In addition to the FreeBuds 3i, the minimalist white box contains accessories in the form of a pill-shaped charging case, four pairs of silicone earpieces in sizes XS, S, M and L, a quick guide and a 1 metre long charging cable from USB-A to USB-C.
Pairing a device with FreeBuds 3i is done for the first time by simply opening the case, or later by a long press on a button on the back of the “pillbox”. Your player is quickly found via Bluetooth 5.0. If you have an Android Smartphone, you can install the App “AI Life”, which allows you to personalise the FreeBuds 3i a little bit, install updates and get information about the charge level. More about this later.
If you have a Smartphone with at least EMUI 10.0, a Setup and Info Wizard will appear on the display as soon as the FreeBuds 3i are connected. In terms of the codecs, sound is only delivered with SBC and AAC to the 10mm drivers. There is no aptX or aptx LL, nor are multipoint connections supported. But these in-ears can be operated individually in mono mode. All in all, a rather mixed bag of features.
At first, listening to current pop music, the 3i appear smoothly neutral to somewhat lame. The bass doesn’t especially attract much attention. Mid and high frequencies seem to be well balanced and one can listen to them without strain – and I mean that in a positive sense. Pushing or twisting the buds in your ears can compensate for the lack of bass. Overall, the 3i’s fit is lightweight and yet firm, but does not seal optimally when fitted with silicone plugs. If you switch on the active noise suppression with a long press on the rear sensor surface of the 3i, the sound changes: the bass is raised and the mid-range becomes fuller. All in all, the sound appears more lush and present, the highs are no longer as sharp.
Exterior noise penetrates a little less – but I doubt whether this is the reduction of 32 decibels promised by Huawei. I could still hear the typing noises on my keyboard and a passing bus, albeit somewhat reduced, and the diving bell effect when the music is turned off is not excessive. All in all the effect of the ANC is rather restrained. But you can switch on an attention mode to let more outside noise through. However, this function comes with strong noise impact. All in all, the FreeBuds 3i are not in the top class of noise reduction.
Battery, Remote and AI Life
After about 2.5 hours of operation the music is already over – with ANC deactivated, it happens about half an hour later. Then these in-ears have to go into the charging case, which can be recharged up to four times. That is a decidedly short time compared to the competition.
The same deficiencies apply to the remote functionality: only two commands can be called up from the in-ears by double or long taps. The factory defaults are “Start/Stop” and “ANC on/off” as well as being able to switch the attention mode. If you want to change something about it, you need an Android device and the above-mentioned app “AI Life”. Only then can the double-tap be changed e.g. to Track Skip or to Voice Assistant call or to “no action”. And finally, the app also allows you to change the long tap from “ANC” to “no action”. This was not enough for me and in the end, I had to take the phone out of my pocket again to make the music louder. If you take the in-ears out of your ear, the music stops – but doesn’t continue when you plug them in again. Not good enough.
Apart from this, the app does not provide any significant added value. You can manage updates and check all battery states. You will look in vain for an EQ or for the possibility of modifying the ANC performance.
To their credit, it can be said that the voice quality of calls is good. Ambient noise is effectively filtered out and the voice remains intelligible and natural.
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i left me with mixed feelings. Sound quality and workmanship are good, but battery life and ANC are less convincing. The technology sometimes doesn’t seem up to date, an IP certification is missing and the functions of both the remote and the app are meagre. For the 100 Euro price, the 3i has to stand up to strong competition, which in some respects is rather less successful. But all in all, the FreeBuds 3i fit well into the Huawei portfolio.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Weight without cableca. 5,5 g (pro Kopfhörer); Case ca. 51 g
- Cable length100 cm
What's in the box
- 4 pairs of ear tips in XS, S, M, L
- USB-C charging cable
- Charging case
- BT codecs: AAC, SBC
- BT version: 5.0