Realme Buds Wireless 2 Neo Review: Feature-rich budget Bluetooth earphones
Realme has been a consistent performer in the budget personal audio category, offering good products for an attractive price. They recently launched two new models in their Buds Wireless 2 series that are meant to succeed their older Buds Wireless neckband. While the Realme Buds Wireless 2 flaunts some premium features like active noise cancellation (ANC) and support for Sony's LDAC codecs, the one with the Neo suffix that we have for review today, is a scaled down version of the same. Two key differences being absence of ANC and support for AAC codecs instead of LDAC, which is perfectly fine given its selling price. Rather than lamenting about what's missing in comparison to its more expensive sibling, let's focus on what the Realme Buds Wireless 2 Neo brings to the table in the sub-Rs. 1,500 segment of wireless neckbands. Time to take a closer look.
Attractive design and good build quality
Right out of the box, one can notice its superior build quality as compared to most in this segment. From the earbud shells to the rubberized neckband to the textured battery pods, there is a degree of finesse that you rarely get at this price-point. The typical Realme yellow and black combination looks quite striking and sporty. Despite the sturdy build, the Buds Wireless 2 Neo weighs under 25 grams, and the soft-touch, flexible neckband sits comfortably on the neck without any discomfort even after extensive use. The company bundles three pairs of silicone tips (small, medium, large), of which the medium sized ear-tips are preinstalled, and worked best for me. They provide good passive noise isolation and sit nicely into the ear canals -- not too loose and not overly tight. The earbud shells are slightly on the larger side due to the bigger drivers, but they stay outside the ear, while the angled ear-tips enter the canals providing a comfortable fit. This wireless neckband is IPX4 rated sweat resistant, and can be worn during workouts or jogs without worrying about its well-being. The right pod hosts a volume rocker, a multifunction button and collectively they let you access all the playback functions. Even better, the multifunction button is programmable through the Realme Link app (that I will talk about shortly). In addition to the buttons, you get a tiny multicolored LED that indicates the pairing status of these buds and also hints at the battery level. Speaking of battery, you get a USB Type-C port for charging this neckband.
Impressive feature set and customization options for a budget neckband
One good part about most Realme audio products is that they are fairly customizable using the Realme Link app. The company has extended that flexibility to the Buds Wireless 2 Neo as well. You can assign a function of your choice to the multifunction button for single click, double click, triple click and press-and-hold gestures. One can choose between play/pause, previous track, next track, voice assistant, switch devices and Game Mode. The app also gives you three sound presets -- Bass Boost+, Dynamic and Bright. For best results and more balanced output, stick to Dynamic. As the name suggests, Bright preset makes the sound treble-heavy and often harsh on the ear. No points for guessing what Bass Boost+ does, and given that the default sound profile of these earphones is bass-heavy, I don't think many would care for more bass. You also get a volume enhancer that makes these earphones louder. You may switch that on from the app if you find the default loudness insufficient. Each earbud hosts an 11.2mm dynamic driver. The back of the buds have magnetic tips that not just hold the earbuds in place when not in use but act as an on/off switch too. They turn off when stuck together and are switched on when separated. The magnets are powerful enough to hold them in place and avoid any accidental separation. It is good to see this feature on an entry-level neckband. These earphones support SBC and AAC codecs over Bluetooth 5.0, and there is a Game Mode that drops the latency to 88ms to minimize the audio delay in games.
Predominantly bass-heavy sound but acceptable for this segment
Pairing the Realme Buds Wireless 2 Neo is a piece of cake. Just separate the buds to enter pairing mode, find the neckband in the Bluetooth device list on the phone and pair them. Wireless range is pretty standard with the neckband retaining a strong connection up to 10 meters with a clear line of sight between the earphones and source. The earphones get sufficiently loud at 60% volume with Volume Enhancer turned on. Moving on to the sound quality, the output is quite similar to the Dizo GoPods D with this wireless neckband delivering a predominantly bass-heavy sound. While a lot of buyers in this segment will enjoy the extra bass, I would have preferred it to be a bit tighter. It often overshadows the midrange frequencies with a noticeable auditory masking in bass-heavy tracks. Even vocals feel a bit recessed in certain cases. To compensate for the low-end frequency boost, the highs have a good presence here without sounding sibilant, lending a good amount of sharpness to the overall sound. The instrument separation is passable but the soundstage is surprisingly broad for this segment giving the audio a fuller feel. All said and done, the sound quality of the Realme Buds Wireless 2 Neo, though not exceptional, is more than decent for this price band, and listening to music genres like Pop, EDM or general Bollywood stuff are enjoyable on these earphones.
Decent battery backup but lags behind the competition
The call quality on this neckband is average at best. When indoors, both parties are audible to each other but the voice feels boomy. When outdoors, things get worse with the microphones picking too much ambient noise. Clearly the environment noise cancellation (ENC) algorithm that the product page highlights doesn't work as intended. The battery backup of the Realme Buds Wireless 2 Neo is rated at 17 hours. In reality, it isn't too far from that, with the neckband soldiering on for a shade over 15 hours at approximately three hours of daily music playback and a few calls. You get a USB-C port here, which I am always pleased to see on devices released this year. It supports fast charging and 10 minutes of charge gives you just under two hours of play time. It can be charged fully in anything between 90 minutes to two hours depending on the charger you use. These figures aren't bad by any means but the competition does much better in this department. Case in point, the Boat Rockerz 330, that we reviewed recently, sells for a similar price, lasts close to 24 hours on a full charge, and the fast charging is much more effective too. Ten minutes of charge gives you close to eight hours of playback time on the Boat, and it can be charged fully in about 45 minutes.
Gets a lot of things right for its asking price
The Realme Buds Wireless 2 Neo sports a price tag of Rs. 1,499 with a one year warranty. The price is fair for a wireless neckband with a good design and build, customizable sound and programmable gestures through the companion app, magnetic on/off switch, decent battery backup and above average sound output. You easily get your money's worth and some more. However, the competition continues to grow stiff in this segment, and this Neo isn't 'The One,' or rather the only one to make a strong case. The Boat Rockerz 330 offers comparable sound and much better battery backup at a similar price, however, you will have to let go of the customizations through comparable apps as well as the magnetic power switch. If you have a few more bucks to spare, you may also consider the OPPO Enco M31 that sells under Rs. 2,000 and has arguably the best sound quality in this segment; it has a lower battery life though. If you want a pair of TWS earphones in this budget, you have the Dizo GoPods D to mull over. So choose one depending on the feature that you deem most important.