First its was S5.5, a flagship from Gionee which for a while had the world title of being the slimmest phone and then came Gionee S5.1 bettering the size zero slim profile albeit a bit watered down specification compared to the predecessor. This time though the world’s slimmest phone tag was quickly bettered by Oppo R5 and then later by Vivo X5 Max, still Gionee S5.1 is svelte and has the magic aura for its 5.1 mm glass and metal chassis. We were quiet impressed by the S5.5, can the S5.1 match the high standards of its predecessor, does it has the fire power apart from the good looks? Read on our review.
Gionee is quiet generous with the contents of S5.1 retail box and have a big list of extra-accessories that most Smartphone makers these days would charge for.
So, the box contents includes the mandatory charger and a microUSB cable, as well as a nice-looking in-ear headset. A SIM ejector pin is provided as well.
Additionally, you also get a microUSB to USB adapter enabling USB OTG and USB Host, and four screen protectors, yes you read it right – two pairs for the front and rear since the rear is also made of glass. Then there is a leather flip case and also a rubber back case in case you don’t want to use the flip case. The flip case comes with a strip of double-sided adhesive to latch on the device, so you may not be frequently thinking of removing the device from the flip case.
I haven not come across such a generously filled retail box of late, Gionee does have a big heart when it comes to the goodies in the bag.
Design and Build quality
Held together by a dual sheets of glass on front and rear, each covered by Gorilla Glass 3 and a metal frame holding the whole thing together, the S5.1 looks svelte and beautiful. The review device I received was a white piece with a golden metal frame binding the sides but I also had a sea blue device which we shot extensively in this review. The white and golden rim definitely looks more neat and is an attention grabber. The metal banding also puts together both the sheets of glass and has a commendable finishing job for the chassis.
The glass sheets also means inspite of the solid build quality and efforts taken to put across a beautifully done device, the device has to be held with care and a slightest of a fall has more probability to wreck your heart and the device. The glass panels can get slippery on hands.
The 4.8-inch display is marginally less than the full 5-inch of the S5.5 but it also means S5.1 is more pocketable and feels good on hands. Weighing less than 100 grams at 97.7 gm, the device is remarkably lighter on hands and when shut down, one might doubt if it has a battery or not.
The super AMOLED screen has a 720p resolution and 306pp. The AMOLED display means you have a good saturation, brightness and contrast and overall it packs a punch. The display looks slightly better than the S5.5 and also has a decent readability under sunlight.
The hardware controls, the power and volume rocker are placed on the left side of the phone, both made out of metal. On the right side there is the microSIM compartment which can be opened by a ejector pin. There is no provision for expandable storage.
On the bottom end, we find the microUSB port, a microphone and the audio jack and the top is completely bare. The rear side with its glossy glass panel hosts the 8-megapixel rear camera on the top left corner with a single LED flash decked below it. There is a secondary microphone also on the middle. On the bottom right corner of the back, there is the speaker grille and the Gionee branding in the middle.
On the front side top you find a cluster of sensors and a 5-megapixel front camera on either side of the earpiece.
For some reasons only known to them, Gionee has surprisingly stripped down slightly the muscle power of the S5.1, not to say this is a inferior phone but it does not qualify to be a flagship device unlike its predecessor at least on paper. As mentioned earlier, the camera set up was bared to 8-megapixel on the rear from the 13MP one that decked up the S5.5 and also the resolution is brought down to 720p from 1080p. Same goes to the internal firepower. The chipset remains the same with mid-range MediaTek MT6592 chipset, which elaborates into an octa-core Cortex-A7 processor at 1.7GHz, Mali-450MP4 GPU. While the S5.5 complimented the chipset with a 2GB of RAM, S5.1 contents with a 1GB of RAM. Does the 1GB RAM makes a difference in the performance? We will talk about it in the performance section a little below.
The Soft Power
Gionee S5.1 runs on Android Kitkat 4.4.2 but is overpowered with their own proprietary Amigo OS 2.0, though I cannot claim it to be my liking. The customization runs deep cosmetically and how much of it is user-friendly is a point of contention. There is no app drawer to begin with. You can have a maximum of nine homescreens and the apps you download by default takes a slot in the homescreen. You can also sort/group them into folders.
The default lockscreen has two panes with the first showing the time and date on the bottom and swiping the screen up unlocks it. Swipe the lockscreen pane to the left and it shows the second pane which has a viewfinder and four shortcuts – camera, voice recorder, torch and fake call. The viewfinder allows you to take quick snap right from there and also can go directly to the camera app from it. You can also tap the REC button for instant video recording, the Torch icon turns on/off the LED flash, while the Fake Call will initiate a fake call in 15s.
