Hands-on with the Huawei FreeBuds 4i

Hands-on with the Huawei FreeBuds 4i

Following the success of its premium FreeBuds Pro true wireless earbuds, Huawei is following up with a more affordable version named the FreeBuds 4i that still offers most of what makes the FreeBuds Pro so great.

The Huawei FreeBuds 4i in white.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i design

The Huawei FreeBuds 4i features a lighter, sleeker oval-shaped design compared to predecessors — for both the charging case and the earbuds. The carrying case measures just 48mm x 61.8mm x 27mm and weighs just 36.5g, making it small and light enough to fit into even the tiny key pocket of men’s jeans or women’s clutch wallets.

This ergonomically designed buds provide stable and comfortable fits, and because each bud barely register on the scales at just 5.5g, won’t weigh your ears down. The Galaxy Buds Pro and Jabra Elite 65T, by comparison, weigh 6.3g and 6.5g per bud respectively. On the outside of each bud are touch sensitive panels that allow the user to control their music (and more) via taps.

The removable silicon ear tips provide a nice seal around my ears, and the package includes three sizes of tips to ensure the right fit. I like that the narrow stems do not fan out away from my face like some other earbuds, making for a more discrete look when worn.

The FreeBuds 4i come in three different colors, with a bold red version and sleek black version in addition to the clean white version I have.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i in three colors

 

There are only so many ways to design wireless earbuds, and I think for the most part, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i nails all the fundamentals — it’s lightweight, comfortable, and looks stylish.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i performance and features

With 10mm dynamic driver units in each bud, the FreeBuds 4i pump out full and lively audio. The clear mids and highs means pop music sound airy and clean as most tracks are intended, while there’s enough bass kick to add that extra “oomph” to hip hop beats.

But that’s not all — Huawei has also managed to put ANC (active noise cancellation) into these buds, and they work very well. In fact, it may be the best ANC for earbuds under the $100 range I’ve ever tested (the FreeBuds 4i’s retail price differs depending on region, but they’re generally between $80-$90). The combination of the microphones located on the outside of each earbud stem, along with the seal around the ear canal provided by the silicon tips, plus Huawei’s intelligent AI software algorithms really do a good job of cancelling outside sound.

Official product shots of the 4i from Huawei

You can have conversations while wearing the Huawei FreeBuds 4i thanks to the very effective transparency mode.

There’s also a transparency mode, which lets sound through on purpose so you can listen to music or podcasts while jogging/cycling and still hear your surroundings. This, too works very well. I can easily leave the earbuds in my year, with music playing, and still hold a conversation with another person.

ANC and transparency mode are usually reserved for earbuds priced north of $150 — Apple’s AirPods Pro or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro cost $249 and $199 respectively. That the FreeBuds 4i offers it at this range is great news for consumers.

Controlling audio directly from the FreeBuds 4i is easy: a simple double tap on either bud will play/pause music, and a long press (touch and hold) will cycle through ANC modes.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i software and battery life

The FreeBuds 4i will work straight away with any smartphone, computer, or electronic devices provided they support Bluetooth pairing. Simply connect once and the FreeBuds 4i will remember the pairing and automatically connect the next time you take the buds out.

Installing the Huawei AI Life app, however, will bring additional features such as customizing the aforementioned touch controls. For example, by default a long press of the earbud cycles through ANC modes, but you can change it to adjusting volume instead, or maybe wake up voice assistant. You can also turn “wear detection” on or off. With it on, the earbuds will automatically pause music as soon as you pull them out of your ear.

The Huawei AI Life app working with the FreeBuds 4i.

Battery life, as is the case with most Huawei products, is excellent: you get 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge, and topping up the FreeBuds 4i via USB-C takes just 30 minutes to go from empty battery to full charge.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i conclusion

The Huawei FreeBuds 4i's retail packaging.

There simply aren’t many earbuds under $100 that offers good audio quality and active ANC that really works. At its $80-$90 price, the FreeBuds 4i are an easy no brainer purchase for anyone looking for really good pair of wireless earbuds that checks almost every box.

    Huawei FreeBuds 4i
    The Huawei FreeBuds 4i are affordable, sub-$100 wireless earbuds that offer top tier ANC and transparency mode.

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