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Huawei FreeBuds 4i Review: ANC For Everyone

Review Verdict: The Huawei FreeBuds 4i is a great pair of cans for anyone in the Philippines looking for ANC-capable buds at an affordable price point. The Freebuds 4i has many of the same qualities that made the Freebuds Pro great – including excellent battery life – at a price that many can afford.  

Pros

  • Decent ANC performance
  • Balanced audio soundstage
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Very basic controls
  • Not customizable (for now)

The FreeBuds Pro is regarded as one of the best TWS earbuds with ANC for under Php 8k. But not anyone has the scratch to drop Php 8K for a pair of ANC buds, so Huawei is now offering a stripped-down ANC-capable TWS in the Freebuds 4i at half the price.

Is Huawei’s new, ANC-capable, budget TWS worth a try?

Design

Deviating from the case design of the FreeBuds 3i and FreeBuds Lite, the FreeBuds 4i comes with a pebble-shaped case that is essentially a more compact version of the one used for the Freebuds 3. You get the same fingerprint-magne-ty glossy finish. We have 0 illusions about the overall durability of the case when it comes to resisting scratches, and totally recommend getting a sleeve for it to protect it from day-to-day abuse.

Similar to the FreeBuds 3, you have three colors to choose from: Ceramic White, Carbon Crystal Black, and Honey Red. Our review unit is the latter, and the bright red color does make it stand out among the crowd. Like with the FreeBuds 3, you have a USB-C port at the bottom, an LED indicator in front, and a pairing button on the right side.

User Interface and Fit

Like all Huawei TWS earbuds, you will need to press the pairing button to initiate the pairing process. On Huawei phones with EMUI 10, however, the FreeBuds 4i will appear in a pop-up notification to initiate the pairing process.

While the FreeBuds 4i does get detected via the AI Life App, you can’t do much with it. Aside from the app not opening the menu page for the FreeBuds 4i, the only option you can do for now is firmware update–which is under the Bluetooth section. Given that there’s a firmware update option, it is very likely that Huawei will introduce new features to the FreeBuds 4i down the line–just like what it did with the Freebuds 3 and FreeBuds Pro.

Because of the limited functionality, you can’t do much with the touch controls–at least for now. In its current configuration, a long press will toggle between awareness, ANC on, and ANC off, while two taps will let you play/pause music. The latter feels redundant, as the FreeBuds 4i does come with capacitive wear detection sensors that automatically pause the music the moment you take them off your ears.

As for the fit, I like how they are as sleek as the FreeBuds 3, while retaining the in-ear design of the FreeBuds Pro. They fit very well on my ears with the default ear tips, and do stay in place even while using them for long walks with my dogs. If there’s one thing Huawei has excelled with its TWS earbuds, it is the fact that their design is very ergonomic to balance out both form and function.

Audio Quality and Battery Life

Like most Huawei TWS earbuds, the FreeBuds 4i comes with 10mm dynamic drivers. Huawei did not specify if it also uses the Kirin A1 SoC, though some of its features (like the pop-up pair feature) point to the FreeBuds 4i to using an in-house chip.

Despite not having support for aptX, the Freebuds 4i has a very balanced soundstage that I would describe as being better than the soundstage of the FreeBuds 3. The bass and lows may be a bit more subdued compared to the FreeBuds 3, but the Freebuds 4i makes up for it by giving in more detail for the mids and highs–which is perfect for listening to vocal-heavy tracks like the recent releases of Blackpink’s Rose and Red Velvet’s Wendy.

Another improvement the FreeBuds 4i has over the FreeBuds 3 is with the ANC. Aside from being able to filter more noise at up to 22db (vs 15db), the FreeBuds 4i’s ANC is far more reliable than the one on the Freebuds 3 and FreeBuds 3i. As my daily driver, the ANC on the Freebuds 4i is good enough to filter a big chunk of annoying muffler noises from jeeps and motorcycles. On top of that, the FreeBuds 4i also has a reliable awareness mode that utilizes its microphones to make sure you are aware of your surroundings.

Aside from a better soundstage and ANC functionality, Huawei nailed it with the battery life as well. With over an hour of use with ANC on, the FreeBuds 4i’s battery went down from 100% to 85%, which roughly translates to up to 6 hours of use with ANC on. That’s a pretty impressive figure, and you can push them to last for up to 10 hours if you don’t use ANC.

Charging them is pretty quick too, as a 15-minute top-up charged the case from 1% to 50%. A full charge should take you roughly a little under an hour. There’s no wireless charging with the Freebud 4i, but I don’t mind the omission given its price tag.

Wrap up and conclusions

Our review of the FreeBuds 4i in the Philippines shows that Huawei has another winner in the budget TWS earbuds category thanks to its reliable ANC feature. While they are pretty barebones in terms of touch controls (of which Huawei can add features in the future via firmware updates), the FreeBuds 4i covers the essentials with their long battery life, comfortable fit, and soundstage that is better than the more expensive FreeBuds 3.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i Review Philippines Price

The FreeBuds 4i is priced at Php 3,599 and is available at Huawei’s eCommerce shop and their official Lazada store. Those pre-ordering from April 19 to 29 will get a Bluetooth speaker, while those buying from April 30 to May 7 will get a silicone case with their purchase.

*The yellow case in the photo above is one of the three designs that you can choose from.

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