The era of true wireless earbuds is well and truly here. With all the major brands and countless little ones joining the party, the market is quickly getting saturated with pairs of true wireless buds. Huawei has had a few tries, with each one building on the improvements on the last, and today, we have the Huawei Freebuds 4i, a tiny pair of TWS buds that pack a big punch in a small package.
When you consider that there’s a bunch of circuitry that has to go into TWS earbuds and their case, you realize that these things are tiny. With internal batteries, charging circuitry, and wireless hardware, it’s impressive how small the overall package is. The carry and charge case is small, rounded, and is just a little larger than the keyfob for a modern car. It’s smooth, so it pops into a pocket with little resistance and has a single button for pairing. Couple that with USB-C charging, and you have a winner.
The Huawei Freebuds 4i earbuds themselves are of the usual stem design, with curiously oval earpieces that look unusual (and limits the choices of ear foams somewhat. They’re quite light and offer no physical controls. Standard fare, but standard fare done reasonably well. They also come in different colors to suit your personal tastes: red, black, white, and grey.
The charging case has a magnetic closing system to keep the lid shut, and the earbuds themselves also snap home thanks to strong magnets. It’s not likely that they’ll come flying out should you drop them while they’re in their case. That same case has a 215mAh battery to charge the internal batteries of the buds, which have 55mAh cells in each one. They have 10mm drivers, mics in each stem, and active noise canceling (with pass-through), for a premium listening experience. These are controlled via an accompanying app.
User Experience: 4.5/5
I have used other TWS buds in the past, and each has its quirks. Huawei has had a lot of practice and, therefore, chances to iron these out over each successive iteration. The Huawei Freebuds 4i are aggressively priced, yet deliver an experience that’s meant to be more premium than others at its price point, and it seems like they deliver.
The first thing to note is the fit. The unusual shape of the actual buds that stick into your ear seems to be on-point. It creates a great seal against outside noise and remains comfortable. There’s also very little weight to each of the buds, meaning it doesn’t want to jump out of your ear by the simple act of gravity exerting force on them. It also means they’re comfortable enough to actually use for the four hours of advertised use.
Sound quality is excellent on the Huawei Freebuds 4i, considering how small, light, and wireless they are. The best, more natural-sounding sound goes through with noise-canceling disabled and, in this mode, the mids are clear, the tops shimmer pleasantly, and the bass is pronounced, but not overly so. They’re more than adequate for casual listening and just as good for voice.
Each stem has its own microphone that doubles as mics for voice, and for capturing sounds for noise canceling. As voice mics, they are excellent, and at no point were there any complaints from people on the other end of the line. Comfort, great sound reproduction, and great voice quality are all there, but it’s not without its faults.
The case, for one, is so smooth and rounded, that it’s a struggle getting it open with one hand. On the other hand, that might be a good thing, because you’re going to need both hands to get each bud out of its case. They’re quite snug, smooth, and recessed in there that even with two hands, it can sometimes be something of an ordeal. Add to this the strange placement of the buds in the case (they seem to face the wrong way?), and the first few times you try to use them feels like more of a struggle than it should be.
There’s also the matter of the placement of both the indicator light and the pairing button. It appears to me that the location of the button is such that pressing it puts your thumb in exactly the right place to cover the light, so you won’t actually see the status of the device. Sure, it’s a small thing to just hold it differently, but it’s counterintuitive to do so and gets to me a little bit.
On the whole, though, they’re small complaints, as when these are in your ears, and you’re listening to music, all those concerns fly right out the window, as you are surrounded by great sound and actually effective noise canceling. This feature can be switched on and off through controls in the stems (which can happen just as you’re trying to adjust the fit–another little niggle), or with the app, which is probably the better way to go about it.
Battery life is excellent on the Huawei Freebuds 4i. About 7 hours of use with ANC on and 10 hours with ANC off is a feat that actually reflects our own testing.
The Huawei Freebuds 4i are easily among the better TWS options in the market today, at the sub-PHP4,000 price point. It’s actually insane, even with the little issues we have. If you’re in the market for a pair, it’s hard to do better than these for the price.
- Case Dimensions: 48.0 x 61.8 x 27.5mm
- Weight: About 36.5g
- Battery: Earbuds – 55mAh each | Case – 215 mAh
- Battery life: up to 10 hours (ANC off), up to 7.5 hours (ANC on)
- Connectivity: BT 5.2
- Drivers: 10mm
- Excellent sound
- Superb battery life
- Effective ANC
A few design quirks here and there
Looking for an affordable, effective pair of TWS buds that won’t let you down? This is the ticket.
Reviewed by Ren Alcantara
Also published in Gadgets Magazine October 2021 Issue