EE Har­rier Mini

Tech Advisor - - REVIEWS - Marie Brewis

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.

Ver­dict

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.

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