Long press on the homescreen opens the widget area and there are a handful of widgets to choose from. Amigo UI also has a theme section allowing you to change the look and feel of the UI, although there are only four themes to choose from. You can also fiddle with homescreen transition effects and wallpapers from a section called colors. Long press on the Menu button brings the App switch tasker where you can switch between or kill apps.
The notification area has two tabs – one for notifications and another for quick settings. The toggle between both the tabs can be done with a combination of single finger and double finger swipe from the homescreen. The UI also includes a set of Smart gestures including Smart dial, Smart answer, Pause alarm, Double click wake, Quick Operating which allows you to open certain apps right from lockscreen sleep mode with a couple of gestures.
Gionee has included a system manager app which is an one-stop hub for cleaning the system junk files and memory cache, power optimizer, data traffic monitor as well as app manager. I found this to be a good utility tool. Then there also a host of third party apps like Du Battery saver, DU Speed booster, NQ Mobile security, some of which doesn’t fancy me and I will be happy to uninstall.
Though the 1GB of RAM might not be exciting on paper, the performance of S5.1 is not bad either. Yes, it could have been better but it does manage to slough through. The interface experience is smooth and one you can live with. The device does handle well the apps including popular apps but the insufficient RAM does come into play at certain times digging into all the resources and producing a bit of lag when you are working on more demanding apps and multi tasking. So better to keep a tab on the running apps on background and closing them now and then when not in use. The UI does looks snappy and responsive but how it would behave on a longer run has to be seen.
As far the benchmark scores are concerned, AnTuTu test saw a score of 30999, while it was 13956 on Quadrant Standard test.Compared to its peers working on the same MT6592, it stands lower and the 1GB of RAM could be the culprit but nevertheless on real-life scenario S5.1 is good enough but not the best amongst the competition.
Gionee S5.1 camera set up includes a 8-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and a single LED flash and a 5-megapixel front shooter. The rear camera delivers a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels and capable of capturing 1080p video at 30fp.
For some reasons Gionee has a fancy for two camera apps – a standard one and Charm camera app. The charm camera app can be accessed separately or right from the standard camera app. It would have been better if both the apps were integrated. The standard camera app is not the best of the app around and offers the Auto mode, HDR and Panorama mode. The charm camera app offers Beauty Face, Live filters, Stamps and PPT (for presentations). I don’t find any reason why both these apps has to be separate. Charm app does stuffs better with beauty face and live filters for fun.
Coming to the picture quality, I was quiet impressed with the imaging capabilities of the S5.5 especially its resounding macro shots. S5.1 was a bit of a let down. The camera snaps up very quick and the exposure, contrast and colors are good but dynamic range is low. The images look good on the AMOLED display or when viewed on HD display. The HDR is just about OK. Getting up close for macro shots, I had trouble with the focus.
Do check for yourselves our camera samples. We found the S5.1 camera just about the average scale or slighty above the average in its class and most of us could live with the output, if you are not very finicky.
In good lighting conditions, the pictures really look good with good contrast and color reproduction.
A bit washed out but details are still good in moderate lighting..
Not surprisingly there is loads of nose and grains under poor lighting. Here we have the same subject with and without flash.
HDR mode does not exceptionally do well but manages to bring on the contrasts to pronounce the mood.
The Gionee Elife S5.1 features a 2,050mAh battery which is just average or tad above average in our usages. I could manage through almost a day on a single charge but the battery level does alarmingly dip when on 3G downloads. The Elife S5.1 standby endurance is pretty good.
There is no 4G but it is ok, 4G is yet to get mass adoption in the main markets this device will be retailing. It also uses only single SIM. There is WLAN direct, USB internet, Tethering and portable hotspot. Setting up the WiFi hotspot is a breeze.
Usual bells and whistles of connectivity options like Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS is included, there is no NFC. Like most of the Chinese devices, it also support USB-On-the-go (OTG) functionality.
On a final note…
What I liked
- Beautiful design and slim profile
- Display is pretty good
- TouchPal keyboard with Swype input
- In spite of glass body and thin profile good at containing the heat
- Generous box contents
What I didn’t like
- Beautiful device yes but the glass body means a small fall can be fatal
- Average camera performance. Having used the S5.5 and like it, this could have been a better set up
- Limited internal storage (close to 12GB user available) and no expandable memory option
Undoubtedly Gionee Elife S5.1 is a stunner and has the feel and look that is very enticing and at the price point it is positioned it has very few phone to rival in this factor. Having said that it does not score high on the performance scale. If you are looking at a flagship looks but average performer at a mid-budget range, this is a good phone to own.