Abhimanyu GhoshalManaging Editor
Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and culture. Hit him up on Twitter, or write in: [email protected].
There’s no shortage of wireless earphones to choose from these days, but if you’re on a tight budget, the pickings are rather slim. Thankfully, Mpow has you covered with a pretty decent pair that costs just $50, with all the usual features and commendable performance.
At this price, you’d expect compromises in every department, but after using them for a couple of weeks, I’m happy to report that the M5 earbuds aren’t a constant reminder that you didn’t spend a whole lot of money on them. Here’s a closer look at these value-for-money earphones.
Design and features
The M5 buds don’t look particularly remarkable, but that might actually be a good thing for folks who just want a discreet pair of earphones that don’t draw attention to themselves. The buds are exceptionally light, and comfortable enough to wear for hours at a stretch. They also stay put in your ears, provided you use the right size of eartips that fit you well.
The compact pill-shaped charging case is elegantly finished in a faux leather material, and the overall look belies its sticker price. It’s among the smallest earbud cases I’ve seen, and you should be able to fit these into a pant pocket without too much of a fuss.
The buds each have a large push-button control that you use to pause and resume audio playback, answer and end calls, and invoke your phone’s voice assistant with single clicks and long presses. I actually prefer these to some touch and swipe controls that I’ve tried on other earphones, because of the obvious tactile feedback.
The M5 pair connect to your device over Bluetooth 5.0, which means they’re quick to pair and better battery life thanks to BLE. You can also use either bud on its own in mono mode, and this works as advertised.
As for sound quality, the M5s performed as I expected, managing fairly competent reproduction across genres like pop, rock, and hip-hop. They were a bit harsh on pronounced highs when I turned up the volume, with a lot more sibilance than I’d care for. The way they’re tuned doesn’t make them ideal for picking out nuanced vocals. That said, these buds sound as good as many other pairs that cost two-three times the price.
I tried making several calls with the M5s, and they worked pretty well. Your voice sounds like you’re on speakerphone to the person you’ve called, meaning there’s a bit of ‘distance’ — but there’s no additional echo, and the audio is otherwise clear enough for calls when you’re in a quiet space.
The buds generally lived up to their battery life claims of six hours on a single charge. The case can juice them up seven times, which is pretty good, and you can charge the case itself in two hours. Too bad it uses a Micro-USB port for that instead of USB-C — but that’s likely one of the ways Mpow managed to keep the price down with this pair.
Who are these for?
If you want to dip your toes in the truly wireless water, or want to pick up an inexpensive gift for the frequent commuter in your life, Mpow’s M5 buds are a great choice. They sound good with most contemporary music, last a good while on a charge, and come in a compact case. More importantly, they’re a lot cheaper than other buds that deliver similar performance.
If this is the price range you’re shopping in, you could also consider Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Neo buds, which come in at under $35 on Amazon US. We reviewed what I believe is last year’s model, and liked it a lot.
If you have a wee bit more money, you might want to look at this other pair from Mpow, which costs about $55 but promises double the battery life, and this new set from Anker with USB-C, as well as graphene drivers that boast improved sound quality.
Find the Mpow M5 on Amazon US at $49.99 (don’t forget to clip the coupon and save a couple of bucks on that page) and Amazon India (where they unfortunately cost a lot more, at Rs. 7,499).
This post includes affiliate links to products that you can buy online. If you purchase them through our links, we get a small cut of the revenue.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.