Creative Outlier Air V2 Hands-On Review: An upgrade on an excellent pair of TWS earbuds for US$20 less
It has been just over six weeks since Creative announced the Outlier Air V2, its latest set of TWS earbuds. Since then, we have been testing them out and seeing what more the new earbuds have to offer over Creative's previous efforts. Creative kindly provided the Outlier Air V2 at no cost, but this did not affect our views or the content contained below.
The Outlier Air V2 succeeds, as its name suggests, the Outlier Air, but the new earbuds improve upon the excellent Outlier Gold, in our opinion, too. The core of the Outlier Air V2 remains unchanged from the Outlier Gold. The earbuds fit snugly against the ear and contain the same 5.6 mm graphene-coated drivers with which Creative equipped its past Outlier earbuds. The Outlier Air V2 supports Creative's Super X-Fi technology too, more on which you can read in our review of the Outlier Gold.
Creative continues to pair its Outlier earbuds with cylindrical charging cases. However, the one of the Outlier Air V2 is slightly wider than the one that the Outlier Gold has. We cannot see a reason for the difference in length though, as both cases contain 450 mAh batteries. Creative has changed the design and location of the charging pins for each earbud too, making the charging case exclusive to the Outlier Air V2. Other minor changes to the charging case include a removal of the fourth charging LED and a switch from blue to green LEDs by default. Now, the battery LED lights up when the case is opened and when it is charging, effectively combining two LEDs from the Outlier Gold.
The most noticeable difference to between the charging cases, and indeed the earbuds themselves, is the new Metallic Blue colour. We liked the Champagne Gold of the Outlier Gold, but we prefer the understated look of the Metallic Blue on the Outlier V2.
Unsurprisingly, the Outlier Air V2 offers almost identical sound quality to the Outlier Gold. As we remarked earlier this year, audio quality is one of the strengths of the Outlier earbuds series. The Outlier Air V2 delivers impressive clarity and bass reproduction, along with decent passive noise cancellation thanks to their shape.
The Outlier Air V2 offers solid range too and can connect to devices using up to the Bluetooth 5.0 standard. As far as we can tell, the Outlier Air V2 offers the same connectivity as the Outlier Gold. Hence, the Outlier Air V2 supports the AAC, aptX and SBC codecs, while delivering a frequency response of 20-20,000 Hz.
Creative has added another omnidirectional microphone though, which improved the clarity of our voice during calls. The frequency response of the microphones remains at 100-10,000 Hz, however, while their sensitivity is still pegged at -42 dBV / Pa.
The Outlier Air V2 retains the IPX5 rating of the Outlier Gold, too. This means that the earbuds should withstand being worn in the rain, but they are not water or dustproof.
Arguably the greatest change between the Outlier Gold and the Outlier Air V2 is the adoption of touch controls. Rigid buttons were our biggest complaint about the Outlier Gold, as they were impossible to press without subjecting ourself to severe ear pain. It is possible to press the buttons without removing the earbuds, but the touch controls on the Outlier Air V2 are vastly superior.
Tapping twice plays or pauses media and a triple tap seeks forwards or backwards depending on which earbud you press. Similarly, holding the left earbud reduces the volume, while holding the right one increases it. Single tapping either earbud does nothing, which prevents any actions from being triggered inadvertently.
There are a few minor changes to the earbuds from the Outlier Gold, too. The repositioned magnets can now hold the earbuds together, which may well be an intentional change. Moreover, the LED rings surrounding the touch panels do not flash incessantly as the ones on the Outlier Gold do. Pausing media no longer results in a light show as happens on the Outlier Gold, which is a welcome change. Instead, the earbuds flash twice a few seconds after pausing media, something that we find more tolerable.
Battery life on the Outlier Air V2 is not quite as good as is on the Outlier Gold, but the latter easily sees us through a working day and a half before needing a recharge. According to Creative, the Outlier Air V2 should last two hours fewer between charges than the Outlier Gold, culminating in a total playtime of 34 hours before the charging case also needs a top-up. In practice, we can get a full working week from the Outlier Air V2 on a single charge. A full recharge takes up to two hours, which is not that long in the scheme of the excellent battery life that the earbuds offer.
Verdict - A remarkable pair of TWS earbuds for the money
Overall, the Outlier Air V2 represent an evolution of the Outlier Gold, which were already very good TWS earbuds. In our opinion, Creative's latest pair of earbuds offer more than the Outlier Gold but at 80% of the price. The adoption of touch controls eliminates the only issue we had with the Outlier Gold, which is enough reason to buy the Outlier Air V2 alone.
Other refinements like another microphone and more intelligent use of the light rings help the Outlier Air V2 to deliver a more rounded experience than the Outlier Gold, too. The Outlier Air V2 also has the same audio hardware as the Outlier Gold, despite costing US$20 less.
In short, the Outlier Air V2 offers better value for money than the Outlier Gold, which were some of the best sub-US$100 TWS earbuds that we have tried this year. The earbuds currently sell for US$69.99, but will eventually go up to US$79.99. Short of adding active noise cancellation, multi-device support and better drivers, Creative could do little else to improve upon the Outlier Air V2.