The Huawei FreeBuds 3 are the company’s newest fully wireless earphones, and this is our full review. These earbuds are a direct competitor to the Apple AirPods 2, claims Huawei, no the AirPods Pro. That is actually easily noticeable the moment you take a look at their design. The FreeBuds 3 are a spitting image of the AirPods 2. They’re not identical, but you’re getting the same “toothbrush design” here, more or less.
These earbuds do pack a lot of tech on the inside, and are not exactly cheap. Does that make them any good? Well, spoiler alert, but yeah, the FreeBuds 3 are a really solid pair of earphones. In this review, you’ll see why. As a disclaimer, I’ve been using these earbuds for over two weeks before I compiled this review. That gave me plenty of time to test out everything, and get a good grasp of what the product has to offer.
Great build quality, somewhat familiar design
The moment you pull the FreeBuds 3 out of the box, you’ll notice how sturdy the case is. I’ve handled quite a few fully wireless earbuds, and this is the best case I’ve seen. It’s not the smallest one, but it’s the best in terms of build quality. The case is built out of plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap at all. The cap is also quite sturdy, and it doesn’t feel like it will fall off if you’re rough with it.
As I said, it’s not the smallest case around, but it’s not the largest either. It’s not large at all, you can easily fit it in a pocket. In fact, I’ve been carrying it around with me along with my wallet in my left jeans pocket, so… it’s not an issue at all. The case is round, and it has Huawei’s logo on the bottom. It also comes with a Type-C port on the bottom, though it supports Qi wireless charging as well. So, it’s up to you which method you’ll use, though wired charging is faster, of course.
There are two LED light indicators
There is also an LED indicator light on the bottom of the case, and one on the inside. The outer LED light signalizes the state of the battery in a charging case, whether it’s charging or not. The inner light does the same for the earbuds. So, for example, if the inner LED indicator turns red, that means that you have less than 20-percent charge in the earbuds. If it turns green, you have over 60-percent. If the outer light turns green, you have over 90-percent charge in the charging case, if it turns red, you have less than 60-percent. You’ll need to read the manual in order to get the full scope of these indicators.
The earbuds themselves are also made mostly out of plastic, everything except the bottom part. The microphone is at the bottom, and the earbuds feel really well built as well, while they’re also not heavy at all (4.5 grams per earbud). They were a great fit for my ears, and it never felt like they’ll fly out, not even when I was running. I also did the shake-your-head-intensively test, and that didn’t make them fly out either. Do note that it may be different for you, as these earbuds do not come with silicone ear tips that you can adjust to your ears. They will fit the vast majority of people, same as the AirPods 2, basically.
They are very comfortable to wear, only after 2 hours or so did I feel slight poking in my right ear. That is quite normal for plastic earbuds, though, and with most of them, it happened a lot sooner. All in all, you can wear them without a problem until their battery dies, or at least I could.
Glossy finish is not the best idea
If there is one objection to the FreeBuds 3 design that I have, then it has to do with the glossy finish. I hate glossy finishes in general as that usually means a lot of smudges on the product. The same goes for the FreeBuds 3. That actually applies to both the case, and the earbuds themselves. They will always have fingerprints on them, you can’t avoid that. You can wipe them down, but as soon as you touch them again, the same will happen. This is less of a case with the white pair of earbuds, than the black ones. I do prefer the black ones, and those are the ones that I got for the review, so I can’t really speak for the white pair.
The FreeBuds 3 offer really, really good sound quality, and average call quality
Now, in terms of wireless earbuds, the FreeBuds 3 offer really, really good sound quality. They’re not the best we’ve heard, not at all, but they’re really good. Huawei did say that it is not trying to compete with wireless earbuds from top audio makers, not at all. The company only tried to create a great all-round product, which will cover all the basis for consumers, so that the vast majority of them are content with every aspect these earbuds have to offer. Huawei did a great job in that aspect.
The FreeBuds 3 sound quality managed to impress me
When it comes to sound quality, I was pleasantly surprised. Truth be said, I was expecting a weaker performance from the FreeBuds 3, I don’t know why. I’m always skeptical when it comes to wireless earbuds, and I had no reason to be. The soundstage that the FreeBuds 3 earbuds have to offer is not huge, but that’s completely normal when fully wireless earbuds are concerned. The sound is well-balanced, and quite punchy on all levels, which is the most important thing. You’ll get a nice stereo sound here.
The FreeBuds 3 offer a decent amount of bass. That is a soft bass that we’re looking here, a softer side of it if you will, but it’s still noticeable and welcomed. Lows are good, while mids and highs are borderline great. I’d say they’re somewhere in between really good and great. Vocals were spot on, which is extremely important, and Huawei nailed that part. You won’t have problems with either (mids or highs), as lows are the weakest point of the earbuds, and even lows are fairly good.
ANC is here, and it’s good
The Huawei FreeBuds 3 offer ANC (Active Noise Cancelation). By default, you can turn it off or on by tapping on the top of the left earphone twice, fast. You will hear the difference in sound when ANC is on and off, but don’t expect miracles. These are an open-ear type of earphones, and that means they don’t come with a proper seal that a silicone tip can offer, for example. Outside sound will leak in no matter what you do, but ANC does help, noticeably.
