Taking these TWS earphones from smartphone manufacturers for a spin sometimes feels like a chore. Especially so when most of them look like the AirPods. Such is the case for me with the Huawei Freebuds 3i. However, using it for about a week, and I can say it’s such a pleasant surprise.
That stem design
Now, don’t get me wrong. While I have warmed up to it and it’s more common to see people with these earphones sticking out their ears, I still, personally, am not a fan of this look.
But if it’s there for a reason, then I can’t complain much. Such is the case for the last TWS pair I reviewed. That used the stem as the primary touch area for the controls. In the Freebuds 3i, it’s different.
The stem on the Freebuds 3i lets the mic be closer to the user’s mouth. This is perfect for picking up your voice when you’re in calls — be it voice or video.
Naturally, I tried it on a few calls and asked the people on the other line how I sounded. They said I came off loud and clear. The only problem was my speaking voice, but that had nothing to do with the Freebuds 3i and more with just me being me.
A truly active noise cancellation
This is the feature that truly surprised me the most. The moment I put the earphones on, I immediately felt the effects of the active noise cancellation.
I didn’t even know it had the feature when I first took it out of the box. I just knew it did right when I had both earphones on. That’s how good it is.
Huawei says they used a triple-microphone system to achieve noise cancellation of up to 32db. That along with the in-ear design helps drowning out the noise.
This is in contrast to its elder sibling the Freebuds 3 which handles noise cancellation using the Kirin A1 chip. The Freebuds 3 also uses an open-fit or open-ear design which is why its noise cancellation relies more on the chip.
Huawei also shared a review guide showing how the Freebuds 3i can cancel more noise than the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the AirPods Pro in certain situations. Based on what I can recall from my time with the Sony WH-1000XM3, that thing is on a league of its own when it comes to noise cancellation. But the Freebuds 3i, I’m surprised to say, isn’t too far behind.
Neither the Freebuds 3 nor the Freebuds 3i is necessarily better than the other, although we might see the dual-mic plus in-ear approach in future TWS earphones from Huawei given that their partner TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) will no longer be allowed to source tech and equipment from the US.
Not sure if this is a coincidence or not, but the Freebuds 3i is now the second TWS earphone I’ve tested who’s tuning appears to be leaning more towards bass. Another common denominator is that they’re priced below PhP 7,000 (around US$ 143).
It’s great if you prefer bass but compared to the Freebuds 3, it just doesn’t feel like you’re getting the same sound quality. Which is understandable considering the price difference.
The Freebuds 3 sound clearer, brighter, and warmer and you can clearly hear all the sounds. This is in contrast to the Freebuds 3i which seem to favor low-tones more.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Freebuds 3i sounds bad. They just don’t sound as good as higher tier TWS earphones, which is fine. The Freebuds 3i is perfectly enjoyable and is certainly better than its more affordable counterparts.
I listened to everything from the pop track “Fanfare” by TWICE to the heavy rock sound of “Mighty Long Fall” by One OK Rock and was very pleased with how these tracks sounded.
Easy to pair, easy to use
Like with many other first-party TWS earphones, the Freebuds 3i will be automatically detected by the phone nearest to it as soon as you flip the lid open. This means pairing is instant and easy.
Naturally, you’ll have to go the usual pairing route if you’re using this with a phone from another brand. This means long-pressing on the button next to the USB-C port to enter pairing mode, and then going into the connectivity settings of your phone to complete the pairing. Not as straightforward, but works just as well.
There are two ways to control the earbuds. First is to double tap on either earbud. Second, is to touch and hold. Touching and holding turn noise cancellation on and off for either earbud.
Double tapping the left bud is set to “Play/Pause” by default while the right bud is set to “Next Song.” You can change this on the Huawei AI Life app with the action options being as follows:
- Next Song
- Previous Song
- Wake Voice Assistant
Curiously, there’s no action set for a single tap. Adding that would have given users the option to set all actions above a set motion for control. Instead, you can only choose to at a time. It’s a puzzling choice.
Like any TWS earphone worth its salt, it also has wear detection. This means the music is automatically paused when you take them off and resumes when you put them back on.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
At PhP 5,990 /SG$ 168 (US$ 123), the Huawei Freebuds 3i is a pleasant surprise. Price-wise, it’s in direct competition with the Galaxy Buds+, and those buds have absolutely nothing on the Freebuds 3i’s noise cancellation.
If you’re looking for TWS earphones with near top-tier noise cancellation but don’t want to spend north of PhP 7,000, then this is easily one of the better options. There’s room for improvement but you’re getting quality earbuds for what you’re shelling out.
It has a solid build, a bass-leaning tuning, and pretty darn good noise cancellation. It’s not bad. Not bad at all.
Nokia E3100: Trying new buds for work to workouts
Yes, Nokia has earbuds now
Nokia and I go way back. It was the mobile phone brand of my youth. Our history includes a series of phones that predate the existence of touchscreen ones we use now. Everyone had a Nokia device then. In recent years, it’s become a rarity. So imagine my surprise when I first heard that Nokia is now making earbuds. How did it fare against the audio giants of our time?
