If you can’t beat ’em, copy ’em.
It’s been a lot of fun to watch the market for true wireless earbuds grow and evolve over the last few years — especially when it comes to the budget segment. Cheap wireless earbuds have gotten insanely good lately, with various companies delivering quality buds that can compete toe-to-toe with much more expensive name-brand options.
Mpow is no stranger to the affordable audio world, with its Mpow 059 Bluetooth Headphones being among the most popular headphones on the entirety of Amazon. Mpow has quite a few headphones/earbuds in its portfolio, one of which being the Mpow X3 true wireless earbuds.
The X3 are some of Mpow’s highest-end and most feature-rich TWS earbuds, and after spending a few days with them, I’ve come away rather impressed. I’ve tested a lot of products in the true wireless space, and the Mpow X3 stand out as one of my new favorites.
At a glance
Bottom line: Yes, the Mpow X3 look a lot like AirPods. The design inspiration is unavoidable, but assuming that doesn’t bother you, these are among the best wireless earbuds you can get for under $100. Just about everything with the X3 works well. They sound great and have good bass reproduction, support real active noise-canceling, have long battery life, and charge via USB-C. Minus a cheap-feeling case and the copycat aesthetics, everything else about the Mpow X3 is a home run.
- Well-balanced sound
- Active noise canceling really works
- Reliable battery life
- USB-C charging
- Good touch controls
- Case feels a bit cheap
- Design was clearly inspired by AirPods
- No wireless charging
$60 at Amazon
- What I like
- What I don’t like
- Should you buy them?
Mpow X3 What I like
There’s plenty to like about the Mpow X3, but let’s start with the highlight feature — active noise-canceling. This is a feature that we typically see reserved for much more expensive earbuds (ala the Sony WF-1000XM3), but thanks to some kind of magic, Mpow is able to offer it in earbuds that cost significantly less.
Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that the noise-canceling offered on the Mpow X3 isn’t as good as you’ll find with those pricier options. I can still hear the clickity-clack of my mechanical keyboard when ANC is turned on, as well as my wife talking in the same room on her Zoom calls for school. However, for things like a running dishwasher or the constant hum of the air conditioner, the X3 minimizes them beautifully.
You can enable/disable noise-canceling with a touch-and-hold on the side of the right earbud, making it easy to use the feature when you want to and get rid of it when you don’t. I certainly wouldn’t complain if the ANC performance was better, but given just how cheap the Mpow X3 are, it’s impressive that it works as well as it does.
Having ANC on earbuds this cheap is a hugely impressive feat.
With background noise around you reduced to a quieter level, the Mpow X3 make it that much easier to focus on the music/podcast you’re listening to. And, once again, Mpow impresses me. The X3 have a nicely-balanced soundstage with surprisingly punchy bass, resulting in all of your music sounding crisp, clear, and thoroughly enjoyable. They even avoid the muffled playback a lot other cheap earbuds tend to have, which is something LG couldn’t even accomplish with its $150 Tone Free earbuds.
I also appreciate that Mpow includes five sets of ear tips to help you get the best fit/seal possible for your ears. The default ones that come attached to the earbuds out of the box fit well for me, but if you need to change them, removing the tips and putting new ones on is as easy as it comes.
Outside of the listening experience, the rest of the Mpow X3 package is just as strong. Depending on if you have ANC turned on or off, you’ll get six or seven hours of continuous playback, respectively. When you factor in the charging case, you get up to 24 hours of battery when using ANC or 27 hours if you keep it disabled. That’s very good endurance, and it means you shouldn’t have to worry about charging the X3 all that often. When you do, there’s a USB-C port on the bottom of the case to refuel.
