Consumer Electronics, Gadgets & Accessories

Huawei FreeBuds 5i test: Perhaps the best in-ears for under 100 euros

The predecessor model in the form of the FreeBuds 4i already enjoyed enormous popularity thanks to an exquisite price-performance ratio. Now Huawei is following suit and making an in-ear headset even lighter, smaller, better sounding, and better. The result is perhaps the best in-ear headphones you can get for under 100 euros, as our Huawei FreeBuds 5i review proves.

Specifications

Bluetooth version 5.2
Bluetooth codecs SBC, AAC, LDAC
Maximum operating range 12m (without obstacle)
Battery life Up to 7.5hrs, 28hrs total with charging case; (varies depending on volume level and audio content)
Charge Time Round 2 hrs for charging case + headphones via USB-C
Size charging case (W x H x D) 61.8 mm x 48.2 mm x 26.9 mm
Weight 4.9 g per earbud; 42.8 g charging case & earbud
Most important features ANC; Transparency mode; Wear detection
Price Price not available *
HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i
This product is currently unavailable.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i review: package contents and design

  • High-quality, classy design
  • Compact and featherweight

The new Huawei FreeBuds 5i come in three chic colors. Isle Blue and Nebula Black come with a chic texture that provides a pleasantly grippy feel. Unfortunately, our test model in Ceramic White does not feature this “Frosted Texture” and is visually presented in plain white.

The design has changed comparatively little compared to the predecessor. At least at first glance. The FreeBuds 5i are still visually reminiscent of the AirPods Pro from Apple and come accordingly with a pen design that protrudes from the ear.

The earpiece is a full seven millimeters shorter than its predecessor. Of course, this also reduces the weight: One of the Earbuds weighs just 4.9 grams, which is slightly more than the Sony Linkbuds S (our review), the self-proclaimed “smallest and lightest true wireless in-ear headphones with ANC and Hi-Res audio in the world”.

So, the Sony model can keep the title for now. However, and this much should be mentioned in advance, Huawei is close on their heels with the FreeBuds 5i.

The egg-shaped charging case of the Huawei model has also shrunk and is now 0.6 mm thinner than its predecessor. It now weighs around 34 grams without the Earbuds. This does not sound like much at first, but it is even more exciting when you consider that the battery capacity has increased significantly and almost doubled.

Everything inside

The manufacturer has also improved the mechanism for opening the charging case, which is now supposed to be even more robust. Thanks to a flat bottom, you can also comfortably place the charging case on the table without it wobbling.

A status LED is on the front below the manufacturer’s logo, and the USB-C port for charging is on the bottom. A corresponding USB-A to USB-C charging cable is included, along with the usual instructions and other paperwork. Just like two additional pairs of silicone ear inserts in sizes S and L, while the M variant is already preinstalled.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i scope of delivery
The scope of delivery leaves nothing to be desired.

The in-ear headphones themselves find a magnetic hold inside. To do so, they are simply inserted into the openings provided, which make incorrect placement impossible. The simple and equally chic design of the FreeBuds is pleasing and in many ways also reminds us of the top model Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 (our review). There is also nothing to complain about in terms of build quality.

Comfort of the FreeBuds 5i

  • Good wearing comfort
  • Slightly loose fit in the ear

The wearing comfort of the Huawei FreeBuds 5i can basically be described as good to very good. Especially thanks to the comparatively low weight, even long-term wearing without pressure is possible. Like the FreeBuds Pro 2, however, the cheaper model does not sit quite as deeply and accordingly not as firmly in the ear canal during fast movements as some competitors.

Of course, if you don’t normally like in-ear headphones, this might suit you just fine. Accordingly, the Earbuds are only suitable to a limited extent for fast movements and sports activities, and you always have the feeling that they would come loose in the ear or they would slip. As so often, however, this is a matter of taste.

Features and battery life

  • Modern equipment
  • IP54 certification
  • Bluetooth multipoint

When it comes to features, the Huawei FreeBuds 5i step up significantly. Wirelessly, the in-ear headphones radio in the modern Bluetooth 5.2 standard and thus enable a range of about 10-12 meters to the audio source.

Bluetooth Multipoint, i.e. the possibility to connect the Earbuds to two audio sources at the same time, is also supported. For example, you can answer calls on your smartphone while playing games or listening to music on your PC. This is very commendable, since this feature was previously only available on the Pro model.

