- Low price
- Smart glass-backed design
- Mild performance blips
- Low-resolution screen
- Locked to EE
- Ultra-slow camera HDR
*** Note : £1 = $1.4 (correct at time of post)
- Review Price: £149
- 5-inch 720p LCD screen
- Octa-core MediaTek MT6750 CPU
- 16GB storage
- 2GB RAM
- 13-megapixel rear camera
- 8-megapixel front camera
What is the EE Hawk?
The EE Hawk is a phone you might buy as part of a Pay As You Go deal, or with a cheap contract.
It costs £149 (£119 on promo) with no obligation beyond a £10 initial top-up. Or you can get it for free on a 24-month contract, with prices starting at £14.99.
These deals will likely change a little through the EE Hawk’s life, but the cheapest come with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 300MB data a month. This will be sufficient for light users, but not those who stream any music or video.
The EE Hawk can’t quite better rival Moto G5 overall, with a lower-quality screen and slower camera. However, it’s a solid budget option if you want a phone that looks much more expensive than it is.
The EE Hawk’s design is its biggest draw. It has a glass, rather than plastic, rear; and it’s Gorilla Glass too, which is a toughened glass designed to avoid scratches and shattering. This is impressive for a unit costing below £150 – and unusual.
The EE Hawk’s sides are plastic rather than the aluminium seen in devices such as the iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S8. But the look and feel are impressive regardless.
This is one of the best-looking phones you’ll find at the price. It’s 7.9mm thick, weighs just 134g and there are no obvious “tells” of the low price when it comes to its finishing touches.
The EE Hawk’s camera lens ring is bevelled aluminium, and the fingerprint scanner on the rear of the device looks just like that of a £500-plus phone. The glass panels are slightly curved at the last millimetre or so.
The EE Hawk sports a plain but polished look. A dark blue glint appears only when light hits the device at the right angle, but it doesn’t look out of place next to a much more expensive handset.
Digging deep for criticism, the glass on the back does pick up smudges easily, and the volume/power buttons are plastic rather than metal. However, these are minor complaints considering the price.
Moving from style to design features, the EE Hawk has a USB-C charge plug, a standard headphone jack and 16GB of storage. You’ll likely fill this up after a while, but a microSD in the SIM card tray allows for added capacity.
The circular fingerprint scanner on the rear is significantly slower than top-end phones. However, it still reliably gets you from standby to your homescreen in about a second. It’s a good intro to the tech, particularly if it’s your first finger-scanning phone.
The EE Hawk has a 5-inch LCD screen. Its main sacrifice is resolution; its 720p resolution makes pixellation apparent if you’re looking at the panel close-up. But from the sort of distance you’ll actually use the phone, it isn’t too glaring.
This display looks a little washed-out, however; more so than the comparable, sharper, Moto G5.
Looking at this analytically, side-by-side with a top-end phone, it isn’t really down to undersaturation. It’s a contrast issue. Deep reds, greens and blues look potent, but the overall image isn’t as rich as that seen on the very best budget devices.
A slightly flaky adaptive brightness mode doesn’t help matters, either. The EE Hawk will often appear a bit too bright indoors with standard settings, and the screen has a slightly cold/blue skew.
There’s some customisation on offer. A MiraVision option in Settings lets you use Dynamic Contrast and fiddle with the colour temperature, image contrast and colour saturation. Playing around with this for a few minutes, I was able to make the EE Hawk look significantly better.
This isn’t a class-leading display, by any means. But it can look decent after a few tweaks.
The EE Hawk currently runs Android 7.0, and has a light custom interface that could easily be mistaken for stock Android.
There’s access to the Google Assistant by long-pressing the Home button, and the apps menu is organised alphabetically. Like stock Android, you can’t make folders in the apps menu – this is left for the homescreen – but keeping the interface simple seems a good plan in an entry-level phone such as this.
There are very limited “bonus” apps too, which makes no sense since the Hawk is quite obviously weighed down by them.
EE preinstalls the Lookout security suite, and the EE app lets you check your data and call allowances. It’s what a network-branded phone should look like.
The main issue is Android 7.0 is now quite old, and misses out on a few neat features of the latest version. There are no icon dots that let you know when an app has pending notifications, and there are no icon shortcuts either.
The EE Hawk isn’t lightning-fast in use. Flicking about the interface day-to-day you’ll experience occasional stutter and judder when scrolling the apps menu.
In addition, apps can take a little longer to load than the best budget phones. The Moto G5 provides a slightly smoother take on Android.
