Huawei's impressive FreeBuds Pro was released in New Zealand in late 2020, and now the manufacturer has released a new, cheaper set of in-ear headphones.
The FreeBuds 4i enter an increasingly competitive earbuds market with a local launch RRP of $159.
What's it missing to keep the cost so relatively low? How does it compare to rivals from the likes of Oppo, Apple, Samsung and Sennheiser?
I've been using the Huawei FreeBuds 4i for the past few weeks and here are my thoughts.
Considering these earbuds offer active noise cancellation, that price point is very impressive.
Only a few years ago the Apple AirPod models that first offered noise cancelling cost substantially more.
Now the noise cancellation of the FreeBuds 4i is far from amazing - more on that later - but it's still impressive considering what you pay.
Speaking of comparing these to AirPods, perhaps it's because I have a white pair but they do look remarkably similar.
That familiar shape and size means there's a similar comfort level. The box comes with a couple of different size options - standard for earbuds now - but what stood out to me was the comfort that comes from holding the case.
It has a more circular shape than most of its competitors, which made a difference when either in my hand or in my pocket. It feels better.
I used these to have a phone call around the Britomart section of Auckland during rush hour. There were plenty of noisy busses and chattering pedestrians around me, but neither myself nor the person I was talking to had any issue hearing each other.
I get around eight hours out of these without needing to recharge them, which is about what you'd expect. Huawei hasn't skimped on the battery.
On paper, the FreeBuds Pro model - which is almost double the price - only offers two features the 4i doesn't: wireless charging and has "adaptive" noise cancellation, rather than just standard "active" noise cancelling.
But the noise cancellation is far better in the more expensive model, to my ears, and something about them just sounds better in general.
The FreeBuds 4i don't sound too bad, but you can definitely hear the difference in what you pay for. If high-fidelity sound is what you're after, you'll want to spend a bit more and get a better product - Sennheiser does the best I've used in terms of pure audio quality.
Compared to a lot of other earbuds I've tried, the touch controls on the FreeBuds 4i aren't so great. It's easy enough to pause and play music, and cycle between the noise cancelling modes - but that's it.
Volume control and skipping back and forward through tracks would be great functions. The ability to add these may come through Huawei's AI Life app, but for some reason I couldn't connect my earbuds to that.
If precise touch controls are more your thing, the Oppo Enco X over-delivers on that front and is in other ways comparable to Huawei's latest offering.
Huawei's FreeBuds 4i is a good set of earbuds with a very low price considering they offer active noise-cancelling.
The quality of that noise cancellation, along with the audio quality in general and the touch controls are not as good as what you'd get in more expensive models - but for many consumers, they'll be good enough.
If you're still not convinced about earbuds and want to dip your toe in the market, this is a cheap way to do that to get a taste of it and see if you want to later invest more on a better set.
But you might just be content with these, too. In most situations I'm using them in, they perform just fine.
Newshub was supplied a set of Huawei FreeBuds 4i for this review.