Huawei FreeBuds Pro Review – Better than Apple’s AirPods Pro
Want to pick up a shiny new pair of truly wireless earbuds for your smartphone or laptop? Honestly, up until recently, I don’t think Huawei would have crossed my mind when it comes to buying a pair of TWS earbuds. I was particularly disappointed with the Honor Magic Earbuds, and those are basically just a rebranded version of the Huawei FreeBuds 3i. I am smitten with the Huawei FreeBuds Pro, however. These new TWS earbuds pretty much have everything going for them.
Note: We received the Huawei FreeBuds Pro from Huawei UK for review. They did not have any input into the contents of this review.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro: Specification Overview
Just to start off, here’s a short overview of the specs. They’re powered by HiSilicon’s Kirin A1 chipset—the same chipset that you’ll get in Huawei’s flagship smartwatches. They also support the latest Bluetooth 5.2—for whenever you have a smartphone that supports it.
Tech specs aside, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro offer a lot of features. Their defining feature is Active Noise Cancelling, which is pretty standard for high-end earbuds, but Huawei has nailed it with the FreeBuds Pro. If there’s one thing the Honor Magic Earbuds did to impress me with back when I reviewed them, it was their ANC. The FreeBuds Pro has taken that ANC and improved it even further. The second you put them in your ears and enable ANC, it feels like the entire world is drowned out. Even just testing them around my house, any of the low hums from electronic equipment such as computers is entirely removed.
As for charging, the most useful feature I have found is that these earphones can wirelessly charge. I’ve plopped these earbuds in their case on the wireless charging pad on my desk, and they top up nicely when I’m just in my room and not really wanting to grab a cable to plug the case in. Wireless charging is a good bit slower than wired (taking 2 hours to charge the case), but that doesn’t matter when I’m just dropping it on my charging pad every time I sit down at my desk. If you do want to charge them with a cable, the case will charge up with a USB-C cable in about an hour.
In terms of additional features, the biggest I noticed is that the FreeBuds Pro can connect to two devices at the same time. For example, I was watching a video on my laptop through them, and then my phone started ringing. The video’s audio stopped and I could hear my ringtone in my ears instead. It’s incredibly useful and something that I didn’t think I’d get quite as much usage out of as I did.
The charging case is 580 mAh, while each earbud has a 55 mAh cell. You’ll get a couple of recharges out of the case, and they will last up to 7 hours of playback with ANC off, while with ANC on, they’ll last about 4 hours.
Design and comfort
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro are reminiscent of pretty much every other pair of truly wireless earphones out there. In fact, by the boxy stems, I’d say they look nothing like the AirPods Pro when they’re actually in your ears. It’s hard to make a unique design for earphones, and as someone who has used a lot of truly wireless earphones, a lot of them do look the same. That aside, the design is functional and they’re comfortable to use for long stretches of listening. The silicone tips sit nicely in my ear canals, and I don’t really find that my ears hurt after a few hours of listening as I’ve had with others.
If you find that these earphones don’t fit in your ears, there are two other sizes of tips that come with them that you can stick on instead. I found the medium ones which are already applied to be fine, though.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro – Audio Quality, Active Noise Cancelling
If I’m honest, this is probably the section nearly anyone clicking this review will have been looking for from the get-go. In short, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro are the best-sounding truly wireless earbuds I have ever used. Everything is clear and balanced, and the bass is powerful but not overbearing. They do cost a lot of money—€150 to be exact—but what you get is a premium experience with fantastic audio. Are there cheaper options on the market? For sure, but none that I’ve tried offer this great of an experience.
Are these earbuds going to beat your new fancy pair of €200 headphones? Of course not, but earphones never will, never mind truly wireless earbuds. The Huawei FreeBuds Pro aren’t designed to really be anything more than a smartphone and laptop accessory, yet they manage to be so much more. They sound good enough that they prevent me from getting up and grabbing my Audio Technica M50X headphones that are on my desk when I’m using my laptop; something that I still used to do even though I really did like the OnePlus Buds‘ audio for its price.
I had already decided that these earbuds would be my new daily drivers within ten minutes of listening to music with them. Comfort, noise cancellation, and excellent music quality are all accounted for here. If you want to check out the playlist I’ve been listening to when testing the FreeBuds Pro, you can do so here. Songs such as Nightlight, the Grabbitz remix of Propane Nightmares, and Strange Timez all sound incredible. The bass is a little strong, however, but the mids and highs do come through cleanly as well.
