Hands-on review: Honor Earbuds 3 Pro
Image credit: Jack Loughran
Honor’s latest earbuds offer great sound quality, a superior software experience, a wide array of features, and well-built hardware that is all undermined by one, almost fatal, flaw.
Since being sold off by Huawei in 2020, Honor has been carving out a niche for itself releasing solid if unexceptional mid-range smartphones as well as accessories like earbuds.
First impressions of the Earbuds Pro 3 are positive; the diminutive case feels solidly built, with a durable opening mechanism that snaps shut satisfyingly. It also comes with a handy charging light on the front and a sync button for quickly pairing with new devices. While hardly a revelation, the sync button is often absent from cheaper buds, which can make syncing an awkward experience.
The buds themselves look relatively sleek, with a shiny, faux-aluminium design that fit comfortably in the ear without sticking out too much – unlike some of Honor’s previous efforts.
Sound quality is excellent. While buds will never match the fidelity of a good pair of over-the-ear headphones, full sounding bass and a rounded top end gives songs a satisfying punch without neglecting the low-end frequencies. The audio profile is very solid for a pair of buds and compares very well to others at the same price point.
The software experience is well thought out, with a bevy of features designed to make the buds as simple to use as possible. The dual-connect feature lets you connect two devices simultaneously – particularly handy when wanting to switch between phone and laptop while on the go.
Unfortunately, Honor’s AI Space app demands that users are logged in, which requires creating an account using an email or phone number. It creates an uneasy feeling being forced to hand over personal information just to use the headphone’s basic features that should be made available through the app, account or not.
The noise cancelling feature is exceptional and is able to deftly block out the din of a busy London tube. The feature can also be reversed so that outside noises are emphasised – very handy when cycling or traversing busy roads and wanting to keep your wits about you.
The Earbuds Pro 3's most unique feature is their ability to measure the internal temperature of the user. In this post-Covid world, the feature ostensibly gives users an early warning that they may be falling ill. The data is made available through the app but it doesn’t appear to be usable outside of that, such as in third-party health tracking or fitness apps. The feature feels somewhat limited and over-engineered, and whether it could actually alert you to illness before you realise it through other means remains debatable. The only time an alert was triggered in the testing period was while cycling. It gave a warning that body temperature had dropped too low, which was definitely due to the wind cooling the temperature sensor rather than any indication of a health issue.
Battery life is good enough, if not exceptional. Honor says the buds should last about 4 hours with noise cancellation on, and 6 hours with the feature turned off. This seemed roughly accurate during the testing period, although the case itself would run out of juice slightly faster than some alternative buds. This is because Honor has opted to go for a smaller and sleeker case that fits into pockets easily, rather than a larger device packing a bigger battery. For most people this is a worthy trade-off, as the battery is enough to allow for all-day usage as long as they charge it overnight.
But despite the array of features and solid, premium-feeling hardware, the buds suffer from reception that is poorer than most others tested. Their tendency to cut out in high traffic areas was significantly higher than three other sets of buds tested with the same device. Furthermore, when other buds struggle with connection, the sound typically cuts out intermittently as they struggle to reconnect to the parent device. When connection fails on the Earbuds Pro however, the sound degrades into a robotic mess of beeps and clicks as it tries to reconnect. The noises are very jarring compared to similar buds which simply fall into silence when the reception fails.
Overall, Honor has done a stellar job with feature-packed buds that both sound and look great. Unfortunately, their signal tends to degrade in areas where other, cheaper buds do not. While not bad enough to invalidate a recommendation entirely, it is such a key element of wireless headphones that looking around at similarly priced devices would be worthwhile, especially for those who frequently enter high traffic areas where the buds have to contend with an array of other Bluetooth devices that could limit the signal quality and strength of their performance.
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