Forget AirPods Pro: Huawei’s new earbuds deliver noise cancellation on the cheap

Huawei FreeBuds 4i
(Image credit: Huawei)

We could soon see a new addition to the ranks of the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones, as Huawei announced its FreeBuds 4i true wireless earbuds are coming to the West — and it will only cost £80 in the U.K., roughly the equivalent of $110.

That represents a huge saving on the $249 AirPods Pro, which the FreeBuds 4i has clearly tapped for design inspiration. It’s even cheaper than the standard Apple AirPods, which doesn’t have active noise cancellation (ANC) at all, and will likely undercut the oft-leaked AirPods 3 as well. However, with Huawei’s ongoing ban in the U.S., it’s unclear if the FreeBuds 4i will ever make it stateside.

Coming in white, black and red colorways, the Huawei FreeBuds 4i could easily pass for the AirPods Pro from a distance: it has a similar stem design as well as replaceable silicone tips. 

But battery life could be even better than Apple’s effort, as Huawei promises up to 7.5 hours of ANC playback per charge. That apparently reaches up to 22 hours with repeated use of the charging case, which is also quoted to provide the buds with four hours of playback time from a 10-minute charge.

10mm dynamic drivers deliver the sound, which apparently includes “powerful bass performance.” Huawei has produced some fine-sounding wireless earbuds in the past, like the Huawei FreeBuds 3, so hopefully the FreeBuds 4i can sound pump out even better audio.

The FreeBuds 4i also supports fast pairing with Huawei smartphones running EMUI 10.0 or later, similarly to how the AirPods range can quickly pair with iOS devices.

Still, the biggest draw here is surely the price. True wireless ANC buds are extremely hard to find for such little cash; it’s a stark contrast to another recent Huawei release, the $3,000-ish Huawei Mate X2 foldable smartphone.

Speaking of phones, though, Huawei will find fewer takers for the EMUI fast pairing than it has in China. Huawei devices aren’t banned in the U.K. like they are in the U.S., but they’re still sold without Google apps, which doesn’t help their appeal. Perhaps the FreeBuds 4i, which doesn’t seem to lose any features as a result of these legal issues, will have better luck.

The set of ANC buds is set for its U.K. release on March 26. You can pre-order it now from Huawei, an offer which also includes a £5 discount and a free Huawei Band 4 fitness tracker worth £40.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.