The Active Noise Cancelling is fantastic, though I have run into one or two issues with it. For starters, it can be somewhat aggressive in how it cancels surrounding sounds. If you’re not familiar with ANC, it’s basically a tech that analyzes sounds around you and then creates a “counter” sound that cancels out the sound waves that it’s detecting with the microphones. When I’m on a train or in a car, it can become quite violent when it tries to cancel out audio, and the audio “shakes” as a result. I generally leave the noise canceling on “dynamic”, which lets the earphones decide which ANC option will work best. I found that changing it from dynamic to “cozy” works fine in situations such as a train or a car, and eliminates most (but not all) of the shaking. I haven’t really noticed any differences between the different ANC modes apart from that.
When it comes to audio quality though, one of the most important aspects is the codec that is used. On Android and Windows, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro will default to streaming with the SBC audio codec. The lower quality was immediately noticeable, though I was able to switch the codec over to AAC in the Bluetooth settings of my phone. On Windows, you’re not going to be able to switch over to AAC, though.
Overall, I’m very impressed with the audio quality and active noise cancelling of the FreeBuds Pro.
Battery life on the Huawei FreeBuds Pro
I’ve had no issues with the battery life on the Huawei FreeBuds Pro, using them throughout the day and sticking them in the charging case when I’m not using them. These earbuds won’t charge super quickly, but the added ability to be able to stick them on a wireless charging pad is a nice convenience. I’ve been getting a solid 3-4 hours of listening time with ANC on and close to 7 hours with ANC off. That’s pretty good, but you’ll want to be switch off ANC if you’re going to be using these for the long-haul without putting them back in their case to charge. That’s just the side effect of using ANC.
For an idea of the kind of battery life I’ve had, here’s a standard day of my usage. I put them in my ears and started using them at around 17:50 in the evening. I went on a train journey that brought me home at around 20:10. I used them the entire time, with a 15-minute phone call as well. The volume level was close to the highest at all times and ANC was on, too. I finished the night with 31% remaining in the left earphone and 34% remaining in the right earphone.
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro have a large range of gesture controls that can all be configured from the Huawei AI Life app. Pinch once, pinch twice, pinch three times, pinch and hold, and swipe are all of the gestures that can be figured. Swiping allows you to turn up and down the volume, which I’ve found very useful. These are all customizable, too. The earbuds can also detect when you are wearing them, so if you remove them from your ears, the music will pause, and then putting them back in will continue playback.
Huawei AI Life App
The Huawei AI Life app is where you’ll configure nearly everything when using the Huawei FreeBuds Pro. It has all of the options that you can change including the gesture controls shown above and the ANC modes. You can also update them here, along with running a “tip fit” detection test, which checks if the tips on your earbuds fit your ears correctly.
Conclusion – The Huawei FreeBuds Pro are an incredible set of TWS earbuds
I’ve used the following earphones and TWS earbuds in the past:
- AirPods Pro
- Honor Magic Buds
- OnePlus Buds
- Moecen Honor Choice
- OPPO Enco Q1 wireless
- Honor Sport Pro
- Xiaomi True Wireless 2
- OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2
Out of all of these, I am confident in saying that the Huawei FreeBuds Pro beats all of them, and in some cases, the comparison isn’t even close. Let’s start with the most recent pair of TWS earbuds I’ve reviewed—the OnePlus Buds. I’ve already stopped using them in favor of the FreeBuds Pro. The only thing I really liked about the Honor Magic Buds was the ANC. I’ve moved on from that, though, because the ANC of the FreeBuds Pro is much, much better. The Xiaomi True Wireless 2? Smashed out of the park. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2? The only thing they win on is their charging speed. Honor Sport Pro or the Moecen Honor Choice? They’re fine, but nothing in comparison to the FreeBuds Pro.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve left out the Apple AirPods Pro in the above comparisons. They’re the only earbuds I’d even consider really comparing against the FreeBuds Pro, but if I’m honest, they lose out. Their ANC just isn’t as powerful, and the audio quality is behind the FreeBuds Pro in my opinion. They also cost quite a bit more. I’m very picky about audio quality, and the FreeBuds Pro have knocked it out of the park.
In summary, I’m really impressed by how good the FreeBuds Pro are. The audio is fantastic and the ANC is second to none. Huawei added a lot of features and gesture controls that you can use, and there are other noise cancellation modes such as awareness mode that can be enabled, too. The FreeBuds Pro are a really good package at a price of €179 in Europe. The only major issue I’ve had with them were in relation to ANC, which were fixed by changing the ANC mode manually. If you’re looking for a pair of truly wireless earbuds and have the money to spare, then these are probably the best premium TWS earbuds you can get.