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EE Hawk Review: 4G hero at a budget price

EE Hawk phone review

If you’re looking to enjoy EE’s nippy 4G network on a rather tight budget, its own-brand Hawk handset is well worth considering. This great value mobile can be grabbed from just £13 per month right now and here’s our full EE Hawk review to explain how it stacks up to rival devices.

EE is certainly a solid choice of network for anyone who demands strong connectivity, especially for streaming media on the move. However, it’s also one of the more premium offerings right now. In other words, joining up sure isn’t cheap.

However, EE itself has come up with a solution of sorts, in its latest branded handset. The EE Hawk can be grabbed for £150 if you go SIM only, or from £13 per month on a 24 month contract. That makes it one of the most affordable devices for getting online with this super-fast network.

So, is the EE Hawk worth considering? We’ve been testing this budget blower for our in-depth review; and for more affordable devices, check out our guide to the best value smartphones right now.

EE Hawk review: Design

While the Hawk isn’t quite as striking to the eye as the bird of prey it’s named after, this is certainly a decent looking affordable phone.

The front panel is as stripped down and simple as they come. That display is surrounded by some fairly bezels, which add quite a bit of girth to the Hawk. Like the Moto G5 before it, this handset certainly feels bigger than its 5-inch status, so one-handed use can be tricky.

All the same, that lightweight 134g chassis won’t weigh you down. And when you flip the Hawk over, you’ll discover a shiny glass rear panel that adds a premium, attractive element to the smartphone’s design. That glossy surfacing is constructed from Gorilla Glass too, so it’s rugged enough to resist scratches and cracks under duress.

Of course, as with most glass handsets, the back end will be covered in prints and muck as soon as you start to handle it. Thankfully the black finish does a decent job of hiding the worst of this grime, and it’s nothing a quick bit of spit and polish won’t sort out.

The rear camera lens only pokes ever so slightly from the surface, which was pleasing to see. Just beneath you get a rounded fingerprint sensor, which is comfortable to use and also perfectly responsive. Just tap your digit to the surface and the Hawk unlocks in a second or so.

Check out our full unboxing of the EE Hawk in the below video, for a hands-on view of the phone.

EE Hawk review: Screen and media

A 5-inch TFT screen with 1280×720 pixel resolution is on board, and while it’s far from a perfect way to enjoy some Netflix on the move, it’s not bad for the asking price. Like other TFT panels, the Hawk’s display doesn’t exactly produce punchy colours; visuals are quite muted, which is particularly noticeable when viewing photos of vibrant landscapes or watching anime, for instance. There’s no kind of evening mode either, for more comfortable viewing when lights are low.

That 720p resolution means quite crisp picture quality. However, the Moto G5 has this phone beat for detail levels with its Full HD display, while also producing more attractive colours. If you’re serious about watching video on the go, we’d recommend Motorola’s device instead.

You get dual speakers for your media, both mounted on the bottom edge of the handset. That unfortunately means that they’re easily smothered by accident, although they at least put out quite a powerful slice of audio.

It’s also worth noting that you get a decent pair of JBL headphones bundled in the EE Hawk’s box. With their non-tangle cable and punchy sound, they’re at the very least a respectable backup pair. Not bad at all considering the phone’s affordable asking price.

EE Hawk review: Features and OS

While the Hawk doesn’t serve up the latest Oreo version of Android, you do at least get a clean, vanilla version of Google’s Android Nougat 7.0 OS. This comes with all of Google’s standard apps pre-installed, as well as a couple of bonus apps from EE.

The Lookout antivirus software is one such addition. This scans any apps you download and checks for viruses and other malware, to keep you secure. You also get the handy My EE app, which can be used to check your monthly allowances, top up when needed and even upgrade your current package.

You can of course download a massive selection of new apps from the Google Play store, although the tiny amount of internal storage means you’ll have to pick and choose. Just 9.5GB of the Hawk’s storage is accessible for your apps and media. Thankfully this can at least be boosted up to a further 128GB via a microSD memory card.

EE Hawk review: Performance and battery life

The Hawk packs a pretty basic Mediatek MT6750 chipset, backed by 2GB of memory. This is perfectly fine for everyday use, although you’ll see a few stutters here and there as you load up apps and zip around Android. Nothing serious, just the phone trying to keep up.

Thankfully there’s no such lethargy when you’re browsing the web or streaming some music or movies. As you’d expect from EE, the Hawk supports Cat 6 connectivity, so can jump on the network’s 4G+ service. This allows maximum download speeds of 300Mbps. We found that video streamed without pause or stammer wherever we roamed, while apps downloaded in a heartbeat.

WiFi calling is also supported, in case you’re running low on minutes.

As for battery life, the phone’s 2500mAh battery can last you roughly a full day with regular use. You do get a standard battery saver mode to minimise drain when necessary, to help out in times of need.

EE Hawk review: Cameras

Hawks are known for their excellent sight, and while the EE Hawk’s 13-megapixel rear camera isn’t quite as strong as the Moto G5’s excellent snapper, it’s still a solid way to capture your memories without breaking the bank.

Shoot a photo in decent lighting conditions and the results are usually good. Detail levels are somewhat lacking, yet colours are quite accurately reproduced. Our test snaps looked fine when blown up onto a big screen TV.

You have an HDR mode for tricky contrast situations, which requires a steady hand to avoid blurring. In low light we found that our shots were quite grainy however, while colour quality also took a sharp dip.

Home movies can be captured by switching to video mode, although you’ll want to keep as still as possible when recording. There’s no kind of image stabilisation, so every step or swift motion results in quite jarring, shaky footage.

Swap to the front-facing camera and you can shoot some selfies, with a wide-angle view to fit in quite a few heads. Again, you’ll get decent results in daylight, with more grainy photos when you’re shooting inside dim interiors.

EE Hawk review: Verdict

If you want to jump on EE’s super-fast network but can’t afford one of the more premium handsets, the Hawk is a perfectly respectable budget solution. We’d have preferred a Full HD IPS screen to really make the most of our video streaming sessions, which is half the point of being with EE. Yet while the Moto G5 offers superior specs for around the same price, we’d be happy enough rocking the Hawk for everyday use.