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Huawei FreeBuds Pro review

So much more than AirPods Pro knock offs

huawei freebuds pro
(Image: © TechRadar)

Our Verdict

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro deliver what you'd what from a pair of great earbuds - good audio quality, great battery life, and competent noise cancelling. If you've been lusting after the Apple AirPods Pro but wanted something more affordable, then these are the ones to get - provided you've got an Android phone.

For

  • Cheaper than AirPods Pro
  • Great sound quality
  • Excellent call quality

Against

  • Fiddly to remove from case

Two-minute review

In a market that’s got a good number of options for wireless earbuds, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro make a strong statement. The FreeBuds 3 were a good effort from the company, and the FreeBuds Pro take that a step further with some great-sounding audio and decent noise cancelling.

Call quality continues to be a strong point, and when coupled with great battery life, you really can’t go wrong with picking up the FreeBuds Pro. It loses points for its slightly unintuitive method of removing the actual earbuds from their case, but apart from this, Huawei have an excellent product on their hands.

huawei

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Price and availability

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro are available in three colour variants of Carbon Black, Ceramic White and Silver Frost, priced at AED 649. They have been available since October 22nd, 2020 from Huawei Experience Stores, e-shops and in select retailers across the UAE.

That's considerably cheaper than the AirPods Pro (AED 999), and the best true wireless earbuds of 2020, the Sony WF-1000XM3.

Design

The FreeBuds Pro come in three colors – our review unit was the Silver Frost version, which makes it stand out from the regular white or black earbuds that are commonplace.

In the compact packaging you get the FreeBuds Pro, charging/carrying case, and a USB-C cable for charging. The case also supports wireless charging, making it even easier to top up at the end of the day.

huawei freebuds pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Pop open the charging case and you’ll be greeted by the FreeBuds Pro, ready to kick off your listening experience. As with other Huawei earbuds, pairing them with a Huawei phone is as simple as opening the case near your phone, and it’s ready to go. Non-Huawei Android phones can easily pair the FreeBuds Pro via Bluetooth manually, and they will also work fine with other Bluetooth connections to a laptop or TV.

The FreeBuds Pro uses special force sensors on the stem of each earbud in order to perform various control actions. That’s a lot more forgiving than taps, which can be annoying, inaccurate, or nearly impossible to pull off if you’re wearing gloves. You can switch between ANC modes, adjust volume, play, pause and skip music tracks, as well as answer and decline calls from each bud.

One design choice we don’t like with the FreeBuds Pro is that they can be a bit challenging to take out of the charging case. The setup tutorial actually says that you have to press the FreeBuds Pro to the side slightly in their case before taking them out, but if you don’t go through the tutorial you’ll never learn this trick.

Audio Performance

Pairing the FreeBuds Pro with your Huawei phone is easy – just turn on Bluetooth and open the case near your phone for immediate pairing. You can then download (if needed) and open the Ai Life app, which allows you to fully control your new earbuds.

As a side note, we recommend downloading the Ai Life app from Huawei’s own app store rather than the Google Play store. When we ran the app through the Google Play store, it wasn’t updated to the latest version and couldn’t see the FreeBuds Pro, but when we ran the version downloaded through the Huawei app store, we were immediately able to connect and control our FreeBuds Pro.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Once connected, there’s a number of options you can tweak with how you use your FreeBuds Pro. You can control the level of noise control, or turn on the Awareness mode, which lets outside sounds in so you’re more aware of what’s happening around you. You can also run a quick test to check if your earbuds are optimally fitted, and the app will advise you accordingly to either reposition your earbuds or try a different fitting tip.

If you’re an iOS user, then you’re out of luck – the Ai Life app is only available for Android, so you’ll have limited control by pairing the FreeBuds Pro with your iOS device. The FreeBuds Pro can also connect to two devices simultaneously, so you could be listening to music from your laptop while automatically switching to your phone to take an incoming call. The FreeBuds Pro will also automatically pause or resume playback if you take them out of your ear.

huawei freebuds

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The 40dB active noise cancellation works across three levels, Cozy, General, and Ultra, depending on your environment’s ambient noise. You can either switch between these yourself, or leave the buds to make the decisions, with Dynamic noise cancelling. Overall, the noise-cancelling on offer is quite good, though sudden loud noises like a car horn will still creep through (which in hindsight, is a good thing).

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro are packing large 11mm ultra-magnetic dynamic drivers, and the sound quality impresses. Huawei’s also created a mechanical sound stabilization system, which makes sure the movement of the driver doesn’t result in distortion at high volumes. The subtle bass and distinct cymbal clashes in Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams come through clearly, and there’s a surprisingly rich sound coming from these earbuds.

Alanis Morissette’s Uninvited showcased the same haunting vocals that you’d enjoy on a regular pair of headphones, with the high notes coming through without distortion. Lastly, Bill Wither’s Ain’t No Sunshine provided a surprisingly heavy bass line, which we found was slightly amplified if you’ve got ANC turned off.

Even if you’re listening at high volume levels, the FreeBuds Pro do a pretty great job at not making audio sound distorted, so if there’s a particular track you want to crank up to max, you can do so without losing any detail.  

Wireless earbuds often have mixed results when it comes to phone calls, but thankfully the FreeBuds Pro were a different story. Callers reported hearing us clearly at all times, and as long as you’ve got the stems pointing in the direction of your mouth, they’ll be able to smartly pick up your voice and mute any nearby noises or voices.

It’s also important to note that the FreeBuds Pro aren’t water resistant – they may handle a light splash of water if you’re briefly out in the rain, but Huawei strongly advises that you keep them away from water. We wouldn’t therefore recommend that you try and use these while working out, just because they’ll most likely pop out of your ears during more intense workouts.

Battery life

Huawei puts the FreeBuds Pro at around 7 hours of listening time with ANC off, and 4.5 hours with ANC on. This gets pushed up to 30 hours when paired with the charging case, which is easy to carry around and use for quick top-ups when out and about. The case also supports reverse wireless charging with compatible Huawei phones, so there’s literally no excuse not to get a whole day of use from them with just the occasional top-up charge.

Should I buy the Huawei FreeBuds Pro?

true wireless

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Buy it if…

You want great call quality
No matter what kind of environment you’re in, phone calls made with the FreeBuds Pro will always sound clear for both parties.

You need good battery life
Even with ANC turned on, you can get a good day’s worth of listening from these earbuds, and topping up the charge is as simple as popping them back in the case.

Don’t buy it if…

You’re an Apple user
Save up and buy the AirPods Pro, if only just for better compatibility with your iPhone and other iOS devices.