Right up front, to get it out of the way: This review is about Nothing.
Of course, it’s really about some new wireless earbuds, but they come from Nothing, the actual company name of the folks behind the Nothing Ear (1) wireless earbuds
. It’s buzzy marketing for sure, but it’s also kind of confusing. So, from here until the end of this post, Nothing is a brand . . . at least most of the time.
Curious whether the new Nothing Ear (1) earbuds live up to the hype? Find full specs and first impressions in this review.
Who Is Nothing?
Nothing is a brand-new company from the same minds that introduced OnePlus
to the world years ago. The philosophy that drove the early days of OnePlus was to offer premium, even flagship, features, but without the bulky overhead and inflated costs of flagship devices.
The argument could be made that OnePlus has strayed a bit from that mission, and so OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei is back with a new company, Nothing, that shares the same philosophy.
Its first-ever product is a pair of wireless earbuds named Nothing Ear (1). Depending on where you look, you’ll see them talked about with or without the capitalization and parentheses. Again, confusing.
Nothing Ear (1): What It Is
Nothing Ear (1) is a pair of true wireless earbuds, in the same general category as AirPods
and AirPods Pro
, Galaxy Buds
, Pixel Buds
, and so on. But Nothing Ear (1) takes a very different approach, at least as far as design aesthetics. For example, the casing on the earbuds themselves and the wireless charging case are transparent, allowing you to see the inner workings of the earbuds, along with some smartly placed internal LED displays.
Truth be told, there is a lot of marketing hype riding on the Nothing Ear (1). It’s the launch product of a slickly marketed new company from a well-known player, and it promises to do things differently.
Place in the Market
Nothing Ear (1) is launching at a price point of just $99, which is pretty low for true wireless earbuds from a quality brand. You can get some of the lower-end Galaxy and Pixel buds for close to that, but most of the nicer sets go for quite a bit more.
Following in the footsteps of OnePlus, Nothing has crammed quite a few features into the Nothing Ear (1) that you can’t find in other sets this cheap. So, the goal is to undercut the mid-tier and premium wireless earbuds market on price, while delivering matching or superior performance and features.
Headline Features of Nothing Ear (1)
What exactly has Nothing included that others can’t at this price point? Here’s a partial list, courtesy of The Verge
- Wireless charging
- IPX4 water resistance (same as AirPods Pro)
- In-ear detection
- Active noise cancellation (ANC)
- Sound tuned by Teenage Engineering
Indeed, if Nothing can pull off all those features effectively at this price, it will have a winner on its hands. But has it, exactly?
Are Nothing Ear (1) “Radically Different?”
The Nothing Ear (1) earbuds do look fairly cool. The transparent case is interesting, at least for a few minutes. But are they really “radically different” than the rest of what’s on the market? The Verge goes on to note that if you replaced the transparent casing with a white casing, you’d pretty much be looking at an AirPods Pro knockoff.
By most reviewers’ judgment, the sound quality on the Nothing Ear (1) is good but not great. However, for a $99 pair of earbuds, it’s pretty good. Sure, they’re better than alternatives like the cheapest Pixel Buds, but they aren’t going to fool anyone who has access to a set of $200+ alternatives.
Noise cancellation is so-so, according to multiple reviewers. Tom’s Guide compared them directly to AirPods Pro
and declared that it wasn’t much of a contest. The Nothing Ear (1) can cover up a fan or fridge, but nothing much louder.
Nothing made strong claims of the microphones in the Nothing Ear (1), but so far, call quality hasn’t been a strong point here. Perhaps a late firmware upgrade will resolve these issues. But for now, these aren’t the right choice if you make a lot of phone calls over your earbuds.
Nothing Ear (1) is rated for 4 hours of playback with ANC powered on, or 5.7 hours without it. Again, this is OK, but not particularly stellar. Most of the “boring” competitors last longer. Perhaps there are advantages to iterating rather than building from the ground up, after all.
Buying Nothing? Here’s Something: An Extended Warranty from Upsie
If you’re considering buying Nothing, you need a warranty to protect it. An extended headphone warranty from Upsie
covers your new earbuds from defects, damage, drops and spills. Because Nothing doesn’t have a track record to examine, consumers are taking a risk going with the product. It makes an extended warranty from the right warranty partner more important than ever so you can eliminate that risk.
Ready to protect your new Nothing Ear (1) earbuds? Get Upsie now!
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