Honor has launched today Earbuds Lite 2. They pack a comprehensive set of features into a comfortable, ergonomic design – all available at an attractive price.
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Wireless buds are a relatively new form factor for wearables. However they are projected to grow far quicker than any other category in the coming years, far outstripping smartwatches and fitness trackers.
Apple AirPods have popularised this market segment but other companies are providing viable options at more attainable prices. Honor is one of these. Its product range includes Honor Choice True Wireless Stereo Earbuds which typically retail for $45, along with Honor Magic Earbuds which are priced at $115.
Now we have a third option. Retailing for around $80, Honor Earbuds 2 sit right in the middle of this price range. That’s about half the cost of the Apple AirBuds, so a sizeable saving.
With features such as Active Noise Cancelling, Hear Through in Awareness Mode and 32 hours battery life, on paper Honor Earbuds 2 present themselves as an intriguing option. But how do they stack up in real life?
I’ve been testing the headphones over the past few weeks. Read on and I’ll explain what I made of them.
Setup and use
Just like the iPhone has standardised the smartphone industry, the same can be said about the Apple AirPods. They’ve defined how a wireless earbud should look and Honor Earbuds Lite 2 are sticking to this tried and tested design.
To start off, let’s glance over the specs.
The Honor Earbuds Lite 2 come in a simple charging case with slightly rounded edges. You can pick them up in a choice between Glacier White and Midnight Black. I have the first option.
The actual dimensions of the case come in at 45.5 mm x 61.2mm x 25.35 mm and the weight at 41 grams. The buds have a glossy finish, as does the case.
Spring the top of the case open and you’ll reveal two buds comfortably nestled inside the thing. An earbud measures 37.5 mm x 23.9 mm x 21 mm and weights a mere 5.5 grams.
As they are small in size, buds can be lost quite easily. That’s the problem with this product category. The danger is reduced by the fact that the Honor buds are held in firmly place by magnets inside the case. Flip the box over with the top open and they will still stay securely inside.
Charging and battery life
At the bottom end of the charging case is a USB-C port. You can use the cable provided, or any other USB-C cable really, to replenish the 410 mAh Lithium-ion battery. I tried my iPad Pro cable and it worked just fine. Which is good because it means if you lose your charging cable, it’s not a hassle finding another one.
Honor says refuelling the 55 mAh battery inside each bud is twice as fast as with other brands. I found that a the advertised quick 10-minute top-up was really all it took for a 4-hour music marathon. Battery performance has apparently been improved by 49% compared to the previous generation.
Music playback on a full charge comes in at around 10 hours with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) disabled and 2.5 hours less with ANC enabled. With charging case top-ups, this climbs to a whopping 32 hours. These figures jive closely with my experience of using the product. Battery life is not something you will worry about.
All of this means you can achieve three full refuels through the case, ideal for those weekend getaways. That’s enough for nearly 500 songs in case you were wondering. For voice calls you can expect to get around 6 hours depending on settings (or 20 hours with the case).
A single LED light at the front of the case reveals the battery charge status. Green is full, Red indicates that the battery of the case can be topped up further. White shows the buds are in pairing mode.
Comfortable to wear
In the box there are three different sized flexible, silicone ear tips. The one that is installed by default is the mid-size. I found this one to be a comfortable fit, but you can explore the other options if you need to. A better fit will offer improved noise cancellation. The in-ear design also helps with this.
I found the buds to be extremely comfortable and lightweight, and at times even slept with them on. Honor says they are build for all day use. You really hardly notice you are wearing them. I tried them on for running and found that once in your ear, they tend to stay there.
All things considered, I was pleased with the look and feel of the package. The case looks smart and well built, and the same can be said of the headwear. In a sense, the design has a minimalistic cleanliness about it, packing everything you need without going overboard on features.
|Design||True wireless stereo earbuds with a charging case|
|Dimensions of each bud||37.5mm x 23.9mm x 21 mm|
|Dimensions of charging case||45.4mm x 61.2mm x 25.35mm|
|Weight||Single bud: 5.5 grams|
Charging case: 41 grams
|Battery||Earbuds: 55 mAh|
Charging case (410 mAh)
|Battery life (on a single charge)||Music playback: 10 hours (without ANC), 7.5 hours (with ANC)|
Voice call: 6.5 hours (without ANC), 5.5h (with ANC)
|Speaker||Customised 10-mm driver|
|Frequency response||20 Hz – 20,000 Hz|
|Microphone||Each earbuds has two MEMS microphones|
|Wireless range||10 metres|
|Price (typical RRP)||69.9 euros (around $80)|
Pairing the buds
The buds can be paired with a range of devices including phones, tablets and PCs. The connection is achieved through Bluetooth 5.2 (backwards compatible).
