Over the past few years Huawei has been slowly cultivating a range of IoT products ranging from smartwatches to smart scales and a line of premium earphones. Their range of FreeBud, branded Truly Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds have been pretty decent starting with last years FreeBuds 3, and Huawei followed up this year with the FreeBuds Pro.
Like their predecessor, the FreeBuds Pro are a stalk design TWS earbud, though Huawei changed things up with a new squared off stem design.
The new FreeBuds Pro also have improved Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) which can handle up to 40dB of ambient sound, as well as a new Awareness mode letting you keep the buds in, but hear what’s happening around you.
The battery on the FreeBuds Pro is fairly impressive on paper with 4.5 hours of use with ANC active, or 7 hours without it. There’s also a battery case which bumps the total battery life up to 30 hours in total.
Huawei also included a nice little usability feature on the FreeBuds Pro, with Dual Device Connection letting you connect, and switch between two devices like your laptop and phone seamlessly.
The FreeBuds Pro sell for $329 in Australia, and come in a choice of three colours: Silver Frost, Carbon Black or Ceramic White. Huawei sent over the Ceramic White model for us to check out, so here’s what we think.
Hardware and Design
To start with I love the squared off look of the FreeBuds Pro, it gives them a look that’s distinct from the multitude of Airpod clones on the market. The Ceramic White FreeBuds Pro look great, but I am kind of lusting after the Silver Frost which also stands out a little from the majority of TWS buds on the market in black and white.
Though the stem is squared off, and it’s shorter than the stem on the FreeBuds 3 which is nice. The bud itself is nicely rounded and fits comfortably in the ear well, with the tip slipping easily into your ear canal without sticking out too far.
There’s three sizes of silicon ear tips which can be replaced on the buds easily which are included in the box to ensure a good fit in the ear. Once you size up the right silicon tip, the buds stay firmly in the ear and they’re really comfortable, and I used them for a fairly long time at a stretch.
The squared off stem doesn’t just add a distinct look to the design it also works for the new control mechanism, which now includes pinching as well as swipes. You can pinch to pause/play or answer calls, as well as a long pinch to move through the ANC and Awareness modes, and as always you can swipe up or down for volume control.
The new pinch controls work really well. There’s a small sensor on the stem which you can feel registering your pinch with that bit of feedback making the FreeBuds Pro really easy to control. It does take a little to learn the correct position for pinching, but once you dial it in, it’s very easy
Battery – Case and Charging
While you’re on pinching – there is one issue I found a bit annoying: removing the FreeBuds Pro from the battery case. The buds are quite hard to get out. You need a fairly decent pinch to get the buds out. Once you get the hang of the pinching process it gets easier, but it’s not exactly easy to get them out, but that also means they’re not falling out of the case easily any time soon.
The charging case itself is a bit larger than the FreeBuds 3 case, though it also fits in more power, with a larger 580mAh capacity. The buds themselves last a fairly long time, with mixed use using some ANC getting me close to 4-5 hours each time.
There’s an LED indicator on the charging case to let you know your battery status, and you can also get Bluetooth charge status from the notification area of your phone. I was a little disappointed at the lack of audio alerts letting you know when the battery was low though.
Like the FreeBuds 3, the charging case has a USB-C port, and also offers the option to charge them wirelessly. It takes about an hour to charge the case, and about an hour to completely charge the buds, but a five-minute charge gives you up to five hours of music playback, which is great if you forget to charge them before the gym.
Setup and Pairing
Setup for the FreeBuds Pro is easy, you press the small button on the side of the case for 2-seconds to initiate pairing mode, and then you pair it to your phone, laptop, tablet etc. in the usual way. You can do this for two devices, and pairing to the laptop and phone opened up a whole new world of convenience for me. Dual Device is now a feature on my can’t live without list.
Huawei recommends using the AI Life app on your phone, though it’s only available for Android.
There’s also another problem. If you download the AI Life app from Google Play (Version 220.127.116.115) you won’t be able to pair your FreeBuds Pro, that version of the app only supports the FreeBuds 3. Instead, you’ll need to head to the Huawei website where you get the link to download the APK (Version 18.104.22.1685) and you’ll have to sideload it.
This setup with the app is a bit unfriendly for anyone not familiar with smartphones and installing apps outside of Google Play – but that said, you don’t exactly NEED the AI life app to use the buds.
If you do download the app you can easily control ANC and Awareness modes, do an Ear Tip fit test when you’re setting up, and control various features like Dual Device, Wear Detection and of course check out the battery status.
The driver size on the FreeBuds Pro has shrunk down to 11mm from the 14mm driver included on the FreeBuds 3. This hasn’t affected the quality of sound though, with the FreeBuds Pro able to deliver a more uninterrupted sound thanks to the silicon eartips which ensure the ear canal doesn’t have to deal with ambient sound as well.
Huawei has done a great job with the sound on the FreeBuds Pro. I love the clarity of the FreeBuds Pro, and while bass is a little under, it’s something you expect with TWS earbuds, but that said bass is still fairly impressive.
The ANC on the FreeBuds Pro is good, in fact they’re probably one of the best ANC TWS buds I’ve used this year. The FreeBuds Pro include support for Dynamic ANC, which intelligently switches between Cosy (places without a lot of noise), General (most noisy places) and Ultra (for places with a lot of noise). The end result is extremely good.
You can change the type of ANC in the AI Life app – but that’s only an option for Android users, and only those who side-load the APK, which is obviously a bit disappointing.
Call quality was fantastic. There’s three microphones on the FreeBuds Pro which can minimise all the ambient noise, including the wind noise gets minimised so you sound crystal clear.
Should you buy them?
I’m a big fan of the Huawei FreeBuds Pro. The sound quality is fantastic, and the improved ear tip design means the ANC is far more effective than the previous generation.
There are some rough edges though. Getting the FreeBuds out of the case can be an adventure at first, and the app situation is a little rough. These are both manageable though. You get used to getting the buds out of the case, and you technically don’t actually need the AI Life app to use them.
The FreeBuds Pro are also classed as Premium TWS Ear Buds, and are priced accordingly. That said, they do deliver on what they promise, and if you’re after something with better clarity and Active Nosie Cancellation that actually works, then these are a must buy.
Huawei has done a great job here, and they’ve really replaced the FreeBuds 3 I’ve been using since last year.