Huawei FreeBuds 3: Review

THE PROS

  • Great sound quality
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Great battery life with the case
  • Appealing design
  • Very fast charging

THE CONS

  • No touch volume controls
  • Poor noise isolation
  • ANC performance is meagre
  • Some features are exclusive to Huawei EMUI 10 devices

Design

The Huawei FreeBuds 3 are an open-fit earphone, which means they don’t have a silicone tip at the end that jams into your ear canal. Because of this they’re generally less intrusive and more comfortable over longer periods of use. The only downfall is that they don’t isolate the outside noise as well and their bass isn’t as focused.

The case for the FreeBuds is very light at a hair under 50g. It’s a bit wider than the case of the AirPods 2 but disappears inside a pocket just as well.

Similar to AirPods


It’s evident that the Huawei FreeBuds 3 are deeply inspired by Apple’s Airpods. Upon further inspection, you’d notice that the AirPods 2 have a slightly bigger driver opening and a more contoured stem design.

Key Difference


Another key difference is the battery. The Huawei FreeBuds 3 promise 4 hours of battery on the earbuds (each with 30mAh of battery) and another 16 hours through the charging case (410mAh inside). The AirPods 2-gen offer up to 5 hours of independent listening, while the AirPods Pro offer 4.5 hours – both better than Huawei’s buds.

Features


The FreeBuds 3 work with every smartphone out there but are better suited for Android devices because of Huawei’s AI Life app and work best with Huawei smartphones running EMUI 10.

Pairing is seamless and snappy – open the case and press and hold the pair button on its side, the FreeBuds 3 will show up in your Bluetooth menu. With Huawei smartphones the pairing is even easier – open the case and you’ll get an immediate prompt from the phone to connect to the FreeBuds 3 – just like with AirPods on an iPhone or Galaxy Buds on a Galaxy smartphone.

You can control the FreeBuds 3 functions with a series of taps – a double tap on the left earbud enables or disables the active noise-cancellation while a double tap on the right starts or stops playback.

Huawei AI Life


If you have an Android phone you should download the Huawei AI Life app from the Play Store (or Huawei’s App Market). From there you can control what happens with the double-tap gestures, meaning, you can disable it or set it to invoke the voice assistant, update the firmware of the earbuds or adjust the level of noise cancellation.

Noise cancellation and battery


The Huawei FreeBuds 3 offer up to 15dB of active noise cancellation and it’s immediately felt. Noise cancellation works by analyzing the noise in your environment through the microphones on each earbud, creating a waveform of the noise and then creating a counter, phase-inverted waveform to cancel out the noise. This works best with constant low-frequency noise such as the hum of a fan or the drone of an engine.

ANC on the FreeBuds 3 works hard to neutralize noise but does not do the best job. The biggest part of this is the open-fit design of the earbuds, which isn’t able to isolate outside noise. The other part is a lack of consistency from the ANC – sometimes it will randomly let some noise through making the effect a bit jarring (for example a running faucet that suddenly becomes audible for a second or two).

If you haven’t used premium headphones with active noise cancellation you would be impressed by the Huawei FreeBuds 3 quieting effect. But if you’ve already have seen some of the best, you’ll find the FreeBuds 3 a bit mediocre.

The battery life is good. You can easily get 3-4 hours of music playback at around 90% volume while going through two full days of listening at work before the case started flashing red.

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