The fact the £199 Harrier is available on EE’s 4G network is exciting not only because it’s fast, but because later this year the phone will also benefit from EE’s Wi-Fi Calling service. This eliminates mobile signal problems by allowing you to route calls and texts over Wi-Fi, without you even realising it’s happening.
At this price, you can’t expect a premium build. On the plus side, the bezels are extremely thin, the phone is reasonably slim for a budget model and also lightweight, and the 5.2in full-HD (1920x1080, 424ppi) screen is fantastic under £200.
With an IPS display, the EE Harrier offers realistic screen colours, decent viewing angles and it’s usefully bright. At 5.2in – large but not too large – it’s also a great fit for watching movies and viewing photos, which isn’t often something we can say about phones at this price point. (Gaming, not so much, but casual games will play fine on the Harrier.)
EE has made an effort to spruce things up, with a brushed-metaleffect rear (it’s still plastic) and a gold camera surround; as an own-brand phone you’ll also find a silver EE logo on the back cover. The slightly curved rear and rounded corners make the Harrier fit naturally in the hand, too.
But a few things give away this phone’s mid-range price. First and foremost, it’s entirely plastic, and that brushed-metal-effect rear does little to conceal the fact. The removable cover adds to this cheap feel, with the Harrier creaking a little in use. Given that the battery is not removable, we’d have preferred to have seen a sideloading tray for the Micro-SIM and microSD card, and a fixed rear.
The button placement is bizarre. Unusually, EE Harrier is far more comfortable to use in the left hand than it is in the right. Held in your left hand, the thumb falls naturally over the power button and fingers over the volume rocker; held in the right hand, the distance between the two is simply too great, and all the steps EE has taken to make the phone comfortable to use in one hand quickly become forgotten as you struggle to adopt the awkward hand contortions necessary to operate the Harrier. Sadly, for EE, this reviewer is right-handed, but lefties will love it.
Hardware and performance
On the inside, the Harrier is equipped with a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage, which can be expanded via a microSD slot – and you’ll want to do so. Having installed our benchmarks less than half the capacity was available (and they really aren’t that big). A 2500mAh non-removable battery keeps it all going.
That sounds like a reasonable specification for a mid-range phone, but during testing we found that the Harrier would take a second or two to think before doing whatever you had asked of it, whether that was launching an app or opening the Settings menu. Remember, though, that this is a £200 phone. We’re used to reviewing super-fast handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, which cost three times the price, and what seems like an interminable wait to us an average user wouldn’t batter an eyelid at. For that reason, we also measure performance using several benchmarks.
In our benchmarking of the Harrier, we found performance similar to that of Chinese phones such as the ZTE Blade S6 and S6 Plus, Doogee F1 Turbo Mini and Bluboo X6. Some of these devices are significantly cheaper than the Harrier, but while you might save money buying phones from China (the EE Harrier is also made in China, but sold in the UK through EE), you could also get hit with additional customs charges, and if you need to return a faulty device you could have trouble. By buying direct from EE, you should be able to get any problems sorted relatively quickly and easily.
In Geekbench 3, which measures processor performance, the EE Harrier recorded 640 points in the single-core test, and 2042 in the multi-core one. That makes it a little slower than the ZTE Blade S6 (2420) and S6 Plus (2095), but faster than the Doogee F1 Turbo Mini (1947) and Bluboo X6 (1940). Comparing it to some other phones with which you may be more familiar, it’s slower than an LG G2 (2271), but faster than the HTC Desire 816 (1503) and new Moto E 4G (1463). Importantly, it’s much faster than EE’s previous own-brand 4G phone, the Kestrel, which recorded 1152 points (at half the price, mind).