I got a hold of the Nokia E3100 Essential True Wireless Earphones. Compared to my old set of earbuds (Anker Zolo Liberty+), this one’s battery case and earbuds are extremely light, almost the same weight as a tube of drugstore lipstick.
The buds can operate up to 2.5hrs with a single charge, and up to 10 hours with help of the rechargeable battery case. Super convenient to pack if we still had our old lifestyle of going out daily.
On the job
I used to be able to maximize my earbuds on my commute — listening to music or watching series whenever I’m in transit. Nowadays, I mainly connect my headset to my laptop for Zoom meetings and other virtual work calls.
The Nokia E3100 did not disappoint on the sound side. Audio from the people I’m in the call with was always clear and crisp. But, it can be a hit-or-miss as a mic. The earbuds have a built-in microphone on the right side, but my experience with it left me wanting. There was a point when I had to switch back to the laptop microphone in the middle of a call just so people can hear my voice clearly.
On the mat
I also tried the Nokia E3100 for a few home workout sessions. Since the earbuds fit my ears perfectly, there’s no fear of it falling out in the middle of jumping jacks.
Another nice surprise is how you can easily skip or repeat tracks via push button controls on the earbuds. Less distractions to your exercise momentum! The only time I have to reach for my phone is when I want to switch to a different playlist.
Is the Nokia E3100 your GadgetMatch?
It’s reliable as an earpiece for listening to music, working out, and watching series. But when it comes to the demands of working from home, the current built-in mic just won’t do.
Nokia has to work on the voice sensitivity and responsiveness of the earbuds’ mic in order to take on this new age of virtual calls and meetings.
The Nokia E3100 retails for PhP 1,999 (US$ 41)
Apple launches the AirTag
Long rumored item, now finally real
Do you keep losing or misplacing things? There’s an Apple product for that. Introducing the AirTag.
The AirTag is a small designed accessory and helps keep track of and find items you may have misplaced through Apple’s Find My App. It can help locate a lost item while keeping location data private and anonymous with end-to-end encryption.
It’s built using stainless still and is IP67 rated (water and dust resistant). The AirTag also has a built-in speaker that plays sounds to help signal its location. Its cover is easily removable to replace the battery.
If you bring them close to an iPhone, they will instantly connect. Users can assign AirTag to an item and name it with a default like “Keys” or “Jacket,” or provide a custom name of their choice.
Once it’sset up, it will appear in the new Items tab in the Find My app. Here, users can view the item’s current or last known location on a map. If a user misplaces their item and it is within Bluetooth range, they can use the Find My app to play a sound from the AirTag to help locate it. Users can also ask Siri to find their item, and AirTag will play a sound if it is nearby.
Customers can personalize AirTag with free engraving, including text and a selection of 31 emoji when purchased via apple.com or the Apple Store app. They can be used as is or with accessories like the Polyurethane Loop, Leather Loop, and Leather Key Ring.
Privacy and security
Apple says location data or location history is physically stored inside AirTag. Communication with the Find My network is end-to-end encrypted so that only the owner of a device has access to its location data, and no one, including Apple, knows the identity or location of any device that helped find it.
Price and availability
The AirTag will be available in one (US$ 29) and four packs US$ 99. It can be purchased from apple.com, in the Apple Store app, at Apple Store locations, and through Apple Authorized Resellers and select carriers (prices may vary) beginning Friday, April 30.
Customers can order AirTag beginning at 5AM PDT on Friday, April 23.
Apple-designed AirTag accessories include:
- Leather Key Ring in Saddle Brown, (PRODUCT)RED, and Baltic Blue for US$ 35
- Leather Loop in Saddle Brown and (PRODUCT)RED for US$ 39 (US)
- Polyurethane Loop in White, Deep Navy, Sunflower, and Electric Orange for US$29
Sony launches WH-1000XM4 Silent White edition
In celebration of Sony’s 75th anniversary
Sony’s best and highly acclaimed active noise cancelling headphones — the WH-1000XM4 — is getting a new flavor. The WH-1000XM4 Silent White edition is launching in May 2021 to celebrate Sony’s 75th anniversary.
The WH-1000XM4 Silent White has a pearlescent finish to the topcoat of the headphones to create a sense of depth and a luxurious touch. Worried about it getting dirty? It includes an additional coat compared to the earlier black and silver versions for more stain-resistance and to retain the white color.
All of the accessories included also come in white.
New to the headphones in its 4th iteration is Multiple device pairing. This has been one of this headphones’ weaknesses and it has finally been addressed. You can now connect the Sony WH-1000XM4 to two devices simultaneously.
When a call comes in, your headphones will know which device is ringing and connect to it automatically. You’ll also be able to quickly switch your headphones to either of the two devices in a single tap.
It now also has Edge-AI, DSEE Extreme which more accurately rebuilds audio lost during digital compression for a full fidelity experience. The 360 Reality Audio feature is now also making its way to these headphones. It lets listeners enjoy a custom immersive musical field that is perfectly optimized for each individual user.
Price and availability
Exact price will be revealed at launch. The Sony WH-1000XM4 Silent White edition will be available across Asia Pacific in May 2021. In Singapore, it will be available exclusively at Sony Stores and Sony Stores Online.
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