We have seen a lot of movements in the range of smartphones sporting a large capacity battery, since last year, Gionee has alone launched many devices, such as M5, M5 Enjoy Edition, M5 Plus, with good battery capacity. While many brands, to name a few; Lenovo, Honor, Xiaomi, Asus, has launched handsets with large battery life in the past couple of months. The Android smartphones are used by billions of people around the world; the understate battery life is still the issue. It doesn’t mean that a smartphone with good battery capacity would offer an equally great battery life.
The first handset that Gionee launched this year in January also had a large battery capacity. We are talking about the Marathon M5 Lite; it is a toned down version of an original handset, the M5. The device was launched at a price tag of Rs 12,999, making it a mid-range handset. And thus, it will compete with the likes of Asus Zenfone Max, Xiaomi Redmi Note 3. But is it a good mid-range device for the price it comes? We find out in the detailed review of the device.
The 5-inch factor is still my ideal choice of the handset when it comes to having a compact device. The Industry may have moved on to bigger sized devices, but there are consumers that would like a concise package with everything intact. And the Gionee Marathon M5 Lite is such a handset. It offers a form factor that one would like in their smartphones; sturdy build, stylish finish and a bezel-less look on the front. If these factors are impressive, it can take attraction and affection for a device to a whole new level. This Gionee device has it all, a good build quality and a shiny look, that’s what I would want on a mid-range device in terms of design aspects.
The first thing that is noticeable about this handset is the bezel-less look it gives while lying on your desk it just feels smartphones with no bezels on sides. That’s one of the reasons for its attractiveness. The top bezel houses an earpiece, alongside a set of sensors and a camera module acting as selfie camera. More on that later. It has capacitive buttons, in order of recent menu, home, and back buttons. Unfortunately, they’re not backlit, so it might be little difficult to operate the phone in dark, i.e. with the limited light condition. Moving on to the rear side, it is divided into three parts; top, middle, and bottom. The top part houses a camera module along with LED Flash, while middle part only has company branding, whereas the bottom part houses a loudspeaker.
The back panel on this handset is removable, which then allows inserting two micro SIM cards and a microSD card slot. Note that battery is non-removable, unless you decided to unscrew your device, which is a bad idea, since it would void the warranty. The battery has a metal casing that should be preventing any excessive heat production. Thus, the case would be acting as a cooling agent. The removed back panel is somewhat embedded in metal as well in its plastic nature, covering specifics; two SIM slots, microSD card slot, and battery. Again, maybe the precautionary measure to ensure the heating isn’t felt while holding the phone.
Talking about the ports placements, it has an audio jack, not a gold insulation, on the top edge, while the bottom edge houses a microUSB port and a microphone. The right edge has a volume rocker keys and power button placed just below it. The left edge is kept empty. The overall design of this handset is kept clean as much as possible, which is a good thing. The full metal frame on this thing makes it a tough device that one shouldn’t, or can’t mess with. Trust me its one tough device, don’t expect it to break anytime soon, although, the display isn’t protected by tough love, which you can learn in the display section below.
The 5-inch display size might be small according to the current standards in the industry, but it isn’t out of fashion yet. The screen has a 720p resolution, which amounts for 294 PPI (Pixel Per Inch). Using IPS LCD technology, it isn’t the best resolution display in the mid-range, since many companies are now offering 1080p (Full HD) resolution displays. But if you’re not a display enthusiast, then 720p display might suffice your viewing needs. Some of us are very conscious about the pixel on their displays, and I’m one of them. And despite that the display on M5 Lite felt more than average to me. The color reproduction on this screen is real as much possible by an LCD technology. I would have loved an HD display with Super AMOLED technology, which makes colors more bright and true to real life. Nonetheless, the white balances, as well as color outputs, were pretty neat. But I do like to point out that there is hardly anything visible when the device is placed in sunlight, so that’s a no for sunlight legibility, despite full brightness levels.
Meanwhile, the display is a fingerprint magnet, meaning after couple minutes of usage; you would notice smudges on the screen, which is never a good sign when using the display under sunlight. Talking about the protection of the display, it has a Dragontrail glass shielding the display, it may not be as strong as Corning Gorilla Glass, but it sure can prevent some scratches as these days, display of a smartphone is exposed to many harsh conditions. Overall, the display is not half bad, but at the price point this handset comes, we expected more out of it.
