EE Harrier review: EE’s fully 4G-ified phone packs Full HD visuals and nippy performance for £199, making it an affordable all-round entertainment machine.
EE just released two affordable own-brand phones, allowing customers to join their 4G smartphone plans without doling out bags of cash on premium handsets. The smaller and cheaper of the pair, the EE Harrier Mini, unfortunately suffered from stilted performance and a lackluster camera – but can the full-sized EE Harrier make amends with its superior specs?
The EE Harrier sports a very similar design to the Harrier Mini, basically boosting the size from a 4.7-incher to a 5.2-incher. Thankfully, despite the increase in screen size, the bezels surrounding the Harrier’s display are no thicker than the Harrier Mini’s, so the handset doesn’t suffer from gargantuan proportions. It’s only a touch bulkier than the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and the HTC One M9.
You can just about get away with using the Harrier one-handed, but you’ll have to adjust your grip to reach the very top of the screen with your thumb. All the same, the handset is as light as most other full-sized phones at just a shade over 140g and can be squeezed into most reasonably-sized pockets.
The look of the phone is the same as the Harrier Mini, complete with a plastic back that sports a shiny brushed-metal design. The power button is once again stuck over on the left edge, with a volume rocker on the right. And yes, you can prise the back plate off, but there’s no way to extract the battery if you insist on carrying a spare around.
Features and interface
Again, the EE Harrier is identical to the Mini when it comes to the interface, menus and features. You get a pleasingly vanilla Android Lollipop experience, with very little meddling on EE’s part. The only additions you’ll find are a nice grassy wallpaper, EE’s own app for checking your balance and a couple of Amazon apps.
You have full 4G support for fast web browsing and – more importantly if you have loads of data bundled with your contract – nippy media streaming. You’ll also be able to get EE’s WiFi Calling on the go, so you can receive calls even when you’re sat in a bunker or a basement bar with zero reception.
Check out our full Android Lollipop guide for more info on standard Google features such as Smart Lock.
Screen and media
One of the first major differences between the £99 Harrier Mini and this £199 full-sized Harrier is the display. Not only does the Harrier boast a bigger screen, but the resolution has also been bumped up from 720p to Full HD 1080p. That beats out rival phones such as the Lumia 640 XL for pure image sharpness.
But is the Harrier’s screen well suited to enjoying movies and games on the go? In a word, absolutely.
Colours are realistically reproduced and I saw no hint of motion blurring or other issues, even when watching fast-paced action scenes and manic Michael Bay style cuts. Meanwhile, the 1080p resolution keeps everything nice and crisp, despite the enlarged screen size.
Audio performance isn’t quite as strong, at least through the teeny speaker built into the back. You can get away with watching video without earphones if you’re sat in a quiet room, but we’d highly recommend plugging in ‘phones if you really want to lose yourself in a movie or enjoy some music as the speaker is just too quiet and lacks ‘oomph’.
Performance and battery life
The Harrier packs an octa-core processor running at 1.5GHz, backed by 2GB of RAM, which is a serious step up compared with the underpowered Harrier Mini. We didn’t see any stuttering or jerky performance when zipping around in Android Lollipop, even when flipping between different apps.
Games also run smoothly, including the latest intense 3D action titles, with no signs of overheating or other troubles.
If you’re always on the move, good news – the EE Harrier will happily last you the day, even with regular screen pounding. Battery life generally stretches past 24 hours even if you’re always taking random snaps and playing around with apps, and if you stream movies you’ll still get over six hours of playback. That’s better than average for modern smartphones.
The third major specs upgrade over the Harrier Mini is the 13-megapixel camera housed on the Harrier’s rear, a bump up from the Mini’s 8-meg snapper. But truth be told, in real life it isn’t much of an improvement.
The Harrier’s camera interface and features are basically identical to those found on the Mini, and there’s not a massive difference between the shots produced either. Daylight shots generally come out fine, with plenty of detail packed in, but if conditions are a bit murky then pics can look quite flat and lifeless. Indoor snaps are also quite grainy, but the LED flash can compensate.
A 2-megapixel front-facing camera is fine for taking simple shareable selfies, but my shots looked quite grainy and murky when viewed back on a full-sized screen.
What wonderful times are these, when you can snaffle a decent 4G ready phone for £150 and under. EE’s Harrier is a solid all-round device and an affordable entertainment machine, offering Full HD gaming and movies on a budget. If you can afford the £50 extra over the Harrier Mini, we’d say definitely go for this instead – it’s worth it for the performance boost alone.