HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2 made me fall in love with them. Let’s find out if other headphones of the same brand can repeat the success of their brothers and win my heart from the first notes – let’s find out together with HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i.
We are dealing with an above-average gadget with an emphasis on functionality and attractive appearance. This is not a flagship, although it is very close to it. But the price is almost half as low – not $200, but somewhere around $110. Let’s see how it works out for its price in practice.
Read also: HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2 TWS Earphones Review: Love At First Touch
It’s nice when customer care starts with the packaging, which is neat and aesthetically pleasing. In the FreeBuds 5i box you will find a headset in a case, a USB-C charging cable, a set of additional ear cushions in sizes S and L (size M, as the most universal, is attached to the headphones initially), a manual, and a warranty card.
The first impression of the headphones is simply phenomenal. Usually, I’m a fan of the most high-tech cyber-punk gadget design, but there’s something special here. When you open the FreeBuds 5i box and see the headphone case inside, the first thing that comes to mind is a dinosaur egg or some exotic bird.
Indeed, the case is made of matte plastic with a marble-like pattern. It looks very creative and stylish, and it feels just wow. It feels comfortable, secure, does not slip out, and the shape is very nice.
There are three headphone colors in total. The first one is Isle blue, as we have, and there is also Nebula blue with the same marble pattern, but in a deep blue, almost black shade. And the classic Ceramic white is still available, but it seems to me to be a less winning option because it is made of ordinary glossy plastic.
There is a small LED on the front of the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i case. It notifies you of the charge level of the case when you open it and shows that the headphones are ready for Bluetooth connection. At the bottom is a USB Type-C slot for connecting the case to charging.
On the right side is the synchronization button. When you hold it down for a few seconds, the indicator starts blinking white – the headphones are ready to connect to a new device.
I would also like to note the very sturdy design and powerful hinge mechanism of the lid, so that even when open, it does not slam on its own.
Well, we are delighted with the case – let’s move on and get to its contents. The headphones are quite large and can be easily removed from the case. I can’t describe their shape unambiguously, so let’s call them ergonomic. Because that’s the most accurate description of them: comfortable, comfortable, and following the shape of the auricle. Plus a small wide leg that will come in handy for touch control of the headphones. We will talk about this feature a little later.
The ear cushions are soft, made of medical hypoallergenic silicone, and come with three options to choose the most comfortable fit. This is important to ensure the proper functioning of the headphones, because here we are dealing with active noise reduction technology. In fact, properly fitted ear cushions alone are enough to significantly muffle external noise, but the technologies built into this headset take your audio relationship with the environment to a whole new level.
It’s nice that the designers took into account the experience of the previous model and improved FreeBuds 5i a little bit – the headphones have become a little lighter and more compact, so you can spend even more time with them.
As I said, the shape of the earbuds here follows the shape of the auricle as closely as possible, and the protruding “legs” allow you to conveniently take the headset on and off without overburdening the headphones. The legs have built-in sensors that recognize touch and allow you to answer calls, control music, turn noise canceling on and off, and adjust the volume. You can learn more about the touch control functions in the proprietary app Huawei AI Life.
As with other HUAWEI headphones, the user has two options for connecting the headset – simply connecting the device via Bluetooth or through the HUAWEI AI Life app.
The first option is simple and straightforward. You open the case, hold the button on its side for a couple of seconds until the indicator flashes white, and find the headset in the list of available devices in Bluetooth connections. However, such a simplified version does not allow you to experience all the features of the headset, so I recommend that you immediately install the native program.
The first step with the app is almost the same: open the lid of the case and find the headset in the list of devices in the app on your smartphone. Then, by clicking on your device, you can make a number of useful settings and get the information you are interested in. You will see the charge level of the headphones and the case, the current noise canceling mode, as well as several icons for special settings: gesture control, equalizer, fit test, headphone search, firmware update, and activation settings for wearing and working in conditions of a large number of obstacles.
I have to note the maximum convenience and intuitiveness of gesture control in HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i – in addition to the usual taps, volume control is supported by swiping up or down the headphone leg.
The most useful thing about HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i is the easy switching between devices. That is, I first “made friends” with my smartphone and laptop, and then switched between them as needed. The convenience is that, for example, you don’t need to turn off Bluetooth on your smartphone so that it doesn’t pull the blanket over itself, as it happens with my own headphones.
It is also convenient that in the app you can determine which of the devices will be recognized as the main one to get priority in connection. For example, if you talk a lot on the phone, but sometimes you want to connect your headphones to your laptop to watch a video on Youtube and want to be sure that you can always take a call quickly without wasting time reconnecting the headset.
I liked the sound of FreeBuds 5i, it sounds very balanced, and the volume margin is sufficient. Although I have to admit that the bass is still a little lacking. The app has equalizer modes: standard, with enhanced bass, and with high-frequency emphasis.
An important point is that the headphones support Hi-Res audio playback and have a built-in LDAC codec. I cannot say that they immediately become the best option for audiophiles, but the sound quality here is much higher than average. This is facilitated by the use of a 10 mm driver and a high-quality composite membrane in the design, which produce a truly detailed and rich sound in the available frequency range.
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Active noise cancellation is, as they say, the “new black” in the world of headphones. In addition to the fact that the headphones block out some of the external sounds when properly fitted, ANC 2.0 allows the user to create their own cozy audio world in any environment.
There are three levels of noise reduction, which provide for different intensities of external noise – 25 dB (an ordinary apartment), 30 dB (the noise level in a cafe), 42 dB (everything is more serious here – about the same as in public transport or on a noisy street). Thus, depending on the conditions, you choose the intensity of the noise reduction. Why is this necessary – well, for example, because at the maximum level I constantly heard “white noise” due to the fact that the headphones are trying to muffle absolutely all sounds. The other two modes were much more comfortable for me, without any additional inconvenience.
In addition to the external noise reduction function, the opposite function, the so-called “attention option,” is also useful. When you turn it on, external noise is not filtered, but slightly amplified, while you remain with your music. This feature can be useful when you are riding a bike on the street with headphones on or driving a car. I have no complaints here – everything works very well!
Once again, I’d like to praise HUAWEI developers for adding active noise cancellation not only for music playback, but also for voice communications. The intelligent system recognizes ambient sounds and blocks them, leaving voice transmission clear and easy to understand. Although telephony is not my thing, conferences and video calls are today’s realities, and such compact and lightweight headphones will cope with them perfectly.
Read also: TWS HUAWEI FreeBuds SE Earphones Review: A Versatile Soldier
Each earbud of HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i has a 55 mAh battery, and the case has a 410 mAh battery. The duration of one active session with noise cancellation enabled is about 6 hours, without it – up to 8 hours. The battery in the case lasts for about 15-18 hours of operation, depending on the use of noise reduction.
It’s good to know that fully discharged earbuds will gain 100% in just an hour, but if you need to get the headphones back to work as quickly as possible, even a short 15-minute charge will provide you with up to 4 hours of music. The case also charges quite quickly – it can be fully charged in less than 2 hours. Wireless charging is obviously a little slower, but it is also much more convenient.
The new Huawei FreeBuds 5i headphones are a small masterpiece in terms of visual design, an absolute favorite in terms of wearability and ergonomics, and a powerful player in terms of high-quality music playback. They don’t have reference noise reduction, they lose in this parameter only to top players, but they definitely win in terms of affordability.
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