We have been testing Gionee devices a lot since last year as the company has been pretty busy launching quite the number of handsets; the one thing that is constant in them is the interface. The Amigo OS, which was announced with the launch of Gionee’s most stylish smartphone, the Elife S7. It was the first time that company introduced a whole new level of customization on their devices. And it was also the first device to run on the Android Lollipop 5.0 based interface. The Marathon M5 Lite, on the other hand, has more improved Amigo OS, i.e., it’s the version 3.1 based on the Android Lollipop 5.1 version. We have stated previously, and we will do the same this time too; it is one of the most elegant Android custom skins out there in the market right now, as we played with the interface on a daily basis. We didn’t have any issues or sudden crashes if you’re worried about; it was rather quite promising experience, one which is quite equal to having a stock Android but expects for the fact that there was no app drawer in this interface.
Moving on with the talk of the appearances of the interface, it is inspiring in the simplest ways. The Theme Park app allows you to instantly themes, wallpaper, as well as the clock. It also let you set the wallpaper as Dynamic, meaning it would keep changing from a set of wallpapers. There are a couple of themes available for local storage, but you can explore more once you get connected to the internet. Meanwhile, there is an app called Chameleon, which would help you in creating a theme based on the environment. It uses the camera to identify the color of an object and create a colored theme out of it. This makes changing appearances piece of cake, just fire up the Chameleon app and focus towards the object you like. Note it will give you preview before applying the theme so that you can select the one you like, not others.
There are large numbers of apps pre-installed on this handset, although it would be harsh to coin them as bloatware since most of them are quite resourceful. Such as File Explorer, System Manager, Gionee XenderGallery, Music Player and UC Browser, there are a couple of tools as well that we liked such as Compass, Weather, Notes and Mobile Security app. It’s not all sunshine, there are some apps like Mood card, G Store, and many trial games that might be just unnecessary bloatware. But don’t worry about the storage, though, since device comes with 32GB of out of which around 23GB is free while 7GB is defined as system and rest of it is divided into apps and media. Moreover, it has a microSD card slot that should make your storage space woes go away. Well, that wasn’t enough? You can also attach an OTG drive as it supports one, and we made sure by testing it out. It worked just fine. Overall, the user experience was pretty much amazing and painless, as such not the case with most of the mid-range handsets with no stock UI.
Hardware & Performance
The latest mid-range handset from Gionee, the Marathon M5 Lite is powered by a Quad-core processor clocking at 1.2GHz. It’s the Mediatek MT6535, which a direct competitor to Snapdragon 410 in terms of overall performance. We have played with a lot of SD 410 devices in the last year, as there were numerous devices launched with that chipset. If I want to compare their performance with this MediaTek powered handset, then I suppose it is on par. Moreover, the 3GB of RAM was quite resourceful in maintaining the performance standards. Yes, this mid-ranger has 3GB of RAM, which is quite a large amount compared to its most competition, except for Coolpad Note 3, Lenovo Vibe K4 Note, Honor 5X. One thing that is missing from the M5 Lite is the fingerprint sensor, as it is available on all three handsets mentioned. Let’s debate on why fingerprint sensor should be on all smartphones later.
We did a lot of gaming on this handset continuously for an hour, and it didn’t sweat as we expected it to. The gaming was lag free; there were no jerks while loading the graphics, none that is worth mentioning as we are treating it like a mid-range handset, but not a high-end device, so we expected least and were pretty satisfied with the gaming experience. We played games like Riptide GP2, Dead Trigger and Asphalt 8, although switching between them wasn’t quite as smooth as between any other apps was. Despite a large amount of RAM, the Quad-core processor isn’t a powerhouse. So, we tread lightly, but make no mistake it can handle whatever you throw at it during daily usage. While talking about the heat, we didn’t experience heat, not even a slight hint of heating up the device, and for that, we have steel coating on the inside of the back panel to thanks. Whereas the display did got little hot, but nothing that’s intolerable.
Moving on to the benchmark tools, to test out the potential performance of the device, we installed two popular benchmark apps; Antutu and Vellamo. The Antutu score was 33119, which is quite good, it can be broken down into four points; 3D, UX, CPU and RAM, points for these four aspects add up to the total score mentioned. While talking about the Vellamo, it has three aspects to cover; Multicore, metal and Chrome browser, the score for these were, 1413, 1103 and 2078, respectively. The vellamo scores were not off the chart when compared with SD 410 powered handset, but Antutu score was quite good. We did the browsing test in real life to understand how it actually performs. The device might not have the advantage of having a large real estate, but browsing desktop websites aren’t as much pain as I thought would be. The touch response of display is buttery smooth and so the Zoom-in and Zoom-out operations. Overall, we were satisfied with browsing as well as performance in gaming and other aspects. The chipset might not have a large amount of horsepower, but it sure does knows how to handle daily operations in the smoothest way possible.
