony’s WH-1000XM4s are the best alternative to the AirPods Max, and they cost nearly half the price of Apple’s headphones.

Best Overall



Sony WH-1000XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4s offer same ANC and Transparency features that you get with AirPods Max, plus a longer 38-hour battery life and a lower price tag.

Bose

If ANC is your top priority, then the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are a fantastic, powerful alternative to Apple’s AirPods Max. They feature 11 levels of ANC, with options ranging from full transparency to heavy-duty noise cancellation. And thanks to an intuitive “favorites” button, you can quickly cycle through your 3 favorite ANC modes without entering the Bose Music app (which is where your EQ, ANC, and Smart Assistant settings live).

Like the Sony WH-1000XM4s, the Bose NC Headphones 700 have a relatively “flat” sound profile that should appeal to Apple fans. And while the NC Headphones 700 only offer 20 hours of playback with ANC enabled (the same as the AirPods Max), you can extend that battery to 60 hours with the included charging case (which is just a protective case with a built-in battery, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to).

Another Favorite



Bose NC Headphones 700

The Bose NC Headphones 700 feature 11 ANC settings, ranging from full transparency to heavy noise cancellation. For fans of ANC, they’re a compelling alternative to the AirPods Pro.

Anker

Why spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of noise-canceling headphones when you could buy the Anker SoundCore Life Q30s? The affordable SoundCore Life Q30s feature three ANC modes specially designed for office, outdoor, or airplane settings, along with an impressive 40-hour battery life (with ANC enabled) and an extremely lightweight design.

Predictably, the SoundCore Life Q30s can’t match the sound quality of the AirPods Pro or any other high-end wireless headphones, but they sound good enough for the price and place a strong emphasis on bass frequencies. They also lack a dedicated transparency mode, which is a defining feature of Apple’s AirPods Max.

Best Budget Option



Anker SoundCore Life Q30

For just under $100, the Anker SoundCore Life Q30 headphones offer three ANC settings and a 60-hour battery life. They’re the best budget alternative to AirPods Max.

Sennheiser

It’s a shame that the AirPods Max have a battery drain issue, as its use of a low-power mode is actually a bit ingenious. Because the AirPods Max doesn’t need to power on every time it’s used, it can connect to your device and start playing music as soon as you pull them from the carrying case.

Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 headphones offer a much more reliable take on the low-power concept, “powering down” when folded shut and “turning on” when opened. The Momentum 3 headphones also use head detection to automatically pause or play music and feature three increasingly effective ANC modes.

Unfortunately, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones lack a Transparency mode and only offer 13 hours of battery life with ANC. But the headphones sound great, with a greater emphasis on bass frequencies than the AirPods Max (you can flatten out the EQ through Sennheiser Smart Control app).

Best Premium Option



Sennheiser Momentum 3

Like the AirPods Max, Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 headphones utilize a low-power mode and can reconnect to your phone faster than other wireless headphones.

Apple

Let’s keep it in the family. Apple owns the Beats by Dre brand, so all Beats headphones contain Apple-exclusive features, like automatic iPhone pairing and Lightning charging. Of all the great Beats headphones available today, the Beats Solo Pro are the closest to AirPods Max, with ANC and Transparency modes, a 22-hour battery, and Apple’s signature “flat” sound profile.

We rated the Beats Solo Pro an 8/10 in a review last year, knocking off a few points because the headphones are too tight and (like the AirPods Max) only work wirelessly. Beats Solo Pro also lack Adaptive EQ and the AirPods Max’s head detection feature for automatic pausing. If you can ignore these faults, the Solo Pro headphones are a compelling and cost-effective alternative to the AirPods Max.

Best for Apple Features



Beats Solo Pro

The Beats Solo Pro contain some of Apple’s signature features, like automatic iPhone pairing, Lightning charging, and Adaptive EQ.

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Wyze Watch Review: Which One Should You Buy?

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Both Wyze Watches side by side in front of their boxes
Rating:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $19.99

Cameron Summerson

If you want a smartwatch but have a hard time justifying the price, the Wyze Watch is where it’s at. At just $20, it’s the perfect smartwatch for anyone who isn’t sure if they want a smartwatch. It offers a ton of utility for the cost, though it clearly falls short when compared to other smartwatches.

Here’s What We Like

  • Exceptionally affordable
  • Heart rate and pulse ox sensors are insane at this price
  • Excellent battery life

And What We Don’t

  • The watches are very different, which is confusing
  • Limited use
  • Less than useful watch faces on the 44

But hey, it’s $20. There’s also a $6 shipping charge, which I guess you should also take into consideration. Oh, and Wyze has already said that some of its products will be going up in price due to global parts shortages, but it’s unclear if the Watch will be affected or not.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, however, we need to talk about the versions of this watch. There are two, defined by size—the Wyze Watch 44 and Wyze Watch 47. While it’s easy to think that these are the same watch in different sizes, that’s not the case. I’ve been using both for the last few weeks and have a good feel for the differences between the two (and they’re honestly pretty vast!). If you’re on the fence about which one to buy, this is the review/comparison for you.

