Welcome to another round of “Kevin’s Cheap Earbud/Headphone reviews”. On the bench today, we have the Anker Soundcore Life P2i earbuds. How do they stack up and are they worth the cash?
And what about any privacy concerns?
Why these styles of reviews?
I run this style of review as – and I know people may go into shock when they learn this – some people don’t have money for AirPods, Galaxy Buds, Bose Headphones or whatever the codename of the Sony Buds are called.
Some people have to live within budgets. Again, shocking. And if you lose your headphones often enough, paying out for replacements gets tiring, really fast.
So welcome back to the Cheap Earbud review.
First up: Do I trust Anker as a brand?
I’m going to be blunt. No.
Since the issue with their Eufy brand in which data was left unencrypted and the company’s behaviour has been… less than clean, I find it difficult to recommend an Anker product of any sort based on the handling of the situation.
You can always have a bad situation, but be open about it (something airlines are notoriously bad about) and show the steps you’re taking to resolve the issue. However, Anker and Eufy’s behaviour has been less than open – to put it mildly.
I recommend you read what The Verge reported and how Anker is trying to improve.
As such, unless a core part of the experience, I will not be testing any software supplied by Anker for these earbuds.
I strongly recommend you practice high levels of data security, privacy and sanitisation when dealing with ANY brand. Ankers’s recent responses are enough for me to look at non-internet connected hardware but run a mile away if you need to put your data on the internet until the company has proved it can be trusted.
With that being said, let us get onto the main review.
How much do they cost?
Mine were £16.99 via Amazon UK. Price, as always is variable depending on your outlet of choice and when you’re buying it.
Specifications and Features
These are the more basic (like your author and writer are), thus here is the spec list:
- Bluetooth 5.2
- IPX5 waterproof rating (rain and sweat proof)
- 8 hours of playtime on a single charge with a total of 28 hours.
- A Charging case can charge earpieces fully 3 times
- Three ear tips, a USB A to C cable and an English manual
As I said – basic.
Get to the unboxing experience!
Oh yes, the unboxing experience. After removing the Amazon packaging, we have a plastic-wrapped box for this LifeP2i.
First up is a box. With all the angles
First up are the instructions.
Inside the box, we have the earbud charging case.
A charging cable is provided – this is a USB-C-based device, meaning you can use most USB-C chargers (be it a mains charger, an A to C cable or a C to C cable.
Opening the earbud case, we have two earbuds, both with paper backing (and it is a good idea to remove it, so the earbuds can make electrical contact with the charging pins.
The lid has magnets in them – so the case has a nice snap when it closes.
The tips are paper-covered, so they aren’t activated before you use them.
The earbuds were in pairing mode “out of the box”, connecting over a Bluetooth interface with the phone. No app is required to take advantage of these buds or configure them – a welcome thing to see for something at this level.
Comfort and Fit
With three sets of tips (small, medium and large), I tried the medium tips. These had reasonable noise isolation seals from the off, blocking out a lot of ambient noise without any issue.
However, when walking around, I did notice these did something that neither the Flying Tiger earbuds nor Skullcandy Dime ones did… they started falling out when walking.
That’s less than optimal.
I traded up to the larger silicon tips, where they did a little better – but, considering nearly every headphone/earbud set that has passed through Economy Class and Beyond towers has had the default ear tips left on them and were “fine”, it’s a little disappointing.
If I’m out and about, I vary between one earphone in-ear or both. One in, one out gives me a lot more situational awareness, as these do not have a Transparency Mode on them.
This is rated for 8 hours of playback (depending on volume). Meanwhile, the charging case can hold two and bit charges – for a total of 28-hour battery life from fully charged to dead. Those who forget to charge their earbuds can charge for 10 minutes and get a full hour of use.
Sadly, on the box, there’s no way to tell the battery level – there’s just one LED on it. Thankfully, most phone software should be able to work out the battery level of a Bluetooth device.
Wear and tear
Some of you will have seen the above image and are thinking “Piano black plastic. Why?”.
And I agree. After having these live in my pocket with keys, phones and coins…
If you want your set to be pristine, consider a cover for them – but at this bargain basement price… is it worth it? My numbers are rough, but they scream “no” to me.
Has Anker managed to make a human-manageable control schema for these Soundcore Life P2i earbuds? With two buttons, I can answer that with a simple “nope”.
