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Huawei Freebuds 3i Review: Effective ANC Makes All The Difference
The year 2020 has been a tough time for Huawei in India and international markets. Despite producing the best-in-class hardware, the Chinese technology giant is struggling to sell its products outside China. The lack of Google services has directly impacted the sales of Huawei and Honor smartphones in India and global markets. Thankfully, audio is one category that does not have to bear the heat of the ongoing trade war between Google and Huawei. You can go ahead with Huawei's audio products without worrying about the lack of Google's ecosystem and future software updates.
- Effective Active Noise Cancellation
- Excellent Clarity Over Voice Calls
- Secure In-ear Fit
- Sturdy Design
- Bass Delivery Could Have Been Better
- Average Battery Life
- Pop-Open & Wearing Detection Only Works with Huawei/Honor Devices
- No Volume Controls On Earbuds
The Huawei Freebuds 3i is one such product. Priced at Rs. 9,990, the Freebuds 3i are among the few TWS earbuds in the Indian market that offer Active Noise Cancellation. These true wireless earbuds come equipped with Triple Mic Setup for an effective ANC and promise to deliver crystal clear voice quality and high fidelity music clarity. Let's find out how the Freebuds 3i performs in real-life tests.
Huawei Freebuds 3i Specifications
Type- In-ear TWS Earbuds
Driver Size- ⌀10 mm dynamic
Noise cancellation- Active noise cancellation, Call noise cancellation
Weight- 5.5 g (per earbud), 51 g (charging case)
Dimensions- 41.8 x 23.7 x 19.8 mm (per earbud), 80.7 x 35.4 x 29.2 mm (charging case)
Battery- 37 mAh (Typ.) (per earbud), 410 mAh (Typ.) (charging case)
Controls- Double Tap, Long Tap
Wearing Detection- Only With Huawei/Honor Smartphones Running EMUI10 Or Above
Connectivity- Bluetooth 5.0, Type-C Charging Port
Box Contents- Earbuds, Ear tips x 4 pairs (L, M, S, XS), Charging case, USB-C cable, Quick start guide, Safety information, Warranty card
Design And Fit
The Freebuds 3i are in-ear TWS earbuds with silicon tips. Available in glossy White and Black, the cone-shaped buds are reminiscent of the Airpods Pro. As far as wearing experience is concerned, the Freebuds 3i perfectly fit into my ear canals and offered a very secure and snug fit. Although the buds have a noticeable size and a pretty long stem, they feel pretty light on ears. Due to in-ear fit with silicon tips, these buds never fell off from my ears even while running and cycling; however, they need to be adjusted from time to time to stay intact in ears. Huawei offers four tips in the package to let you customize the fitting as per your convenience.
The buds are made of good quality plastic and feel very assuring. Even the charging cradle has a pretty good build quality and seems long-lasting. The case has a Type-C port for charging and a button to initiate the pairing process. An LED indicator is also provided that lights up when you plug the case or open the lid to connect the buds.
Touch Gesture Controls
The Freebuds 3i feature capacitive sensors to offer gesture controls. By default, the Freebuds 3i support only two touch gestures; double-tap on either of the earbuds plays/pauses the music and long tap on the buds enables/disables the ANC mode. You need to download Huawei AI Life app from Google Play Store (Android) to customize other touch gestures.
You can choose to play the next/previous track from one earbud and use the other to play/pause the music or invoke the voice assistant. At any point of time, you can only perform three functions from the touch capacitive sensor which seem little restricting. Also, there's no volume control support which is a big letdown at this price. Vivo, for instance, offers volume sliders on its Vivo TWS earbuds which are priced much lower at Rs. 5,990. In the absence of volume controls, you have to use the source device to control the volume.
Connectivity And Pairing
Like most of the TWS earbuds from smartphone manufacturers (Realme, Xiaomi, Oppo, Samsung and Vivo), the Freebuds 3i are also best used with Huawei or Honor smartphones running on EMUI 10.2 or above. The hardware on Freebuds 3i supports features like ‘Wearing Detection' and ‘Pop-Open' but you would need a Huawei/Honor device to experience the premium features. It is high-time brands start offering cross-platform support for their audio products as the current scenario affects the user experience and also influence the buying decision.
For instance, you own a Samsung phone and want to purchase a pair of TWS earphones. Now you can go with Samsung Galaxy Buds+ that will offer great support with your Samsung device but they lack ANC. The Freebuds 3i, on the other hand, come equipped with solid ANC but offer half-baked user-experience due to the brand's limitation. Which one would you choose?
Moving on, the Freebuds 3i work on Bluetooth 5.0 and offers a seamless connectivity experience. I paired the TWS buds with several Android devices and did not experience any connectivity issues. Once paired with a device, the buds connect to the phone/tablet instantly after opening the lid, provided that your phone's Bluetooth is enabled and ready to connect to the buds.
The Freebuds 3i TWS earbuds are powered by 10mm drivers which aren't the biggest drivers to power a mid-range TWS but they still manage to produce a decent sound signature. These buds get fairly loud and have an overall bright presentation with a focus on treble delivery. I would advise you to stream music at around 80% for the best possible output. At max volume, the music gets slightly distorted, especially tracks with heavy vocals. As for the mids (500-2000), they also sound prominent making the overall audio experience quite enjoyable.
Bass heads would find the audio delivery slightly disappointing as the lower end of frequencies isn't the strong point of the Freebuds 3i. The sound produces feels very lean at some points. The ANC and tight fit does improve the bass response to some extent but the overall response still has a forward presentation.
Effective Active Noise Cancellation
Thankfully, the ANC is quite effective and elevates the overall listening experience. The silicone tips combined with the triple-microphone setups make for a pretty good noise cancelling system in daily routine. I found the Freebuds 3i quite useful while working from home. These buds effectively cut down the constant humming noise from the room's Air-conditioner and various other household noises in the background that usually affect productivity.
Last but not the least, the Freebuds 3i is an excellent pair of true wireless earbuds for voice calls. These buds sound excellent and come across as better TWS earbuds for voice/video calls than all other true wireless earbuds in its respective price bracket, thanks to the effective ANC and triple-microphone setup.
Battery life is decent but not outstanding. The buds lasted for 3 hours on one full-charge with ANC enabled. Switching it off extends the battery life to about 30 minutes. The charging case can easily give three extra rounds of battery life to the earbuds which means these buds can maximum last for around 16 to 17 hours on one full charge. The Freebuds 3i along with the charging cradle take slightly longer than an hour to get fully charged.
The Freebuds 3i comes across as a good option for someone looking for an ANC-equipped mid-range TWS earbuds. All other features and performance parameters are pretty basic and can be found on even lower-priced TWS earbuds. You should definitely buy the Freebuds 3i if you own a Huawei/Honor phone and fancy ANC-equipped true wireless earbuds. For everyone else, the market offers several other good sounding TWS earbuds at similar or even lower price-point.