Huawei FreeBuds is a great choice for users who want an AirPods-like pair of earphones that are more compatible with Android devices. Huawei’s done it – made the transition from smartphone maker to electronics giant. It’s got laptops covered, speakers checked off, wearables for days, and a small army of earphones.
Having entered the true wireless earbuds market in 2018 with the original FreeBuds, Huawei’s audio offering has been getting steadily better.
By the time it launched the FreeBuds 3 it clearly knew exactly what it was doing.
The FreeBuds 3 was the first set of buds to sport active noise cancellation (ANC) with an open-ear fit, and have been our go-to option for calls, thanks to their excellent voice quality and in-call noise-canceling.
Now, they’re getting an upgrade in the FreeBuds Pro, a set of in-ear buds that clearly has the Apple AirPods Pro in its cross-hairs.
Huawei’s first foray into a more premium bud space, the buds combine a new metallic color option with a comprehensive set of on-device controls, cubist design, and stepped noise cancellation.
True wireless earbuds are becoming popular with users and manufacturers alike.
The last few months brought lots of new options to market, including some from companies that you wouldn’t normally associate with audio products, such as Microsoft and Amazon.
It’s Apple, however, that continues to dominate with its AirPods and brand new AirPods Pro.
The Huawei FreeBuds 3 are Huawei’s answer to the AirPods 2. They look very similar, they come with a similar charging case and have many of the same features.
However, the FreeBuds 3 are not just an answer to another company’s hit product.
They stand on their own, thanks to features like active noise cancelling. That’s a world first for open-fit earbuds, and something that Apple only added earlier this week on the AirPods Pro.
The new FreeBuds cost €179, so they’re not exactly an impulse buy. Should you get them? Find out in our Huawei Freebuds 3 review.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro Price and Availability
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro launched in September 2020, and are available in all the markets you can already buy Huawei kit, so Australia and the UK are covered.
Unsurprisingly, if you’re reading this in the US, you’re out of luck. You can pick them up for £169 or AU$329 in all three color options – Carbon Black, Ceramic White, and our choice, Silver Frost.
Available through Huawei’s own website, as well as high street stores like Argos and Curry’s through to third-party online sellers including Amazon in the UK, buying options are plentiful.
Design and Controls
The first FreeBuds to feature ANC with a closed in-ear fit, the FreeBuds Pro pack a quirky, ‘Cubic Iconic’ design, with an angular stem.
The buds’ in-ear components are however curvy, with comfortable silicone earplugs that do a great job of securely sitting in the ear.
In the box, you get three tip fittings: small, medium, and large, as well as a USB-C cable.
You can pick up the FreeBuds Pro in Carbon Black, Ceramic White, and Silver Frost – the latter being a unique, standout option that helps set them apart from the rest of the bloated black and white buds on the market.
The curvy oblong charging case has a matte plastic finish in Silver Frost, or a polished finish in Black or White, and sports a metal hinge with the Huawei insignia on it.
There’s a USB-C port at the base for charging, though Qi wireless charging is also supported.
Open the case up and there’s an awkward fiddle to get the buds out, and handy magnets that help guide them back in.
Huawei generally gets design right, so we’re not shocked that the FreeBuds look great – a solid choice if style is your priority.
Their in-ear fit is also decent. While they aren’t as gym-friendly and lock in as tightly as the FreeBuds 3 (which made it through an entire Insanity workout without budging), they still stay put for the most part and are comfortable even when worn for over an hour.
What sets the FreeBuds apart from the pack is just how much you can control without having to touch your phone.
Smart interaction thanks to a force sensor on each stem gives you the power to switch between ANC modes with a long squeeze, play or pause with a short squeeze, and skip music tracks with a double squeeze to go forward, triple squeeze to go back.
Slide up or down the top part of either FreeBuds Pro stem, and you can also adjust volume – no phone reaching required.
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Performance and Sound
The Freebuds 4i have 10mm dynamic coil drivers and a “sensitive polymer composite diaphragm.
” We’re told the latter improves dynamic responsiveness to produce better audio, and is an alternative to paper, plastic and other types of diaphragms used in headphones.
Fancy terms aside, we’re happy to report that for their price, the Freebuds 4i deliver a pleasant and robust listening experience.