I briefly mentioned the touch controls above for managing noise-canceling, but they go far beyond that single function. There are capacitive touch panels on both earbuds, allowing you to perform the following actions:
- Play/pause (double-tap either earbud)
- Next track (triple-tap the right earbud)
- Previous track (triple-tap the left earbud)
- Volume up (tap the right earbud)
- Volume down (tap the left earbud)
- Answer phone call (tap either earbud)
- Hang up phone call (double-tap either earbud)
- Reject phone call (tap-and-hold either earbud)
- ANC (tap-and-hold right earbud)
- Prompt voice assistant (tap-and-hold left earbud)
Those are a lot of taps to remember, but thankfully, they’ve all worked quite well for me in my testing. I also really appreciate that Mpow went with a capacitive touch area instead of physical buttons, meaning you only have to tap lightly on the bud for the action to register.
Combine all of that together with a comfortable fit, a reliable Bluetooth 5.0 connection, and IPX7 water-resistance, and you end up with a wonderfully complete package.
Mpow X3 What I don’t like
Every pair of earbuds has room for improvement, and while I don’t think Mpow made any serious mistakes with the X3, there are some things I’d like to see addressed in a gen two model.
I appreciate the compact nature of the charging case and its textured grooves, but this is is certainly one of the cheaper-feeling cases I’ve used for true wireless earbuds. The magnetic lid closes firmly and it works as intended, but you can tell Mpow used a cheaper plastic for its construction. It feels hollow to the touch, the hinge for the lid is looser than I’d like, and it picks up fingerprints very easily.
The AirPods design sure is something.
There’s also the fact that the Mpow X3 look a lot like AirPods. I appreciate the black paint job instead of going with the stark white, but there’s no mistaking where Mpow got its design inspiration from. I personally don’t find it that offputting, but seeing how other companies have gotten creative with ways to design their earbuds and charging cases, I’d like to see Mpow also take a risk and try something a bit more unique.
I have only one other complaint, and it’s the lack of wireless charging. Having USB-C is great, but having the case support Qi would be even better. I’ve been spoiled by other earbuds that I can throw down on the various Qi charging pads throughout my apartment, and not having that option on the Mpow X3 is a bummer.
Mpow X3 Competition
The market for cheap wireless earbuds is one of the most competitive that exists, meaning that there are a ton of excellent alternatives to the Mpow X3. One such alternative is the TOZO T6. I’ve talked about the T6 a lot on Android Central, and for good reason. You can often find these earbuds selling for less than what the Mpow X3 cost, and they deliver bass-heavy sound, an IPX8 water-resistance rating, USB-C and wireless charging, and come in a few different color options. They don’t have active noise-canceling, but everything else is the tops.
If ANC is an important feature for you, it may be worth looking at the Aukey Key Series EP-T18NC. You get higher-quality audio and much better noise cancellation, but they also cost twice as much as the X3.
There are also the SoundPEATS TrueFree+, which come in at the opposite end of the spectrum. They cost even less than the X3, but even so, still manage to have great audio, a comfy design, and even better battery life.
Mpow X3 Should you buy them?
Who they’re for
- If you want earbuds with ANC and good audio.
- If you need to have reliable battery life.
- If you need a good water-resistance rating.
- If you’re trying to watch your budget.
Who they aren’t for
- If you want Qi wireless charging.
- If you don’t want your earbuds to look like AirPods.
- If you need AptX support.
There are so many cheap wireless earbuds available these days, and while that’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, it can make it difficult to pick out the gems from everything else. The Mpow X3’s copycat design certainly doesn’t help the earbuds stand out at first glance, but if you give them a chance, you’ll find that there’s a lot to like.
The presence of ANC is easily the biggest draw to the X3, and while it isn’t the best noise-canceling available, the fact that it’s here and works on earbuds so affordable is miraculous. When you combine that with the solid audio, long battery life, and excellent touch controls, it becomes even more impressive that Mpow was able to hit the price tag that it did.
out of 5
There may be other earbuds out there that fit your needs better, but if you’re in the market for true wireless earbuds that sound good, last a long time, and deliver real active noise cancellation, you’ll be hard-pressed to do much better than the Mpow X3.
$60 at Amazon
Flagship features without the cost
Mpow continues its excellence in the budget audio space with its X3 earbuds. The design is a bit bland and the charging case is cheap, but everything else is so, so good. The Mpow X3 sound great, have legit active noise cancellation, come with reliable battery life, and USB-C charging.