Surface Headphones 2 vs. Beats Studio3: Which headphones should you buy?

Surface Headphones 2 Black
Surface Headphones 2 Black (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The Surface Headphones 2 are overall the better choice for folks not using Apple devices. The Beats Studio 3 gets a boost from the Apple W1 chip, which you can't take advantage of on your Android phone or Windows PC, but the Surface Headphones 2 come in at $100 less, which makes it a far more attractive choice for everyone else.

Microsoft vs Apple

Both Microsoft and Apple find themselves in the high-end headphones market with the Surface and Beats brands, respectively. Of the two, Apple has the history and brand recognition, though that itself doesn't come without its fair share of criticism.

However, the Studio3 wireless headphones aren't the Beats of old and deserve plenty of respect.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has now launched only its second generation of Surface Headphones, but rather than attempting to completely redesign the product, simply refined the original model and made it even better while chopping a massive chunk off the asking price.

What we end up with is both Apple and Microsoft producing high-quality headphones. They both sound great, are very comfortable to wear, and, in their own unique ways, very stylish, with excellent ANC all round.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Headphones 2Beats Studio 3
Noise cancellationActiveActive
Battery lifeUp to 20 hours (with ANC, Bluetooth and voice enabled)Up to 22 hours (used with Apple devices)
Up to 40 hours (ANC off)
Charging portUSB-C
Fast charge
Micro USB
Price$250$350

Beats are great for iPhone and iPad owners

Beats Studio 3

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Where Beats have a definite edge over the Surface Headphones 2 is if you use an Apple device such as an iPhone or iPad. Thanks to the Apple W1 chip, you get some serious benefits, including a better, easier to manage the wireless connection and much better battery life.

The W1 also allows you to switch seamlessly between your Apple devices without worrying about pairing each time. If you can take advantage of this connectivity, it's very, very good.

Of course, for everyone else, the Beats Studio3 is just a standard pair of wireless headphones. Sure, you can use your voice assistant with them, but it'll be the one on your phone, running from your phone.

Surface Headphones 2 work the same across every device

Surface Headphones 2 Black

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The Surface Headphones, by contrast, are a consistent experience across whichever devices you pair with it. Part of that is because voice is built into the headphones, so you always have it ready to help out, no matter the device.

The ultimate battery life may be a little weaker than the Studio3, but you at least have USB-C to top it off with, something you're likely to be carrying. An Apple product with a micro USB port, on the other hand, is pretty absurd and doesn't present itself for a lot of charging opportunities.

The Surface Headphones 2 can also be interacted with through the new Surface Audio app on Windows 10 (opens in new tab), Android (opens in new tab) and iOS (opens in new tab) to set equalizers, update firmware and more.

A great all-rounder

The Surface Headphones 2 are undoubtedly worthy contenders against the likes of Beats and Bose. The latest model is a definite improvement, and you have a high-end pair of ANC headphones to use with any device at a pretty attractive price. If you're not using Apple hardware, they're the ones to get.

Beats are best for Apple devices

Thanks to the W1 chip from Apple, there's just no way the Surface Headphones 2 can compete when you're using an iPhone or iPad. The seamless switching between devices and extraordinary battery life enhancements simply can't be matched. There's just a less compelling argument to get a pair unless you have that Apple device.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.