Huami grows its Amazfit fitness ecosystem with the addition of the PowerBuds wireless earphones which even monitor your heart rate. They’re sure to catch the eye of exercise enthusiasts, but do they deliver on its promise? We find out in our full review.
Design & Build
The PowerBuds arrive in a nice compact, pebble-smooth charging case. The egg-sized housing feels slightly weighted (69g), which keeps it from feeling cheap and flimsy. This includes the weight of the ear-hooks and the 6g earphones, which offer IP55 waterproofing.
The buds themselves nestled into my ears comfortably, but did slip out on a couple occasions. I would recommend wearing the ear-hooks, especially if you’re running. You’ll find these nested inside the case’s lid. This wasn’t obvious to me, as the hooks camouflaged quite easily.
One note here: the hooks attach magnetically, but can be slightly fiddly. Though they snap on without much effort, they must be oriented in the right direction. It’s not always clear if they should point up or down, so you might fumble around as I did.
Second, the hooks can come off if you’re prone to touching or adjusting them – which is only natural if you’re on the move and want to ensure the PowerBuds are snug.
The Amazfit PowerBuds work in principle: they combine heart rate monitoring to your earphones so you have less devices to carry while exercising. But there are still a few kinks Huami need to sort out.
The first issue is pairing – particularly through the Amazfit app.
Quite often the earphones connected via the Bluetooth settings on my phone but the app didn’t clearly indicate that the connection was established. It prompted me to connect anyway.
I ultimately had to unpair the PowerBuds from my phone via the Bluetooth settings and pair directly via the app instead. Once connected, you can access details on battery levels (both on the earphones and the case itself), the sound equalizer and heart rate info.
Keep in mind, the PowerBuds must be inside the case to connect in the first place, which can be frustrating if you don’t have the case to hand. Though the PowerBuds offer Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity I couldn’t pair them to my laptop and phone at the same time.
At times one earbud dropped connection. The solution was to place both back into the case.
What I liked about the PowerBuds are the controls. Unlike other wireless earphones that may have tactile buttons, the PowerBuds respond to taps which you can program through the app. You can also tap to access smart voice assistants like Google Assistant.
Heart rate monitoring – Power-duds
Yes, the PowerBuds can display your heart rate but they lack accuracy – but before diving into accuracy, it’s worth pointing that a clunky app user experience makes accessing your heart rate metrics unclear.
In the pairing instructions, Amazfit suggests: “Once connected, your heart rate will be monitored after you enable the workout mode in the App”. However, “workout mode” isn’t an option on a settings menu. It’s simply starting a workout via the app, like running, cycling or walking. The app could phrase this more clearly.
Another heads up: The heart rate doesn’t appear right away when you begin a workout. I found I had to enter and exit the settings after starting a workout to see the heart rate appear.
Now about heart rate accuracy: the numbers swung wildly.
In one instance it started at 107bpm and in another it started at 87bpm, though I was only standing. I asked my partner to wear the PowerBuds who got a reading of 97bpm while at rest, though his heart rate is typically in the 60-range.
The average heart rate for a woman is between 60-100bpm. Mine sits at around 68 at rest (I measured this by holding my fingers to my neck for 15 seconds and multiplying by four), which the PowerBuds didn’t once suggest.
The monitor does respond to changes in movement however. The rate increased as I eased into a jog – but this in itself is not very useful if you want to sustain a specific heart rate while exercising.
By default, tapping twice on whichever ear enables or disables noise cancellation.
The PowerBuds are automatically in Thru mode, which feeds audio from your surroundings from the mic. I found this amplified certain sounds in noisy places like supermarkets and bled into the music I was listening to.
Fortunately, the PowerBuds’ noise cancellation features does a respectable job at blocking ambient audio. I found this useful while working. It’s not perfect but it will silence general chatter and buzzes.
Sound Quality – PowerBuds power bass
For all its shortcomings, the PowerBuds offer a full sound with a standard frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz and fairly large 9mm drivers.
For such a small earphones, they provide well-defined bass and clear mid-tones without any equalization, though the higher tones can sound a bit tinny.
Equally, they will struggle with the super warbling depths of bass-heavy trap or dubstep, which can sound slightly crunched, but it’s not extremely noticeable. Just make sure the PowerBuds are sitting properly in your ears, otherwise the quality can sound thin.
You can customise the tone using the equalizer on the Amazfit app, or choose from several presets such as classical, techno, rock, vocal, pop, the list goes on. I preferred using the custom settings to emphasise the bass and treble, which allowed me to achieve a satisfying fullness that I’d expect on over-ear headphones. You can’t save the custom setting once you reset it though.
There isn’t much to report when it comes to audio quality on calls: the sound is clear – and noise cancellation comes handy when you want to filter out distractions. The listener on the other end should also get clear audio.
The PowerBuds promise eight hours on their own with a total battery capacity of 55mAh, while the 450mAh case offers another 16 hour boost.
I was impressed with battery life on the PowerBuds, as I was able to squeeze out nearly a week of use without charging the case.
The case does charge quickly when needed. I was able to charge the case from 4- up to 62% in under two hours while charging from my laptop.
You’ll find the USB-C port on the back of the case and a cable comes included.
Price & Availability
The Amazfit PowerBuds are available in black or white and cost £99/US$99. You can have them shipped from China from a variety of retailers such as Gearbest for £91.84/US$109.99/AUD$164.99, Banggood for £97.46/US$119.99 or Geekbuying for £83.44/US$99.99/AUD$151.01.
US shoppers can also find them on Amazon for US$99 (around £80.64), though shipping to the UK is available for an additional $28.08 (around £22.87).
For that price you can pick up the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1, which snagged top spot in our round up of the best wireless earbuds, though it doesn’t offer noise cancellation.
You can find other excellent earphones from £20 to £100 in our chart of the best budget wireless earphones.
The ambitious Amazfit PowerBuds attempt to combine fitness tracking with audio. It’s not gimmicky, per se, because heart rate monitoring would be useful to fitness enthusiasts who want to cull down on carrying multiple devices, it just lacks accuracy.
I would love to see an updated version do it right.
If you’re able to look past heart rate inaccuracy and a clunky app user experience, the PowerBuds offer a satisfying sound, decent noise cancellation along and a reliable battery life.
Not too bad for around the £100 mark but there are plenty of better headphones out there for a similar price or less.
Amazfit PowerBuds: Specs
Frequency range: 20Hz – 20kHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Features: Microphones, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
Battery: 8 hours on earbuds,16 hours with charging case
Weight: 69g with case
Water and dust resistance: IP55 (on Earbuds)
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