Although the OnePlus 8 is fresh and exciting in the minds of fans of the company, another product from its audio division has been generating its own buzz of late. The third pair of wireless earphones from OnePlus, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z was launched in May 2020. Interestingly, like the heavily rumoured low-cost OnePlus Z, these new earphones are the most affordable yet from OnePlus. Priced at Rs. 1,999, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z should have wide appeal, promising quality at a reasonable price.
Affordable is always a good thing, but how has OnePlus managed to reduce the price of the Bullets Wireless Z to a third of what 2019's OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 originally sold for? What can users expect from this affordable approach to audio, and what sacrifices come with the much lower price? We've tried to answer these questions and more in our review of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z.
There's no radically different design on the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z; the headset looks the same as the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 which was launched in 2019. The earphones and neckband look the same with the same buttons as well, but small changes in the colour of the accents, as well as the new OnePlus logo on the neckband signify that this is indeed the newer ‘Z' headset.
A contentious feature on the earphones makes a comeback - the magnetic power switch. The earphones power on and off depending on whether the two earbuds are magnetically attached to each other. This is something we had trouble with on earlier Bullets Wireless models, since the earbuds often separated when in storage. This made the device turn on and connect to a paired smartphone, overriding the phone's earpiece and mic, and draining its own battery. OnePlus hasn't done much to improve this, and the magnetic switch is still quite accident-prone.
The lower price does have some impact on the specifications of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z. The most notable of these is that the headset has a single dynamic driver in each earpiece, and also doesn't support the aptX Bluetooth codec; there's just SBC and AAC support on the Bullets Wireless Z. The earphones use the Bluetooth 5 standard for connectivity.
Useful features that have been retained are the USB Type-C port for charging, superior battery life, and fast charging, which are all impressive for a Rs. 1,999 wireless headset. We were able to fully charge the earphones in just over 20 minutes, and got almost 20 hours of mixed use per charge during our review period. There are some other useful features including dust and water resistance with an IP55 rating, and a low-latency mode for gaming (which only works on OnePlus smartphones with Fnatic Mode active).
Another very useful feature is Quick Switch, which lets you pair two devices with the earphones, and quickly switch between them by double tapping the Quick Switch / Pairing button on the neckband. This worked very well for us, and we used it to quickly and effectively multitask between a laptop and smartphone. There's no simultaneous multi-device connectivity, but this is, in our opinion, a more efficient method of quickly switching between multiple source devices.
As we mentioned earlier, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z features a single driver setup, with one 9.2mm driver in each earbud. This is a step down from the Bullets Wireless 2 which sports a balanced armature driver and dynamic driver on each side. OnePlus seems to have used the same driver that was first seen on the original Bullets Wireless earphones launched in 2018. This, along with the lack of support for the aptX codec means that sound quality isn't quite as good as with earlier Bullets Wireless earphones.
With the price duly considered, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z offers exactly what is expected when it comes to sound quality. Although the insightfulness and detail we experienced on the original Bullets Wireless wasn't quite there because of the lack of aptX support, the sound still had plenty of drive and attack to it.
Using a OnePlus 7T Pro (Review) allowed us to activate the Dolby Atmos setting for the earphones, which gave the sound a bit of depth and made a small difference in voice quality when watching videos. With Dolby Atmos switched off, the Bullets Wireless Z sounded a bit louder and more musical. This feature can't be used with non-OnePlus smartphones, though.
Listening to Inside My Head by Riton, we liked how crisp and to-the-point the sound was, and the bass had some character to it despite not being quite as pronounced as on the original Bullets Wireless earphones. Some of the background details could be heard clearly enough, but the busy nature of the track meant that the faintest elements of the track felt distant and dull. The highs are present, but definitely lacking in the crispness and definition that we've heard from earlier OnePlus wireless earphones.
The experience was a bit different when listening to a FLAC version of Michael Jackson's You Rock My World. The higher-quality audio track brought out more detail and bit more attack and thump in the sound, but the AAC codec's limitations were evident here. The sound wasn't quite as detailed as we'd have liked, and definitely felt closer to what we'd expect from other products in the price segment, whereas the OnePlus Bullets Wireless and Bullets Wireless 2 were breakout products. These are budget Bullets after all, and the sound quality is reasonable for the price, but not exceptional.
Finally, we used the OnePlus Bullets Wireless as a hands-free headset for calls. Sound quality was decent enough, but we did face some issues with being heard by the caller even with good reception. The low-latency mode is functional with very little loss in sound quality when used with Fnatic Mode on a supported OnePlus smartphone, but there was still some delay in sound when playing games.
OnePlus' approach with the Bullets Wireless Z is interesting, and points to what we can expect from the electronics manufacturer in the coming weeks with its smartphones and televisions – more affordable alternatives. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z is exactly that for the company's audio product range.
This headset looks and feels like the excellent Bullets Wireless 2. Features such as USB Type-C port, fast charging, very good battery life, and Quick Switch are impressive given the Rs. 1,999 price. When it comes to sound quality, OnePlus hasn't pushed any boundaries with the Bullets Wireless Z; you get what you expect with these earphones. However, the overall package is still good enough to call this our new favourite wireless headset priced at under Rs. 2,000, giving other capable options such as the Realme Buds Wireless and Mi Neckband Bluetooth Earphones some strong competition.
Price: Rs. 1,999
Ratings (out of 5)
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