The EE Rook is an entry-level smartphone from the UK’s biggest network provider, and the cheapest 4G handset we’ve ever seen.
EE is hoping to cash in on the 44% of UK pay-as-you-go customers that it claims spend less than £50 on a smartphone.
Fortunately, a budget phone doesn’t need to skimp on specs. Respectable features include 4G connectivity, Google’s Android 5.1 OS, a 5-megapixel camera and a 64-bit quad-core processor.
Also note that this phone is built by ZTE, a seasoned Chinese smartphone manufacturer.
Existing EE customers can purchase the Rook for £39, with a £10 top-up. It’s available to new customers for £49.
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The EE Rook might look like a minimalist throwback to smartphones circa 2008, but it’s well designed, robust, and easy to use – and that’s what counts.
It’s lightweight at 130g, although this is still heavier than the 125g Alcatel OneTouch Pixi 3 4.5. It’s by no means cumbersome though, and is only 1g up on Apple’s iPhone 6.
It’s built in classic candy-bar style, and doesn’t take up too much room with its diminutive 4in screen. It has a depth of 10.3mm, which is thicker than most high-end devices, but will slip into a pocket with ease.
There’s nothing particularly standout about the Rook’s design. It’s matte black on the back, glossy on the front, and the only bit of colour isin the form of a yellow ring that encircles the rear camera.
Everything else is fairly standard – you’re looking at a volume rocker, power key, a notification light, a micro-USB port and a 3.5mm audio jack for your headphones.
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Not surprisingly, the EE Rook’s screen is very low quality.
For starters, at 4in it’s about as small as you can get away with these days. You might remember such screens from the days of 2013, with the iPhone 5s.
Moreover, the quality of the display is below-par. Viewing angles are far and above the biggest failing of the EE Rook.
Tilt the Rook upwards or downwards and the screen is either blacked out or bleached out. The only usable perspective is when viewing it straight on, which isn’t always practical – showing photographs to friends, for instance.
The maximum display brightness isn’t great either; the handset is effectively useless under direct sunlight. But it works fine indoors and on grey days.
That said, colour reproduction is good and the 480 x 800 pixel resolution is reasonable for this size of screen.