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Note: At the time of publication, only the Watch 47 is available for order, but Wyze tells us that the 44 is coming soon. We’ll update this review when it’s available.

commercial for the Apple Watch that starts with that phrase: This. Watch. Tells. Time. Then it goes on to talk about all the other things the Apple Watch does.

If you’re expecting that from the Wyze Watch, slow your roll just a bit. Both watches do a lot for $20, but don’t do a lot in the big picture of, you know, smartwatches. Here’s a quick-hit list of what you get:

  • Aluminum frame
  • Pulse oximeter (on demand)
  • Heart rate sensor (on demand or continuous)
  • Step counter
  • Menstrual tracking (44 only*)
  • Activity tracking (run only)
  • Sleep tracking
  • Integration with other Wyze devices via “Shortcuts”
  • IP68 Water resistance
  • Notifications (via smartphone)

That’s the basic similarities between the two watches. After that, things take a pretty sharp turn—the hardware and software on both are notably different. Here are the hardware specs for each:

Wyze Watch 44

  • 1.4-inch touch TFT display @ 320×320
  • 100+150 dual-core MCU processor
  • 288KB + 8M RAM
  • 16MB storage
  • 250mAh battery
  • Bluetooth 5.0

Wyze Watch 47

  • 1.75-inch touch TFT display @ 320×385
  • 96MHz processor
  • 512KB RAM
  • 16MB storage
  • 300mAh battery
  • Bluetooth 5.0

So, as you can see, the 44 has a faster processor and the 47 has more RAM. In use, however, I couldn’t tell a difference between the two. They’re both pretty snappy, and given the limited use and no support for third-party apps or add-ons, it makes sense. There’s just very little to bog these watches down.

Here’s what I found most interesting about the 44, however: The processor, RAM, and storage are identical to the Wyze Band. The two also share many of the same features. like sleep tracking, activity tracking, Wyze home integration, etc. In some ways, however, the Band is even more useful—it has Alexa integration, for example. All that is to say: If you’re looking at the Watch 44, then you might also want to consider the Band. Maybe.

Oh, they also tell time.

Wyze advertises this feature for both watches. I know it’s on the 44, but I couldn’t find it anywhere on the 47. This obviously isn’t a feature I’m able to test either way, but its omission on the 47 is still noteworthy.

Further differences are a little more nuanced. For example, the 47 offers more watch faces to choose from, with more data options on each. But you can only load three at a time on the watch, where the 44 allows up to six. I find it hilarious that you can save fewer faces on the watch with more options. It makes no sense.

Speaking of watch faces, it’s also worth noting that neither watch has the option for an always-on display. Raise to wake works okay for the most part though, so this isn’t a huge issue.

Watch Faces

The Watch face on the 44 The watch face on the 47

All of the watch faces on the 44 are basically variations of each other: an image as a background and the time/date. That’s all you get. On the 47, however, there are options for faces with the step counter, calories, and even heart rate. You know, the stuff that most people would want to see on a smartwatch.

It’s also worth mentioning that what you get out of the box is what you’re stuck with—there’s no support for third-party watch faces here. There’s always a chance that Wyze could add more options in the future, but it’s no guarantee.

Clock faces on the Wyze Watch 47 (shown on Android 11) Clock faces on the Wyze Watch 44 (shown on iOS 14)A sample size of the watch faces available on each watch. Left: 44; Right: 47

So for watch face options, I definitely prefer the Watch 47.

General Interface

Beyond the watch faces, however, the general interface—even down the navigation of said interface—is different.

For navigation, it goes a little something like this from the watch face:

  • Swipe up: Quick settings panel—brightness, DND, settings, battery, ring phone, weather (weather is only on the 47)
  • Swipe down: Notifications
  • Swift left: Apps
  • Swift right: Activity Data (47 only); swiping right does nothing on the 44

The Wyze Watch 44's settings panel The Wyze Watch 47's setting panelQuick settings panel; Left: Wyze Watch 44; Right: Wyze Watch 47

So, right out of the gate, you’re getting a dramatically different experience from each watch. There’s no simple way to see your activity metrics (step count, etc.) on the 44—you have to swipe into the apps page and select the Activity option. The 47 has watch faces that show much of this info and a way to see more details with a quick swipe over.

The activity panel on the Watch 47
The activity panel on the Watch 47 Cameron Summerson

So again, I prefer the 47 here.

