UGREEN HiTune TWS hands-on: Solid build, good for calls, average when it comes to music
In the past, I tried my best to avoid in-ear headsets due to the audio quality constraints of the design itself — to me, even much more expensive earbuds don't sound as good as on-ear or over-ear headphones at half the price. I am talking about mainstream products here, and I am not taking any in-ear headphones with planar magnetic drivers into account. About two years ago, I started using the wired Xiaomi Mi Piston Basic and I got more than I bargained for — considering the ~US$10 price tag — very good call quality, decent volume, bearable audio quality when listening to music with a fair amount of low frequencies, combined with rather average mids and highs.
Since UGREEN was kind enough to provide me with the HiTune TWS for review, I decided to finally step into this realm and give wireless earbuds a chance. Please be aware that this is my perspective and you might find this piece of hardware to be quite different. After all, sound and color are not good or bad and the truth is always in the ears and eyes of the beholder. These being said, let's take a closer look at the UGREEN HiTune TWS.
Packaging and looks
For most potential buyers, this probably does not matter at all, but I must highlight how solid is the retail box that contains the UGREEN HiTune. Since most people would buy these off Amazon (US$39.99 plus shipping) — Amazon.de users can take advantage of the special 7 Euros discount code "notebook7" that UGREEN has provided for our readers (it expires on Monday!) — or various online shops such as AliExpress or GearBest (HiTune TWS not listed yet), having a solid box can ensure that the earbuds arrive in one piece. Even better, I think that the box can be used to store various small items, for example jewelry, or at least to send fragile small items using regular postal services without having to worry about their safety.
The aforementioned box contains the following: UGREEN HiTune TWS earbuds, charging case, quick start guide (which is excellent and comes in a cartoon cover that reads "More Than Music" and gives the whole package a more premium touch), USB Type-C charging cable (quite flimsy, in my opinion, but you can use any USB Type-C cable to charge the case from any source - motherboard connector, front panel desktop PC case header, power bank, phone charger, and so on), as well as two spare pairs of silicone tips (I would gladly pay for some additional foam tips and I am probably not the only one).
Both the earbuds and the case have a simple design and are quite easy to handle. However, I should highlight the fact that the case rolls on its back once the earbuds are taken out. The materials used are solid and both the case and earbuds have a premium look and feel. The LEDs on the case and earbuds are discrete but they get the job done and can be easily noticed in plain daylight. The UGREEN text on the case and the logo on each earbud are a bit too dark for me but both look good and are visible enough to distinguish the HiTune TWS hardware package from other similar products.
Specs and features
When talking about the hardware specs of true wireless earbuds, most people do not need to hear about the Bluetooth protocols and frequencies supported or charging voltage limits. However, there are some attributes that help the HiTune TWS score decisive points when someone is trying to pick one from the many similar products in the sub-US$50 price area. This is what most people should keep in mind about the specs and features of the HiTune TWS:
• Bluetooth versions supported: 5.0 and below
• Speaker impedance and sensitivity: 32Ω ± 15% and 105 ± 3dB at 1KHz
• Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
• Driver: 5.8 mm dynamic
• Audio codecs supported: Qualcomm aptX, AAC, SBC
• Chipset: Qualcomm QCC3020
• Earbuds and case capacity: 60 mAh each and 300 mAh
• Time to full charge from 0%: 1.5 hours earbuds, 2 hours case
• Playtime and case charge: 9 hours and 19 hours, for a total of over 27 hours of autonomy when going away with the headphones at 100% inside the fully charged case
• Waterproof rating: IPX5 (scuba diving and snorkeling are definitely not compatible with these earbuds, but catching a bit of rain should be all right)
Before moving on, I should say a few words about the LEDs. For the HiTune, UGREEN used five of them - one on each of the earbuds and three on the front of the charging case. The LEDs on the earbuds have two colors - white and blue. The blue LED lights up for a second when powering on and white when powering off. However, there are a few more events that use the LEDs on the earbuds, for example when establishing the TWS connection between the left and right one (blue light flashes) or when pairing with a phone (blue and white flashing on the master earbud). The three LEDs on the case show the charge level in three steps — 1/3, 2/3, 3/3 (full) — and also blink white when charging the buds (only the left and right LEDs light up in this case).
Real-life usage: ergonomics, sound, battery life
The shape of the charging case makes it very easy to slide into virtually any pocket, including those small ones for coins — as long as they are not the smallest of their kind, of course. Maybe it is just me, but I have divided thoughts when it comes to the earbuds and their ease of handling — while I find their position in the case very convenient for grabbing and placing on my ears in a single move, I am always afraid that I might drop them. People with thick fingers might not find this process to be exactly straightforward. The best part about this is that — contrary to my expectations — the earbuds sit firmly in my ears and I was not able to make them fall. To be honest, I did not try any extreme movements, but still — these earbuds fit my ears unexpectedly well.
