The Huawei FreeBuds 4i, on paper, looks like an amazing pair of true wireless in-ear headphones. It is only priced at $108, but it features active noise cancellation (ANC) and long battery life rated up to 10 hours. Is that even possible to be cheap and good? Let’s find out.
Available in three colours of black (reviewed version), white and red, the FreeBuds 4i looks like most true wireless earbuds in the market. In fact, it looks more like Apple’s AirPods Pro than its predecessor FreeBuds 3i.
While the FreeBuds 4i’s earbuds have a much longer stem, its in-ear section is now more curvy. At the top of the stem is a touch-sensitive surface for tap controls.
The FreeBuds 4i comes with silicone ear tips of three sizes. I find the medium-sized ones fit my ears the best. I tried shaking my head vigorously to dislodge the earbuds, but they stay snugly in my ears.
In addition, the FreeBuds 4i is light (each earbud weighs just 5.5g) and super comfortable to wear. I can wear it all day without noticing or feeling it being there.
The FreeBuds 4i’s colour-matching charging case has a pebble design with a USB-C port at its bottom for charging. It does not support wireless charging. Probably too much to ask for something this cheap.
However, both the earbuds’ and case’s glossy surface makes them a smudge and fingerprint magnet. As such, it is also a tad hard to pry the earbuds out of the case due to the slippery surface. I found the easiest way is to pry the earbuds out by its silicone ear tips.
+ Super affordable
+ Very comfortable
+ Great audio performance
+ Impressive active noise cancellation
– Glossy case is smudge and fingerprint magnet
– Hard to pry the earbuds out of case
– App lacks equaliser settings
As you might expect, the most seamless pairing for the FreeBuds 4i is with a Huawei smartphone. This is especially so with Huawei’s AI Life app on a smartphone running Huawei’s latest EMUI 11 mobile operating system.
If you are using the FreeBuds 4i with other Android smartphones or iPhone, you have to do the pairing via the Bluetooth menu. But you can still use the AI Life app to customise the double-tap or toggle ANC function.
While the AI Life app is available in iOS, there is no option to add the FreeBuds 4i into the app. Thus, there is no way for you to upgrade the firmware or customise the tap controls of the earbuds, which the Android version of the app can do.
By default, touching and holding your finger on either earbud will turn ANC on or off. Double tapping either earbud will play or pause music. However, you can customise the controls such that one earbud plays the next song and the other plays the previous song.
You can use the Huawei AI Life app to customise the controls of the FreeBuds 4i. You can toggle through the ANC settings by press and holding the exterior of the earbuds.
For the touch-and-hold function, you can add the Awareness mode – which lets in ambient noise – into the options. So you can be toggling through ANC On, ANC off and the Awareness mode.
I like that the earbuds automatically stop the music when I take one out of my ear and resume playback when I put it back on.
On the downside, the AI Life app does not have an equaliser setting. Thus, you are stuck with the audio output Huawei has set for the FreeBuds 4i.
Fortunately, the earbuds’ 10mm dynamic drivers deliver well-balanced audio output with clear mids and sharp highs. The bass is punchy enough but does not drown out the vocals.
Listening to high-tempo tracks from Korean girl group BlackPink is scintillating, while slow ballads from local megastar JJ Lin showcase the balanced soundscape of the FreeBuds 4i.
Even when delivering classical music, the FreeBuds 4i holds it together nicely with distinct separation of the different instruments playing.
However, for those who loves super powerful bass, this earbuds might not satisfy you as it is more controlled.
On the other hand, its ANC performance is quite impressive. It is able to cut out most of the ambient noise, rivalling most of its more-expensive counterparts. And probably only one notch down from the likes of AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM3.
The FreeBuds 4i is rated to last 10 hours when ANC is disabled. And supposed to last 7.5 hours with ANC enabled.
During the review, I found that the earbuds have around 50 per cent battery life left when I listen to music for around 3.5 hours with ANC enabled. So, it certainly lasts as advertised.
Compared to most earbuds out in the market that usually last around 3 to 4 hours, the battery life of Freebuds 4i is superb. And easily one of the best in the market.
Apart from some minor quirks, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i offers superb value for money with its budget-friendly price tag of $108, great audio performance and long battery battery life.
Furthermore, the Freebuds 4i is now even cheaper at $98, with this discount happening till the end of May.
BATTERY LIFE: 10/10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 9.5/10