|Style & Handling|
|4G equipped||Older Android version|
Verdict:The EE Kestrel is a surprisingly good all-round handset which sacrifices very little in the name of affordability and even manages to pack in 4G. It's design and build quality are somewhat underwhelming but that’s a small price to pay considering how much it does right.
The entry level Android market is getting increasingly crowded with a number of phones now offering a smartphone experience for under £100. The EE Kestrel just squeezes into that space with its price tag of £99, but it’s got a trick up its sleeve as it’s the cheapest 4G enabled smartphone available.
That’s a good start, but does it do enough else right to be worth £99 of your hard earned money? Read on to find out.
From a design perspective the EE Kestrel does little to stand out. Like so many other phones it’s essentially a non-descript rectangle, though it does have a minor design flourish in the form of a curved bottom edge, but even that is borrowed from the Huawei Ascend G6.
We can’t be too hard on it for the bland design as it’s hard to make a phone stand out, especially when it’s made of plastic as the Kestrel understandably is given its price tag. The real problem though is that it feels flimsy and poorly built. We’re not convinced it would survive a fall, but at 7.85mm it is at least attractively slim.
The EE Kestrel has a 4.5 inch 540 x 960 LCD display. It’s not even slightly HD then but it’s fairly large and has a pixel density of 245 pixels per inch, which while less than half what the LG G3 is packing is still good enough for reasonably crisp visuals. It’s also a step up from the 480 x 800 displays that are often found on budget handsets.
It’s also quite bright and has good viewing angles, so whether inside or outside, browsing the web or watching a video the EE Kestrel’s screen is up to the job.
With a 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and 1GB of RAM the EE Kestrel is a fairly powerful handset especially when you consider how little it costs. This thing isn’t going to be topping any benchmarks but it does generally seem speedy in use and can even cope with demanding games like Dead Trigger 2.
Of course the real highlight is its 4G support. This is currently the cheapest phone you can get that will work with 4G, so couple it with a 4G contract and you’ll be able to enjoy high speed data on the move.
The EE Kestrel has a 5 megapixel main camera, which is fairly standard for low end phones and the quality is also about what you’d expect, which is to say it can take reasonable photos but nothing that’s going to stand out and its performance isn’t great in low light.
There are quite a few settings and modes to play with though, such as being able to adjust the ISO and white balance and use your voice to snap a picture. The Kestrel can also shoot video in 720p and there’s a 1 megapixel snapper on the front for selfies.
Along with the build quality the interface is the main negative point about the EE Kestrel. It’s running a slightly outdated version of Android (4.3) and it uses Huawei’s Emotion UI which has a slightly garish look and some odd functionality decisions, the main one being that there’s no app drawer, so instead every app you install will pop up on your home screen, which can make it quite messy and potentially cause the need for a lot of home screens.
With all that in mind it’s definitely not a phone that you’re going to want to show off to your friends but it is at least quite intuitive and easy to operate.
The EE Kestrel has a 2000 mAh battery, which is on the small side but in fact it stands up well. The phone can easily survive a day or more of moderate use and when it does run low there’s an ‘Endurance’ mode which you can activate that slows the CPU down and limits background data.
Memory is on the small side too as there’s only 8GB built in, but the EE Kestrel also comes with a microSD card slot with support for cards of up to 32GB so it’s not a major problem.
For connectivity options there’s the aforementioned 4G of course, as well as 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The only notable absence is NFC, but that’s rarely included in entry-level handsets.
The EE Kestrel is a surprisingly competent phone. From the screen to the processor to the camera and the battery life it does a solid job. Not exceptional, but solid, which considering it only costs £99 is quite impressive. It’s even more impressive when you consider that it supports 4G as well, enabling people to access the superfast service without splashing out on an expensive phone.
Some concessions have been made to achieve such a low price and they mainly concern the design and build, which is flimsy and feels cheap. The interface is disappointing too, all the more so because price surely wasn’t a limiting factor there, so that could certainly have been improved.
But none the less you get a whole lot of phone for not a lot of money. The cheapest alternative 4G handset that comes to mind is the Moto G with 4G and that is a little better than the Kestrel, but at around £160 it’s also a lot more expensive.
Even without 4G this would be one of the better handsets you can get for under £100, but with 4G it really is very easy to recommend.
EE Eagle SpecificationDimensions : 131 x 65.3 x 7.85mm Weight: 145 grams Screen size: 4.5” LCD (540 x 960) Screen Resolution: 540 x 960 display resolution Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 245 Processor: 1.2GHz Quad core application processor RAM: 1 GB On-board Memory: 8GB (microSD support) Camera: 5MP (rear) 1MP (front facing) Operating system: Android 4.3 Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes/ Yes Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ No Battery capacity: 2000mAh Colours: Graphite Launch Date: Out Now Price: £99