Huawei FreeBuds Pro Review: 5 things to know
Huawei's AirPods Pro rivals pack brilliant ANC, fiddly controls.
Huawei has been in the true wireless market for a while now, busy refining its earbuds from a design and tech point of view. But this is the year that it really wants its non-phone properties to shine. While the smartphone market is a big unknown right now, headphones, laptops and smartwatches are key for Huawei.
By putting Pro in the title, there's only one earphone that Huawei is out to beat and that's the Apple AirPods Pro.
On paper at least, it's succeeded with a battery life that's greater and some impressive noise cancelling technology in place. But how did they sound in our tests and are they worth the £170 asking price?
Here are 5 things to know about the Huawei FreeBuds Pro...
1. The case the come in is well made but bulky
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro come in a rather chunky oval case. It's bigger than other true wireless cases we have tested but looks good and feels like a decent protective outer for the earbuds.
Flip the case lid up and the FreeBuds are nestled inside. And, boy, are they really in there. It took us a few attempts to get the things out of the case. There is definitely a good amount of magnetics holding the buds in, so you have to make sure your finger pinching is strong enough to scoop them out.
2. The Huawei FreeBuds have a unique look
The first thing you notice about the Huawei FreeBuds Pro is that they have a shaft - this is a similar design to the likes of the AirPods Pro and plays an important role here as it is where the touch controls are housed.
As a personal preference, we prefer true wireless buds that are shaft free - the look of the Google Pixel Buds, the Galaxy Buds and Amazon Echo Buds are a little smarter because their design is just the bud and nothing else. One big USP for having one, though, is that they do feel sturdier in the ear and less likely to fall out.
The Huawei FreeBuds Pro's shaft has been given an oblong design and it's one of the most unique we have seen. Follow this up and you have the spherical earbud (that has sensors built into its grille so they know if they are in your ears or not) and then an ear tip to help with the all-important seal for active noice cancelling.
The tips on the buds we tried fitted our ear well first time, but other sizes are available the box so it's worth having a play around with these. If you think you are using a size that's wrong for you, then the accompany AI Life app will guide you through the process which is a nice touch.
3. Connectivity is simple
Connecting up the Huawei FreeBuds Pro was achingly simple. We flipped up the top of the case, turned on our phone's Bluetooth and they found each other in seconds.
Now, you can leave it like that and the FreeBuds Pro work absolutely fine but it's worth delving into the accompanying AI Life app. Here you can learn more about the gesture features and how to control the buds.
This is where the oblong shafts come into their own. It is this part of the earbud that is extra smart, as you can assign gestures to them to control what you are listening to. By default the ability to switch from ANC to open (so you can hear things around you) is done by pinching the earbuds.
Other features include the ability to rename your earbuds, check on battery levels and choose how powerful you want the ANC to be.
When we got the gesture controls to our liking, we still found them a little fiddly to use. The pinching to switch between ANC and open took a little too long and the other gestures do take some getting used to.
You do get used to them, but it does feel like a fumble at the beginning. The app really does help to guide you through the process, though.
4. The sound is impressive, the ANC even more so
Where it matters, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro shine. The active noise cancelling is some of the best we have heard on buds of this size. The seal is just right with the earbuds and the myriad mics do well to push sound away from your ears, giving you that warm immersive feeling that only good ANC can offer.
The earbuds come with a 11mm driver (smaller than in the previous FreeBuds 3 hence the smaller chassis) that offers up a sound that thrives when the track is more propulsive.
The pulsing drum of Video Game by Sufjan Stevens sounded sharp, filling up our ears. The frenetic snare of Model Village by Idles hit hard though the rest of the track sounded a tad muddied. The hand claps in Murphy's Law by Roisin Murphy mixed with thumping bass of the track was a joy, as was the synths in Never Come Back by Caribou.
There is warmth in the slower songs. The strings of Featherweight by Fleet Foxes soared but they did fight against Robin Pecknold's voice a little too much. The 2019 mix of The Kinks' Shangri-La came alive through the FreeBuds Pro.
4. Big battery life and brilliant charging
30 hours' battery life is a big number and one the FreeBuds Pro just about manages. But there are caveats. The buds themselves get around 7 hours' playback time which is brilliant and on a par with the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro.
To get this you do have to turn the ANC off - have the ANC cranked right up and what you get is around four hours. But this doesn't matter as there is so much charge in the case - we knew it was chunkier for a reason. Here you are looking at a good 30 hours with ANC off and 20 hours with it on.
These numbers are really impressive and we're glad that Huawei has worked hard making sure that battery life won't be an issue for anyone using them.
Another plus point is the charging. You can use a fast charger to get them back up and running and it'll only take 30 minutes or so. They are Qi-compatible as well so if you are using a flat wireless charger, then you can juice them up that way.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro Review: Final Verdict
In a year when Huawei needs to prove it is a company beyond the phone, it has delivered a pair of earphones that tick the design and sound quality boxes.
The FreeBuds Pro have fantastic ANC, a battery life that's superb and enough enhancements to please the stuffiest of audio enthusiasts.
They are a pair of true wireless earphones that will be loved by Huawei fans and do enough to turn the head of those who usually look to the likes of Apple, Bose and Sony for their music fix.Buy the Huawei FreeBuds Pro now, from £169.99.