EE Harrier Mini
At £99, the Harrier Mini offers a cheap entry point for a phone capable of fast 4G data download speeds. It’s identical in design to its bigger brother, the Harrier (see page 32), but with smaller dimensions and a more modest spec.
Both are plastic phones, although the manufacturer (BenQ) has attempted to add a touch of flair with a brushed-metal-effect rear cover. There’s also a gold camera surround, shiny silver EE logo and a silver speaker grille at the rear. It pulls off the look much better than its bigger brother, and on looks alone you wouldn’t easily guess that this was a £99 phone.
The screen bezels are similarly slim, but as with the Harrier there is a rather large vacant area below the screen. Rather than using this to house the three Android-standard Home, Back and Options buttons, these occupy the bottom row on the screen itself. Even so, with smaller overall dimensions the Harrier Mini is far easier to operate in a single hand, and even the slightly odd button placement that felt awkward on the Harrier feels natural here.
In the hand, the Harrier Mini feels good. The slightly curved rear is a good fit for the palm, and it doesn’t creak under pressure. You can prise off this panel to reveal microSD and SIM slots, but it’s a shame the battery isn’t also removable.
Given that the Harrier Mini costs half the price of the Harrier, some cost-cutting has been necessary. Whereas the Harrier is fitted with a 5.2in full-HD panel, the Harrier Mini has a 4.7in HD variant. Both are IPS panels with good viewing angles and generally realistic colours, but while the Harrier Mini’s screen is very sharp for a budget phone you will notice the difference between it and the Harrier. We also found it a little dull without turning up the brightness, but doing so had the negative effect of making colours seem a little washed out.
Don’t expect to be blown away by this phone’s performance, with a lowly 1.2GHz processor and just 1GB of RAM. Oddly, the Harrier Mini felt faster than the Harrier in real-world use, with no lag when switching between home screens and scrolling through menus, although there is still the same interminable wait when launching the camera or other apps, or even just waking the screen.
We ran the Harrier Mini through our usual benchmarks, starting with Geekbench 3, which measures processor performance. In the multi-core component it recorded 1549 points, making it faster than its predecessor, the EE Kestrel (1152), but slower than the Harrier, which recorded 2042 points.
Geekbench 3 also includes a battery life test, which we have recently begun using for the phones that pass through our lab. We were interested to find that the Harrier Mini performed better in this test than did the Harrier, despite its smaller-capacity battery (2000mAh vs 2500mAh). This is more than likely due to the less demanding hardware. We recorded 2163 points for the Harrier Mini, and just 1424 for the Harrier. Don’t expect to get more than a day’s usage from that battery before needing a top-up.
You get the same powermanagement options as with the Harrier, which means you can turn off Wi-Fi and mobile data when the screen is off, or schedule this to occur only during a set period, such as overnight. If you want people to be able to get hold of you then it’s perhaps not the best solution to prolonging battery life, however.
Another test we run is GFXBench, within which we use the T-Rex and Manhattan benchmarks to gauge graphics performance. The Harrier Mini recorded 10- and 4fps respectively, which is by no means great, but the phone will be capable of casual gaming.
With the exception of NFC, the Harrier Mini has the same connectivity options as the Harrier. That means you get 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, plus the promise of Wi-Fi Calling – it’s only a shame it wasn’t available to the Harrier and Harrier Mini at launch.
Photography is another area in which the Harrier Mini sees cutbacks, although its 8Mp rear- and 2Mp front camera setup with LED flash is very good at this price.
HDR is not on by default, although in our experience you will want to switch it on. Our first shot, taken without HDR, was very dark and underexposed on what was a relatively sunny day for the UK. Although the results were much better with HDR, it’s clear a lot of detail is still missing.
The Harrier Mini can also shoot full-HD (1080p) video from its rear camera, although we found it jerky and struggling to focus, with the same exposure issues as still shots.
The camera app itself is basic, matching that found on the EE Harrier. Very few camera controls are available, but you do get smile-, voice- and touch-activated capture, plus a countdown timer. You can select Auto, Night or Panorama modes, but no realtime filters are available.
The software setup is identical to that of the Harrier. You get a very plain implementation of Android Lollipop, complete with the Nexus launcher. However, there is a lot of bloatware slapped on top, and none of it can be uninstalled. Additional extras include Lookout, My EE, Amazon Kindle, Local, Music and Appstore, Deezer and Games & Apps. By the time we had installed our benchmarks, only 3.69GB of the Mini’s 8GB of storage was available.
We’re much keener on the Harrier Mini than we are its bigger brother. Performance is slower and the screen isn’t as good, but it’s still a great deal.