The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z may not be at the top of most shopping lists when you’re on the lookout for a pair of wireless earbuds, due mostly to that extra tether.
But when you consider the $49 entry price, they ‘re starting to get a little more compelling. Previous generation Bullets Wireless 2 happened to be great for Android’s active owner, even at $99. So when OnePlus announced what was essentially a half-priced plastic version of the Bullets Wireless 2 in a range of colors alongside the OnePlus 8 series, I was excited to get my hands on some of them.
Like many of you out there, I’m still eagerly waiting to launch their own truly wireless earbuds on OnePlus, but I’m more than happy to “settle” for the tethered option until then. The Wireless 2 Bullets are now a staple of my regular carry, just for a number of things I think the Z model could be improving in a number of ways.
How do the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z stack up against the competition — and last year’s offering — with a more attractive entry price, slightly better color choices to choose from, and some relatively minor corner-cutting?
Design and hardware
Lightweight everyday comfort
If you’ve ever used the previous generation, you’ll immediately notice where the cost-cutting starts with the Wireless Bullets 2. The entire earbud is now made of plastic, instead of metal. That’s not unexpected, but it’s noticeable as the shiny plastic can’t quite mimic the Bullets Wireless 2’s metallic sheen. Is that necessarily a bad thing? I would have to say no, because the Bullets Z still hold the exact same shape , size and core design.
The rest of the design is likewise the same as it was before. You get that thick, silicone-coated tether on the left side, with an inline remote, and those battery nodules, quick switch toggle and charge port. Owing to the change from metal to plastic on the earbuds themselves, there is a very significant weight difference — ~32 g versus 28 g.
This has a dual effect, as the lighter construction also makes the magnetic snap on the Bullets Z ever so slightly stronger than you’ll find on the Bullets 2 — ensuring no unwanted pairings or contacts during the day.
Since some cost-cutting steps have been taken, it might come as a disappointment that you don’t get some kind of carrying case with the Bullets Wireless Z. I wouldn’t look at this as too much of a negative, as the silicone case that came with the Bullets Wireless 2 was and still is frustrating and finicky. Because of the amount of unnecessary phone connections I essentially stopped using it not long after release.
It’s good to see some flair applied to earbuds after picking up these buds in the striking blue color. Yeah, most people want something a little unnoticeable, but overall it’s great to have audio accessory options.
Comfort and fit
Now even more comfortable
So the shape and size of the earbud remained the same, but I consider the Bullets Wireless 2 and Z to be the most comfortable I’ve ever worn because of the weight decrease and for my specific ear shape.
I am able to wear them for hours at a time when I have slapped (or carefully placed) into my ear canal without having to take them out. Also, the standard silicone tips help with my own comfort, since they are thin but stretchy for improved materials in ear. Your mileage can vary, of course, but I can’t speak more highly about the convenience of Wireless Z Bullets.
Using a tether is nice to work out, because you can just let them hang out of the way. Personally, having “free” earbuds, I’m quite forgetful. I sometimes take one out, bring it in or misplace it in my bag. Getting a tether is especially useful in this respect, but if you don’t want to wear it all day around your neck, you may want to miss it.
Snap and play
If you have a OnePlus device, the fast pairing process means that the first time you separate the magnetic buds your phone recognizes the Bullets Wireless Z instantly. You’ll get the pop-up notification matched up in seconds. That being said, the pairing process on any other device is easy, just open your Bluetooth settings, tap “OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z” and you’ll be listening to your favorite tracks in no time.
Sound quality and controls
Solid but not quite spectacular
The drivers took a small bump, because you are now having 9.2 mm drivers instead of 10 mm used in the Wireless 2 Bullets. There are some changes to the audio codec support found on the previous gen, with aptX HD being a standout missing codec — though high quality AAC audio files are supported.
I haven’t noticed an immediate drop in overall quality, but in certain tracks that rely on heavy bass, you can tell there’s far less “thump.” The overall effect is not significantly negative, but it is something to remember. The sound stage is still nice and wide, and the separation of instruments is good enough, despite the pricing of the sub-$50. I prefer the sound quality of the Bullets Wireless 2 but the differences are extremely marginal.
For those of you out there concerned about the consistency of the phone calls, inline microphone placement means you won’t have any problem being heard. On top of that, you’ll be able to hear the callers loud and clear with good isolation.
The shape tips and the silicone ear tips also help to better isolate sound. It’s not quite up to the rate you’ll get with dedicated noise reduction, but I don’t think you’ll miss the possible battery-hogging feature with the right location in your ear. That said, noise cancelation on a coming pair of OnePlus earbuds would be good.
I’m not yet a huge fan of the tiny inline control buttons, but after a short five-second delay, you can still detach the magnetic earbuds to start listening to any audio previously played. Like the Bullets 2, the Z lets you respond to voice calls when you open them. Snapping them back together ends a call or stops any music being played at the moment — this is nice to stop and start audio on the go quickly.
Long-term life span
The Wireless Z battery on the Bullets is rated around 20 hours. I haven’t found that in real life to be exactly true, but I only had to charge once a week. I would say the battery was working about 18 hours or so, which is still amazing and much more than the Wireless 2 Bullets.
I ‘m pleased that OnePlus provided Warp Charging help with the cheaper buds. Just 10 minutes of plug-in is going to cost you about 10 hours of extra life. This is great for getting up quickly if you forget, and I wholeheartedly support using one cable for your phone and headphones.
Although the sound isn’t as “full” as you’ll find with the Wireless 2 Bullets, the Wireless Z Bullets would certainly be a great choice for many people out there who want at least one wireless connection to their smartphone to free themselves.
The market is a bit crowded with weak wireless earbuds, at $49. The Bullets Z is not intended to compete with the likes of AirPods or even the Pixel Buds launched recently. They ‘re built to give you a cheap Bluetooth earbuds everyday pair that you can just throw over your neck and go about your day — and they’re excelling at that.
If you value the overall audio experience, you may want to go for the Wireless 2 Bullets, but the Wireless Z is a pair of decent quality, long-lasting, inexpensive earbuds that is perfect for most people.