There is an Android app called AI Life. You can download this and use it to set up the buds and customise the settings. But you don’t really need any software.
As an iPhone user, it was enough to go to the Bluetooth settings on my phone to establish a first connection. From that point on, the buds would instantly connect to my phone whenever I would take them out of the box. Return them to the box and the connection would close after about 30 seconds.
What particularly impressed me is the latency and connection strength. I managed to move away from the phone by about 10 meters in a closed space with walls and furniture and the signal was still there.
The earbuds automatically enter pairing mode the first time you take them out of the box. But you can always do a factory reset which will initiate this process again.
The other option is to press the function function button on the side of the charging case for 2 seconds. The button blends into the background really neatly so you have to look hard to spot it! After that you’ll know where to find it. You’ll need to use this after the initial pair if you want to connect them to a different device.
That’s pretty much it as far as pairing and software. Simple and to the point which is what you want.
Worth noting – if you have paired the buds with two devices, let’s say your phone and iPad, the buds will connect to the last device you used them with. You can switch to the other one via its Bluetooth settings. The buds will automatically disconnect from the first device and connect to the second one.
Seamless user experience
As far as actual use, there are some features to be aware of that make your life easier. One of these is smart wearing detection. For example, music playback automatically stops when you take the buds out of your ears, and restarts when you put them back on. This works without fail.
Both earbuds have a capacitive sensor (touch controls) built inside them. Which means you can tap either bud to trigger some smart functionality.
Tap twice to play or pause music. This is also used to answer or end a telephone call. Functions such has ANC and Awareness Mode can be switched on or off by pressing and holding the capacitive sensor for longer.
You can also activate you Personal AI voice assistant to get some things done without using your hands. This includes controlling your calls and setting up reminders.
This functions well, although I did find it is pretty basic. Plus you really need to be precise when tapping otherwise the motion won’t register. I would have liked to have an option to raise or lower the volume without reaching for my phone. Skip and rewind are also missing. You can edit the touch controls and add these via the Android app but I wish they were there by default.
None of the above features would be very impressive if the audio quality is bad. After all, that is the most important part of this sort of product. We’ve all had in our possession at some time cheap earbuds with poor sound quality. Not a nice experience!
Well, I’m happy to report the buds do not disappoint on this count. Honor Earbuds 2 Lite offer true wireless stereo (TWS) with speaker containing a 10mm high fidelity dynamic driver with sensitive polymer composite diaphragms. This ensures very clear audio with excellent bass and treble for listening to music.
Whats more, each earbud has two tiny Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) silicone microphones concealed inside. They help with blocking out outside noise for calls and listening to music. Honor says you can reduce surrounding noises up to 22 decibels (dB). Excellent when trying to conduct a phone conversation outside or listen to music with noisy neighbours around.
Further helping sound quality is enhanced audio when conducting calls and Wind Noise Reduction Structure. The latter is particularly useful when using the buds when running or cycling.
If, on the other hand, you need the opposite scenario – to hear what is going on around you – there’s something called the Hear Through in Awareness Mode. This allows ambient sound to come through so you can conduct a conversation or cross the street safely. As mentioned, these modes can be triggered via the touch sensors.
Honor Earbuds Lite 2 provide most things you need from a pair of wireless earbuds without going overboard on features. I liked that they have a nice, minimalistic feel about them. The sound quality is impressive, the buds are comfortable and the pairing process works well. Which is exactly what you want from such a product – a no hassle experience.
Couple this with long battery life and you’re sitting on a winner. Just 10 minutes on the charger offers an 4 hours of music playback.
Honor Earbuds Lite 2 present themselves as an attractive purchase. The earbuds themselves are nothing short of great. Particularly if you take into account that they sell for half the price of the Apple AirPods.
You can pick them up for 69.9 euros in a choice between Glacier White and Midnight Black. Availability in the UK, German, France, Italy, Spain and Finland starts on August 7th on www.hihonor.com.
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