Huawei has been heavily focusing on an array of non-cellular accessories following the whole Google-ban rigmarole. When I say non-cellular, I mean things like earphones, watches and even sunglasses. When recommending tech to people, I love getting feedback and the one range that always impresses is the Huawei audio range. Needless to say, that means I was excited to see the Freebuds 4 land in for review. Here’s how it went.
Huawei Freebuds 4: How They Sound
It’s been a year of remote working and conference calls from me. From chatting with the team to watching press events from the comfort of my own home, an important part of staying connected has been my headphones, earphones or earbuds of choice. The vast majority of calls were made using the Huawei Freebuds 3. These launched way back at IFA 2019 but they’ve aged brilliantly thanks to some great innovative features.
The result is a very high bar being set for the Huawei Freebuds 4. For me, when these landed in for review, Huawei had everything to lose in reiterating my favourite audio accessory. While this might seem an underwhelming evaluation, the most important thing for me is that sound and call quality are as good. I didn’t really expect much of an improvement given how good the Freebuds 3 were so this is a win.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re taking a call while walking, going for a run or having a Zoom call in your home office. I’ve swapped over to the Freebuds 4 and my call quality is as clear as ever.
Beyond calls, the buds offer great sound quality. For the little size of them, they pack serious oomph but even when ramped up, the quality doesn’t suffer. One improvement is the overall volume seems to be a bit higher. Not one to pump up when listening to Slipknot, but if you’re enjoying a podcast on a busy commute or something like that, it’s a nice additional upgrade.
Huawei Freebuds 4: How They Fit
When the Freebuds 3 launched, I was surprised to find that I really prefer the hard plastic earbud design. Sure, the plastic buds were tough to actually grab from their charging case, but in terms of fit and general comfort the buds were nice and light while also remaining securely in my ears.
The plastic design for buds was made popular by the Apple AirPods and the design influence of Apple is undeniably on show again in the Freebuds 4. But Huawei has improved upon some of the features that made the predecessor great. The actual fit of the Freebuds 4 is better than ever. Huawei has modelled thousands of human ears (it’s not as creepy as it sounds) for testing their earbud design. While the fit is nice and snug the really impressive improvement is the weight of the buds.
The Freebuds 4 weigh in at just 4g each and I’ve weighed and verified that myself. While just a shade lighter than the Freebuds 3, when you wear something so regularly in a sensitive part of your body, you really do notice the subtle design savings. In the words of Ned Flanders, “it feels like I’m wearing nothing at all”.
Freebuds 4: Other Features
We could go back and forth arguing over which features are the most important, but it’s hard to beat sound and fit as marquee features. With that said, the Freebuds 4 have plenty of other things to offer. Let’s dive in.
Going to kick off with a bit of a weakness here. The battery life is very much just ok. The spec sheet promises 4 hours of life but my experience has been that it comes up short. Depending on usage, you’ll get between 3 and 3.5 hours from your buds. That’s all with ANC disabled.
If you’re after pure battery life the Freebuds 4i are a great alternative with a much better battery offering. The sacrifice you make is a slight dip in sound quality.
Sure, the battery life comes up short but let’s keep that in context. I enjoy nothing more than taking my buds out at the end of a call. Not because they’re annoying, but it means the call is over! I rarely leave them in for longer than one or two hours at a time and for this reason, the Freebuds 4 have plenty of battery for me. The charging case stores about twenty hours of additional battery life and can fast charge your buds for over two hours of music playback in just fifteen minutes.
One thing to note. In Ireland, the Freebuds 4 will only be sold with a USB-C, plug-in charge case, and not the wireless charge case.
ANC: Active Noise Cancellation
I’m writing this review in Germany after taking my first flight in a long time. I’ve brought along loads of tech that’s long overdue a review, from slapping an Apple AirTag on my luggage to these earbuds. With a connecting flight, I was given ample time to test drive the Freebuds 4’s ANC.
I’m shocked at how good the ANC is on these buds. Some of my favourite noise-cancelling headphones have the benefit of combining passive noise cancelling with active noise cancelling. This means they use the design of the earcups or silicon tips to add to the suppression of noise. I found the noise cancelling to be better on the Freebuds 4 than the Freebuds Pro, which features passive noise-cancelling silicon tips. Owing to their design, the Freebuds 4 can’t rely too much on this but still excelled at the supression of jet engines during a flight.
The most surprising element was how secure the buds were in my ears as I nodded off, listening to Bo Bunham’s Inside for the millionth time.
With working from home becoming part of daily life for me during the lockdown, listening to music on your phone and jumping to a Teams call on your tablet becomes a regular occurrence. An awesome feature of the Freebuds 4 is the ability to connect multiple devices at once. In that very scenario, while listening to music, I can answer an incoming call on Microsoft Teams, and the buds automatically flip over to where my attention is needed.
This works absolutely best if you have a full suite of Huawei tech, including your phone, laptop and tablet. Oh, and don’t forget your Huawei Watch too. This didn’t want to work on my iOS devices and works best on Huawei. It also works well on Android where you can use the Audio Connection Centre.
Huawei Freebuds 4: Price and Verdict
If you want to pick up the Huawei Freebuds 4, they’ll set you back €139 and are available from Vodafone and Harvey Norman. Let’s draw the first obvious comparison. That’s €40 cheaper than the equivalent Apple AirPods. You lose some of the ecosystem benefits, but I use my Freebuds with a full suite of Apple products and I’m happy enough.
But are they even worth that outlay? For me, yes. Earbuds started out as extremely pricey without really offering much in return. Now we have a dual win as the price becomes more reasonable and the technology you get in return is genuinely both useful and impressive. If you’re worried about forking out big money for earbuds, the one thing I can guarantee with these buds is that you won’t be disappointed, particularly if you know you like hardshell plastic earphones.