The IP54 certification is also back, so you can use the in-ears even in rain showers. There’s also an automatic wear detection feature that automatically pauses playback when you take one of the earphones out.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i Features
For around 100 euros, the Huawei FreeBuds 5i offer features that are otherwise only reserved for significantly more expensive in-ears.

A gaming mode for low latencies can also be added on the app side. According to the app, this is also suitable “For preventing choppy audio playback in environments with high network load”.

Significant plus in battery life

  • Up to 7.5 hrs of battery life without ANC (4.5 hrs with ANC)
  • Over 35 hrs of battery life with charging case
  • Fast Charge allows fast charging

There are also positive things to report about the battery life. If this could already convince the predecessor through the bank, the FreeBuds 5i here again clearly increase. Of course, this is especially remarkable in view of the shrunken dimensions and the lower weight.

According to the spec sheet, the pure earbuds can play music for up to 7.5 hours with the ANC function deactivated. We can also confirm this value in practice. With active noise cancellation, the in-ear headphones run out of steam after just under 4.5 hours at about 90 percent volume – also a good rate.

The battery in the charging case now has a capacity of 410 mAh (compared to 215 mAh in the predecessor), which provides six additional hours of runtime. Overall, the charging case adds a whopping 28 hours of additional runtime, so we end up with a maximum of 35.5 hours of battery runtime for the composite.

For comparison: That is almost 15 hours more than Sony allows in the case of the Linkbuds S and even over 5 hours more than Huawei’s top model FreeBuds Pro 2. Top!

Huawei FreeBuds 5i Battery
Over 35 hours of battery life are recorded in conjunction with the case. Excellent.

However, not only the runtime, but also the charging time shows a significant improvement. Thanks to Fast Charge, the case and Earbuds are charged from 0 to 100 percent in just 110 minutes. 15 minutes on the mains is also enough to make the in-ears fit for four hours of music playback.

Operation: swiping and touching

  • Precise and reliable touch operation
  • Swipe gesture to adjust the volume
  • Missing inputs possible due to loose fit

There is no innovation in the operation of the Huawei FreeBuds 5i. Like the current Pro model, they rely on a modern touch control that performs various actions via touch and swipe gestures.

For example, double-tapping lets you start or pause playback, as well as answer or end a call, while pressing and holding lets you toggle through the different sound modes, such as ANC or transparency mode.

The touch-sensitive styles of the Earbuds also offer the possibility to increase or decrease the volume directly on the in-ear headphones via swipe gestures, i.e. swiping up or down. However, the latter does not work fully dynamically, but step-by-step.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i Operation

In practice, the touch controls work relatively reliably, but the headphones did not always adjust the volume accurately during the test. However, precisely because the headphones do not sit quite as tightly in the ear, there are often incorrect entries because you want to readjust them.

Audio quality, ANC and microphones

  • Impressive frequency response
  • Support for the high-resolution LDAC codec
  • Good, somewhat over-present, bass representation

If you thought that all sounds pretty good now, what the Huawei FreeBuds 5i deliver here, then this is where it gets really exciting. Because the in-ear headphones clearly improve especially in terms of audio quality.

From a purely technical point of view, there is a pretty impressive frequency range of 20 Hz to 40,000 Hz on paper, which is supposed to sound through the 10 millimeter drivers. In combination with Sony’s high-resolution LDAC codec with Hi-Res audio in CD quality and a data rate of 990 kbit/s.

Okay, so Sony headphones and the FreeBuds Pro 2 offer that, too, you might be thinking. And you’re right. But the FreeBuds 5i offer that at a price of less than 100 euros, and that’s pretty impressive.

The pure sound of the FreeBuds 5i is similarly impressive. The somewhat unsightly peaks and the lack of bass of the direct predecessors have been ironed out very well by the manufacturer.

The low tones in particular are now noticeably more detailed, without coming too much to the fore and drowning out the mids or trebles. However, the tuning has shifted quite a bit to the low frequencies.

The not so tight fit of the in-ears then also benefits the airiness in the highs, which show themselves nicely open and present. The sound is not quite as good as the in-house Pro model, which was also tuned together with Devialet, but it comes close. Only the three-dimensionality and the level of detail of the mids – i.e. voices and lead instruments – are somewhat lacking in the less expensive model.

