Review unit on loan from Huawei Singapore
The Huawei Freebuds 5i wireless earphones are released in early 2023 and are upgrades to the Huawei Freebuds 4i released almost 18 months ago. Official retail price are 99 Euros, SGD 128. These wireless earphones aren't too expensive and have more features compared to the entry level Huawei Freebuds SE.
- Weight of earbud: 4.9g each
- Weight of case: 33.9g
- Battery life with ANC: 6 hours for earphones, 18.5 hours with case
- Battery life without ANC: 7.5 hours for earphones, 28 hours with case
- Charging time: 60 minutes for earphones, 110 minutes for case
- Touch controls: Single and double tap, swipe
- Bluetooth: Version 5.2
- Bluetooth multipoint pairing: 2 devices
- Driver: 10mm dynamic driver
- Noise cancelling: ANC, transparency, passive
- IP54 splash resistant
- Full specs on this page
- Earphones and case
- USB-A to USB-C charging cable
- Large and small ear tips. M ear tips already installed
- Manual and warranty booklets
- Card for 3 month free trial of Huawei Music
Design of the case looks like a pebble and there are light gray speckles on it. My initial impression was "Why does this look dusty when it's brand new?". After using it for a few days, the design has grown on me.
After you open the magnetic cover, you'll see the earphones, and the light indictor in front will light light and Bluetooth pairing starts. The time needed to fully charge the earphones and case are 60 minutes and 110 minutes respectively. Battery life of the earphones with Active Noise Cancelling enabled is 6 hours, or a total 18.5 hours with the case. There's quick charge of 15-minutes for 4 hours of playtime.
The earphones have high gloss finishing. The stems support touch controls such as tapping, and swipe. You can press and hold to switch between ANC, transparency or passive modes, double tap to pause or play media, take calls and swipe to adjust volume. The touch controls work well.
M-sized silicone ear tips are already installed. There are also L and S-sized ear tips included. Passive sound isolation from the silicone ear tips is just average. Passive sound isolation together with ANC is able to block out most background sound but you will still hear murmuring if people are talking. The ANC effectiveness isn't as good as higher end wireless earphones but the pricing of the Freebuds 5i is way more affordable.
The ear nozzle is almost oval shaped. I'm not sure if you can get other ear tips for better sound isolation. One improvement over the Freebuds SE is the silicone ear tips are firmer (but still soft) and that helps with sound isolation too.
The design of the earphones look alright to me. Just note the obvious HUAWEI logo on the side.
These earphones are lightweight and comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time. They are rated IP54 splash resistance.
The only Bluetooth codec mentioned on the product page is AAC which is used by Apple devices. SBC is probably the other Bluetooth codec since that's the most common codec. Bluetooth version is 5.2 and pairing is quite fast.
The sound quality is good for wireless earphones at this price point. There is decent amount of details in the high and mids. Bass has energy and isn't over enhanced. I don't give more than 4/5 stars for audio quality for wireless earphones. The Huawei Freebuds 5i would probably get a 3/5 stars for audio quality, same rating as the Huawei Freebuds SE I have reviewed previously.
The marketing mentions high-resolution sound but the audio quality does not sound high-res or high-definition enough for me. There is obvious audio quality difference between this vs true high-res earphones -- my reference is Sennheiser IE600.
There is no longer any meaning to the high-res label anymore, just like there no longer is any meaning to the word "pro".
Bluetooth multipoint pairing to two devices
Huawei Freebuds 5i supports Bluetooth multipoint pairing to two devices simultaneously. This feature is convenient and is a main selling point for me.
This feature allows audio source to switch automatically depending on which device is outputting audio. For this feature to work properly, it's best to stop media playback on the first device before playing media on the second device. If you switch to a second device while the first device is still playing media, nothing happens and the first device continues to play media.
Huawei AI Life app
The companion app Huawei AI Life is only available on Android devices. This app is available from the Huawei AppGallery. It is possible to install Huawei AppGallery on non-Huawei Android devices.
Without the app, you can only switch ANC modes, play/pause media, take calls and adjust volume with the touch controls.
With the app, you have access to EQ settings (extra bass or treble), ANC strength, sound quality adjustment (high or normal), customise touch gestures (e.g. play/pause, next/prev song, voice assistant).
The EQ settings are limited and sound quality adjustments do not improve the sound quality in any significant manner, at least not in a way I noticed.
Huawei Freebuds 5i are wireless earphones with decent audio quality for those with limited budget. Sure the sound isolation and ANC are not as good as competitors but this is also not that expensive. One key feature not commonly found in other wireless earphones is Bluetooth multipoint pairing which is quite convenient.
Pros and cons at a glance
+ Noise canceling
+ Can be paired to two devices with automatic switching
+ 28hr battery life with included case
+ Good audio quality for the price
+ Competitive price
+ Touch controls work well, even without the app
- Huawei AI Life app only available through Huawei AppGallery
- Design looks like dust on the case
- Sound isolation could be better
- ANC not as good as (pricier) competitors