Huawei FreeBuds 5i review: The best in-ear headphones for less than 100 euros
As of today, Monday, the Huawei FreeBuds 5i will also reach the Austrian market. We had the opportunity to test the new ANC headphones even before they were launched. We would not have thought that the FreeBuds 5i would deliver so well for this price. Our test of the best in-ear headphones for less than 100 euros.
The Huawei FreeBuds 5i were launched in other markets, including Germany, a few weeks ago. Not every HuaweiProdukt makes it into the niche market of Austria – but Austrian fans are lucky with the new in-ears. And it's worth it, as our test shows.
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The predecessor model FreeBuds 4i was already a price-performance hit, but now Huawei is doing even better with the successor 5i. Better sound, better noise canceling (ANC), better battery life and even lighter than before. This total package with high-end equipment at a price of entry-level headphones. For a price of 100 euros, my expectations weren't really high, but Huawei proved me wrong. This audio quality can usually be found for 200 euros or more. The noise canceling also works wonderfully, although I still don't have an automatic mode - this can be found with the FreeBuds Pro 2. On top of that, wireless charging of the case would have been a hit. Seen at this price, this is absolutely no criticism.
With the Huawei FreeBuds 5i, buyers get the best overall package in the price range of up to 100 euros, if not up to 200 euros. Since all functions are also compatible with all operating systems (Android and iOS), everyone can access it without hesitation. The FreeBuds are now available online and stationary from well-known retailers at a price of 99 euros.
What's in the box
The compact box of the FreeBuds 5i leaves nothing to be desired. The selected color is shown on the front, the most important features are mentioned on the back. If you lift the box, the case with the in-ear headphones is right below it. The box also contains a quick start guide, a warranty card, a USB to USB-C cable and two attachments in size S and L. By default, those in size M sit on the earplugs.
Our case and in-ears come in Isle Blue. There is also the variant Nebula Black and Ceramic White, whereby the other two color variants come along with white in a matt-sandy-ribbed look. Ceramic White comes in a glossy finish. The case is reminiscent of the current generation of Apple AirPods. But that doesn't mean anything bad.
With a weight of 33,9 grams of the charging case and 4,9 grams pro Earphones, the overall package is also pleasantly light. There is also a status LED on the front of the case and a button for pairing via Bluetooth on the side. There is also a USB port on the underside.
A bit strange: When removing the plugs from the case, they still have to be turned towards the ear, as they are placed in this place exactly the wrong way round. In the case, however, they snap in well and find a secure hold.
To be honest, I didn't expect anything earth-shattering for this price. After the first start of a non-demanding track, I was very pleasantly surprised. So on with a more bassy track and added Bass Boost mode - wow. The highs, lows and mid-range speakers flatter the ear and appear very balanced, except at a volume close to the maximum. Mid and high tones no longer sound particularly good. Listening to music at this volume is not recommended anyway and was only part of the test for a short moment for me.
Despite the bass booster mode in the equalizer of the Huawei AI Life app, voices are still very clear. In terms of sound, the FreeBuds 5i are convincing across the board and, for my personal taste, come close to higher-priced headphones for upwards of 200 euros.
All other sound settings can be configured in the app. For example the EQ effect as described above, either standard, bass boost or treble boost. There is also an extra low latency mode. At least for the current software version of our headphones, which is "HarmonyOS 126.96.36.199".
Briefly on the technical data regarding audio: The connection runs via Bluetooth 5.2 with the codecs SBC, AAC or LDAC. The latter stands for the Hi-Res Audio codec, which enables high-resolution audio to be streamed over Bluetooth connections at up to 990 kbps at 24-bit/96 kHz. The playback quality via LDAC can also be selected for better audio quality or better connection quality. But you have to do without the aptX codec with the FreeBuds 5i.
All settings of the FreeBuds are made via the Huawei AI Life app. Usually pre-installed on Huawei smartphones, it is also available for all other platforms. Although it is only available for iOS directly from the App Store, Android users have to download the APK manually. For Huawei smartphones, it can be found directly in the Huawei AppGallery.
Once downloaded and paired via Bluetooth, the FreeBuds 5i are displayed directly in the overview. If you tap on this, you will find an overview page that presents all the information about the headphones. Current charge level pro Plug and case, connection center, ANC settings, equalizer, gesture control and fit test.
Out of the box, gesture control is assigned the same way on both headphones. Double-tap to play/pause the current media, hold to toggle ANC mode, and swipe up from the bottom to increase the volume, swipe in the opposite direction to decrease the volume. There is no setting for short taps - presumably to minimize incorrect entries. The following gestures can be configured:
- Double tap (on a call): answer/end call or no action
- Double tap (each left or right): play/pause, next track, previous track, activate voice assistant or no action
- Press and hold (on a call): Reject the call or take no action
- Press and hold (left or right, respectively): Noise canceling (ANC), identify tracks (only on Huawei devices with EMUI 11.0 or later), or no action
- Swipe (left and right): Adjust volume or no action
According to the manufacturer, the ANC should be able to lower up to 42db and thus be able to block out external noise very well. The app provides three setting options: "Noise reduction", "Off" and "Attention" mode. In the suppression modes, you can also choose from "Low", "Balanced" and "Ultra". There is no dynamic ANC mode at this price, as there is with the FreeBuds Pro 2 from Huawei is available.
Furthermore, the noise canceling can be changed via gesture control. By default, by pressing and holding one of the two plugs. It then cycles through the three modes.
A special feature of the Huawei headphones is the ability to pair with up to two devices at the same time. The FreeBuds remain simultaneously connected to several Bluetooth devices, regardless of manufacturer, and switch between them automatically. An example of this would be a Netflix series currently running on the tablet while a call comes in on the smartphone that is also connected. Then the audio on the tablet is paused, the smartphone is used during the call and then switched back again.
A preferred device and the devices that are eligible for this function can also be selected in the app.
On paper, the FreeBuds last up to 6 hours (ANC activated) and up to 7,5 hours without ANC. If the total running time with charging through the case is added here, you should get 18,5 (ANC on) or 20 hours (ANC off). After just 15 minutes in the case, the plugs should last for up to 4 hours of music enjoyment. The case itself should be fully charged in just under 2 hours, which is charged via USB-C. There is no wireless charging.
In the practical test, these values did not quite match, the FreeBuds 5i delivered around 40 hours 7 minutes with ANC and 10 hours 5 minutes without ANC in music enjoyment. The ANC was always balanced and the volume was around 60 Procentered. The battery capacity is 55 mAh pro earphones and 410 mAh for the case.
Price and availability
The Huawei FreeBuds 5i have been available in Germany for a few weeks and are now also available in Austria. For example directly via the Huawei Store (only applies to Germany), Amazon or other retailers. The FreeBuds 5i not only offer these online, but also in some stationary shops. The RRP is 99,99 euros.