REVIEW: Huawei FreeBuds 3i - Impressive €99 Noise Cancelling Earbuds
Following on from last year’s Huawei FreeBuds 3, which were revealed at IFA and where Huawei’s first true wireless earphones powered by the Kirin A1 chip, we’re finally getting some hands on time with the new Huawei FreeBuds 3i. Coming in at in very impressive €99 and packing active noise cancellation (like the original FreeBuds 3) we test to see if they’re Android’s answer to AirPods Pro at an unbeatable price point. Read on to find out in our review of the new Huawei FreeBuds 3i.
Design & Build Quality
Design-wise, the FreeBuds 3i’s case now sports a new pill-shape design, which is quite different from the FreeBuds 3’s round case. The earbuds themselves sport ‘cone-shaped main bodies’ and the box comes with four differently sized silicone tips to ensure you get a comfortable fit and good seal.
Like the FreeBuds 3, there’s no denying the FreeBuds 3i’s similarity to Apple’s original AirPods. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but, if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd or simply aren’t a fan of the AirPod’s design, these might not be the earbuds for you. Nevertheless, these earbuds are well made.
Regarding specs, the FreeBuds 3i uses 10mm dynamic drivers and has integrated capacitive sensors on both earbuds to let you play music, take calls and activate ANC with just a quick tap. Playback also pauses automatically when you remove the earbuds and resumes when you put them back.
Sound, Call & Active Noise Cancellation Quality
The new Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds continue to come with active noise cancellation, powered by two microphones (one facing outwards, the other in) on each bud. There’s also a third mic at the end of the stem that helps to better pick up your voice during calls.
When it comes to audio quality, even though these buds lack Apt-X support, the experience is really solid. Highs are well maintained and there’s definitely some decent bass on heavier tracks also. They may not compete with the likes of Sony or Sennheiser but, for the general user, and at this price point, you’re not going to be disappointed.
Thanks to the AirPod-like stem design and the placement of third microphone in the stem section, calls were very clear for anyone we tested these earbuds with, even in busy city environments.
Now, what makes these earbuds really stand out is their Active Noise Cancellation or ANC. At this price point, it’s unheard of (pun intended) to see any sort of respectable ANC capabilities, or any ANC at all for that matter, in truly wireless earbuds.
Huawei showcased their first attempt at miniature ANC tech in the FreeBuds 3 (with their open-fit design) but now, with the FreeBud 3i’s cone-shaped design and silicon tips, not only do you achieve much stronger passive noise cancellation, with the ANC switched on, there’s a significant reduction in ambient noise.
I have to admit, I didn’t expect the ANC to be this good but Huawei really are carrying out some tech wizardy to have such impressive noise cancellation results at this low a price point.
Seeing we’re not going to be flying any time soon but still wanting to see how these earbuds handle the hum of an airplane cabin, I played this video out across my home theatre system in surround sound to try and replicate the experience and the FreeBud 3i’s did a really good job of cutting out the low rumble heard.
The AI Life app, which is used to set up and adjust your FreeBuds 3i is straight-forward to use if a little uninspiring. It allows you to carry out software updates for the earbuds, play with the touch control settings and enable or disable the smart wear detection. Strangely, there’s no option in the app to disable the ANC, you’re only option is to edit the touch and hold shortcut settings in the shortcuts section.
According to Huawei, a full charge offers 3.5 hours of battery life. With the charging case, you can get up to 14.5 hours of use (note: this is without ANC). With ANC enabled, battery life unfortunately takes a bit of a hit with our tests giving just shy of 3 hours of use before we had to recharge the buds in the case. This really doesn’t stack up well against the competition, even if they’re not offering ANC as part of their features.
Like the FreeBud 3 case, you can pop open the 3i’s case to pair with your Android phone, check the battery status of the case, and the left and right buds. Charging of the case is also done via USB-C.
Overall, Huawei’s FreeBuds 3i really do excel in sound quality, active noise cancellation capabilities and price but we just wish they had better battery life. The Huawei FreeBuds 3i is priced at €99 and can be picked up at Three.ie.