App Drawer and Apps

The differences don’t stop there, either. When you swipe over to the app drawer, you’re greeted with the first thing I think the 44 does better. On the 44, you get a list of apps with names so it’s clear what each one does. On the 47, these are just icons. Some of them are clear, while others aren’t.

Oh, they’re all in a different order, too.

The Wyze Watch 44's app drawer The Wyze Watch 47's app drawerApp drawer; Left: Wyze Watch 44; Right: Wyze Watch 47

And when you launch those apps, the interfaces are different yet again. This is mostly just visuals, however, and the core functionality is the same. For example, the heart rate and pulse ox monitors are more cartoony and “fun” on the 47. But functionally, they do the same thing on both watches.

And that’s pretty much true across all the apps here—they look different and even include different verbiage in some cases, but the core functionality is the same. Neither is better than the other, though I do like the fact that the 44 includes app names so you know exactly what they are.

While most of the apps here are things you’d expect to see on a watch like this, there’s one that’s a little more useful for owners of other Wyze products: the Shortcuts app. This allows you to set specific actions, like turning a camera on or off, within the app and have it sync to the watch. Then, you can toggle that setting from the watch. It’s really simple and worked pretty much instantly in my testing.

You can set shortcuts to do a number of things, including activating cameras, uploading a video to the cloud, toggling motion detection, toggling notifications, and more. You can also universally mute and unmute notifications for all your Wyze products at once.

Okay, But How Are They As Smartwatches?

Once you get past the differences in the software, the two watches function very similarly, save for the missing menstrual feature on the 47 that I mentioned earlier. So, by and large, you get the same overall experience.

Notification Options

As far as smartwatches go, the Wyze Watches are pretty basic. The biggest draw of a smartwatch for most users is mirrored notifications on your wrist so you don’t have to grab your phone every time it buzzes. And for that, the Wyze Watch works beautifully … well, if you’re an Android user anyway. iOS is more limited.

Notification options on Android

With Android, you have the option to choose which notifications show up on the watch. That includes every app you have installed, so you can pick and choose. This setup takes a bit of time and is quite tedious if you have a bunch of apps, but the flexibility is great.

On iOS, it’s less inclusive. You get a list of preselected apps (that are toggled on by default), including ones that you might not even have installed. For example, the list on my iPhone 12 Mini includes WeChat, WhatsApp, and Spotify, despite the fact that I don’t have any of those installed. It was honestly jarring when I first saw it until I realized this is just a preset list.

Once you get through that list, however, there’s a simple toggle for “other applications,” which is a blanket setting for literally everything else you have installed. At that point, it’s all or nothing, which can get really annoying if you have a lot of apps installed that send frequent notifications.

This is what you get on iOS. I don’t even have a lot of those apps installed.

Alas, this is an iOS issue, not a Wyze issue. It’s a limitation in the way iOS handles notification sharing with apps and accessories, so it’s something you’d have to deal with no matter what watch you have. The exception here is of course the Apple Watch, because, you know … Apple.

It’s also worth noting that there are no reply options on either OS—not even canned responses. You can see notifications, but that’s it. Also, there’s no emoji support that I’ve seen on either watch. It just shows a blank space where an emoji should be. The same goes for MMS (picture messages), but that’s the be expected.

Activity and Sleep Tracking

If you’re looking for a smartwatch to track your activities, I can tell you right now that this ain’t the one. It tracks running and that’s literally it. Unfortunately, I’m not a runner in any form (cyclist only, thanks), so I was unable to test this.

In a similar realm to activity tracking, however, the Wyze Watch features sleep tracking. This has gotten more popular over the years, with most modern high-end activity trackers offering some form of sleep tracking. I’ve been testing the Wyze Watch’s sleep tracking alongside the Garmin Venu 2 for the last few weeks, and I’ll tell you this: It’s better than nothing but not by much.

To be clear, sleep tracking is pretty dubious in the first place as far as metrics go, but I’ve been tracking mine for years and have watched it get more advanced and more accurate as devices get more modern. Most smartwatches or activity trackers monitor sleep by using various sensors–generally, heart rate, pulse ox, and the accelerometer.

Because the Wyze Watch doesn’t do constant HR tracking (you can set it to “continuous mode,” which checks your HR every five minutes) or always-on pulse ox of any kind, I can only assume it’s tracking your movements while you sleep. This is the most basic and least helpful form of sleep tracking, as it’s missing several key variables.

Here’s an example of the Wyze Watch compared to the Garmin Venu 2’s sleep tracking (which uses pulse, blood oxygen, and movement to detect sleep zones). As you can see, the Wyze Watch is about as basic as basic can be.

Left: Garmin Venu 2 sleep stats; Right: Wyze Watch (47) sleep stats. This is the same night. Also a rare “no awake time” night.

in other words, if you’re looking to the Wyze Watch to be a way to track your overall fitness, it’s only going to get the job done on a very basic level. If you’re not a runner, it has no tracking options for you, and its sleep tracking is the most basic I’ve seen in years (maybe ever?).

