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Huawei FreeBuds 3i review: Slim, affordable earbuds with decent sound

Huawei FreeBuds 3i

True wireless earbuds come in all shapes and prices. The Huawei FreeBuds 3i offer a slim form factor with decent sound at a relatively affordable price.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Techaeris Rated 9/10

Late last year, we finished up our review of the Huawei FreeBuds Pro true wireless earbuds. A fantastic set of earbuds, they are a bit on the pricey side. Fortunately, Huawei does have a model that is more affordable.

Our Huawei FreeBuds 3i review looks at a pair of true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation, call cancellation, and up to 14 1/2 hours of playback with the included case. Read on for our full review!

Specifications

The Huawei FreeBuds 3i true wireless earbuds have the following features and specifications:

Driver10mm dynamic
Audio technologyActive noise cancellation, call noise cancellation
TypeIn-ear/True wireless/Bluetooth
ConnectivityBT 5.0, popup & pair (with EMUI10+), wear detection (with EMUI10+)
ControlsDouble-tap, long tap
Battery capacity37 mAh (Typ.) (per earbud)
410 mAh (Typ.) (charging case)
Battery lifeUp to 3.5 hr. playback/2.5 hr. talk time on 1 charge;
Up to 14.5 hr. playback/10.5 hr. talk time with charging case.
ColorCeramic White, Carbon Black
Dimensions41.8 x 23.7 x 19.8 mm (per earbud)
80.7 x 35.4 x 29.2 mm (charging case)
WeightAbout 5.5 g (per earbud)
About 51 g (charging case)

What’s in the box

  • Huawei FreeBuds 3i
  • 4 pairs ear tips
  • Charging case
  • USB-C cable
  • Quick start guide
  • Safety information
  • Warranty card
What's included with the Huawei FreeBuds 3i
What’s included with the Huawei FreeBuds 3i.

Design

The Huawei FreeBuds 3i follow the familiar true wireless earbud stem design. The earbud component sits inside your ear, angling slight inwards. On the inside of the earbud are two pins for charging and a sensor which allows the earbud to play/pause when removed if you are using a Huawei smartphone. The outer side of the earbud tapers inward and has a single hole for noise cancellation. The outer earbud surface is a touch sensor for the double-tap and touch and hold functions.

From here, the earbud tapers inward to a thin stem about an inch long. At the bottom of the stem is a silver cap. Inside the cap is a microphone for using voice commands and taking calls. On the inside of the stem, at the base, is an L or R to indicate the left or right earbud.

The Huawei FreeBuds 3i true wireless earbuds
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i true wireless earbuds.

The charging case is pillbox shaped, with the Huawei logo printed in grey on the top. An LED on the front indicates the current charge of the case. A USB-C port for charging is on the back beside the pairing button. Opening up the lid and you’ll see the earbuds laying flat in their respective spots. An L or R is printed on either side of these to make it easier to remember which earbud goes where. Upon removing the earbuds, you can see the two charging pins that charge the earbuds.

Our review sample came in white, black is also available. Overall, the earbuds are slim and lightweight. In addition, they are also comfortable when wearing for extended periods.

Ease of Use

Like other true wireless Bluetooth earbuds, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i are pretty simple to use. After the case is charged up, opening it for the first time will enter pairing mode. If you have a Huawei smartphone with EMUI 10 or higher, you’ll get a popup on your device asking if you want to pair it. If you don’t, simply go into your Bluetooth settings, select Huawei FreeBuds 3i, and you should be paired up.

The earbuds have on-ear controls in the form of double-tap and long taps. By default, double-tap either earbud to play/pause your current track or to answer/end a call. A long touch will toggle the active noise cancellation. With the app, you can remap these to other functions like skipping to the next or previous track, or enabling your voice assistant.

Even though the left and right earbud can be programmed to different functions, there are limited control options (no volume control).

Software

As with the FreeBuds Pro, if you want to further customize or control the FreeBuds 3i, you’ll want to install the AI Life app from Huawei. You should anyway, as this will allow you to update the firmware on the earbuds as well.

The main screen of the AI Life app shows all your Huawei devices and their connection status. Once connected, tap on the FreeBuds 3i tile. On this page, you can see each earbud’s remaining battery life and the case, modify the double-tap and long hold shortcuts, update your firmware, and access help FAQs.

Screenshots of the Huawei AI Life app for the FreeBuds 3i
Screenshots of the Huawei AI Life app for the FreeBuds 3i.

It is a pretty simple app but it is straightforward and it works just fine.

Sound Quality

There’s been a couple of companies that have provided a “listening list” of hand-picked tracks to showcase their headphones or earbuds. I’ve merged these and added a few tracks to get a wide range of tracks, styles, and variations in vocals and levels. In case you’re curious, the tracklist I test headphones on is below:

With its 10mm drivers, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i are pretty balanced and have a decent amount of bass without being overwhelming. Like the FreeBuds Pro, the sound coming from these earbuds is nice and warm without being punchy. The active noise cancellation feature works great as well, keeping out outside distractions so you can focus on your music.

Microphone/Call Quality

The FreeBuds 3i have two outward-facing mics and one inward-facing mic. The outside mics — one on the bottom of the stem and the other on the back of the earbud — pick up your voice while screening out other noises. The microphone inside the earbud picks up your voice as its conducted inside your ears.

During our test call, the other party didn’t have any issues hearing me and, when asked, stated that I was clear and crisp and they couldn’t hear much of what was going on around me at the time.

Battery Life

Huawei claims up to 3 1/2 hours of battery life on a single charge and up to 14 1/2 hours with the included case. This, of course, is with ANC disabled. During testing with ANC enabled, we hit about 3 hours before needing to recharge the earbuds. A nice feature is that you can use one earbud at a time, so you can swap them out as need be to extend battery life. With the case, we were able to get about 12 1/2 hours total. While a bit lower than what’s stated in the specifications, battery life depends on many things, including volume levels and if you have ANC on or not.

The Huawei FreeBuds 3i and the included charging case
The Huawei FreeBuds 3i and the included charging case get up to 14 1/2 hours of battery life.

On that note, 3 1/2 hours is on the lower end these days with some earbuds capable of 7 or 8 hours between charges (including the FreeBuds Pro).

Price/Value

Priced at just CA$138.99, the Huawei FreeBuds 3i are roughly half the price of the FreeBuds Pro. The still offer decent sound and ANC but at the cost of battery life and a few other features.

Wrap-up

True wireless earbuds come in all shapes and prices. The Huawei FreeBuds 3i offer a slim form factor with decent sound at a relatively affordable price.

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Huawei FreeBuds 3i

CA$138.99

Design

9.0/10

Ease of Use

9.5/10

Software

9.0/10

Sound Quality

9.0/10

Microphone/Call Quality

9.5/10

Battery Life

8.0/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Compact, slim design
  • Decent sound
  • Active noise cancellation
  • Relatively affordably priced

Needs work

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Can't control volume with earbuds
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