I guess I’m very simple-minded when it comes to controls on earbuds, to the point I reach for my phone to do most things.
These have physical buttons as opposed to touch-sensitive buttons, which can take a little to get used to. In particular, you do feel like you’re pushing your fingers in your ear with controlling the earbuds.
The headphones are rated for use around 10 meters from the device as these operate on Bluetooth 5.0. This seemed accurate as I left the case and phone at my desk, whilst pottering around one of the offices I’m based in, without any audio dropping out.
Things like walls will get in the way of the signal – so be warned – if you need your audio continuous, ensure the device you use is within grabbing distance.
I’ve assembled a YouTube playlist of some of the tracks I test with – namely, then you can compare them with your headphones or audio device. It’s an eclectic mix – mostly actually lives on my iPhone for straight transfer to the audio device.
The list is published on YouTube, but we’ve chosen some highlights from it. As well as a few new items that are joining the testing party.
We’ll start with something a little different – with Corcovado by Yuksek and Fatnotronic.
This song is… well can be best filed, “I spend too much time in hipster coffee shops drinking V60s”. The base is a nice punch, however, the instruments and voice are a little tinny at the top ends.
Onto Crab Rave by Noisestorm – as there is a law that every tech review has to use it, and the results we got in Corcovado are mirrored here, with a thumpy base, but instruments at the top of the earphone range can be a little tinny.
Bumping up the volume on these increases the tinniness (although the base does… *checks urban dictionary” slap).
Moving onto the stereo separation tests, I’ll be relying on Elenor Rigby by The Beatles, with Paul McCarthy mostly in the right ear when singing the verses The separation is there and clear, although these buds don’t have an auto-pause feature when taking an earbud out.
The audio transition between the two earbuds also works within the expectations with “On Her Majesties Secret Service” by The Propellerheads (and the Shaken and Stirred album is a good starter for those who want to explore how David Arnold got into the Bond music stream).
Moving on to Keiino’s “Spirit in the Sky”. Again, whilst the mids and base are wonderfully driven, the trebles (especially Alexandra’s vocals), can be a little tinny when driving the earbuds at higher volumes. At lower human-listenable volumes, it is fine enough.
Finally, we’ll wrap up with the new version of “The Eve of the War” from “War of the Worlds”, with Qui-Gon Jinn I mean Liam Neason being the narrator. The vocals were clear when Qui-Gon narrated, whilst the orchestra was lovely and base-y, whilst the synths were edging towards a gritty feel at the higher range of the track. Gary Barlow’s vocals appeared a little blown up at the top of his ranges.
Recording Quality/Call Quality
As usual, your mileage will vary with the joy of Bluetooth. On the few calls I tested with people (both video and voice), the audio quality was clear enough to be understandable to the person on the other end of the line,
Good enough for the price. And no software too.
As we’re going through cheap headphones, we’re picking on little things – because at this price point. The fit of these headphones, compared to the others, isn’t what I’d call “wonderful”.
Just ensure you get the right ear tips in, or else you’ll be unhappy when they fall out in the middle of the street.
In terms of setup, it’s fine. There’s no need to worry about downloading software onto your device to manage them and it’s easy enough to put them back into pairing mode if needed.
And if you love bass, you’ll love them. If you have any other tastes, expect the mids and highs to suffer, especially when you try to drive them at higher volumes.
Heck, it even has USB-C charging. As we all know, it isn’t a nicety any more, it’s a requirement as we move into the single connector world (the fact that USB is a completely and utterly broken standard is beside the point. That’s another article for another day).
For £17, I’m not seeing a lot that bad, to be honest – I can almost forgive the control schema at this point.
I can almost forgive Anker for some of the actions they did with Eufy.
I did say almost. And here’s where it breaks down for me – in our world, there is a lot of trust is needed for any technology we use. We trust that technology to be invasive as it needs to be and not much further.
Each person will have their level of trust – from “I’d trust them as far as I can throw to them” through to “Here’s all my data, give me all the services in the world”.
Depending on your trust levels, basic Bluetooth (even Bluetooth 5.2) shouldn’t present too many issues on this front.
However, there’s a lot to like. It will depend on how much you are to trust Anker and its data-handling policy.
And if it sticks to it.
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