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Huawei FreeBuds 3i Review - Impressive ANC for less

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The TWS (true wireless stereo) earphones market gives us a lot of options lately but most of the time, if not always, the consumers are looking for affordable ones. 
Huawei FreeBuds 3i Review - Impressive ANC for less
Meet the Huawei FreeBuds 3i

Just five months after Huawei FreeBuds 3's launch in the country, the Chinese tech giant launched the Huawei FreeBuds 3i in Europe last May 2020. Two months after its international launch, the FreeBuds 3i is now available in the country along with the Huawei nova 7 5G.

The new TWS offering from Huawei seems like it's basically the more affordable version of the FreeBuds 3.

However, they have differences—firstly are their prices. Huawei FreeBuds 3i is priced at PHP 5,990. It's PHP 3,000 cheaper than the FreeBuds 3.

But, how is FreeBuds 3i really different from its premium version and is it really worth it?

Let's find out.

Unboxing/Accessories

Everything inside in the box
Everything inside in the box

Huawei FreeBuds 3i arrives in a clean, white rectangular box. It's imprinted with the Huawei logo and the device's highlights in minimalist gold color plus the sneak peek of the TWS earphones in black. 

Inside the box, you'll find the Huawei FreeBuds 3i inside its charging case, paper documents, warranty card, USB-A to USB-C cord, and extra silicone ear tips (in different sizes).

Build Quality/Design

The body
The body

Similar to its premium version, Huawei FreeBuds 3i is made out of polycarbonate material with a glossy finish. It also has IPX4 water splash resistance which means that it is safe to use during workouts. 

We're given the Carbon Black colorway and it's evidently prone to hairline scratches, so you need to keep extra care. 

FreeBuds 3i's design is comparable to the Apple Airpods Pro's design because of its silicone ear tips. I like the chrome painting at the bottom not just because it makes me look like I'm wearing some kind of earrings (because it shines from afar) when I'm using the FreeBuds 3i, but because it complements to the Carbon Black colorway.

The FreeBuds 3i silicone ear tips create a seal to the ear canal. Thanks to the silicone tips because I'm not even worried that the FreeBuds 3i might fall off of my ear.

The pillbox design charging case is identical to the FreeBuds Lite case. It serves as the FreeBuds 3i's charging dock, extra power supply, and pairing pod.
Pill box-like case
Pill box-like case

It has a flip-open design with LED light just at the bottom of it. The USB-C charging port and pairing key sit on the other bottom side of the case. The LED indicator lies inside the charging case. However, it does not support Qi wireless charging.
Flip open case with LED indicator inside
Flip open case with LED indicator inside
Pairing key and USB-C port
Pairing key and USB-C port

Just like its premium version, FreeBuds 3i's charging case is a fingerprint smudge magnet. But overall, it is a lightweight, compact, and premium looking for its price.

Comfort/Isolation

Most affordable TWS with ANC!
Most affordable TWS with ANC!

As mentioned, Huawei FreeBuds 3i comes with a pair of silicone ear tips. It doesn't just create a seal to the ear canal, but it also passively block out environmental noise. 

Unlike FreeBuds 3, the FreeBuds 3i uses silicone ear tips. The package has four sizes of silicone ear tips inside it and I found the medium-sized ones to fit my ears the best. Note that the medium-sized ear tips come already attached to the FreeBuds 3i. 


When I tried shaking my head vigorously to dislodge the earbuds, they stayed put. During jogs and workouts, they felt secure and did not fall out.



Greatly secured on the ears!

I'm also amazed by its active noise cancellation (ANC) feature. According to Huawei, its active noise cancelation tech can lessen outside noise by up to 32dB, and they could be right.

The moment I placed the FreeBuds 3i on my ears, I literally didn't hear any noise around me. It felt like I had been isolated in a totally silent place. 

Since it has an in-ear design, the natural isolation + ANC of this is superior to just the ANC of the FreeBuds 3.

If that's the type of silence you'd like to have, then the FreeBuds 3i may work perfectly for you. However, it can be dangerous if you'd use it while jogging, or walking outside your home.

My mom was literally talking in front of me but I couldn't hear her even if I'm just listening to music with the volume on level 1. Insane, right? 


Battery

The Huawei FreeBuds 3i and its charging case
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i and its charging case

Each earbud highlights a 37mAh battery with an extra 410mAh on the charging case. With the ANC feature on, I get almost 3 hours of playback time. Without the mentioned feature on, I easily get an extra 30 minutes with a 50 percent level of volume.