However, the EE Hawk isn’t annoyingly slow. Plus, its specs are perfectly good for the money, as long as you don’t mind a MediaTek CPU.
MediaTek is something of a CPU underdog, since most of the big brands prefer Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets. The EE Hawk has a MediaTek 6750 CPU offering eight Cortex-A53 cores and a dual-core Mali-T860 graphics processor.
The GPU isn’t as good as the Adreno 505 seen in the Moto G5, but it’s powerful enough for the EE Hawk’s 720p screen. High-end games sucha s Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger 2 run well.
In Geekbench 4, the EE Hawk scores 2545 points, which is again comparable with other entry-level octa-core phones.
4G network speed is one performance claim EE makes of the Hawk. Thanks to a CAT6 modem, the phone is capable of speeds up to 300Mbps. The X6 LTE modem used in the Moto G5’s max theoretical download speed is 150Mbps.
However, to get close to this sort of speed you’ll have to sign up for one of EE’s more expensive Max contracts (starting at £27.99 a month for 3GB data) and live in specific parts of the UK. Cardiff and around Wembley stadium are where EE has introduced ultra-fast 4G zones.
High-speed 4G is neat, but restricted data allowances and limited speeds out in the real world don’t make the tech desperately useful in the UK yet. Especially for a budget phone.
The EE Hawk has a 13-megapixel camera on the back and an 8-megapixel one on the front. These are Samsung sensors – which, at the low-end, tend to take slightly worse photos than their Sony IMX counterparts.
Some of this is down to the phone’ software, of course.
The EE Hawk can take striking and detailed photos if you shoot in bright light, without a huge degree of light variance in the scene. Images tend to look fuzzier in the corners, but not to the extent that you’ll be put off from posting them on Facebook or Instagram.
Colours look reasonably natural in these conditions and the Hawk doesn’t have any major issues of under or overexposing shots.
However, like most budget phones, it isn’t hard to find the limits of the hardware. Limited dynamic range leaves details in the shadows looking noisy and indistinct, and high-contrast objects are sometimes ringed with purple, a form of colour distortion.
You wouldn’t expect amazing night photos from a phone at this price and, sure enough, you don’t get them. Images tend to look both noisy and soft/smudged, typical of an entry-level sensor in a non-stabilised camera.
The stinger is that indoor photo quality isn’t great, either. The EE Hawk’s colour saturation takes a dive, and images start to look grainy and soft, with only a moderate decrease in the available light.
When I took the EE Hawk out in London for a demo shoot, HDR speed was the biggest issue I faced. This can, in theory, be used to mitigate the so-so dynamic range of the sensor. But since it takes over two seconds just to shoot an HDR image, it’s borderline unusable unless you’re shooting static objects.
HDR can make some scenes look washed-out too, but it’s effective and can significantly increase detail too.
Here are some sample shots:
Selfies from the 8-megapixel front camera often look anaemic. However, there’s a fair level of fine detail, bringing out facial hairs better than some cheap phones.
The EE Hawk has a 2500mAh battery, which sounds quite small when a lot of high-end Androids have over 3000mAh. However, thanks to the Hawk’s smaller, lower-resolution screen, its real-world performance is fine.
It lasts a full day with moderate use – although, predictably, this isn’t a phone I could rely on to last even close to two days. It’s your standard every-day charger.
EE’s own claim for the Hawk is that it will last 10 hours, which sounds terrible without context. However, it most likely refers to video playback, curiously left out of most EE references. Who wants a phone that’s dead before you even get home from work?
Playing Real Racing 3 for an hour takes 25% off the battery level. Like day-to-day longevity, this isn’t amazing but neither is it a disaster.
For gaming and YouTube-watching, the single speaker on the bottom will to the job in a pinch. However, it is quite thin-sounding, and becomes a little brash at max volume. A headphone jack is included, though; it can be found on the top edge.
Why buy the EE Hawk?
The EE Hawk is a solid choice if you’re after a budget phone and are happy to sign up with EE. Right now, on contract, only the LG K10 is as cheap. However, it’s made of plastic and features even more dated software.
Looking more widely in the context of budget phones, the EE Hawk is one of the slickest-looking models around. Offering a Gorilla Glass rear at this price is super-impressive.
Dig deeper, though, and it struggles against its obvious rival the Moto G5. The Moto has a better screen, smoother general performance and a more usable HDR camera mode.
The EE Hawk is a solid budget phone that looks more expensive than its price, although inside it isn’t quite best-in-class.