The camera package on this handset is not what one would expect in this price range; it’s an 8–megapixel image sensor on the rear side while a 5-megapixel image sensor on the front. It may be below in when we talk about the megapixel count, but it most certainly isn’t bad when it comes to camera outputs. We took the device for a spin to check out how it pans on the real life usage. Today’s generation is becoming camera conscious and wants the highest resolution possible on their smartphones. In mid-range devices, it is not rare to see 13MP modules, but what is rare is that an 8MP module is performing quite better than 13MP modules. For instance, the 13-megapixel image sensor on the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note is bad when compared with Gionee’s 8-megapixel module on the M5 Lite.
Why did I say that? Well, if you check out the camera samples from both the handsets, you’ll see a huge difference. Head back to our detailed review of the K4 Note, where you would find camera samples attached, and then compare them to the below camera samples taken from Marathon M5 Lite. You’ll notice the difference. Despite, offering incredible outputs in the natural and artificial light, it would still be pixilated when you zoom in a little bit, which is why it isn’t the best camera in this range.
Talking about the camera interface, it is as simple it gets. Moreover, it doesn’t crash as much it did in the K4 Note. The camera UI on this handset fires up in microseconds and lets you capture as soon as possible so that you don’t miss the moment. It doesn’t have technologies like PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) or any kind of assistance for focusing, but still it offers more than average performance in terms of detecting the object. Although, the manual tap to focus does make it better. It offers modes like Face Beauty, Magic Focus, Filters, Panorama, Night and HDR. There is also a manual mode called Professional, what it does is that it lets you decide where to keep focus, how much should be shutter speed, what is the appropriate white balance and ISO, as well as you can increase or decrease the exposure level according to need. It is helpful if you know your way around these camera specifics. Otherwise, I’ll recommend you to stick with auto mode. We took shots in low light to understand whether or not, night mode would yield good results. Well, we weren’t completely disappointed, but it was far away from satisfaction.
Moving on to the video recording, the rear module lets you shoot 1080p video recording, with features to turn on and off the microphone, as well as select the mode, its either auto or night. You can also change the exposure level and white balance. There is an anti-shaking feature that claims to stabilize the recording since there is no optical image stabilizer on this module. The anti-shake magic works after the video is done processing, and I would say it’s quite good, although, there might be a lot of noise present even at the highest resolution shot. It’s because of the low-resolution camera module; it is the fact and it can’t be changed now. The front facing camera on this handset is pretty neat, it’s not the quickest selfie taker, but it does the job nicely. If you’re wondering about whether you can take a selfie at a family dinner or not, well, we give it a green light, as it would fit a lot of members despite no wide angle lens claims. Overall, the camera package is pretty decent and generous enough to offer good camera outputs despite the low pixel resolution.
This handset is all about battery life; it has a capacity of 4000mAh, which is around 2000mAh less than the original handset, the Marathon M5. It had a great battery life as we mentioned in our detailed review posted a couple of months back. Fast forwarding, we have another marathon in our hands since more than a week now. And all we could do is praise its battery life. See, the company might have trimmed down some mAh along with some other hardware to line it up in mid range, but at the core, it is still a device with great battery life. Yes, this should answer your question whether the large battery capacity (comparing with its competition) on this thing actually gives a good battery life or not. We have got more than four days of battery life out of this thing.
For the first half we played and got our hands on to everything it offers and after passing through a whole day of gaming, shooting out to test the camera and other stuff, the battery was down to around 80%. After that we just let it sleep to learn how is the standby time on this handset, of course, we were still using it as our primary device; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and SIM card, these three were ON most of the times. Four days passed and it still had around 40% battery life left. Know that it offers reverse charging, meaning you can charge another cell phone using the OTG cable. Proves helpful if you’re friend/ family member’s smartphone is running out of battery life. Or maybe you can be a good samaritan and help a stranger in need if he/she asks if you have got a powerbank. Tell that you’ve got a smartphone with a battery life of a powerbank.
Talking about the connectivity options, the Marathon M5 isn’t loaded with tons of connectivity options as it has with battery life, but it does offer dual SIM network support, of which GSM and CDMA are supported. Moreover, it has a dual standby support as well for when you put two microSIM cards in it. The device offers 4G LTE support; we tested out the quality, and it was quite on par with other 4G enabled handsets. As well as the mobile data speed are pretty incredible. There is no NFC or Infrared feature, but you get another usual set of options for microUSB, OTG support, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS.
The mid-range market in India is filled with lots of handsets, since last year almost every brand is focused in launching a device in this category and they have, but only a few of them are actually good. And I would be counting the Marathon M5 Lite in that list. But do make a note that it is because of its exceptional battery life and quite decent features like display, camera and good performance in terms of the daily usage of basic smart features. Now if you’re solely searching for a smartphone with excellent battery life, but aren’t much psyched for other features, and then you should totally buy this handset. But if you’re concerned that 720p display won’t fulfill your needs, or the 8MP camera resolution is too low, then you shouldn’t get this handset. It’s simple.