In the TWS headphone segment, the competition is pretty fierce. In April 2021, Huawei updated its FreeBuds lineup with another mid-range 4i model. We didn’t expect anything special from her, but the test turned out to be quite interesting.
Design and construction
The set of delivery of the headphones is quite traditional: these are the devices themselves, a case, spare ear pads and a charging cable. The case is very small in size but round in shape, it looks like a bar of soap or a large seashell. This shell has a flat surface on one side – especially for a more secure fit on the table.
The slippery smooth plastic of the case makes it difficult to open the lid with one hand. This can be done, but you need to hold the “shell” in your fist (cover up) and move it with your thumb to the side. It is even more difficult to get the headphones themselves, and the fault is the same slippery plastic. But for the fourth or fifth time you adapt to this.
The size and shape of the case are its clear advantages. Small size allows you to put it in trouser pockets, any compartment of a bag or backpack. Moreover, due to the almost complete absence of edges and corners, the case does not need to be oriented in any special way. You take it and shove it into your pocket – here the slippery surface only helps.
The ear cushions are also not quite ordinary: they already have integrated silicone mesh. We have already seen a similar solution, for example, in the Jabra Elite 85t – if the mesh gets dirty (and sooner or later it will definitely happen), it will be much easier to clean.
The ergonomics of the headphones are exemplary. They do not need to be screwed into the ear canal, as some models do – they are simply inserted into the ear, and they hold perfectly.
For control, as usual, the touch surfaces on both headphones are used. And, oddly enough, they do not have a single touch. To pause or play a track again, you need to tap twice on the surface. Holding down allows you to cycle through the functions in turn: turn on the noise reduction system, transparency mode, or turn off both. Perhaps, in this way, the manufacturer insured users from accidental clicks on the sensors. After all, hitting them twice is just as easy as touching them. Volume control is not provided here.
In principle, the control algorithm can be changed by connecting headphones to the AI Life app. True, we failed to do this with the version from Google Play: not only does it not see FreeBuds 4i itself, but it does not even offer a novelty in the list of possible devices when installed manually. Perhaps the app from AppGallery is easier.
How do they sound
In terms of sound quality, Huawei FreeBuds 4i is closer to premium than to budget models. The only problem is that there is very little bass, which can upset fans of “grooving” directions in music. But with medium and high frequencies here is complete order. Even at high volume, the headphones sound without wheezing or bouncing. So if you listen to pop in the MP-3 corny, with a high probability FreeBuds 4i will completely suit you.
The work of the active noise cancellation system is well felt. But hope for complete silence is still not worth it. Like most TWS headphones with noise reduction, in the city FreeBuds 4i let in quite a lot of extraneous sounds – even if they interfere with the music, they still keep in touch with reality.
The “transparency” mode even enhances them to some extent. However, if you do not use the noise reduction system, then you will not turn on the “transparent” mode often. In theory, it was created in order not to pull out the headphones and hear what they say to you – for example, at the checkout of a store. But to turn it on, you must first press and hold the headphone sensor to turn on the noise reduction, and only then hold your finger on the headphone again to turn on the “transparency”. It takes a long time – it is more convenient to free one of the ears.
By the way, oddly enough, FreeBuds 4i does not pause playback when you take them out of your ears. This is a shame.
The manufacturer promises up to 10 hours of operation of the headset – of course, here the low volume and the muted noise reduction are taken into account. In our combat conditions (average volume and active noise canceling system), the headphones lasted about 5.5 hours. For comparison: AirPods Pro, which cost 4 times more, even according to official information, can work up to 5 hours without noise reduction. So the autonomy of Huawei FreeBuds 4i can really be envied.
Like most mid-range products, this model is not without its drawbacks. But there are simply no complaints about the main qualities by which it is customary to evaluate wireless headphones. The battery life is excellent, sounding even better than most competitors in the same price range. They sit in the ears very comfortably, due to which you can listen to music for hours without much fatigue. So, on the whole, we unambiguously recognize the model as successful.