EE Harrier Mini review

4G speeds and Wi-Fi calling for under £100

EE Harrier Mini review

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Even if you warm to the EE Harrier Mini's design flourishes and overlook the limitations of its display, you'll realise it's a budget phone the moment you log in to your Google account and start the usual app update process.

This initial procedure instantly highlights the EE Harrier Mini's performance shortcomings. Its 1.2GHz quad-core processor backed by 1GB of RAM will see you through the phone's home screens and single, simple, isolated tasks just fine.

But the moment there's something intensive going on in the background – such as a bunch of apps updating – you'll encounter noticeable stutters and pauses.

EE Harrier Mini review

1GB of RAM is standard for the price but performance is limited by it

If we were to point a finger, it would probably be at that 1GB of RAM, which increasingly seems insufficient for a modern Android-powered phone – though it's still par for the course at this price point.

Indeed, the Harrier Mini holds its own next to similarly priced phones like the Moto E in our standard Geekbench 3 benchmark test. An average multi-core score of 1,499 puts it ever so slightly ahead of the Moto E at 1421, and well ahead of its predecessor, the EE Kestrel, at 1,190.

Going back to that topic of limited memory for a second, now would perhaps be a good time to mention the EE Harrier Mini's severe lack of internal storage. 4GB is simply too small an amount of default storage, budget handset or no – and there's actually only 3.69GB available once the Android OS has taken its slice.

Yes, there's a microSD slot for expansion purposes, but Android 5.0's management of such additional storage remains fiddly and limited. You're completely unable to shift across the core apps that come pre-installed, which leaves you critically short of space for additional apps from the off. I found myself bumping up against the limits and juggling installed apps alarmingly quickly.

In particular, trying to download some of the richer games on the Google Play Store in order to test the phone's performance proved an impossibility without hefty app and media pruning.

EE Harrier Mini review

A shortage of memory made downloading apps a frustration

Again, this isn't uncommon among cheaper phones, but it's a problem that needs pointing out.

Hardware issues aside, the EE Harrier Mini is a pleasant and fairly slick device to use, and that's largely thanks to the stock Android 5.0 Lollipop OS.

When you consider some of the cheap and nasty smartphones with their ugly custom UIs that you used to get for £100 not so long ago, this really is a massive step forward.

The notification system alone is worth the meagre price of entry, with tactile lock screen and drop-down banners that enable you to reply and interact there and then.

EE Harrier Mini review

Notifications are clear and easy to respond to

I'm also pleased to see that Google's Ambient Display feature has been included, which provides a low-power black and white preview of new notifications, along with the time. Tap this and you'll be taken to the full-colour lock screen, and from there you can respond to the notification.

The only visible sign of EE meddling with the stock Android 5.0 OS is an ugly ad widget and one for Amazon, both of which can be removed with minimal hassle. EE has packed in its own camera app as well, which isn't the best I've ever encountered – but I'll deal with that in the appropriate section.

Battery life

Peel off the EE Harrier Mini's disconcertingly flimsy back plate and you'll spot its 2,000mAh battery. Like the Kestrel before it, you can't remove this power pack, which is a bit of a shame given the easy access.

However, that's about the biggest complaint I have when it comes to the Harrier Mini's battery. There are no issues with the amount of time it lasts in between charges.

The usual TechRadar battery test involves playing a 90 minute, 720p video with the screen brightness turned right up, and seeing how much battery life it leaves you with.

The average score I got with the EE Harrier Mini was 75%, which is pretty standard for a modern smartphone of this size and nature. More importantly, perhaps, it represents a 5% improvement over the EE Kestrel. Considering that phone had a lower resolution display, that's quite an achievement.

It's also pretty much even stevens with the 2014 Moto G.

EE Harrier Mini review

Battery life on the Harrier Mini is impressive

Of course, few EE Harrier Mini owners will be watching full-length movies on it day-to-day, I suspect. Fortunately, where the phone's stamina really shows through is in general day to day usage.

I found that I could sail through a day of moderate usage, including taking a whole bunch of photos, watching some brief videos, some light web browsing, making a five minute phone call, and dealing with the usual stream of notifications, with plenty of power to spare.

In fact, switch the phone onto airplane mode or off altogether overnight, and you'll be able to last through a good portion of the following day too.