The Huawei FreeBuds 5i earbuds were originally launched back in June last year in China. It took Huawei a bit of time to deliver us the global model of these earbuds, and we’re glad the company did it. After over 10 days of use with these earbuds, I can say that they’re… spoiler alert… well worth the money. We’ll get into the details in the review itself, of course, but the Huawei FreeBuds 5i do justify their price tag.
Before we begin, however, it is worth noting these are not the company’s premium truly wireless earbuds. The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2, which I reviewed last year, take that spot in Huawei’s lineup. These are one step below the FreeBuds Pro 2, but are probably a better choice for the vast majority of you. Let’s see what they have to offer, shall we?
Table of contents
Huawei FreeBuds 5i Review: Hardware / Design
The Huawei FreeBuds 5i are made out of plastic. They come in Ceramic White, Isle Blue, and Nebula Black color options. We’ve had the chance of reviewing the latter option, and I’m glad that was the case. The case has a frosted finish on top of the plastic, and Huawei says it’s supposed to give out the eggshell feel. Well, truth be said, it kind of does. I’m just glad this plastic is not glossy, and the fact repels fingerprints really well. The earbuds themselves are kind of glossy, but considering their color, and finish, the fingerprints are not really an issue.
The case is compact and feels good in the hand
Now, this case has a shape of an egg as well, to a degree. Its back is flatter than the front, so it won’t really wobble on the table. That’s another detail I truly appreciate. The case is very light, and it actually feels great in the hand. I found myself fidgeting with it all the time, for better or worse. There is an LED indicator on the outside of the case, signaling the battery level, and charge status of the case itself.
A Type-C charging port is placed at the bottom, while these earbuds do not support wireless charging. The Huawei logo is visible on the front side. Now, the closure is magnetic, of course, and the cap on the top does feel cheap, but it also feels sturdy at the same time. What I mean by that is, it doesn’t wobble and feels like it’ll fall apart, but you can clearly tell it’s made out of plastic, and it feels plasticky at the same time. I don’t really mind that, as it makes the case really light (33.9 grams).
The earbuds have rather short stems
The earbuds themselves have rather short stems, though not the degree of the FreeBuds Pro 2. Still, they look really nice. They weigh under 5 grams each, and are quite ergonomic. I had a really pleasant time using them, and they fit my ears really well. I had to change the silicone tips to the smallest ones available, but that’s the case with pretty much every pair of earbuds in my case. There are three sizes available, and the medium ones are pre-installed. The earbuds felt comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. I used them for hours without a problem, and even forgot I had them on at times.
It is also worth noting that these earbuds are IP54 certified, which means you can comfortably use them for workouts and not worry about sweat. The same goes for outdoor runs, as you don’t have to worry about rain.
FreeBuds 5i vs FreeBuds Pro 2
As you can see in the provided images below, the FreeBuds 5i charging case is smaller than the FreeBuds Pro 2 charging case, noticeably. It is a bit thicker, though. It’s also quite a bit lighter. The FreeBuds 5i do have longer stems than the FreeBuds Pro 2 earbuds, but they’re not exactly too long, and they also feature a different shape.
Huawei FreeBuds 5i Review: Sound & Call Quality
You can have the most comfortable earbuds ever, with the best battery life, but they’re not really of much use if the sound quality is not good, right? Well, you’ll be glad to know that the FreeBuds 5i deliver in that regard too. They come equipped with 10mm dynamic drivers, and also offer an extended frequency range in the highs. Truth be said, I expected less of them in the sound department, but the sound was actually really good, in my opinion.
The sound is well balanced
It is balanced, and even though you do get some bass here, it was never too bassy. There’s a lot of detail here, and the instruments never blend together, nor did I ever feel one aspect is overpowered by the other. The vocals were clear, and everything I played sounded really good. Rock, metal, jazz, country, and various instrumentals were all depicted nicely by the earbuds. There is also a ‘Bass Boost’ mode included in case you need some more bass. I wouldn’t recommend using the ‘Treble Mode’, though, as it pushes things a bit too far. The mids and lows are also depicted nicely. The sound was never muddy or too sharp, Huawei managed to strike a really nice balance here. Not the level of the FreeBuds Pro 2, of course, but still… these earbuds sounded great.
