Huawei Kestel – Connectivity
One of the main attractions of the Huawei Kestrel is something we tend to gloss over in top-end phones these days – 4G. It’s a standard feature in expensive phones, but we’ve never reviewed a sub-£100 one with it.
This is a CAT4 phone, meaning it’s capable of speeds of up to 150Mbps – that’s up to 18.75MB downloaded a second. Unless you live in South Korea, that’s probably much, much faster than your home broadband connection.
You won’t get these sorts of speed from current 4G plans in the UK, but when/if our infrastructure gets good enough (it won’t), the EE Kestrel has the bandwidth to cope. Using an EE SIM in the UK, we got speeds of around 25mbps download and 35mbps upload. It’s not 150mbps, but is still super-fast.
Not all 4G phones get CAT4 LTE, either. Some only have CAT3, which caps at 100mbps.
A speed test using the Kestrel and a 4G EE SIM (location: London)
Speed is seen as the main benefit of 4G, but for some of you it will also improve your mobile internet coverage. This is thoroughly dependent on where you live, but I can provide a specific example.
There are mobile internet blackspots in my daily wok commute. For half the train ride I’m left without a connection (on O2), but with the EE Kestrel coverage is much more even and reliable. Naturally, this is partly down to network, not just connection type. Still, thumbs up.
When making old-fashioned calls with the Kestrel, the phone puts in a predictably unremarkable performance. It has a secondary mic for active noise cancellation, but the earpiece speaker is a little weak-sounding compared with phones that put a bit more effort into improving call quality.
However, we didn’t experience any odd signal drop-outs.
EE Kestel – Battery Life
The EE Kestrel gets a lot of things right. But its slim body did have us seriously worried about its battery. Was stamina being traded away for a slim profile?
Our fears were largely unwarranted. Despite being thin, the EE Kestrel fits in a 2,000mAh battery, a respectable capacity for this size of phone.
With light-to-moderate use we were able to squeeze around two days’ use out of the phone, which is roughly on-par with the Moto G. Stamina will be helped by the use of 4G, which is less power-hungry than 3G. The Kestrel also performed extremely well in our video playback test.
It lasts for around 14 hours when playing back a 720p MP4 video file at medium brightness. That’s a remarkable performance, and one that gives us a bit more confidence about the efficiency of Huawei’s take on Android in its current form.
Give the Kestrel more to deal with than light tasks, though, and your chances of two-day battery stamina will go out the window. Its Cortex-A7-based CPU excels at offering good battery efficiency with low-level tasks, but under the strain of, for example, 3D gaming you’ll soon see your battery plummet.
And, despite having a removable back cover, you cannot remove or replace the EE Kestrel’s battery manually. You cannot arm yourself with a spare battery – although an external battery will do the trick.
Should I buy the EE Kestrel?
As well as offering a lot for not much money, one key aspect the EE Kestrel has aced is its timing. It’s among the first super-low-cost 4G phones. And that means there will be more before too long.
However, at present it seems that most will cost a bit more than the Kestrel. The 4G Moto G is set to cost £149, the Sony Xperia M2 around £200 and the HTC Desire 610 potentially a little more still.
Are these phones better than the Kestrel? Yes, probably. Are they 100 per cent better? Absolutely not.
The EE Kestrel is here for people on a tight budget who want to experience 4G, and for that purpose it’s a corker. It is a slight shame, though, that the phone’s software needs a little more tweaking than most rivals to get the most out of. We imagine that many Kestrel buyers may not have the tech knowledge or the inclination to put this groundwork in.
It lacks a few finishing touches of phones twice the price but the EE Kestrel is an accomplished 4G phone that offers superb value for money without too many compromises.
Score in detail
Battery Life 9
Calls & Sound 7
Screen Quality 8