Updated: Sep 2, 2021
I wasn’t very impressed with the Huawei FreeBuds 3i when I tried them last year, but Huawei has made some big design changes and the new Huawei FreeBuds 4i are actually pretty good since they’re going for just S$108, or approximately US$80.
The FreeBuds 4i come in three colours, and the unit we had was in an eye-catching Honey Red colourway, which is a bit bright for my taste, but I have to say it’s definitely a very nice option for people who like red. If you’re not a fan of loud accents though, you might find it a bit hard to match the red earbuds with outfits.
One of my favourite parts about the design is that the ear tips provided are also red, instead of the standard translucent white. I’m still not a big fan of the glossy plastic used for the case, since it really is a fingerprint magnet, but I have to say the red colour doesn’t showcase fingerprints as visibly as the black would. The case is a rounded oval shape, but on the back, there’s a flat spot so that the case can sit nicely on surfaces instead of rocking back and forth. The flat spot kind of made me think that there could be wireless charging here, but no, it’s still wired only.
There’s an LED light in the front for charge left, charging status and whether the earbuds are in pairing mode or not, and then we get into the case itself. The way the earbuds sit inside the case has changed to something more similar to how AirPods or other earbuds are placed into the case, straight down instead of lying side by side.
The earbuds still retain the stem design, which is fine. You get basic touch controls customisation for the double-tap function, with play/pause, track skipping and voice assistant activation. Swapping between noise cancellation and awareness modes is controlled via long presses on the stem. There’s no swipe up or down volume control here though, which is a bit of a bummer because I really liked it on the Huawei FreeBuds Pro. There is wearing detection, which auto pauses the music when you remove one earbud from your ear, so technically, you could leave the double-tap function on either track skipping or voice assistant and just remove one earbud to pause music as and when needed.
A point to take note of here is that the earbuds are both glossy and have a pretty strong magnet holding them in place while they’re set in the case, so you’ll definitely have to get used to how firmly they sit in the case.
The sound quality is actually pretty good. Huawei’s audio products tend to have a pretty similar tuning to them, so there’s not much of a change between these and the FreeBuds 3i. The mids and highs are clear and detailed, but the bass is a bit lacking. It’s nice that there’s a sort of consistency between the FreeBuds series products, but I would really like to see Huawei improve on the bass in future iterations. The FreeBuds Pro actually had more impactful bass, so it’s a shame that that tuning wasn’t present here. There’s also no EQ function, which is pretty par for the course; I don’t think I’ve reviewed a single Huawei audio product that had the EQ feature.
ANC works pretty well, and I did get a good seal with the ear tips. It’s not as effective as the FreeBuds Pro, of course, since this is much more affordable, but it worked well enough to cancel out low rumbling, engine noise and the likes.
Battery life is decent, with Huawei claiming 10 hours of battery life with ANC turned off. I kept ANC on constantly and ended up with around 6-7 hours on a single charge, which is pretty good. There’s an additional one and a half charges or so in the case, but since most people won’t really use the earbuds non-stop for 6-7 hours, I would say a single full charge of the earbuds and case could probably last around 4-5 days with normal usage.
Firmware updates and customisation are all handled by the Huawei AI Life app, and while the app has finally made its way to iOS… The reviews on the App Store are… appalling, to say the least. So I don’t think I can recommend this for iPhone users, once again. Android users though, keep an eye out for these. I think they could be the best budget ANC wireless earbuds of 2021 so far.
Content by Cheryl Tan