Huawei might have trouble in the smartphone field, but it is doing a tremendous job with audio wearables. We’ve had the chance to review the company’s flagship TWS, the Huawei Freebuds Pro, and now we got the Freebuds 4i – a more affordable option that retains the Active Noise Cancellation and great battery life.
Design and comfort
The Huawei Freebuds 4i we received were in Carbon Black, but you can also have them in Red or Ceramic White (no actual ceramic included). We found the one we got is the best choice of all because it still can be matched with any outfit without being an accent (like the red version) or have the AirPods lookalike vibe like the white option.
The buds are a slight improvement over the Freebuds 3i with a slightly thicker stems, and there are rubber tips for a better fit. One interesting thing that Huawei is doing is ship the different size rubber tips in separate labeled packages, making it a bit faster to find the size you want.
The stems have strong magnets at the very end, so the buds don’t fall out of the case. However, with their glossy finish, it is sometimes hard to get the buds out, but eventually you get the hang of it.
The buds themselves are really comfortable in the ear, and they can stay there for the whole five-hour listening marathon. There is also a touch sensor on the stem, which is easy to navigate and does not affect comfort or placement.
The Huawei Freebuds 4i can be connected with any device through Bluetooth and act as standard wireless earphones. However, to get all the extra features you need the Huawei AI Life app. Pro tip – get the app from the AppGallery or the QR code on the box because, as the company confirmed to us, the Google Play version might have issues with some non-Huawei smartphones.
The app allows you to check the battery charge and customize the buds’ controls – default is double-tap for play/pause, touch & hold is noise control modes. There are three of those modes – Noise cancellation, Off, and Awareness. While long press cycles through all of them, you can disable some of them through the app.
The Off mode is the default on the Freebuds 4i – and here might be the place to note that the passive noise suppression is pretty strong as due to the buds’ tight fit. We can confirm this is the optimal way to listen to music – it produces the most natural sound and gets the longest battery life.
Awareness activates the outer mic and amplifies the surrounding noise. That works great with short interactions like speaking to a cashier, but is not how you would want to walk around.
Noise-canceling is the key feature, and that’s why we left it for dessert. There aren’t many TWS on the market with ANC in this price range, and Huawei did a tremendous job with the implementation of the feature. The microphones do a great job of detecting ambient noise and reduce it be it office or home.
The earphones also offer great sound experience during calls. The Freebuds 4i have a dual-mic system that reduces outdoor wind noise, and thanks to the beamforming technology (locating where the your voice comes from), talking on the phone is effortless.
Huawei Freebuds 4i have a 55mAh power cell in each bud, and the case has 215mAh capacity. The company claims 10-hour continuous playback time at 50% volume and with ANC turned off, and AAC mode enabled.
More impressively, we managed to reproduce that kind of endurance in real life testing. We managed the same result with a Huawei P40 Pro as well as a non-Huawei phone, so there’s little to worry about.
With ANC or Awareness turned on and the volume at 100%, the Freebuds 4i can play continuously for over 4 hours, but we doubt anybody will go that loud for so long.
You also get a decent recharge time of about 30 minutes for the Freebuds 4i, meaning you’ll rarely have issues with their charging. Completely drained buds and case take just under an hour to recharge.
The only thing the Freebuds 4i are lacking is wireless charging, but some corners needed be cut to make the price tag.
The Huawei Freebuds 4i have polymeric diaphragms and 10mm dynamic coil drivers, which work nicely together and bring clear sound.
The buds are a solid choice for a daily driver. Music on Spotify or Tidal sounds punchy, the sound is balanced, and the vocals are well defined. There isn’t any equalizer in the AI Life app, so you can tune the sound only if your smartphone has Dolby Atmos or similar system-wide equalizer.
The Freebuds 4i prioritized battery life, which seemingly required a smaller to make room for the battery. However, the trebles are pretty good and the low-ends are still pronounced.
The sound of calls is also pure and clear; the microphones are doing a great job picking your voice even through two masks. We had some issues while covering the microphones with hands during conversations, but wearing hats does not affect the performance, as long as the tip of the stem is sticking out.
The Huawei Freebuds 4i are easily among the more impressive wireless ANC earphones in their price category. The company did a great job fixing everything that was wrong with the Freebuds 3i while maintaining the aggressive price – better design for both the bud and the case, actual active noise cancellation, and easy navigation.
The 10-hour continuous playtime is a godsend when we have to work without being distracted at home. The quick charging and the solid sonic experience make for an overall great package.
Speaking about pricing, the Huawei Freebuds 4i are available across Europe for £79/€99, but there are multiple deals and offers. There is a free Huawei Band 4 with the buds’ purchase in most markets, but you can also get discounted Watch Fit, speakers, cases, and even a six-month free subscription to Huawei Music.
If Huawei is offering the Freebuds 4i at your place, you should definitely have them on your shortlist. They just aren’t many TWS that bring so many features in this price range and fewer still that don’t have disastrous sound or a very poor app to sour the experience.