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They say ignorance is bliss, and I’m inclined to believe that whenever I try a new piece of tech that is by all means decent, but perhaps just not up to par with all the cooler, top-of-the-line gadgets I have the privilege of trying.

Recently, I’ve been able to try the ChatGPT-integrated Nothing Ear (a), which is the brand’s more budget-friendly pair of earbuds.

So, how does it perform, stacked up against the other great earphones I’ve tried in the past?

Visuals: Nothing less than beautiful

Keeping true to Nothing’s branding, the Ear (a) features the brand’s signature futuristic yet minimalistic style. I’m a sucker for buds with stems, which makes Nothing’s so charming to me.  

As for the case, compared to the previous squarish shape, this one is more rectangular, opening up like a book. The clear casing does worry me about upkeep, but so far, it’s pretty easy to clean and relatively smudge-resistant.  

Lightweight at 4.8g per earbud, they’re very comfortable to wear. I’ve been able to keep these buds in my ear for hours without feeling any discomfort, but the only downside is that they don’t allow for the snuggest fit.

Together with the case, the Ear (a) weighs in at 49.2g, which makes it easy to carry around in your pockets.

Some crevices in the build get dirty quite quickly, which is especially a shame with the white colourway since it shows to easily.

Speaking of colours though, Nothing has introduced a new yellow colourway, which is ideal for those who like a bit of flashiness with their gadgets. For us, though, the white is as classy and timeless as ever.    

The pinch and hold haptics aren’t my favourite, as I prefer a more tactile feel, but I have no complaints about the actual functionality. 

Audio: Nothing to complain about

I’m no audiophile, but having the opportunity to try great earphones such as ones from Jabra is like getting a taste of the forbidden fruit.

Don’t get me wrong, for the average listener, the Nothing Ear (a) is a perfectly capable pair of earphones. To me, though, the sound is a little thinner compared to some other buds I’ve tried.

But by all accounts, it’s a decent pair of earphones. The equaliser works well, with my favourite being the “more bass” option, whereby the Ear (a) enhances low frequencies in your music in real-time, elevating bass-heavy sounds.

It features a dynamic 11mm driver, which is ever-so slightly smaller compared to the Ear (2)’s 11.6mm driver. Yet, the sound quality is pretty comparable to the Ear (2) buds, which I reviewed last year.

The ANC is decent, not the most intensive but certainly good enough to keep me sane during rush hours on the train.  

There are three levels of noise cancellation, as well as an adaptive option that can be toggled in the Nothing X app.  

ChatGPT integration: I’ve got nothing for you

When they said native integration, I really thought the buds would just organically come fitted with a ChatGPT software you could speak to any time, any day.

Turns out, it’s only compatible with the Nothing Phone 2, and will only come to the Nothing Phone (1) and Nothing Phone 2 (a) down the road. This feature will also be coming soon to Ear (1), Ear (2), and Ear (stick).    

But here’s a quick rundown of what this integration actually encompasses: you can use your voice (or pinch gestures) to access ChatGPT on the Ear (a).  

This first-of-its-kind integration lets users ask, listen, and learn from ChatGPT more easily than ever. The Nothing OS 2.5.5a will also feature bespoke ChatGPT widgets that act as shortcuts to use ChatGPT.

To be honest, this whole integration was not as fanciful as I expected it to be, but it’s certainly a neat feature that aligns well with the tech-forward sort of vision that Nothing personifies.

Everything else

Other features of the buds to note include its rating of IP54, meaning they’re somewhat water-resistant, but not waterproof.

My favourite thing about the earbuds, though, is their commendable battery life. The buds can last up to 42.5 hours of listening time with the case, and 9.5 hours on a single charge. I’ve used the buds for about a week, on and off, and I genuinely haven’t had to charge it at all.  

With all that said, I would say the Nothing Ear (a) is worth getting if you’ve already bought into the ecosystem.

But of course, the same can be said for Apple’s AirPods and Samsung’s Buds. All things considered, with the Nothing X app, the Ear (a) is far more compatible with other ecosystems compared to Apple’s and Samsung’s.

At RM479, I think it’s a great purchase for those who are already using a Nothing phone. But as for people who aren’t using a Nothing phone, you would be missing out on the extra features.

At the same time, though, Nothing has also launched the Nothing Ear, which is separate from the Nothing Ear (1) and Ear (2). At RM659, it’s a little bigger than the Ear (a) and supports wireless charging, but actually sports less battery life.

Looking at the specs and price difference, I’d say the Nothing Ear (a) is my preferred pick.

Lightweight, making it very comfortable to wearDoesn’t offer the most snug fit
Incredibly long-lasting battery lifeDoesn’t support wireless charging
Relatively affordable price pointThe ChatGPT integration is only for the Nothing ecosystem
  • Learn more about Nothing Ear (a) here.
  • Read other VP Verdicts we’ve written here.

VP Verdict is a series where we personally try and test out products, services, fads, and apps. Want to suggest something else for us to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion to our Facebook page

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(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)