In 2018 and 2019, India was seeing an outbreak of smartphone launches. Smartphone makers were launching new models left, right and centre. While older brands left the market, new brands captured their space, leading to an uninterrupted launch of new devices. In 2020, that action seems to have shifted to the true wireless earbuds market. From small brands to big audio brands, everyone is launching a new truly wireless earbuds right now. Creative is no different and it’s first true wireless earbuds in India are called Outlier Air. Creative was once a household name in the audio segment in India. Also Read - Boult Audio Tru5ive Pro true wireless earbuds launched in India for Rs 2,799
It’s speaker system for desktop computers with retro circular dial for volume control were all the rage more than a decade back. However, it lost the sheen along the way as consumers shifted to new devices and modern form factors. As the audio industry is making another transition, Creative is not trying to be a distant player. With Outlier Air, Creative not only wants to compete in the true wireless earbuds market but wants to do so in India, where the segment is growing rapidly. Does Creative Outlier Air live up to the fabled name? Read our review to find out. Also Read - Realme Buds Q Review: Setting the bar high for budget true wireless earbuds
Design and Comfort
From the shape of a puck to that of an egg to that of a pencil box, the true wireless earbuds come in all shapes and sizes. The Creative Outlier Air also comes with a different design. The case that houses Creative Outlier Air earbuds is rectangular and taller and looks like an expensive matchbox at times. A friend said it looks like the toy wardrobe that comes as part of playsets for kids. I agree, it looks different and that is a huge selling point. While the design may not be most thoughtful but it does offer quality build.
The outer shell of the case is made from metal and you realize that immediately. It is also extremely nice to touch and gives that sense of feeling previously seen on iPhone with metal back. The inner shell, which houses the earbuds, seems to use plastic and it is not stiff. When you pull the enclosure housing the earbuds, I would recommend not to play with it. I’m certain that it won’t come apart but it is better to be safe than sorry. There is not much to complain here in terms of design.
There is Creative branding on the top while the left side shows battery life of the case, earbuds and charging status. The earbuds themselves have in-ear style design and they sit in their slots with the help of magnet. I had some issues while placing the left earbud. It was not about the position but the feedback was not always present. However, the outer ring of the earbuds surface has LEDs to indicate when they are charging. When there is no mechanical feedback, you go with the visual clue. These earbuds also use small silicone eartips and I found them to be OK. However, depending on the shape of your ear, you might dislike it.
Creative says the Outlier Air packs 5.6mm graphene drivers but I’m not sure these drivers are completely built from graphene. I found the sound output to be playful and more tuned towards bass response. It clearly prioritizes bass response over clarity. There is no way to tune the output and I liked the sound output for most part. The earbuds are designed in such a way that they create a tight seal. I also found these to be more enjoyable in a closed room than in a noisy environment.
Since these are in-ear style, they result in no isolation from ambient sound. Wearing them and walking on a street is something I wouldn’t recommend. In such a situation, you can instead use them in mono output where only one earbud outputs sound. These again work in master and slave fashion and you can switch to a desired unit by placing the secondary unit into the case. It takes up to 10 seconds for the active unit to be assigned as the main earbud. Since we are talking Creative here, the three-dimensional sound output is the best yet in this price range.
For regular audio playback, I had no glitch whatsoever. Whether I was playing Nigel Kennedy’s Vivaldi or Leonard Cohen’s In My Secret Life, the earbuds were not only able to play them well but also separate the instruments. The real advantage is the instrument separation but spatial awareness is another advantage. At Rs 7,999, Creative Outlier Air truly punches above its weight in the audio segment. I do want to note that 1MORE Stylish True Wireless Earbuds also deliver good sound output and comfortable fit in this price segment. They are also better than Creative for voice calls.
Connectivity and Battery Life
There is no single true wireless earbuds that are the best for most use cases. Creative Outlier Air is no different. One of the big issues for me was the lag while playing games like PUBG Mobile. Often I heard my team’s messages later than they would on other pairs of TWS earbuds. The company said the lag is the same as that on any earbuds that support Bluetooth 5.0. I won’t recommend using them while you play multiplayer games. Even on apps like Duolingo, I saw the audio response was delayed more than usual.
I have faced this issue with other true wireless earbuds as well. But on Creative Outlier Air, it was more prominent. “This is an issue beyond the performance of our product,” the company told me in a statement. However, the range was not an issue at all. The connectivity was strong during the time I spent testing these earbuds but it can succumb to interference. As far as battery life is concerned, I got about 8 hours from the earbuds. This is far less than 10 hours claimed by the company. This is still respectable in a price segment where the benchmark is around 5-6 hours.
The charging case is good to add another two rounds of playback. While Creative claims a total of 30 hours, I would say that 24 to 25 hours is the most plausible outcome. “Our earbuds were rigorously tested across a wide range of mobile phone models at moderate volume (around 50 percent depending on the phone model), and the average battery lifespan was close to 10 hrs,” the company explained in an email statement. The battery life indicator on the left flank is precise and gives a clear idea.
Creative Outlier Air is definitely one of the best true wireless earbuds in the sub-Rs 10,000 price segment. It has decent design with IPX5 certification but also fragile in terms of structure of the case. The earbuds do not offer noise isolation from ambient sound but the audio playback is really good. The battery life is underwhelming when you look at the claim but better than those in this price segment. If you have a budget under Rs 10,000, these should be on your shortlist but it has tough competition from 1MORE and Sony.