Huawei recently released their newest earphones —the FreeBuds 3i. It features Ultimate Active Noise Cancellation, a cone-shaped body, a 3-mic system, and a pop-to-pair window to easily connect it to your phone. Will these features stand up against Apple’s Airpods Pro? Well for starters, the FreeBuds 3i is only priced at P5,990!
Design and build
A first look at the FreeBuds 3i would immediately remind you of the Apple AirPods Pro with its similarity both in form factor and its uniform Ceramic White colorway. However, the one we have on hand is Carbon Black. It comes with four different flexible silicone tips (XS, S, M, L), while Apple has three (S, M, L). These tips are constructed in a conical shape and felt light and comfortable in the ear canal. Its shape is expected to provide a better seal and sound.
The Ultimate Active Noise Cancellation
Huawei’s Ultimate Active Noise Cancellation uses an outward-facing mic that detects ambient noise to actively counter it with the anti-noise. The inward-facing mic picks up the rest of the noise in the ears for further cancellation. On top of that, the FreeBuds 3i can lower the detected noise by up to 32dB. It was impressive hearing the difference once you wear the FreeBuds—even the slightest sound like a fan gets silenced, while other noises were minimized.
Aside from noise cancelling, it also features a Call Noise Cancellation with its 3-mic System inside its compact body. It’s expected to pick up the user’s voice with the inward facing mic, while avoiding other environmental noises with its two outward-facing mics.
The Freebuds 3i offers smart touch control by tapping your finger on the earphone. Double tapping to play and pause or answer the phone and holding it for 3 seconds can turn the Active Noise Reduction on or off. These functions can be customized using the Huawei AI Life App. I didn’t have any issues or lags trying out the smart touch and I noticed how it can react immediately.
The Freebuds 3i also has Awareness mode to let environment noises be heard—a bit useful when you’re outdoor jogging. But when indoors, it emphasizes background noise, sounding a bit muffled.
Besides the perfect fit of my chosen silicon tip, the quality of sound reproduced was impressive for its price point. The mids and trebles are so good they tend to emphasize the lack of bass. But for everyday listeners who don’t look for lots of bass, the Freebuds 3i won’t disappoint.
The FreeBuds 3i also features fast pairing when within proximity of a Huawei smartphone just by opening the case. A pop-up notification will appear on the phone when it is able to pair with the earphones and will automatically do so on subsequent pairings. In addition, it can also seamlessly switch between other Huawei products such as smart watches, phones, and tablets. It was also quick to connect with other Android phones, as well as Apple.
The Huawei AI Life app allows the user to pair their earphones with their phone so that they can check on battery status, change settings, update the firmware and more. However, there are a couple of caveats. This app can only be downloaded on Android phones, so if you’re an Apple user, you’re stuck with the standard settings and you won’t be able to update the firmware.
Curiously, the batteries of the left and right earphones drain at different levels. One can drain quicker than the other by 10-15%. I got a first low battery warning after 2 hours and 40 minutes of usage playing music at medium level. Both earphones turned off 30 minutes after, totaling 3 hours and 10 minutes.
It took 30 minutes to charge the earphones, draining 35% power from the fully charged case which serves as a powerbank, giving you about 3 full charges with a fully charged case. On the other hand, the case itself took 1 hour and 30 minutes to fully charge from 0 to 100 which you can base on the light indicator if its yellow or green.
All its features, specifically the Active Noise Cancelling at a very affordable price point, make it a really great Apple AirPods Pro alternative. It’s pretty much Apple performance without the Apple price premium. The battery life is too short in my opinion, and might not even be enough for a drive in Manila traffic. Don’t expect superlative sound quality. but it certainly won’t disappoint everyday listeners.