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Hands on: Huawei FreeBuds Pro review

So much more than AirPods Pro knock offs

What is a hands on review?
huawei freebuds pro
(Image: © TechRadar)

Early Verdict

While we can’t cast a conclusive comparison with the competition until we've spent more time with the Huawei FreeBuds pro, we've been impressed in the brief time we've spent with them, thanks to excellent sound quality, and amongst the best in-call audio quality we’ve experienced from in-ear wireless buds. Plus, they're far cheaper than the Apple AirPods, despite coming with noise cancellation.

For

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

Against

  • Fiddly to remove from case

Huawei entered the earbuds market with its FreeBuds back in 2018 and the FreeBuds 2 in select markets shortly after – both receiving a lukewarm reception. In 2019, audio enthusiasts started paying attention – the FreeBuds 3 were the first set of true wireless earbuds to sport ANC and an open-ear fit, and have been our go-to buds for calls, thanks to their excellent voice and in-call noise-cancelling quality. 

Now, they’re getting an upgrade –meet the FreeBuds Pro.

huawei

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Price and availability

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro will be available to buy in October, and will cost 199€. The smartphone company hasn't released UK or Australian pricing yet, but that works out at around £180 / AU$320. 

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

We're not expecting these wireless earbuds to launch in the US due to the ongoing trade restrictions placed upon the company by the US government.

Design

The first FreeBuds to feature ANC with a closed in-ear fit, the FreeBuds Pro pack a quirky, ‘Cubic Iconic’ design, with an angular stem. The buds in-ear components are however curvy, with comfortable silicone earplugs doing a great job of securely sitting in the ear. 

One downside to the design? We found that the FreeBuds Pro are really fiddly to remove from their charging case.

You can pick up the FreeBuds Pro in Carbon Black, Ceramic White and Silver Frost - the latter being a unique, standout option that helps set it apart from the rest of the bloated black and white buds market.

What sets these buds apart from the pack is just how much you can control without having to touch your phone. Smart interaction thanks to a force sensor on each stem gives you the power to switch between ANC modes, adjust volume, play, pause and skip music tracks, as well as answer and decline calls from each bud. 

huawei freebuds pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Features and performance

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. 

Thanks to three sizes of ear tips included with the FreeBuds Pro, as well as a feature in the app to let you know if the fit is tight, there’s a good amount of passive noise-cancelling going on.

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.

Call quality continues the trend set by the FreeBuds 3 – it’s very good. Three microphones and bone conduction interplay to deliver precise in-call noise cancelling and voice pick-up. Tested in windy conditions and with the din of background traffic, audio quality is great, and generally speaking, if you’re after a set of buds for calls, these should be at the top of your consideration list

huawei freebuds

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Battery life

As for battery life, you get around a quoted 30 hours with the case, which supports Qi wireless charging, and we were getting six to seven hours of battery life per charge when noise cancelling was fired up to the max in our week with them. The FreeBuds Pro charge quickly too – powering up from 0-100% in 23 minutes. 

true wireless

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Early verdict

While we can’t cast a conclusive comparison with the competition until we've spent more time with the FreeBuds Pro, they do combine excellent sound quality, and amongst the best in-call audio quality we’ve experienced from in-ear wireless buds so far. 

Considering the low price (though pricing for most regions is still to be confirmed), Huawei’s first true AirPods Pro rivals make for an impressive alternative to Apple’s finest. 

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.