Best daily deals

All products featured are independently chosen by us. However, SoundGuys may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links. See our ethics statement.

HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i are a comfortable AirPods Pro-style outcast you shouldn't overlook

HUAWEI may be shunned in the US, but it still makes excellent products.

Published onFebruary 24, 2024

Following the colloquially named “HUAWEI ban” in May 2019, the once major mobile brand probably isn’t on your radar these days. Still, HUAWEI makes some of the best noise canceling wireless earbuds on the market that easily rival popular brands like Apple’s AirPods. Given the HUAWEI ban looks to remain in effect in perpetuity, US-based fans are robbed of experiencing the superior comfort of the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to miss out on one of my favorite earbuds.

Comfort that rivals the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

The HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i have excellent noise canceling on a budget
The HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i have some of the best noise canceling in their price range

Some of the best wireless earbuds are lauded for their ergonomic fit. For example, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) remain the industry blueprint for many earbud manufacturers. At 5.3g per bud with a compact 31 x 22 x 24mm form factor, I and many others find the AirPods Pro 2 small enough to wear for long periods without suffering ear fatigue. Other earbuds, such as the Nothing Ear 1, are even smaller. These weigh 4.7g per bud and measure 29 x 22 x 24mm. Athletes can take solace in the IPX4 water-resistant rating of both sets of earbuds. However, the AirPods Pro 2 include an IPX4-rated charging case, which is handy. Both buds use swipe gestures to control audio playback, while the AirPods Pro 2 adorn pressure-sensitive stems for those with long hair. They’re both excellent options.

With all that said, the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i are even smaller and lighter than the AirPods Pro 2, making them super comfortable for me to wear for long periods. These buds weigh just 4.9g and measure 31 x 22 x 24 mm. The FreeBuds 5i also wear a more robust IP54 rating. This protects against omnidirectional water splashes, dust, and small solid objects.

Unlike Apple’s earbuds, the FreeBuds 5i come in three attractive colorways. These include Isle Blue (my favorite), Nebula Black, and Ceramic White. The earbuds also come packaged with three different-sized silicone ear tips, providing enough choice for users to attain a tight seal. However, those with smaller ears will benefit most from purchasing third-party XS ear tips.

Flagship features for a fraction of the competition

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case is open and laying at an angle to show the earbuds and their sensors.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) has much better noise canceling than its predecessor.

Because of the ban, the FreeBuds 5i don’t feature in our best wireless earbuds under $200. However, these buds offer flagship features for significantly less than their rivals. For example, the FreeBuds 5i have excellent noise canceling, attenuating unwanted sounds by as much as 42dB. This is comparable to the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, which are considered to have some of the best noise canceling on the market but cost $229 at launch. Likewise, the Sony WF-1000XM5 reduce the loudness of high-frequency noise by up to 47dB but cost $299 at launch. The FreeBuds 5i are less than half the price of both at just $109.

The HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i are comfortable noise canceling earbuds that cost significantly less than their rivals.

Sound quality is another bastion of the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i. The buds have ample bass for busting through a rigorous workout without overpowering important fundamentals. Vocals sit at the top of the mix, and high-end sounds such as hi-hats and cymbals are clear-sounding without being sibilant. The HUAWEI AI Life app is available on iOS and Android and provides a limited selection of EQ presets, which can be used to boost bass or treble frequencies if you need to tweak their sound. What the companion app lacks in audio customization can easily be fixed by downloading a third-party EQ.

The FreeBuds 5i have fewer extras, such as spatial audio and wireless charging, than the AirPods Pro 2. However, the earbuds nail the fundamentals at a low price point. While the best earbuds for under $50 will serve those shopping on a shoestring the most, the FreeBuds 5i offer a lot more for only a little extra. Users in the US will struggle to find these earbuds from high-street retailers. However, the FreeBuds 5i can occasionally be found from $120 at Amazon and remain well worth a look.


Yes, the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i are excellent budget earbuds. While they are difficult to purchase in the US, those who find them will enjoy a comfortable fit, 42dB of noise canceling, and pleasing sound quality for roughly $109.

Yes, the HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i are noise canceling earbuds. The earbuds can attenuate unwanted sounds by as much as 42dB in optimum conditions. However, this requires obtaining a robust seal with the included ear tips.

The HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i adorn an IP54 water and dust-resistant rating. While not waterproof, it should protect the earbuds from sweaty workouts and walks in light rain.

The HUAWEI FreeBuds 5i came to market on January 16, 2023. This followed one year and 11 months after the FreeBuds 4i.