The FreeBuds 5i do come with LDAC support, and also supports AAC and SBC codecs. Those of you who like to fine-tune everything via EQ won’t exactly be happy, but not many people do, so it’s good these earbuds sound really good from the get-go.
Call quality is not bad either
The call quality was not at the level of the FreeBuds Pro 2, but it was not far from it either. I was able to hear the other end of the line just fine, while people I talked to didn’t have any complaints hearing me. I actually tried talking to a friend of mine via a phone, while he was talking via these earphones, and I managed to hear him just fine. The sound quality was not perfect, but it was good enough. Even in high traffic, it was doable, and that’s a win in my book.
Gestures work like a charm
The FreeBuds 5i do feature touch panels on the side. You’ll be glad to know that the touch surface is quite large, and that the touch panels are quite responsive. I usually have problems with these on cheaper earphones, but that’s not the case with the FreeBuds 5i. These earbuds are not exactly cheap, not at all, but considering they’re technically mid-range offerings, it’s nice to see that you can normally use gestures here.
Those touch panels are also nicely-placed. Only light touches are required, so once you get used to using these, you won’t be moving them in your ear every time you play/pause a song, tune up the volume or something like that. The touch panels are placed on the stems, though, but rather high up, so that the earbuds don’t move when you use gestures. You can also customize those gestures in the AI Life app, we’ll talk more about that later.
Huawei FreeBuds 5i Review: Battery
The charging case comes with a 410mAh battery, while each earbud has a 55mAh battery pack. Huawei claims you can get 6 hours of playtime with ANC on, and about 7.5 hours with ANC off. The charging case can allegedly provide 18.6 hours of extra battery with ANC on, and 28 hours with ANC off. Is this realistic, though? Well, yes, actually. Well, I can’t really guarantee for the charging case battery life claim, but I can for the earbuds themselves.
I used the earbuds with ANC on and awareness mode, I basically never used the ANC off function. So, the earbuds were always doing something while I was using them, either trying to drown down the noise, or allowing me to hear my surroundings. I was able to get around 6 hours of playtime on them, without a problem. Oh, and by the way, my ANC level was always set to ‘Ultra’ mode, for maximum effect.
The charging is not particularly fast
The charging case was able to provide me with two full charges, and it still had some juice left in the pocket, but not much. Speaking of which, it takes about two hours to fully charge the charging case. That is quite a lot, actually, but there you have it. It would be nice to see faster charging here, but it is what it is.
Huawei FreeBuds 5i Review: AI Life app
There is an app that you’ll definitely want to install if you get these earbuds. The app is called ‘AI Life’, and it’s not mandatory, but it’s good to have. You can simply connect these earbuds to your phone and use them with default settings. The gestures will work, and everything else, but you won’t be able to customize anything. On top of that, many people also won’t know what gestures are available, and so on. So, we definitely do recommend installing this app.
Installing AppGallery first is probably the best option
You can either sideload the app via an APK repository, or you can install it via Huawei’s AppGallery app store. We’d suggest installing AppGallery via this link, so that you can update the app when needed, via this store. It’s not available in the Google Play Store because of the US ban. As you all know, Google Play Services are not allowed on Huawei phones, so Huawei had to make some changes.
This app is not mandatory, but it’s good to have
Once you install this app, you’ll be able to learn more about the gestures, and also customize them. You can customize double tap, tap and hold, and swipe gestures. The app will also allow you to set the level of noise canceling level, and to control connected devices. Yes, this app does allow for dual connections. There are some additional options available in the app.
Huawei FreeBuds 5i Review: Should you buy it?
The Huawei FreeBuds 5i are not the best truly wireless earbuds around, they’re not even Huawei’s best earbuds, but… they’re surely worth the money, and there’s a reason we’ve opted to award it our editor’s review badge. You will hardly find a better pair of earbuds for under €100. If your budget is limited to under €100, and you still want to grab an excellent pair of truly wireless earphones with almost all bells and whistles, well, don’t look any further, the FreeBuds 5i are the way to go.
You should buy the Huawei FreeBuds 5i if:
- You don’t want to spend over €99 on a pair of truly wireless earphones
- You want a pair of compact, and light earphones
- You appreciate good sound quality, but are not an audiophile
- You work out often
- You use your earbuds with more than one device
You shouldn’t buy the Huawei FreeBuds 5i if:
- You want plenty of EQ settings
- You don’t appreciate the plasticky feel