June 19, 2024
Huawei FreeBuds Pro 3 review: Premium earbuds at a low price

Huawei has been making some excellent audio products in recent years, and its latest flagship earbuds, the FreeBuds Pro 3, are yet another top-notch product that performs as well, if not better, than most of the competition. However, the improvements over the existing FreeBuds Pro 2 are small, so much so that I don’t think owners of those older Huawei buds need to upgrade. But if you’re in the market for your first pair of premium earbuds, or you’re buying from an older/lower-end product, these are just as good as any other earbuds.

The FreeBuds Pro 3 are wireless earbuds similar to the Apple AirPods mold: It has a case with a lid that opens at the top to reveal the earbuds sitting upright. Earbuds have long stems that extend out of the wearer’s ears. The stems are more blocky than most other earbuds, a design element I initially disliked, but have now come to appreciate. The blocky stems give the earbuds something to hold on to, and a wider area for touch controls.

Speaking of touch controls, the original FreeBuds Pro from three years ago were one of the first wireless earbuds to support sliding gestures on the touch panel to control volume — a feature that has since been adopted by the AirPods Pro series. That gesture is still here, and works well. I just thought I’d mention it to show Huawei’s support for innovation on the controls front.

Silicone eartips come in four sizes, so they should fit most ear canals. I have quite sensitive ears, but I can still wear these for long periods of time without any problems. I can’t say this for all earbuds, as Sony’s stiffer-than-usual foam tips really irritated my ear canals after prolonged use.

So what’s new? The case is a bit smaller, with a redesigned hinge that “moves more out of the way” for easier access to the earbuds. The hinge also doesn’t cut into the Huawei logo at the edge like previous generations.

The earbuds have IP54 protection against water and dust, and they are lightweight at only 5.8 grams, this is less than previous generations. So overall, the FreeBuds Pro 3 are smaller and lighter in size compared to the previous generation model.

The 11mm dynamic driver is the same as before, but Huawei has redesigned the diaphragm for more precise frequencies. I’m not an audiophile, but I test a lot of wireless earbuds including all the best ones from the major players. Be it the AirPods Pro 2, Bose QC Earbuds Ultra, or the Sony XM5, I have tested them. Huawei’s audio quality matches them all, with a wide frequency range that pumps out deep bass (if you want) and clear highs.

Active noise cancellation is also very good, but a step behind Bose and Apple. In a crowded coffee shop, I can still hear conversations around me wearing Huawei Buds with ANC, while Bose or AirPods give me more peace.

New this year is an automatic Dynamic ANC mode that will adjust noise cancellation levels based on my surroundings. I also found it to work well, but a step back from Apple’s fantastic Dynamic ANC.

Battery life remains about the same as before, giving me about four hours of excellent audio with ANC on a single charge. The case also supports wired and wireless charging.

You can use the earbuds as a standalone product. Pairing is easy and works with any modern device. But if you want to play with the audio EQ and customize the touch controls, you’ll have to download the Huawei AI Life app, which is unfortunately more complicated to install than usual since Huawei apps are no longer available on the Google Play Store . Essentially, you have to sideload the app, which isn’t a big deal for a tech savvy person like me, but for an average consumer, it can get complicated. But, this is a factor beyond Huawei’s control.

Overall, the FreeBuds Pro 3 are excellent premium wireless buds. Are they better than the AirPods Pro 2 or the latest Bose and Sony buds? I’d say the FreeBuds Pro 3 are on par with Sony, but a little behind Bose and Apple. However, the FreeBuds Pro 3 are priced lower, at 199 euros in Europe and a little more than HK$1,480 in Hong Kong. Considering the price difference, the Huawei Buds have huge appeal.

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