Huawei’s FreeBuds 5i: unbeatable at this price point?



Huawei FreeBuds 5i REVIEW

PAT PILCHER auditions the latest earbuds from Huawei and declares them a winner at their very reasonable price point.


Huawei has been in the wireless earbuds game for some time and I was eager to get my sweaty paws on their latest offering, the FreeBuds 5i. They come with LDAC support and ANC for a wallet-pleasing sticker price of $179 that other wireless earbud manufacturers will struggle to match. But do they deliver the goods?

Looks-wise, the FreeBuds 5i stick to a tried and tested design, sporting a golf tee-like stem design reminiscent of Apple AirPods. Their curved and rounded earpieces and silicon tips also made for a snug fit and reasonable noise isolation.

Like many wireless earbuds, the FreeBuds 5i are IP54 rated, which means that while you wouldn’t wear them in the shower or go swimming with them, they’re fine getting rained on if you’re out and about.


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Their compact, rounded charging case makes them easily pocketable, and carrying it about is not a chore. In use, I found the FreeBuds light and comfy to wear. Weighing in at just 43 grams, they were so light that with extended use I sometimes forgot they were stuffed into my noggin. The touch controls on the earbuds are intuitive and simple to use, allowing you to easily control your music and answer calls. These can be customised using Huawei’s AI Life app for iOS and Android.

Getting set up is no hardship for Huawei phone owners. If their devices are EMUI 10 or Harmony OS 2.0 powered, opening the FreeBuds case sees a pop-up prompting you to pair them. Unexpectedly, this worked with Windows too. Pairing is a manual task for non-Huawei Android or Apple devices, but it isn’t difficult. You’ll need the AI Life app for tweaking settings and customising the FreeBuds. While the idiotic US ban means it isn’t available via the Android app store, it is bizarrely available in Apple’s App Store. Android users can use Huawei’s App Gallery or download it via the QR code on the FreeBuds packaging.

Audio-wise, the FreeBuds 5i delivered crisp audio that was well-balanced across highs and mids, although the bass needed a helping hand via my phone’s built-in EQ. Active noise cancellation (ANC) is also baked in, doing a passable job of blocking out external noise. While the noise cancellation isn’t bad, it’s not in the same league as Bose’s QCII buds. That said, adjusting ANC levels via the AI Life app was useful. The soundstage on the FreeBuds was open and pleasantly transparent. The FreeBuds 5i also delivered the goods when it came to phone calls. Their two integrated microphones made for clean voice capture, cutting out a lot of busy street background noise.

I typically get just over four hours of playback from a single charge. Their charging case also gives an additional 20 hours of battery life, enough for most people to get through a full day’s use. Charging is also quick, with 15 minutes on the charger giving two-and-a-half hours of use.

The FreeBuds 5i connect to your device via Bluetooth 5.2, which provides a stable and reliable connection. Wandering around Wellington’s RF-congested CBD, their connection seemed bulletproof and remained rock solid. Equally nice, they also feature dual-device connectivity, allowing you to connect to two devices simultaneously, a useful feature for switching between a phone and PC.

Overall, the Huawei FreeBuds 5i are a solid choice for anyone wanting affordable ANC and LDAC-hi-res audio-capable wireless buds. Their audio is solid and ANC adequate. Considering their very reasonable $179 sticker price, the FreeBuds 5i offer good bang for buck value and spec compared to other similarly priced wireless earbuds.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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