HUAWEI has managed to put itself in a really good position. As a company, it has an audio product for everyone. Do you prefer over-the-ear headphones? Check out the FreeBuds studio. Would you like a comfortable pair of ANC buds? Check out the FreeBuds 3 (and the sequel we’re looking at today, the FreeBuds 4). Do you want both passive and active noise cancellation? Look no further: FreeBuds Pro.
Of course we only mentioned the flagship products in our list above, but you will be pleased to find that there are many other products in their portfolio, such as the FreeBuds 4i and the FreeLace Pro, to name a few They really have something for every taste, need and budget.
The FreeBuds 4 build on the success of the FreeBuds 3, with the company keeping the design principles and overall look of the earbuds, but making slight changes and tweaks to improve on the predecessor. We’re going to take a look at these, and of course the resulting product, in our HUAWEI FreeBuds 4 review below.
HUAWEI FreeBuds 4 specifications
Compared to the FreeBuds 3, the FreeBuds 4 is a bit smaller, both in terms of the Buds themselves and the charging case.
An earbud weighs only 4.1 grams and is 41.4 mm high, 16.8 mm wide and 18.5 mm deep. The charging case weighs 38 grams (without buds) and, because it is pebble-shaped, has a diameter of 58 mm and a height of 21.2 mm.
Inside, you’ll find a slightly larger 14.3mm driver and the same Kirin A1 chip used on the company’s GT2 series of smartwatches, earbuds, and even the company’s FreeBuds Studio.
The battery capacity did not suffer from the overall slight reduction in size with units with a nominal output of 30 mAh per earphone and 410 mAh for the charging case.
Bluetooth connectivity has been upgraded to Bluetooth 5.2, and the earbuds have received their IPX4 rating against splash from all directions this year.
Wireless charging has been abandoned with no clear plans to offer a version that will support it in the future, as has the bone sensor which was a feature of its predecessor.
Design, build and fit
The design itself is beautiful and is pretty much what we at HUAWEI are used to with its premium products. The finish is also first class, nothing else to report.
HUAWEI opted for the open-fit design, similar to the FreeBuds 3, which I’m really looking forward to the successor to the FreeBuds Pro this year. An open design has its advantages and disadvantages. We’ll talk about it, but if you’re someone who doesn’t like in-ear canal earphones (like the FreeBuds Pro and, more recently, the FreeBuds 4i), these are definitely the ones to check out.
In terms of fit, the open design gave HUAWEI more leeway to tweak the size and shape of the FreeBuds 4 to fit most ears comfortably. After a few minutes you will forget you are wearing it. They are comfortable and their light weight makes them easy to get used to.
Those are two of the main advantages of an open-fit design. We’ll address the drawbacks in the following segment in terms of audio quality and ANC. However, we’d like to preface this with the fact that they only have downsides when you come from an in-ear canal design. If open-fit is your bread and butter, you should turn down these so-called cons.
Audio quality, ANC and experience
We need to look at audio quality and ANC conversation from an open-fit design standpoint. Of course, because of the larger drivers, an over-the-ear design sounds better while providing better noise isolation, and the in-ear canal earphones provide the best audio quality and ANC noise in the ear canal thanks to their passive noise cancellation and isolation.
The 14.3 mm drivers inside the FreeBuds 4 offer a really pleasant sound. They’re missing something on the lower end of the spectrum where the bass and lower mids are, but that’s just a result of the open design. So if your musical tastes include strong bass and punchy lows, the FreeBuds 4 may not be the earbuds for you. However, they are really silky in the mids and highs, with an emphasis on vocals and instruments.
In terms of audio quality, the AI Life app doesn’t have a lot of settings to play with and you can even use it without the app, which at this point, aside from adjusting the controls and updating the firmware, little to nothing improves the audio experience.
Active noise cancellation
HUAWEI claims that ANC has been improved over its predecessor. We’re not saying they didn’t, we’re saying we haven’t seen any discernible, significant improvement. ANC is there and it works.
Does it block as much noise as the FreeBuds Pro or FreeBuds 4i? Of course not, because thanks to the in-ear channel design, these have the advantage of additional passive noise suppression.
On the FreeBuds 4, noise cancellation blocks an air conditioner or fan almost entirely, but anything beyond that is let through due to the open design.
Considering that ANC cuts battery life almost in half (from 4 hours to 2.5 hours), we recommend turning it off unless you specifically need to turn it on. And when you do, you can expect some sounds to be blocked out and most of them muffled, muffled, or otherwise unadulterated, depending on your surroundings.
We use the FreeBuds 4 for phone calls, VoIP calls (Signal, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet) and for listening to music. All of this was delivered as expected. We covered the audio quality in the segment above, and voice calls sounded fine. On the other end of the line, people said they could hear us clearly regardless of the quality of the call (lower calls, higher VoIP calls).
Dual-device connectivity (the ability to connect to two devices at the same time) is definitely handy when you want to bridge the gap between work and play. I do most of my work on the computer while listening to most of the music on my phone.
With wear detection, you don’t have to fumble for the pause button if you want to stop your music quickly. Just take it out of your ears and multimedia playback will stop immediately.
The battery life is close to the advertised one. 4 hours without ANC, 2.5 hours with ANC and 22 more hours with charging case and without ANC. While this is similar to the numbers of the FreeBuds 3 and quite manageable, there are other HUAWEI and competing models that offer more. It’s only fair to mention that!
Charging takes about an hour for both the earbuds and the charging case. Only wired charging is currently available. So don’t expect your phone to use reverse wireless charging to keep it going while you’re away.
The stem of the buds is touch sensitive, and while you can configure the actions in the AI Life app, the default settings are double tap to play / pause, long tap to turn ANC on and off, and swipe up and down to increase the volume /reduce. Thanks to this feature, you can use the FreeBuds 4 without AI Life on another Android or even iPhone or Mac.
Using the AI Life app allows you to update the firmware (we received an update during our trial period), configure the gestures above, and try to locate the earbuds in case you misplaced them.
Finally, it seems that HUAWEI has made it their business to ensure that users have difficulty removing the earbuds from the charging case. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to struggle with every model the company makes, and the FreeBuds 4s are no easier to remove at all. It’s a combination of magnets and the glossy surface and finish that deny proper hold for easy removal.
The FreeBuds 4 are a perfect pair of stylish earbuds if you’re new to wireless, ANC-enabled models. We don’t consider them a significant step up from the FreeBuds 3 to recommend an upgrade.
The additional IPX4 rating means you can wear them in the rain and even to the gym, as water splashes won’t damage the earbuds. That’s exactly a great selling point, on top of the silky smooth sound (which is a bit missing at the lower end) and its relatively small footprint.
They currently cost £ 129.99 in the UK and you get a HUAWEI Band 4 Pro (valued at £ 49.99) as a gift. You can currently buy them in the EU for € 119.00, where they are not currently (at the time of this review) € 149.00, but discounts vary from region to region with latest prices.
Advantages and disadvantages
+ light and comfortable;
+ Touch gestures;
+ silky smooth sound;
+ Dual device connectivity.
– weak ANC;
– poor battery life with ANC;
– audio is missing at the bottom;
– no wireless charging.
Anton D. Nagy
Anton is the editor-in-chief of Pocketnow. As head of publications he would like to bring Pocketnow closer to you. His vision is primarily focused and focused on the audience. Anton’s goal, which has been adopted by the entire team, is to make Pocketnow a reference media company.
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