The Huawei Freebuds is Huawei’s new wireless earphones with active noise canceling. These are fully wireless earphones that come with a case in which you can charge them.
Huawei Freedbuds 3i
Huawei has released a new variant of its Freedbuds 3 earphones (124 euros). The Freebuds 3i (99 euros) are again fully wireless earphones that come with their own charging case, and Huawei has also equipped them with active noise canceling.
This means that the earphones filter out disturbing background noise, and we usually see those functions with earphones and headphones from a higher price range. The Freebuds 3i now also temporarily come free with the company’s P40 series. We went to test the ears and here you will discover the pros and cons.
Huawei Freebuds 3i – the pros
1. Design and wearing comfort
The Freebuds 3i is very good, which is a very important factor for earphones. They weigh relatively little, the new Freebuds also stay in place and there are different fits that you can attach to the ears. I can easily hold the ears for a long time to listen to music.
Although with some other ears I notice that they start to come off or irritate. The Freebuds 3i comes with a handy case that doubles as a charger. The ears fit smoothly into the case thanks to magnets and with a colored LED, the case shows the battery status.
The case and the ears are both made of hard plastic with a shiny finish that does not immediately give the most premium feeling. Although I can easily forgive Huawei for the relatively low price of the earphones and the rich functionalities with which they come. In addition, they just feel sustainable.
2. Sound and phone calls
I am satisfied with the sound quality of the earpieces given the price tag. Huawei introduces smaller 10mm audio drivers compared to the 14mm driver of the regular Freebuds 3, but the earphones still come with higher volumes compared to what I expected earlier.
The sound of the Freebuds 3i generally sounds good, although the lower tones are sometimes too strong, while the bass sound does not sound full enough. That is more noticeable with certain songs and some music genres than with others, and it is a point that more often occurs with earphones and in this price segment.
If the sound is your top priority, then it’s worth considering the Freebuds 3 sooner. I continued to work on phone calls that I made through the wireless earphones. If you are connected to your phone via Bluetooth, it automatically switches to the sound of the Freebuds to make calls, and you can easily accept an incoming call by tapping the earpiece.
The microphones of the Huawei earphones let your sound be heard clearly on the other side of the line, although the voice sounds a bit ‘more hollow’ than you are used to.
3. Touch operation
The Freebuds 3i comes with a touchpad on each earpiece, and you can long-press or double-tap to activate a particular feature. By default, you can stop and pause by tapping the earpiece twice, and by holding down long you can switch the noise canceling on and off. It is very simple and it is a feature given the relatively low price of the earphones.
4. Huawei AI Life
Huawei provides its new wireless earphones with more settings thanks to the AI Life app that you can download from the Google Play Store or the AppGallery. When you pair your earphones with your phone for the first time, AI Life immediately recognizes that you are using the Freebuds 3i.
Then you can check the battery capacity of your earphones and the charging case in the app, update the firmware of the earphones, and adjust the touch control. For example, it’s not very convenient for both the left and right earphones to pause and play music by double-tapping.
Therefore, you can also choose to skip to the next song by double-tapping or activating the Google Assistant. I chose the latter option. The AI Life app works very smoothly and easily, but what I also miss is an option to adjust the equalizer of the Freebuds 3i. The app feels a bit too much at the moment as the general app for Huawei smart home products.
5. Active noise canceling
This is one of the biggest strengths of the Freebuds 3i because Huawei has further improved its active noise canceling compared to Freebuds 3. According to the tech giant, the ears can filter out sounds up to 32 decibels, and that is also true compared to my tests.
With such a soft background noise, the three microphones that capture the sound manage to really make a difference and you notice that when you switch off the function and then compare it.
Although you should be aware that you should not compare the capabilities of active noise canceling with those of premium headphones such as the AKG Y600 Wireless.
For example, when a heavy truck zooms by in traffic, it produces about 90 decibels and you can still hear the sound with these ears. If you are in an environment where people are having a conversation in the background, you don’t have to worry about that noise.
Huawei Freebuds 3i – the negatives
1. Automatic pause
The Huawei Freebuds 3i automatically detects when you take them out of your ear. In that case, the media you play immediately pauses and that also happens when you remove one ear. What is unfortunate is that you cannot set to keep playing music when you remove one ear, because I have a habit of sometimes removing one ear when someone talks to me.
On the other hand, the Freebuds 3i also gives the feedback that you have the ears back with a sound. Despite noting that, the Freebuds 3i doesn’t automatically start playing, which is a shame. I would have liked to see more options around auto-pause, including in the settings of Huawei’s AI Life app.
2. Battery life
The Freebuds 3i from Huawei let you listen to music for about 3.5 hours compared to 4 hours with the Freebuds 3. The charging case can further extend the music fun by another 14 hours, compared to the 16 hours of the Freebuds 3 17.5 hours of music enjoyment sounds a lot, but if you are on a long journey by bus or plane, for example, it can be rather tight.
That is somewhat disappointing because, given the small audio drivers of the Freebuds 3i, you would expect that Huawei can put a bigger battery in the earpieces. If we look at what other wireless offers than the Freebuds 3, we also notice that the 3i earphones are not doing as well.
When we look at the new Galaxy Buds Plus, we notice that the earphones last for no less than 11 hours and that the case adds an additional 11 hours. In addition, the fast charging does not go as smoothly compared to the Freebuds 3. The Freebuds3 are complete in half an hour, but the 3i need an hour.
3. Exclusive Huawei functions
The Freebuds 3i comes with Bluetooth 5.0 technology, which means they can connect to multiple devices at the same time. It is therefore a pity that Huawei only supports that functionality if you connect them to multiple Huawei devices. The earphones come with a second limitation because if you activate them, Huawei phones immediately show a message to connect. That does not work on other devices, because with other smartphones you just have to go to the Bluetooth settings.
The Huawei Freebuds 3i offers you many functionalities in exchange for your money. The sound quality is good considering the price and the noise canceling is also a strong feature. In addition, Huawei manages to keep the price of the earphones low and still adds an important function such as the handy touch control. The Freebuds 3i and the accompanying case are excellently designed and work intuitively. Furthermore, the ears are comfortable and for me, that is really a ‘ make-it-or-break-it’ given with ears.
What I miss most about the Huawei Freebuds 3i is – ironically – the dots on the ‘i’. This applies to the sound and the lack of an equalizer, as well as to the limited options around automatic pause and battery life which is less good compared to some other products. The microphone also provides clearly audible sound, but at the same time, your voice sounds a bit hollow.
Still, Huawei does a lot of good things with the Freebuds 3i and they are definitely worth considering if you are looking for affordable wireless earphones with noise canceling. The earphones are certainly an added value for those considering a phone from the P40 series.