Beats Solo 3 review: The best wireless headphones for your iPhone 7?


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The Beats Solo 3 arrives at a crucial time in the wireless headphone business. Apple has drawn a line in the sand with its decision to boot out the 3.5mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7 and, regardless of your thoughts on Apple’s intentions, this has pushed wireless audio tech very much into the mainstream.

The cable-free design of Apple’s AirPods might have become an ergonomically disputed icon for the wireless revolution, but the real powerhouse is Apple’s W1 chip – the company’s new wireless communications processor. Providing a shot in the arm to Bluetooth pairing and battery life, it’s the W1 chip that arguably makes wireless headphones a more practical reality – and it’s the W1 chip that goes a long way to making the Beats Solo 3 a standout pair of headphones.

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Beats Solo 3 review: Design

Visually, there’s nothing revolutionary here. In fact, You’d be hard-pressed to find any major aesthetic differences between the Solo 2 and the Solo 3. Beats has stuck with plastic over metal, which doesn’t provide the Solo 3 with any obviously upscaled touches, but it looks stylish and keeps the headphones lightweight.

The top band is cushioned, as are the ear cups that mould snugly to your head. Fold the headphones up and they fit tightly into the supplied compact case, and they snap back into position with reassuring firmness.

Beats has taken a page out of Apple’s book when it comes to simplicity of design, with buttons and other flim-flam kept to a minimum. There’s a small button on the right earpiece to turn the headphones on and off and to pair the headphones. Below this is a row of five small LEDs that indicate battery life.

On the left earpiece, there’s a big central button to play/pause audio, and buttons above and below to control volume. These aren’t touch-sensitive gesture controls, but rather physical buttons embedded into the outer surface of the ear cup.

To match the iPhone 7, the Solo 3 is available in a range of six colours: gloss black, gloss white, silver, gold, rose gold and black. The matte black pair I received didn’t chip or peel during my time with them, but if you go for the gloss coat then you’ll have to get used to seeing your own fingerprints.

Beats Solo 3 review: Battery life

The battery life on the Beat Solo 3 is frankly excellent. The Solo 2 was able to muster 12 hours before charging, and more expensive headsets such as the Bowers & Wilkins P7 can make 17 hours. Thanks to the W1 chip, the Beats Solo 3 blows these out of the water with a hugely impressive 40 hours of battery life.

That’s enough to cover you for six transatlantic flights worth of music, radio and podcast listening, or your entire working week, Monday to Friday. If you listen to music with headphones only sparingly – say, two hours a day – it could be three weeks before you need to recharge the Beats Solo 3.

Even if, like me, you’re slightly obsessive about having the power stores close to 100% each morning, the Solo 3’s quick-charging “Fast Fuel” feature translates five minutes of charging to three hours of listening time – seriously useful, if you find yourself running out of juice just before heading home. And if you can’t wait five minutes then there’s always the Solo 3’s headphone jack. Beats includes a 3.5mm cable for wired listening, although you’ll need to connect that with Apple’s stubby adapter if your phone doesn’t have a 3.5mm port.