Huawei Freebuds 4i review: the best ANC in its class
Chinese electronics giant Huawei may no longer be active in the Indian smartphone market, but its audio products appear to be holding up. The TWS space has been ultra-competitive over the past two years, especially in the under 10,000 rupee segment. Huawei’s FreeBuds 4i is available on Amazon for Rs 6,999 and in print, it’s an interesting proposition. In this review, let’s find out how good the audio quality is, how long the headphones last in terms of battery life, and whether you should consider the FreeBuds 4i over some of the more common names in the Indian TWS segment. .
The FreeBuds 4i has an ovular casing with a polished black finish that is very prone to catching fingerprints. I wouldn’t particularly rate the case as lightweight, but the overall aesthetic is sleek enough and compact enough to fit into a jeans pocket without causing discomfort. The case hinge closes quite firmly via magnets while the movement of the cover is smooth. Only one button on the side is present for pairing purposes and at the bottom you can find a USB-C port for charging. Accessories to Huawei for providing a significantly longer cable inside the box than what most others provide. Inside, the earpiece’s long stems and angled in-ear design are reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods lineup. The buds are firmly locked in their respective positions, sometimes a little too firm for my liking. Opening the case turns them on and instantly connects the FreeBuds 4i to a previously paired device.
In terms of wearing comfort and fit, the preinstalled silicone tips fit perfectly inside my ear canal. Several tips are also provided inside the box to accommodate a variety of ear sizes. Capacitive touch controls on each rod can accomplish basic operating functions such as play / pause, volume up / down, next / previous track and ANC on / off. Unfortunately, the response on touch controls is uncertain and often registers the wrong input. Wear detection works quite well with music that instantly pauses when one of the earbuds is taken out of the ear. There is also a dedicated app for audio tuning and customization, called the Huawei AI Life app, available on Android and iOS. You control the action that the different touch gestures should take, switch between the different ANC modes, activate the wear detection and check the battery level in each of the two buttons and in the case. However, there are no EQ settings available in the app which is a bit of a letdown. Other physical attributes on the buds include IP54 water resistance which should protect them from a sweaty workout or light drizzle.
The audio performance and sound quality of the FreeBuds 4i is quite impressive. The ANC on headphones is perhaps the best I’ve experienced in the segment and that’s no small feat considering how crowded the price bracket is already. Hopping the FairBuds 4i in my ears is equivalent to lowering the curtains to ambient noise. There is a Awareness mode to let more outside sounds seep in, but the result can be scrambled and inconsistent. The 10mm dynamic coil drivers inside the buds create an extremely immersive wide soundstage. The vocals and the separation of the instruments are easily distinguishable, although the muddy bass can play the spoiler in some of the classic rock songs. FairBuds have a decent sound signature that relies more on highs than balanced mids. Therefore, for a beginner audiophile like myself, this combo was perfect for pumping up some Deep House and Electronic trance numbers from my Spotify playlist.
When it comes to battery life, the headphones would last up to 10 hours on a single charge with ANC turned off. The case contains a 215mAh cell, which gives up to 22 hours more. I was in Jaipur for a weekend and the FreeBuds 4i lasted the entire trip with almost 50% battery on the case. I listened to about 11-12 hours of music during this time and the battery life is decent enough for that.
The price tag of the FreeBuds 4i is quite impressive, especially when you consider the amazing ANC capabilities and the outstanding soundstage. However, the product will not cater to an audience who loves punchy bass in their musical palette and will not appease audiophiles who prefer classic rock. Touch controls are uncertain and the dedicated app does not offer EQ settings. Despite this, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i offer great value for money and a polished, portable body with decent battery life, making them an option worth considering.
Editor’s Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Immersive soundstage
- Excellent ANC
- Stylish case
- Muddy bass
- Touch controls are finicky