The controls are quite easy to operate, although I noticed a small latency — maybe half a second — between the moment I touched one of the control surfaces and the moment that operation actually took place. When playing music, a single tap is for play/pause, two taps for next track, and three taps for going to the previous track. When receiving a call, a single tap answers/ends it, and a two-second press rejects it. Lastly, the voice assistant is activated with a two-second press. All these commands can be performed on either earbud.
If we want to talk about the audio quality provided by the UGREEN HiTune TWS, there are two areas that I must cover: phone calls and music. First, I must confess that the call quality is excellent. To make it clear how good the noise-canceling feature of the HiTune can be and the overall connectivity, I must say that I used these earbuds for two long phone calls of around 15-20 minutes each while using my electric shaver which is quite noisy in the bathroom, about 4 meters (13 feet) and one concrete wall away from the phone. In both cases, I had no drops/audio glitches and my conversation partners were able to hear me perfectly. On the street, listening to music and understanding it can often prove to be a challenge as the earbuds cannot cover ambient sounds properly when I listen to music — calls are all right.
Moving on to the music part, I must add the codecs used into the equation as well. So far, I used the UGREEN HiTune TWS with my phone (Xiaomi Mi A1) and with my wife’s device (Redmi 7) and there is a major difference between the two. For the Mi A1, which connects to the earbuds via Bluetooth 4.2, the sound lacks clarity and lows. The mids and highs are also quite muddy. Depending on the app used to stream, the experience can be almost good or really bad. However, when using them with a handset that supports aptX, the UGREEN HiTune TWS seem to become a whole new piece of hardware. Obviously, they will not deliver audiophile-grade sound, but everything gets much better and noticeably louder. There is still not much bass to talk about, but everything is crispier and closer to the listener. Definitely not the hardware for listening to complex orchestral works or heavy metal, but I find easy-going SoundCloud mixes to be quite pleasant to listen to.
Battery life is excellent and combined with the call and build quality should justify the price of the UGREEN HiTune TWS. However, I monitored my usage and I can give you a few quotes, so check these daily reports below (I used the earbuds without placing them in the cradle to see how long they go on a full charge):
• 100% charge out of the box, down to 90% after 35 minutes of mixed use, including playing music at maximum level (connected to Mi A1) and two calls about 5 minutes long together.
• 90% charge out of the box, 45 minutes of playing music streamed via Bandcamp at roughly 85% volume, followed by 30 minutes of Real Racing 3 gaming (connected to Mi A1), down to 80%.
• 80% charge out of the box, 1 hour and 20 minutes of mixed use, mostly listening to a podcast-talk show, no music, a short phone conversation, and about 10 minutes of music, 60% charge at shut down.
• 60% charge out of the box, 8:38 - 53-minute phone call, 15 minutes music streaming via Bandcamp at roughly 85% volume, 30% battery at shut down.
• 30% charge out of the box, a single one-hour phone call, powered off when battery depleted at the end.
The sessions above amount for a total autonomy of less than 6 hours, but this involves quite a few cases of operating from the next room or the kitchen with the phone in the living room on Bluetooth 4.2. When using the earbuds on the road for around an hour to play music and make a short call or two, the charge usually goes down by 10%. Overall, the battery life is excellent.
The good, the bad, and the truth
Without any trace of doubt, the UGREEN HiTune TWS is a piece of hardware with solid build quality, excellent battery life, surprisingly good noise cancellation, and which is comfortable to wear.
When it comes to music or gaming, the rather small 5.8 mm driver size seems to become a problem in all the situations where accurate reproduction of low frequencies matter. Although connectivity is rock-solid in most cases, I noticed a few unexpected drops that I was not able to reproduce. Some might consider the lack of volume controls a problem, but adjusting it on the phone is convenient enough for me. Touch control latency is only a minor nuisance to me, but should be taken into account by those who like their controls to be snappy — however, depending on the handset the earbuds are paired with, the latency might not be present (I was not able to test the UGREEN HiTune TWS with an iPhone).
Is the UGREEN HiTune TWS a perfect piece of hardware? The answer to this question is obviously “no”. However, you shouldn’t be expecting perfection at this price point, and thankfully, this is a product that provides excellent value in the sub-US$50 zone of the market. This is what most buyers on a strict budget are looking for — to get the best features and specs for the price, not flashy looks or blingy retail boxes.
UGREEN (official product page)