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Review of the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i: Glamorous feel and affordable active noise cancellation

On January 16th, 2023, the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i True Wireless Earbuds will be available in the UK. Despite the inexpensive price, they come with excellent features, a premium feel, and Active Noise Cancelling.

In 2018, HUAWEI, a Chinese technology company best known for its smartphones and other smart products, launched its FreeBuds line. It is currently in its sixth version, which is debatably the greatest thus far.

The FreeBuds 5i, according to HUAWEI, "inherits the excellent sound quality and active noise cancellation (ANC) from the FreeBuds series, while also including a sleek design, numerous ANC and EQ modes." It's understandable to be sceptical at first because it seems like there should be a lot to offer for such a low price.

Three colours, stylishly dubbed Island Blue, Nebula Back, and Ceramic White, are available for the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i. The earphones are packaged in a charging case with a pebble design that immediately sets them apart from the competition.

HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i

Each of them weighs only 4.9g, with the charging case adding another 34g or so. Although the curvature of the case is something that some people would find awkward, this is actually quite light. They have three distinct tip sizes and are comfortable to use for extended durations.

While shorter than the FreeBuds 4i, the earbuds' 29mm length is still about normal for an earphone of this style. The charging case is 4.8 cm in height, 6.2 cm in width, and 2.6 cm in depth. Despite being light, it does contain some bulk. With an IP54 rating, they are also splash, water, and dust proof.

The earphones pair with the AI Life app, which at the time of writing isn't available for Android on the Play Store. Instead, you must use a QR code in the box to access a website URL and download the apk file.

In order to play and transmit HD audio, HUAWEI claims it "harnesses strong hardware, algorithms, the LDACTM HD audio codec, and multi-EQ effects," and the sound quality is on par with what you'd expect from a more costly gadget.

HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i

The EQ customization options offered by the app are limited; you can only choose between "more base," "more treble," and "balanced." As a result, it doesn't completely blow you away.

A 10mm dynamic driver, right in the middle of what you'd anticipate to find in a set of earphones, powers it. It has a high volume limit, but even with the AI Life app's "more bass" option enabled, it occasionally sounds a touch flat.

Nonetheless, even without any EQ, the mids and highs sound incredibly clean and crisp. Also, the app allows you to choose between connection quality and sound quality, so there can be a tiny delay between your iPhone and the earphones.

When listening to music, this isn't noticeable, and most users will be used to it, especially if they regularly connect their device to a Bluetooth sound system while driving. Most contemporary vehicles have Bluetooth systems that operate with as much as a two-second delay between the device and the sound.

The earbuds come with three sizes of tip - small, medium, and large 

The charging case has a 410 mAh battery, which contributes to the long battery life. As a result, the earbuds can play music for about 6 hours on a single charge (with ANC turned off, you can get an additional 90 minutes or so on top of that) and for about 18.5 hours total with the charging case (with ANC disabled you might get as much as 10 hours more on top of that). The included USB-A to USB-C charging cable is only 25 cm long and thus completely useless.

There is no rapid charging either for the charging case or the earphones; it takes around 110 minutes to fully charge the case and about 60 minutes to fully charge the earbuds when they are inside.

Regardless matter how you look at it, this gadget has a prolonged charge time compared to other products on the market, which is one of the costs associated with the abundance of features and high quality of the rest of the product. In spite of this, Huawei claims that you can get 4 hours of playback with just 15 minutes of charging, which will be convenient for consumers in a bind.

the gadget really excels when it comes to its features. When they claim that the FreeBuds 5i have "Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification," what they really mean is that it is LDAC compliant. Moreover, you have push and swipe controls, "Find My Earbuds," and a simple and useful dual-device connection. To snap a picture, you can even operate your camera with the headphones.

The AI Life app is useful but occasionally simple ( Image: HUAWEI)
The AI Life app is useful but occasionally simple ( Image: HUAWEI)

Yet, the hybrid noise cancellation that uses Active Noise Cancelling is the crowning glory of the FreeBuds 5i (ANC). This is quite good for a device for under £100, and the ANC on these earphones is out of this world, offering depth of up to 42 dB.

There are three ways to use the AI Life app: "Ultra," "General," and "Cozy," according to Huawei. Also, you can engage the ANC's "awareness" mode and switch the ANC on and off using the app. I was sceptical of the ANC since I'm a cynic, but it truly does knock your socks off.

5/5 for HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i.

It might be simple to find fault with a product and point out areas where it could be improved. Yet, it's crucial to keep in mind where you are in the market, and the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i are firmly positioned at the lower end of the pricing range.

The features you get for under £100 are amazing, yet it's obvious that certain sacrifices must be made. Okay, so it takes a little while to charge and the charging cable is a little short. It is also true that lower frequency sound quality is "excellent but not spectacular."

On January 16, 2023, the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i are expected to go on sale for £89.99 on the Huawei Store.

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