EE Hawk review

Mobile operator branded phones are a curious thing. They often come and go every year, particularly from Vodafone, without much fanfare.

Often too these handsets are unattractive to consumers as they are filled with branded bloatware. Luckily, the EE Hawk is a refreshingly different take.

It’s a budget choice that is more capable than it first appears, and is a sensible choice if you don’t mind being on EE. Its simple design and clean version of Android are refreshing on a phone that you might assume is too cheap to be any good.

Price and availability

You can buy the EE Hawk for £149.99 direct from EE with a minimum top up of £10. 

This only gets you 10MB of data but other plans are available, and if you want a smartphone for using WhatsApp and occasionally checking email, then it is much better value than shelling out for an expensive iPhone on a 24-month contract.

You can also get the Hawk on contract though, for as little as £12.99 per month and no upfront cost

Design and build

For a £150 smartphone, the Hawk is well built. But its smooth unibody design is though one of the biggest smeary fingerprint magnets we have ever seen on a phone, but if you can get around that then the subtly deep blue and black of the rear is attractive. Also on the back is a camera and flash, fingerprint sensor and EE logo.

It is smartphone design 101 from hereon in, with a compact design not dissimilar to a black iPhone from the front. Aside from the usual buttons and a headphone jack, this is a pleasingly plain phone, which is what you’d expect for the price.

It’s also great to see a USB-C port rather than the nearly-dead microUSB, and the free JBL in-ear headphones in the box sweeten the deal. They are quite plasticky but have a flat and therefore supposedly tangle-free cord. For in-box headphones, they have decent response even if they are a tad too trebly.

For the same money as the Hawk, you can get a Moto G5 that we think looks and feels better built than the Hawk, but at this price we’re nitpicking.

It’s what the Hawk can do, rather than what it looks like, which is more impressive.

Features and specifications

If you're going to buy the EE Hawk, you have to accept it has low specifications. But actually, performance is completely acceptable for basic use.

Processor, storage and RAM

When the Hawk landed on our desk with a weak 1.50GHz MediaTek MT6750 processor and 2GB RAM, we didn’t think its performance would overly impress. But with extensive use, EE has definitely got the balance right.

The Hawk is a relatively light phone at 134g with 16GB storage. This isn’t a lot, but if you want to go media heavy, there’s a microSD slot up to 128GB.

It copes well with all the simple smartphone tasks we put it through. All social media, messaging and video apps worked with admittedly an occasional stutter, but perfectly serviceable given the price.

Display

BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube work well and look good on the 5in display. Bear in mind the low resolution of 1280 x 720 with 294ppi. Colours across the whole phone are also quite washed out, with not much vibrancy.

But if you’re considering the Hawk, chances are you won’t be indulging in mega streaming binges and want a 4G capable smartphone for simpler tasks – ones that you won’t need to stare at the screen for hours for.

For comparison, the Moto G5 has a 1920 x 1080p display that handles most content visually better.

Benchmarks

Comparing the Hawk to the Moto G5 and similarly specced Nokia 5 in these benchmarks shows that the Hawk edges the G5 and is a tad behind the Nokia 5, but the differences are negligible, and you won’t see any real world difference.

And there’s also an FM Radio built in – a useful feature that is quite hard to find on a smartphone these days.

Cameras

The 13Mp rear camera on the Hawk is fine, but you will have to accept it isn’t up to much. For quick snaps of landscapes, family and friends then it’s fine, but it only barely acceptable for social media posting and you will certainly not want to use it as your main camera on a holiday, for example.

Let’s just say you shouldn’t buy the Hawk for its camera – though we know that isn’t what EE was focussing on with it.

Software

The EE Hawk runs Android 7.0 Nougat. There’s no promise from EE of 8.0 Oreo, but yet again for the price, this is an excellently untouched version of Android. It is very close to Google’s stock version, and means that the Hawk runs as smoothly as its limited hardware allows.

There is very little bloatware pre-installed; only My EE (an app to view your price plan that you’ll use anyway) and Lookout, an EE branded security app that scans all apps you download to ensure they’re safe to use.

Other than that, you get a clean Android experience, with Google Assistant and OK Google support and everything else you’d get on a phone that costs over five times the price. There aren’t many customization options, such as being able to change theme, but it’s an acceptable omission for the price.

There’s an inbuilt Gallery app, but otherwise the Hawk prompts you to use Google’s apps for contacts, calendar and more – great, as you don’t get duplicate apps built in if you are using Google services (and we recommend that you do).

SHOULD I BUY EE HAWK?

The EE Hawk is a little gem at the start of 2018. The build is above average for the asking price, and it is a solid handset to go for if you simply need to use 4G data on a smartphone but don’t want to spend half your paycheck to do it.

It is not a phone to game on due to the low powered internals, but it copes with video fine. The display is quite washed out, but the clean Android software makes up for this. You won’t want to post many pictures from the not-great camera on Instagram, but if you want a decent snapper, you’ll look at phones that cost more. 

The EE Hawk is up there with the Moto G5 as one of the best budget smartphones in the UK.

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