Review: HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i – High on Tech, Low on Price

In almost all my reviews there’s some kind of confession and this is no exception. I had absolutely no idea Huawei made earbuds… I probably should have guessed. They make amazing looking tech that does its job exceptionally well, from phones to laptops to smart watches. Why not earbuds? Have Huawei come up with a decent device that won’t batter your budget at $150 AUD? 

Recently I reviewed some earbuds which had a long list of cutting edge features but their price reflected the major advances of tech you were putting in your ears. Right now, everything has got more expensive and consumers have become a lot more discerning about they’ll spend their hard-earnt cash on.

The FreeBuds 5i promise a lot so, let’s give them a try.

Good looks

I mentioned that Huawei have consistently made great looking devices and the design of the FreeBuds 5i is no exception. The earbuds come stored in a wonderful pebble-shaped case which of course doubles as a charger and is fitted with a USB-C port but no wireless charging. Of course, as is ubiquitous these days, they are made of plastic, but one thing that really stands out is the finish to the case. Unlike most IT and audio gear you’ll find on sale, the plastics used are matt with flecks of colour in them which gives the whole thing a really nice organic look and feel. They come in 3 colours; Ceramic White (glossy), Isle Blue, and Nebula Black. ( my fave is the blue )

Flip open the magnetically latched lid (which actually feels solid) and you’ll discover the colour-matched earbuds themselves. In comparison to the case the Freebuds have a glossy finish and a short-ish  stem at 27mm and weigh just less that 5 grams. Their light weight and smooth surface make it easy to forget you’re wearing them which I suppose is the whole point!

They come with fairly large ( compared with the overall size of the device ) touch sensitive panels on the stem which respond  perfectly to even light touches. You can set up custom gesture for various settings in the downloadable AI Life app.

Working 9 to 5 (and more)

So how long will the battery last if you’re wearing them all day? Well they’ll go about 6 hours on a full charge but if you switch off certain functions (like ANC) you should be able to get 7.5 hours of usage out of them. If this isn’t enough, the case can provide over 18 hours of extra charge. Unexpectedly the case also supports fast charging so if you’re down on power and out of time, you can get up to 4 hours of playback with a 15 minute charge!

And as you’ll be wearing them all day, the FreeBuds are also IP54 water resistant so while you wont be swimming with them, you wont have to worry about sweat if you’re running or working out.

Software for your ears

Of course, you pair the FreeBuds to your phone (or tablet) with Bluetooth but to get full control of all the built in features, you’re going to have to download Huawei’s AI Life software. Now on iOS it’s dead simple, just go to the App Store and boom, there it is. On Android you’ll have to grab the software from the Huawei App Gallery, or you more easily download the app by scanning the QR code from the quick start guide which comes in the FreeBuds box

Once you have it installed, the FreeBuds will show up under devices and then you can take matters into your own hands. You’ll find a bunch of surprisingly cool features that’ll blow your expectations out of the water.

The app allows you to simply set up all the touch gestures available on the touch surfaces on the FreeBuds letting you play, pause, skip and go back with ease. And talking of set up, there’s function called Tip Fit Test which plays music to figure out if the earbuds are fitted properly using the on board microphones.

Hardware for your ears

Activate Dual Connect and you’ll discover full Bluetooth 5.2 multipoint so you can easily switch between and set up your preferred devices.

Did I mention ANC? Oh yes, the FreeBuds 5i come with 3 levels of active noise cancellation; “Cozy , General and Ultra”. The Ultra mode is the one to go for on a daily commute giving you up to 42dB of total immersion away from exterior noise. Perfect for the next visit to a busy  train station.

Working in completely the opposite way, there is also an Awareness mode which lets the sound from the outside world flood in when you need to be aware of your surroundings!

Last but not least, the FreeBuds 5i support HD audio through the LDAC HD audio codec which should allow you to play HD audio from any device that supports the codec.

Music to your ears

All this tech is great and cool but you’re going to want to know what they sound like! The FreeBuds 5i come equipped 40kHz frequency response range and 10mm dynamic driver units which give you a full, rich sound. The overall effect is a very balanced audio experience which performs really well across a diverse range of music. There’s enough bass there, but never too much, so at every level you’ll hear all the musical details without getting a muddy effect with clear, precise, highs and lows.

Sounds great

All in all the Huawei FreeBuds 5i punch way above their weight in terms of sound quality, technology and superb battery life. I’d say they deliver on all their promises so you can’t go wrong by buying yourself one of the 3 options. Check them out today.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i are available from Huawei’s store on Amazon here.

About Author
Born into a family of restauranteurs, Ricardo Pirroni didn't want to join the family business. His talents extended beyond the kitchen and he has spent the last 20 years honing his skills in various creative pursuits. From making things from scratch, 3d sculpting, drawing, designing graphics, art directing to brainstorming concepts. His work is not only functional, but also thought-provoking and entertaining. In addition to being a recognised authority on cake, his diverse range of talents and love of all things tech, makes him a versatile writer, capable of crafting stories that are both engaging and visually compelling.