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REVIEW: Huawei FreeBuds 3

Alvin R. Cabral/Dubai
Filed on November 20, 2019
Huawei's FreeBuds 3 supports wireless charging.

Are these new truly wireless audio buds enough to tune out what you don't want to hear?

Huawei's got another nice gift idea as the year-end holidays approach - and they want you to listen very carefully.

The FreeBuds 3 are about to enter the market, and it's no pushover. 

We've got a nice, spherical-shaped charging case over here, but don't expect it to stand, though. There are two colours, white and black, the former of which is what we have and which I like better. Below is a USB-C port and right behind is a small meta square with branding and which is also a magnet for fingerprints. 

The FreeBuds 3 take that familiar form we've been seeing - in-ear buds with stems. Huawei touts this as "the only open-fit active noise cancellation Bluetooth earphones that sits comfortably even during long term use". It has a one-size-fits-all build, and indeed is comfy.

Pairing goes by two methods. The first is by simply pressing the pairing button to the right, opening up the case and holding it near your smartphone - provided it's a Huawei device running on EMUI 10. Doing so will cause a pop-up prompt, and that's it - you can hit 'Ok' or set it up.

The latter will lead you to a menu that lets you customise the device, including what happens when you double-tap either stems of the 'Buds - you can turn active noise cancellation (ANC) on or off, play/pause, play/next or wake up your digital assistant - adjusting ANC and downloading updates for it.

Alternatively, if you don't have a phone with EMUI 10, you can download Huawei's AI Life app and you'll be able to do all of the above. Basically, EMUI 10 just makes setting up the FreeBuds a breeze.

The second way is, of course, doing it via the Bluetooth menu. I don't have an EMUI 10-powered device - the Nova 5T in my possession is still stuck with 9.1.0.152 - so I can't comment on the accuracy of the first method.

There are no physical buttons or pressure-sensitive areas on these, so - you guessed it - tapping is how you control it. Double-tapping on the left 'Bud activates the functions we've mentioned above. Playback will pause once you take them off and will resume once you place them back in - again, this will only work on EMUI 10 devices.

And, for some reason, it can be quite inconsistent; there were times - especially with the left 'Bud - that I had to repeat taps to get the action done. This doesn't happen often, but still.

Going to battery life, Huawei promises up to four hours of use with a single charge and up to 20 hours if you throw in the charging case; that's five cycles with fully-charged batteries. Of course, this will go down if active noise cancellation (ANC) is on; Huawei says this full cycle is achievable with ANC off and volume at 50 per cent, among other technical, geeky reasons ('environmental interference' one of them). And it's also wireless charging-capable.

Which leads us to the star feature of the FreeBuds 3 - ANC. The FreeBuds 3 aren't your hardcore in-ear audio devices, since they don't have those ear tips that you need to stick into your listening organ. Nevertheless, Huawei has managed to put in some decent ANC in them, enough to tune out sounds in noisy environments - but ambient sound, despite indeed getting muffled, still gets through and is audible.

Compared to other ANC-enabled earbuds - the sorts from Apple, Samsung and Sony - the 'vacuum' really isn't there; you know, that feeling as if the sound's sucked right out of your ear when you put an ANC-enabled device in? Now if these had ear tips, then ANC would, in theory, be better.

AND SO...

The Huawei FreeBuds 3 is a really nice headset that's easy to carry around while providing that ANC craze everyone's up to lately. The controls are limited to a certain extent, but it's enough to carry the load. Sound quality is good but I believe ANC should be ramped up a bit, especially since ambient sound really gets through a lot. If you're convinced, go ahead and pre-order the device for Dh649; it ends today and shipping starts tomorrow - and you'll also get some freebies. Demand was apparently high for it; Huawei says this is its most pre-ordered headphones and pre-orders sold out within 24 hours.

GOODIES - Good battery life, minimalist design, fair-enough price

GOOFIES - Noise cancellation can be improved, reaction to taps can be inconsistent, needs EMUI 10 for full experience

EDITOR RATING - 3.5/5

- alvin@khaleejtimes.com


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