Realme Buds Q2s review: Cool looks, decent sound, hard sell
Realme has spoilt us by offering features like active noise cancellation (ANC) within a budget of Rs. 2,500. Their true wireless (TWS) earphones like the Buds Q2 and Buds Air 2 have changed the game in the segment by not just offering high-end features but also very good sound quality. They have raised the bar and our expectations so high that a standard pair of TWS buds seems inadequate unless priced much lower. The new Realme Buds Q2s at first glance seems like a cooler looking Buds Q2 without ANC selling for Rs. 500 less. It does support the other trademark features available on most Realme earphones like customizable controls and multiple sound profiles though the Realme Link app. But can it meet the lofty standards set by its more illustrious sibling or be a victim of high expectations. Let's take a closer look at this sibling rivalry.
The earbuds shape is similar to that of the Realme Buds Q2, but you get the Q2s in three different color shades with Black being the only commonality. The Paper Green variant that we got for review is quite soothing. While the buds have a smooth matte finish, the circular touch sensitive zones at the back have a glass-like cover and a different texture underneath. Despite the glossy cover, fingerprint or smudge marks aren't very conspicuous. Lower half of the egg-shaped charging case sports the same light green matte finish, while the lid is made of transparent plastic with a greenish tinge. While it may be prone to scratches and smudge marks going ahead, it does look cool and something different. The case is fairly compact, but wouldn't exactly call it pocketable due to its thickness. It has a charge indicator LED at the front and a USB-C charging port at the back. The overall build quality of the Realme Buds Q2s is pretty good and makes it look more premium than it is. The earbuds are lightweight and sit comfortably in the ear, do not cause any discomfort even after prolonged use and offer decent passive noise isolation with the right sized silicone tip. These buds are IPX4 rated sweat resistant, a slight step down from the IPX5 rating for the Buds Q2. Despite that, one can wear them during workouts or jogs without a worry.
One of the good things about most Realme earphones is compliance with the companion Realme Link app, and the Buds Q2s does not miss out on that goodness either. The app lets you configure touch controls and choose sound profiles. Once you sync the Buds Q2s with the app, you can choose to assign play/pause, previous/next tracks, voice assistant or nothing to double-tap, triple-tap or touch and hold gestures. One cannot assign anything to the single tap gesture, which is good as it eliminates unintended actions when trying to adjust the buds. Option to assign volume control to any of the gestures is still missing. Touching and holding both buds simultaneously lets you switch to low latency gaming mode. Just like their more expensive TWS buds, the company claims that the latency can go as low as 88ms on the Buds Q2s too, which is great at this price point. The Realme Buds Q2s are Bluetooth 5.2 compliant with support for AAC and SBC codecs. Pairing these earbuds with a phone or a tablet is a straightforward process. The wireless range here is pretty standard with the buds maintaining a stable connection up to the advertised 10 meters with clear line of sight, and a little over half of that with a concrete wall in between the earbuds and the source device.
Each earbud is fitted with a 10mm dynamic driver and the earphones are loud enough at 50% volume. The Realme Link app offers three sound profiles - Bass Boost+, Dynamic, and Bright. Generally the Dynamic profile provides the best output, but not here. For some reason, the default sound is overly bass-heavy even in the Dynamic profile. It's best we do not talk about the sound in Bass Boost+ mode. For the first time, the Bright profile works best for a Realme earphone and provides a more balanced sound. Mind you, it isn't perfect, but by far the best among the three options available. The bass is slightly on the lower side but not deficient. The ideal option would have been somewhere between Dynamic and Bright, but a lot closer to the latter. In the other two profiles, the bass overpowers the mids way too much and drowns the detail in audio. In Bright mode, the mids have a good presence and the vocal clarity is good too. The instrument separation is acceptable with far better detail in audio. The highs are quite sharp and generally well tempered, but occasionally sound a touch harsh at high volumes. Well, the sound profile is called Bright for a reason. The soundstage feels a little centered, but again, it doesn't get significantly better in that department in this budget. The Realme Buds Q2s does not support ANC but the right sized tips provide decent passive noise isolation even when outdoors. The latency is fairly low too, and while it is meant to drop to 88ms in Game mode, even otherwise it is perfectly fine when watching videos. There was no noticeable lag between video and audio when watching content on various OTT platforms.
The call quality wasn't a strong suite of the Buds Q2, and things aren't too different with the Q2s either. When indoors or in quiet areas, people on either end of the call were audible to each other with decent clarity. When outdoors, the microphones cannot suppress the ambient noise enough, thus impacting the conversation, especially for the other person on the line. The AI noise cancellation for calls seems more marketing than reality. The battery backup on the Realme Buds Q2s is quite good. The company advertises seven hours for the buds and 30 hours for the buds and case combined. During my testing, the actual numbers weren't too far from these claims. The earbuds managed to last for close to six hours at 50% loudness most of the time. The charging case can recharge them thrice more, thus taking the overall battery backup over 24 hours for the buds and case combined. These are good numbers for a pair of budget TWS earphones. The case has a USB-C port and one can use any Type-C charger with it. These Realme buds also support quick charging, and 10 minutes of charge can give you about three hours of play time. It takes a little over two hours to charge the case and buds fully using a standard (non-fast) charger.
The Realme Buds Q2s is priced at Rs. 1,999 with a one year warranty, which is not a bad price for what it offers, if you look at it in isolation. Statistically speaking, that's Rs. 500 lower than the usual selling price of the Realme Buds Q2, and you lose out on ANC. In reality, the Buds Q2 can often be spotted selling for Rs. 1,999 on Flipkart and Amazon India making the Q2s redundant at its current price. And it's not just about ANC either; the Buds Q2 sound better too with more detail and tighter bass. So if you find the Realme Buds Q2 under Rs. 2,000, there is absolutely no reason to buy the Buds Q2s, unless they are selling under Rs. 1,500, and you don't care about ANC. Of course, the Q2s is available in nicer shades and the overall product does look cooler, if those things matter to you more than the audio output. Incidentally, there is not much external competition currently, but the internal one would be hard to overcome as long as the Realme Buds Q2 continues to rule the segment.