The most notable element is the bass performance, which remains punchy across all genres.
The killer bass and drum mastery in Snarky Puppy’s ‘Lingus.’ for example, comes across really well, without overpowering the nuance of the other instruments.
The thumping bass performance also carries over with superb results in more synthetic avenues like trance tracks, and particularly shines in all of those modern bastardised Gen Z TikTok remixes that we hate ourselves for finding catchy.
Our only realy niggle with the sound performance is the fact that while the highs and lows are well balanced, mids can get a little lost and muddied at times.
You’ll clearly pick up on basslines, hi-hats and crisp high notes, for example, but things like heavier guitar riffs in something like System of a Down’s ‘Toxicity’ can feel a little flat.
It’s nothing major, mind, and on the whole, the listening experience is enjoyable.
Considering their price, we’re pleased to see that Huawei has also thrown active noise cancellation (ANC) into the mix too.
Using built-in mics to cancel out outdoor noise such as engine sounds, traffic and wind, the Freedbuds 4i do a very respectable job of blocking out the outside world.
Selecting the right sized earbuds from the box will help ensure you get the best possible isolation. For us, the largest ones offered the most secure fit, but we feel it could be a bit better.
Our advice? Spend a few quid on some Comply foam earbud tips, and you’ll supercharge the isolation and listening experience — and that’s true for all earphones.
Those same microphones, by the way, also work hard to make your calls clear for anyone on the other end.
We tested a few phone calls while walking on busy roads, and were told that we could be heard clearly despite the surrounding wind and traffic, which is reassuring.
Long-pressing an earbud switches lets you turn off ANC to extend your battery life, as well as turning on the awareness mode, which lets you hear your surroundings for safety and convenience.
It works well, but it’s a more useful feature on over-ears, as buds can be quickly removed easily.
Huawei FreeBuds Battery Life
Huawei claims its earbuds offer up to 10 hour of continuous music playback, boosted up to 22 hours in total if you take the charging case into account.
We have yet to go on a ten-hour Spotify marathon, but can confirm they comfortably lasted a full day of remote working and socially distanced wandering without any issues at all.
With ANC turned on, you’ll get less than 10 hours of use.
We clocked in around eight hours with noise cancelling on, which should still be more than enough for most people, and should see you through a Transatlantic flight without any problems once the world returns back to normal.
Charging offers another handy bonus, in that a mere ten minutes can provide enough juice for up to four hours of playback.
This is an incredibly useful feature for chronic Charge Forgetters who need a quick top up before their lockdown walks.
The FreeBuds 3 are a great choice for users who want an AirPods-like pair of earphones that are more compatible with Android devices.
For users of Huawei smartphones who want a great pair of earphones, the FreeBuds 3 are an obvious recommendation.
They sound great, they’re a pleasure to use, and the case provides extended battery life.
At £170, they’re not cheap, but the FreeBuds 3 are more affordable than the AirPods Pro, the Sennheiser Momentum, or the Sony WF-1000XM3.
If you use a Samsung phone, the Galaxy Buds are cheaper and provide a snug fit, for better or worse. Cheaper platform-agnostic alternatives also exist.
The FreeBuds 3 are available in white, black, and – since February – in a snazzy red.
I recommend the white model, as the black one tends to pick up fingerprints and grease, which really cheapens their look and feel. I didn’t get to test out the red model.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some Frequently Asked Questions we have already answered so you don’t need to worry about the product. We really hope we answered some of your questions!
QUES: Does FreeBuds 3i have any noise cancellation?
ANS: HUAWEI FreeBuds 3i provides an experience for your enjoyment by ‘Active Noise Cancellation’
QUES: How does Active Noise Cancellation of FreeBuds 3i work?
ANS: While the outer microphone senses noise around you, in order to prevent it from being involved, the inner microphone picks up the rest of your ears for further cancellation!
QUES: How many mics does FreeBuds 3i involve for the Active Noise Cancellation?
ANS: HUAWEI FreeBuds 3i features two outward-facing mics to pick up your voice correctly while ignoring other environmental noises, and a third inward-facing mic conducts a voice to boost call quality within your ears.
QUES: What is ‘pop to pair’?
ANS: If the charging case is open, pair HUAWEI FreeBuds 3i with the pop-up window
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