But hey, it’s only $20. You have to keep your expectations in check here.

Heart Rate, Pulse Ox, and Step Tracking Accuracy

Heart rate data on the Wyze Watch 47
The heart rate screen on the Wyze Watch 47 Cameron Summerson

Finally, I want to talk a little bit about my experience with the heart rate and pulse ox (blood oxygen) sensors. I’ve always found wrist-based heart rate sensors to be largely inaccurate most of the time on every smartwatch, but it will very much depend on your use case.

For example, in general wear, the Wyze Watch seemed to be okay—at least it was very similar to the Garmin Venu 2 (with the watches on different wrists) during my testing. Where wrist-based seems to fail me, however, is during workouts. I’m a cyclist, and I haven’t had a time when a wrist-based heart rate sensor was even remotely close to my chest strap. At the best of times, most wrist-based sensors will read 20ish BPM low, and at the worst, it won’t show an elevated heart rate at all.

This is all true for the Wyze Watch. It’s fine during casual use (just walking around, yard work, shopping, etc. You know, life stuff.) so if that’s all you’re after, it’ll do the job. And really, since it only tracks runs and doesn’t have support for external sensors, then that’s the most likely scenario anyway.

As for pulse ox tracking, it seems to be very comparable to the results I get from the Garmin Venu 2 as well. There’s little utility here since it’s doesn’t offer consistent tracking (this would be very useful for sleep tracking at the very least), but it does what it says on the box.

Pulse Ox on the Wyze Watch 44
Pulse Ox on the Wyze Watch 44 Cameron Summerson

Lastly, let’s talk step tracking. This is another mostly dubious metric—not because it’s unimportant, but because most trackers grossly overestimate the number of steps people take in a day. Many step trackers are simply accelerometer-based, which essentially means they detect movement as steps. This means you can stand in place and wave your arms and it will detect steps, or you can leave your arm in place and walk, and they’ll detect steps.

As a result, almost every movement you make is counted as a “step.” I’ve tried a bunch of different trackers over the years and have found Garmin to offer the most accurate—it’s very selective about what is considered a “step,” which leads to fewer false positives. For example, where basically every other tracker I’ve tried detected time on the bikes as “steps,” Garmin does not.

Again, wearing both the Garmin Venu 2 and Wyze Watch (both 44 and 47 at different times), the results reflect exactly what I expected—the Wyze Watch pretty much doubles what Garmin gives me on a regular basis.

Now, does that really matter? Nah. It’s fine. Accuracy on something like this is relative—if you use the same tracker every day, that becomes your baseline metric. So if it says you walk 10,000 steps daily and then you pull out a 15k day, then you did more. That’s all that really matters when it comes to steps. (Unless you’re stupidly anal like I am and obsess over true “accuracy,” which I don’t recommend.)

Battery Life

One of the best things about the Wyze Watch not offering an always-on display and limited access to apps or services is the insane battery life. You can easily get a week or so out of either watch. (Wyze claims nine days for each, which is a bit more than I was able to get in testing.) You could probably eke out a bit more than a week by leaving the brightness all the way down and disabling the raise to wake feature.

But overall, only having to charge the watch once a week is pretty solid. You can go so long in between charges it’s easy to almost forget to do it altogether.

Conclusion: Worth $20, but Which One Is Better?

A shot of the back of both Wyze Watches side-by-side; shallow depth of field
Cameron Summerson

Both watches are similar in function but different in interface. One has better specs (44), while the other has a better display (47). So, which one do you choose? For me, that choice is pretty easy: I’d go with the 47.

The interface on the 47 is much better, as it offers quick access to metrics on the leftmost screen, the menu screen is more useful as it also shows weather, it has better watch faces, and the screen is bigger with less bezel. The 44 may have a more powerful processor, but as I said earlier, I haven’t noticed a single difference in performance between the two. I could only see this being an issue if third-party apps and services were supported, but because they’re not, it’s a wash.

Of course, the 47 is quite a bit bigger, but I have small wrists and it hasn’t bothered me. I’m also used to wearing large watches.

Ultimately, it’s a $20 smartwatch and it’s honestly hard to make the wrong choice here. Just remember to keep your expectations in check here—you’re not getting an Apple Watch.

But at least it tells time.

Note: At the time of publication, only the Watch 47 is available for order, but Wyze tells us that the 44 is coming soon. We’ll update this review when it’s available.

Rating: 8/10

Price: $19.99

Here’s What We Like

  • Exceptionally affordable
  • Heart rate and pulse ox sensors are insane at this price
  • Excellent battery life

And What We Don’t

  • The watches are very different, which is confusing
  • Limited use
  • Less than useful watch faces on the 44

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