It's expected that the ANC feature will be at the expense of the battery life but with the extra 14 hours, thanks to the charging case, FreeBuds 3i is already decently good. Overall, FreeBuds 3i has 18 hours of battery life.

Charging time is quick since I just had to wait around 1 hour for both earpieces to get fully charged from 0 to 100 percent.

The charging case can be charged via USB-C. It takes an hour to get 100 percent of the battery from 0. As mentioned, it does not support Qi wireless charging.

Features

Instant pairing feature with Huawei devices
Instant pairing feature with Huawei devices

Using the FreeBuds 3i is a no-brainer. You just need to open the case, press the pairing key at the backside of the case, and you'll see the LED indicator inside the case blinking which signals you that it's ready to pair with any of your devices—Android, Apple, or Windows device.

If you own a Huawei smartphone, it has an instant pairing feature. Just make sure that it runs on the EMUI10.0.1 or above. 

I can also easily turn on and off the ANC feature with a simple long tap. With double taps, I can play and pause the song I'm listening to and answer or end calls.


Easy pairing with Android, Apple, and Windows devices!

If you're using an Android device, download the Huawei AI Life app. From there, you can customize the tap features of the FreeBuds 3i.

Even though I'm an iOS user, Huawei FreeBuds 3i works so well with my devices. Each earbud works independently. Even if I remove one earpiece, the other earpiece still does its job to play the music I'm listening to.

The same with the FreeBuds 3, the FreeBuds 3i still lacks in volume control which is kind of "common" on the TWS earphones we're familiar with.

I just wished there's an iOS app for users with Apple devices. 

Connectivity-wise the performance is amazing. Bluetooth lag is nonexistent and it is very stable.

Even if I go around our house leaving my laptop or phone a few meters away from me, I didn't encounter any problem with the connection. Meanwhile, call quality is clear. 


Audio

AirPods Pro-like design
AirPods Pro-like design

Huawei FreeBuds 3i is equipped with 10mm dynamic and that's what to blame for this TWS earphones' decent rich audio quality. I am pleased with FreeBuds 3i's sound quality—from what I have expected.

Its ANC performance is quite impressive. It is able to cut out most of the noise, rivaling most of its more-expensive competitors.

Impressive active noise cancellation!

Even with the noise-canceling off, the soundstage is still wide. It can still detect where the audio is coming from and instruments and vocals are well separated. With the noise-canceling on, I can easily enjoy my music without any environmental noise. 

I loved how FreeBuds 3i was able to give me the details—be it music or lyrics of every Taylor Swift song that I listen to. (#Swifties, unite!)

It has a decent bass with deep enough frequencies, but it's not for those who like bass-heavy music. It is not overpowering. As long as you get the proper seal, you'll enjoy rich tones with decent mids and highs.

It has a more balanced type of sound that is suitable for most listeners.

Pros - Pocketable charging case, comfortable fit, noise-cancellation, nice audio quality, the affordable price tag for the overall features and quality
Cons - Some features are for Huawei phones only, no Qi wireless charging support, the bass response could be stronger


Huawei FreeBuds 3i Specs

Driver: 10mm dynamic driver
Microphone: 3-mic system
Battery: 37mAh (per earbud), 410mAh (charging case)
Sensors: Proximity sensor
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, supports A2DP 1.3, HFP 1.6, AVRCP 1.5
Others: IPX4 water splash resistance, ANC, double-tap control, pop-up and pair, USB-C, Colors: carbon black, ceramic white
Dimensions: 41.8 x 23.7 x 19.8 mm (per earbud) 80.7 x 35.4 x 29.2 mm (charging case)
Weight: 5.5 g (per earbud), 51 g (charging case)
Price: PHP 5,990

Verdict

The Huawei FreeBuds 3 is the most affordable TWS earphones with ANC and decent overall audio quality in the market right now.

It undercuts the price of several popular and more expensive TWS alternatives such as AirPods 2, AirPods Pro, and more.

Of course, the AirPods Pro is worth its price but if you're "broke" like me and cannot afford those expensive TWS earphones, trust me, the FreeBuds 3i won't disappoint. 

Build/Design - 4.5
Comfort/Isolation - 4.5
Battery Life - 4
Features - 4.5
Sound - 4.5
Average - 4.4/5
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