I personally prefer open-ear earbuds, as I do prefer to hear a bit of the sound from the outside, it makes me more aware when I’m out and about. Also, when I pause music and need to talk to someone, I can do so without removing the headphones. That is not something I can say for any of the sealed fully wireless earphones I’ve used. I haven’t used the AirPods Pro, though, so I cannot really say anything in that regard.
Now, in terms of call quality… don’t expect too much, and you’ll be fine. I’ve used a number of fully wireless earphones which offered terrible call quality. Well, truth be said, the FreeBuds 3 offer the best call quality of all the fully wireless earphones I’ve used. That says a lot. You still won’t get close to the call quality your phone can produce, of course, but it will be good enough. Callers will sound a bit muffled, and the same will happen on their end, when you’re talking through the earbuds.
I’ve actually tested this by calling five different people, and they all said pretty much the same thing. I asked them how I sounded, and they all said fine, but a bit muffled. They said it in different ways, but it all came down to the same thing. They did not have a problem with it at all. Traffic noise in the background did bother them a bit, but not much, which is a good thing.
Solid battery life, and a great boost by the charging case
Each of the two FreeBuds 3 earbuds will provide you with around 4 hours of listening time. That is Huawei’s estimation, and in my experience, it’s a rather accurate one. I managed to kill these buds once before that 4-hour mark, around 3 hours and 50 minutes. The volume was quite high, I used ANC, and made quite a few calls during that time, though. On most days, I managed to get over 4+ hours of battery life out of them. Now, with the charging case, you’ll be able to recharge each of these earbuds four times, approximately. So, all in all, you can get around 20 hours of battery life, counting in battery life of both the buds and the case.
As far as charging is concerned, well… they can get charged up in about an hour. The same goes for the charging case, if you use wired charging. This charging case does support Qi wireless charging as well, 2W wireless charging, by the way. So, it will take it considerably more time to recharge that way, as the wired charging support allows for 6W charging. We haven’t really fully charged these earbuds using wireless charging, only tested to see if the wireless charging is working. I’d expect between 2.5 and 3 hours for them to charge wirelessly. I’m only guessing, though. In any case, if you need a quick top-up, using wired charging would be best.
Gestures, Android app & other tidbits
You don’t really need to install an app in order to use these earbuds, but it is recommended. If you opt to install Huawei’s ‘AI Life’ app, you’ll get access to some extra functionality. You will be able to customize the touch gestures that are available here. The FreeBuds 3 do offer touch gestures, each of the earbuds. If you double tap on the left, for example, you can enable / disable ANC (Active Noise Cancellation). That is a default setup, and you can customize that in the AI Life app if you want. The same goes for the right earbud, which is set to play / switch to the next track by default.
Speaking of gestures, they do take some getting used to. You’ll need to quickly double tap at the top of the earbud’s body in order to call upon a specific action. At first, I couldn’t get them to work for the life of me, as my taps were too slow. In fact, I didn’t even know where to tap until I read it in the manual. Once I did all that, the experience improved considerably. Do note that these do not work every time, though, but I managed to get them working 4 out of 5 times, approximately. Your mileage may vary, though, and Huawei can always tweak these through the AI Life app, I presume.
Huawei crammed 14.2mm dynamic drivers inside these earphones
For those of you who are wondering, Huawei is utilizing 14.2mm dynamic drivers inside these earbuds. I never pay too much attention to specs, as the sound is the only thing that matters, but this is a good call by the company. The Kirin A1 chip by Huawei is running things, and these earbuds utilize the latest Bluetooth 5.1 standard. I did not experience any issues when it comes to connectivity, none at all. I’ve used these earbuds with both the OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro.
Speaking of the P30 Pro, you’ll get some extra functionality out of the FreeBuds 3 if you’re running EMUI 10. Wearing detection is a specific function that will work with EMUI 10, and the same goes for ‘pop-up & pair’ functionality. This functionality is actually similar to what Apple offers for the AirPods, it’s seamless if you’re using a phone that runs EMUI 10. As far as sound quality is concerned, I haven’t really noticed a difference between the sound quality on the OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro. The earbuds sounded really good on both phones for us, which is a good thing, of course.
Are the Huawei FreeBuds 3 worth it?
In one word… “yes”. These are great wireless earbuds. In fact, I’d say they’re amongst the best open-ear wireless earbuds on the market, if not the best ones. They’re a great all-round pair of earbuds that not only handle music properly, but you can also make and take calls on them without an issue.
These earbuds are not the most affordable out there, though. You’ll have to part with quite a bit of cash in order to get them, and if you’re fine with that, I’d say go for it. You can choose between two different color options, and if you don’t mind some ANC shortcomings due to their open-ear nature, these will serve you nicely. Huawei did a great job with the FreeBuds 3, and it makes me excited for the fourth iteration.