However, you should not turn the in-ears up to full volume, because then it can get a bit shrill. Fortunately, you can counteract this with the help of the equalizer in the companion app. But not least for the called price, what Huawei delivers here in terms of sound is quite impressive.

The active noise cancellation is impressive

  • Excellent ANC function up to 42 dB
  • Filters out voices and high-pitched noises very well
  • ANC mode change only via companion app

What really blew me away in the Huawei FreeBuds 5i test, however, is the active noise cancellation ANC. According to the spec sheet, this should now be able to suppress up to 42 dB – exactly 20 dB more than it was the case in the predecessor.

And quite honestly: What Huawei has achieved here is simply impressive. The ANC not only copes excellently with the usual monotonous low-frequency noises, but also almost completely suppresses voices, music or TV sound.

In fact, the ANC works just as effectively on medium frequencies as it does, for example, on the significantly more expensive Sony WF-1000XM4. And that without an unpleasant feeling of pressure or a diving bell effect. Only at high frequencies does a difference become apparent. A slight background noise is also barely perceptible if you are not in a completely quiet environment and do not play any sound.

Unlike the in-house Pro model, however, the ANC function does not work dynamically here. Within the companion app, you can choose between three ANC modes: “Low” suppresses up to 25 dB, “Balanced” gets up to 30 dB of noise suppression, and “Ultra” gets the full 42 dB.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i
Especially the white variant magically attracts lint and dust

Unfortunately, and this is also the only point of criticism, there is just the possibility to switch between these modes only within the Huawei AI Life app. On the other hand, I am not sensitive to active noise cancellation anyway and always use the maximum setting.

As good as the ANC turns out to be: the transparency mode, which amplifies ambient noise and voices, is only okay on the other hand. It does what it is supposed to, but does not sound quite as natural and dynamic as without in-ears inserted.

Microphone Quality of the FreeBuds 5i

You shouldn’t expect too much when it comes to microphone quality. It is, measured by the price, sufficient to make the one or other phone call in fairly quiet environments from time to time. However, it is not enough for more. The voice reproduction noticeably lacks dynamics and clarity.

App connectivity: Huawei Ai Life

The companion app for the FreeBuds 5i is Huawei Ai Life, and it wants or rather needs to be installed a bit awkwardly via the manufacturer’s website and the Huawei app gallery first. Once that is done and you have logged in, the app welcomes you with a clear and tidy interface.

For example, you can adjust the dual connection with two devices, choose between the different ANC modes, or activate/deactivate the wear detection and the gaming mode (“low audio latency”). The app also offers the option to perform a fit test and thus find the right silicone earplugs or adjust the gesture control.

Unfortunately, the option to identify the current track by holding it down is reserved for Huawei devices and is not available on Android or iOS. Unfortunately, I also miss own equalizer settings in the sound options. You can only choose between three EQ effects.

However, it’s important to know that you can also use the in-ear headphones without the companion app. Then not all settings and options are available to you, but you do not have to do without really many features.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i review: Conclusion

The new in-ear headphones really surprised me in the Huawei FreeBuds 5i test. Earbuds for under 100 euros… I usually do not expect earth-shattering much, but the manufacturer has taught me otherwise.

For features like a high-resolution audio codec (LDAC), multipoint and such a strong active noise cancellation, you usually have to dig much deeper into your pocket. Although the manufacturer 1MORE showed last year what can be achieved for around 100 Euros.

Huawei is ahead in the comparison in terms of ANC effectiveness and handling. However, you have to accept a few compromises in terms of sound and microphone quality, and I was not completely convinced by the rather loose fit. But that is also complaining on a very high level, especially measured by the low price and correspondingly strong price-performance ratio.

Huawei FreeBuds 5i Review: Gold Award

Huawei FreeBuds 5i

Workmanship
Comfort
Sound quality
Recording quality
Features
Value for money

90/100

For around 100 Euros, Huawei puts together an excellent overall package of impressive ANC, good sound, and convincing battery life in the FreeBuds 5i.

HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i
This product is currently unavailable.

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Bad Segeberg.

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The predecessor model in the form of the FreeBuds 4i already enjoyed enormous popularity thanks to an exquisite price-performance ratio. Now Huawei is following suit and making an in-ear headset even lighter, smaller, better sounding, and better. The result is perhaps the best in-ear headphones you can get for under 100 euros, as our Huawei … (Weiterlesen...)

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