EE Rook

Tech Advisor - - REVIEWS - Chris Martin

If you’re look­ing for the cheap­est 4G phone on the mar­ket, then you’ve come to the right place. The Rook is avail­able for the pal­try sum of £39 for EE cus­tomers. Oth­er­wise you’ll have to pay £49, plus another £10 to top up the phone, though since this is credit you can use to make calls it’s hardly a catch.

Even at the higher price, it’s still a very cheap de­vice, with most bud­get phones with 4G LTE sup­port cost­ing £80 to £100. Even EE’s own Har­rier Mini is £99, so the clos­est ri­val on price is the im­pres­sive Voda­fone Smart Prime 6 at £79.

As with most bud­get phones, there’s lit­tle to say about the EE Rook in terms of looks and build. The de­vice is small, too, so fits in the hand much eas­ier than most mod­ern phones. The 130g weight helps the Rook to feel solid, and like its big­ger broth­ers there’s a yel­low ring around the cam­era.

The rear cover is re­mov­able, giv­ing ac­cess to the card slots and bat­tery. Our main gripe is that the rear cover at­tracts fin­ger­prints and grease, so it con­stantly looks grubby. Plus, the re­cessed ear piece will be a mag­net for dust and dirt.

At 4in, the dis­play is tiny com­pared to al­most ev­ery other smart­phone on the mar­ket at the mo­ment. Any­thing un­der 5in can ar­guably be de­scribed as small, so go­ing back to the same size as the iPhone 4s is strange if you’ve got used to to­day’s av­er­age.

Un­sur­pris­ngly, the res­o­lu­tion is just 480x800, so im­ages are far from crisp. There is, how­ever, a big­ger prob­lem – poor view­ing an­gles mean you need to look at the Rook straight on to see what you’re do­ing. Move the de­vice, or your head, even a small amount and im­age qual­ity di­min­ishes se­verely. From the bot­tom of the phone, it’s al­most com­pletely white, while the op­po­site is true when look­ing from the top.

The Rook is pow­ered by a Me­di­aTek MT6735M 1GHz pro­ces­sor, which is quad-core and 64-bit, with a built-in 4G mo­dem. There’s also 1GB of RAM, and apart from the ini­tial setup of the phone, we found per­for­mance to be un­ex­pect­edly smooth. Don’t try and play any graph­i­cally ad­vanced games, but ti­tles such as Tem­ple Run 2 will be okay.

It’s far from flaw­less and the Rook does lag when you push it, but on the whole it can keep up with most reg­u­lar tasks. We were also im­pressed with the bench­mark re­sults, which you can see in the ta­ble be­low. Note that it out­paced the Smart Prime 6 and EE Har­rier Mini in graph­ics tests.

Of the 8GB of stor­age just 2.5GB is avail­able out of the box, how­ever, a mi­croSD card slot al­le­vi­ates this prob­lem and can ac­cept up to 32GB mem­ory cards.

Don’t ex­pect much in the way of other specs, though. It has ba­sic Wi-Fi, GPS and Blue­tooth 4.0, but no fancy fea­tures such as NFC for use with EE’s Cash on Tap.

As men­tioned ear­lier, the bat­tery is re­mov­able and isn’t par­tic­u­larly large in ca­pac­ity at 1500mAh. How­ever, the Rook faired pretty well in our bench­mark test last­ing five hours, 22 min­utes. That’s bet­ter than the mid-range Sony Xpe­ria M4 Aqua, which man­aged four hours, 49 min­utes.

We wouldn’t have been too shocked to find one or even no cam­eras on the EE Rook in or­der to achieve the price, but it has both front and rear shoot­ers. The back of­fer­ing is 5Mp, while the front is a very ba­sic VGA res­o­lu­tion cam­era. Although there are fea­tures such as HDR and panorama avail­able, the re­sults won’t be any­thing spe­cial.

It’s im­pres­sive to find the EE Rook pre­loaded with the latest ver­sion of Google’s An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem, 5.1 Lol­lipop. Like the EE Har­rier and Har­rier Mini, the ex­pe­ri­ence is largely stock An­droid, or ‘vanilla’, so the firm has left the OS alone on the whole.

The Rook comes with a num­ber of pre­in­stalled apps, in­clud­ing Look­out, Deezer, Games and Apps, plus var­i­ous apps from Ama­zon. While wid­gets can be re­moved from the home­screen pan­els, the apps them­selves can only be dis­abled, not unin­stalled com­pletely.

Nav­i­ga­tion but­tons sit be­low the screen, which in this case is pretty handy as the 4in dis­play is small enough with­out hav­ing to host a nav bar. It’s good to see that one of the but­tons is for re­cent apps and not the out-of-date menu op­tion, which we’ve seen on other phones.


If you don’t mind the ba­sic de­sign, the EE Rook is a good lit­tle phone. We can’t ar­gue with the price of £39 for ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and the per­for­mance is bet­ter than we ex­pect for a sub-£50 phone. It’s mainly the mis­er­able view­ing an­gles of the screen that put us off, so you are bet­ter off spend­ing a lit­tle more if you can af­ford it.

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