Chinese electronics behemoth Huawei might not be active in the Indian smartphone market anymore, but its audio products seem to be holding strong. The TWS space has been ultra-competitive over the past couple of years, especially in the under Rs 10,000 segment. Huawei’s FreeBuds 4i is available on Amazon for Rs 6,999 and on paper, it makes an interesting proposition. In this review, let’s find out how good the audio quality is, how long the earbuds last in terms of battery life, and if you should consider the FreeBuds 4i over some of the more staple names in the Indian TWS segment.
The FreeBuds 4i has an ovular case with a polished black finish that is very prone to catching fingerprints. I wouldn’t particularly characterise the case as lightweight but the overall aesthetic is quite slick alongside being compact enough to slip into a jeans pocket without causing discomfort. The case’s hinge snaps shut quite firmly via magnets while the lid’s movement is fluid. A single button on the side is present for pairing purposes and on the bottom, you can find a USB-C port for charging. Props to Huawei for providing a substantially long cable inside the box than what’s bundled by most others. On the inside, the earbuds’ long stems and angled in-ear design is reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods lineup. The buds are locked firmly in their respective positions, sometimes a bit too firm for my liking. Opening the case powers them on, and instantly connects the FreeBuds 4i to a previously paired device.
In terms of wearing comfort and fit, the pre-installed silicone tips fit quite snugly inside my ear canal. There are several tips also provided inside the box to suit a variety of ear sizes. The capacitive touch controls on each stem can accomplish basic operating functions such as play/pause, volume up/down, track next/previous, and ANC on/off. Unfortunately, the response on the touch controls is iffy, and often registers the wrong input. Wear detection works reasonably well with the music pausing instantly when either earbud is taken out from the ear. There is also a dedicated app for fine audio tuning and customisations called the Huawei AI Life app, available on both Android and iOS. You have control over what action different touch gestures should perform, switch between the various ANC modes, turn on wear detection and check out the battery level in each of the two buds and the case. However, there are no EQ settings available in the app which is a bit disappointing. Other physical attributes on the buds include IP54 water resistance which should protect them from a sweaty workout or a light drizzle.
The audio performance and sound quality on the FreeBuds 4i is quite impressive. ANC on the earbuds is perhaps the best I’ve experienced in the segment and that is no mean feat to achieve seeing how populated the price bracket already is. Popping the FairBuds 4i in my ears is equivalent to dropping the curtains on ambient noise. There is an Awareness mode to let more of the outside sounds seep in but the result can be garbled and inconsistent. The 10mm dynamic coil drivers inside the buds create an extremely immersive wide soundstage. Vocals and instrument separation are easily distinguishable although the muddy bass can play spoilsport in some of the classic rock songs. The FairBuds have a decent sound signature that relies more on the highs than balanced mids. Consequently, for an entry-level audiophile such as myself, this combo was perfect to pump on some Deep House and Electronic trance numbers from my Spotify playlist.
As for the battery life, the earbuds are said to last up to 10 hours on a single charge with ANC off. The case packs in a 215mAh cell which further gives up to 22 hours more. I was in Jaipur for a weekend and the FreeBuds 4i lasted the entirety of the trip with nearly 50 percent battery on the case. I listened to about 11-12 hours of music during this time and the battery life is fairly decent for that.
The price point of the FreeBuds 4i is quite impressive especially when you factor in the amazing ANC capabilities and the exceptional soundstage. However, the product will not cater to an audience that enjoys punchy bass in their music pallet nor will it appease audiophiles who prefer classic rock. The touch controls are iffy, and the dedicated app does not offer EQ settings. Even so, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i offer a great cost-to-performance ratio, and a polished and portable case with decent battery life, which makes it an option worth considering.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Immersive soundstage
- Excellent ANC
- Sleek case
- Muddy bass
- Touch controls are finicky