The Harrier Mini is the latest in EE’s range of own-brand budget smartphones.
Like the Kestrel before it, it packs 4G and an HD screen in a package that’s very affordable.
Its bigger brother the Harrier has a 5.2-inch Full HD screen and costs £149, while the Harrier Mini totes a 720p 4.7-inch display and costs just £99. Like the Harrier, it’s locked to EE.
Let’s see how it fares...
First impressions and design
The Harrier Mini is manufactured on EE's behalf by BenQ, a brand we haven’t seen for a while in the mobile market (its mobile arm BenQ-Siemens launched a number of high-end devices before filing for bankruptcy in late 2006).
It looks pretty nondescript from the front, but we like the brushed-metal effect back (it’s actually plastic, but looks the part).
It’s quite portly, which you would expect at this price, but very light with it. One design quirk is that the power/wake button is on the left-hand side.
Usually it’s on the right, or the top.
The Harrier Mini comes running Android 5.0.2 Lollipop.
That’s pretty standard on new phones, though the latest figures show it’s only on 9.7 per cent of all active Android devices.
It’s welcome on such a budget device, as some manufacturers try and save a few pennies by shipping their cheap phones with an earlier version.
Also welcome is that EE hasn’t put a skin on Android, but left it pure.
In other words, you get the same interface as on the Nexus 5 and 6 and Motorola Moto X, all of which are much more expensive.
4G is the Harrier Mini's flagship feature. EE is keen to stress it was the first network to launch 4G in the UK, and has the most widespread coverage of all the mobile operators.
We didn’t have any issues streaming and browsing over 4G while testing, though we were safely ensconced in central London.
Before you buy, it’s worth checking if you have 4G coverage where you live using EE’s coverage checker. If not, you might be better off buying a cheaper handset.
It also supports Wi-Fi calling, which only just went live on EE.
This lets you make calls over Wi-Fi instead of your mobile network, helping save valuable minutes on your monthly allowance.
You will need a broadband connection of at least 2Mbps. But again, it’s most welcome.
Inside is a 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm MSM 8916 processor and 1GB of RAM.
It also has an eight-megapixel camera and a two-megapixel front-facer, which is good for this price.
You do only get 4GB of storage, of which 2.8GB is usable. Though you can prise the back off and slot in a microSD card to expand it.
Performance is generally fine, but there are a few hiccups.
More graphically demanding games tend to judder, which will affect your enjoyment (not to mention your high score).
Whip through a lot of apps in quick succession, and it’s a bit like cycling through treacle.
But during general browsing, emailing and video streaming, we didn’t have any issues.
Some apps – like YouTube – were a little slow to start, but that’s to be expected.
The eight-megapixel snapper is a bit slow to take shots, and colours could be brighter.
But in good light it can take a decent shot or two. Just don’t expect it to replace your compact camera anytime soon.
Battery life is impressive – it lasted over a full day with pretty intensive use.
Use it less, and you could get a couple of days from it, which is almost unheard of.
The Harrier Mini is a solid effort, and worth considering if you’re on EE, are on a budget and live somewhere with 4G coverage.
However, it’s not the best at this price range.
For nippier performance and not being locked to any one network, that title still goes to the much lauded Moto E.