It took some time for the Huawei FreeBuds 5i to arrive in Malaysia, months after it was unveiled. At this point, most consumers are sceptical of brands manufacturing their own wireless earbuds as part of an "ecosystem" alongside their phones. But after using this pair of wireless earbuds for two weeks, we think it's quite worth the wait.
Many consumers would also assume that the FreeBuds 5i are expensive like the other wireless earbuds. However, it should be noted that they aren't in the premium category and cost only RM349. So when compared to the FreeBuds Pro 2, it doesn't have some features but is still good enough for everyday usage.
So, let's get started with the review. The FreeBuds 5i is made of plastic and comes in a selection of Ceramic White, Isle Blue and Nebula Black. We got ourselves the black variant, in which the charging case has a matte finish and an eggshell-like texture. With this design, we are glad that it wasn't entirely made out of plastic so we can avoid fingerprint smudges.
Everything that's inside the box
Looks like an egg!
The FreeBuds 5i in the flesh
This button on the side allows you to pair it with a phone
The charging case is extremely lightweight and comfortable, weighing at 44g only. Like every charging case, the LED light is on the outside, and the USB-C port is placed at the bottom (there is no wireless charging). While it feels cheap, it's surprisingly sturdy at the same time. You can also find different silicone ear tip sizes for the earbuds.
The earbuds weigh 5g each, so they are quite comfortable even when wearing them for a long time. We are also glad to report that these earbuds have IP54 water and sweat resistance ratings, as well as LDAC, AAC and SBC codec support. However, no EQ function can be found for them, so that's too bad.
To control the volume, answer/end calls, play/pause and noise control, you can make full use of the touch gestures on the earbuds themselves. Although the earbuds are lightweight, you won't accidentally remove them when you swipe the touch panels. Anyway, you can customise the gestures in the AI Life app.
AI Life can only be found on the AppGallery
The home page of the app
Customising the touch gestures
AI Life is an app by Huawei to customise your earbuds, but we think it's not mandatory. Nevertheless, it has useful features to change certain sound settings and select modes. You can download the app directly from the QR code in the manual book and just tap to download. For your information, you need to allow the phone to install third-party applications because the HUAWEI app is not in the Google Play Store.
Moving on to the performance, the FreeBuds 5i comes with a 10mm dynamic drive and also offers a highly advanced frequency range. To be honest, we expected these earphones to only provide 'adequate' sound. But the sound quality is actually quite good. It produces a balanced sound but has less bass.
For example, in rap songs such as Douglas Lim, and SonaOne – ADUH, the bass produced isn't all that great, but the vocals and other instruments are crisp and clear. It's just that the 'bombastic' element is not in these earphones. But if you need that extra oomph, try the 'Bass Boost' mode in the AI Life app.
Comfortable to wear for a long period of time
The mids and low are well produced, but we don't really recommend that you use 'Treble Mode' because the resulting sound is a little less palatable. The sound signature shouldn't feel too sharp or muddy if you don't mess around with the modes too much. Also, the microphone works well for making calls or playing mobile games.
The FreeBuds 5i charger case comes with a 410mAh battery, while each earphone has a 55mAh battery. We can get six hours of playtime with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) turned on and about 7.5 hours with ANC turned off. The charger case provides an additional 18.6 hours of battery with the ANC turned on and 28 hours with the ANC turned off. During our two weeks with the earbuds, we kept the ANC level to 'Ultra' mode for maximum effect and consistently got 6 hours of playback.
The earbuds require about two hours to fully charged, and the charger case can provide two full charges. In our opinion, this is one of the drawbacks of the FreeBuds 5i because two hours is a very long charge time. Despite that, some of these issues are minor compared to what we liked. It's lightweight, can be connected to multiple devices, and the overall sound quality is good enough for casual users.
Pretty worth it
For RM349, you can compare it to the RM289 1MORE ComfoBuds Pro or the Anker Soundcore Life A2, which costs RM299. These are the two wireless earphones we recommend that also have ANC and some similar features. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for more trending tech gadget reviews at TechNave.com.
HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i tech specs and features:
- Driver size: 10mm
- Weight: 5 grams (per earphone) 34 grams (with charger case)
- Active noise cancellation, call noise cancellation, Transparency Mode
- IP54 water and sweat resistant
- Music playback with one full charge: 6.0 hours (ANC) and 7.5 hours (ANC off)
- Music replay with charging case: 18.5 hours (ANC) and 28 hours (ANC turned off)
- Bluetooth V5.2
Pros – Lightweight, can connect more than one device, sound quality is good enough for most casuals, and is suitable for exercising (IP54)
Cons – Not for audiophiles, no EQ settings, and the plastic body feels cheap
Conclusion – For a pair of mid-range earbuds, they are worth the price