How many ever slim smartphones enter the competition to try and beat the other, we need to accept the fact that the impact of slimness was brought in by the Chinese smartphone manufacturer Gionee. First, it was the Elife S5.5 which was as sleek as it could be, and it took a while before the same company came up with an even slimmer device, and now the Gionee Elife S5.1 with a 5.1mm thickness faces stiff competition from Oppo and Vivo. But, there’s some factors that add up to the slim profile of the S5.1 to make it an interesting unit.
Gionee has reduced the screen size, reduced the camera resolution and a few other compromises are there as well, but that was all to make the Elife S5.1 slimmer and even lighter. Unlike the predecessor, the Elife S5.1 comes directly with the Android 4.4 KitKat OS with Amigo UI. Read below to know what impresses about the slimmest smartphone from Gionee, and what could be the possible reasons why I should decide against purchasing this.
The Gionee Elife S5.1 is indeed here to impress, with not just the design but with the thought it gives on how Gionee is capable of packing in, everything inside the slim chassis and still keep the phone light and good at use. Of course with every smartphone trying to impress with one aspect, will see compromises on the other. The Elife S5.1 does not have an expandable storage option, has 1GB RAM and the connectivity is limited to 3G, and these might raise some questions, but if you are a limited user giving importance to the style statement, this is the phone you should go for.
Design, Form Factor
To start off, the phone is incredibly light and easy to hold. Never ever before this, I held a smartphone this light and thus, it didn’t really feel like it is a smartphone in the hand. Looks wise, it still holds the style statement and looks pretty perfect, but the feel is something you won’t get with any other smartphone around.
The device comes with a dual white glass design, gold painted metal frame on the side and it is a flat back this time, unlike the bump for the camera that was seen on the Elife S5.5. The device weighs 97gm, which is incredibly 35gm lesser than the Elife S5.5, which had just a little bigger 5-inch display, but the thickness and the material could have played a major factor.
On the left are the buttons for volume toggle and power/lock, and on the right is the SIM card slot, as the device has a unibody design and thus no slots under the back cover, which isn’t removable. On the back, the 8-megapixel camera is located with an LED flash and a secondary mic is placed as well. The speaker is towards the bottom on the back area, and the back glass panel is flat.
With the ports for MicroUSB and the headset (yes there is a headset jack, which many might consider checking out for slim handsets) are placed in the bottom, with the microphone between them. On the front, there is a house of sensors, earpiece and the 5-megapixel front camera above the display, and the very dim lit navigation touch buttons below it.
Overall with the design, the Gionee Elife S5.1 is there to attract. Solid in hand although the weight and size, the phone’s golden frame on the sides makes it more attractive, but the material does ask for some extra care as it will not take a fall easily, and the glass can shatter when dropped from a considerable height. With the screen being 4.8-inch in size, the device is very comfortable in the hand. Above all, there is gorilla glass protection on both the sides, but that doesn’t mean it makes the device sturdy enough.
A 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display with 720p HD resolution. There is more good than bad with the display, because although the pixel density of 306 PPI doesn’t say much about its resolution, the screen is well lit and the color reproduction is great. It is sharp, and according to the display experts, the PenTile matrix with diamond arrangement makes this pretty close to the retina display on the iPhone.
What many smartphone displays get criticized for, is the sunlight readability and reflectivity. The display gets unnecessarily reflective under the sunlight in many of them, making it hard to read the content. But with the Super AMOLED display on the Elife S5.1, the sharpness is maintained and we notice it to be tad better than the display on predecessor Elife S5.5, but there are considerable number of Samsung Galaxy smartphones with Super AMOLED displays which fare better than the one on the S5.1.
The Gionee Elife S5.1 still has the Amigo UI layered over Android Kitkat OS, version 4.4.2. Not the best UI around, given the fact that it doesn’t allow you to do much except for those home screen transitions and themes, and one cannot have an app drawer or remove the blurry effect from the background wallpaper. The good thing is, you are just a launcher away from getting all those things in place. The apps and widgets are on the home screens, and you can place more widgets alongside the icons.
The great part of the package is the notification panel with quick settings section, which is loaded with several shortcuts to settings, profiles, brightness toggle and a quick boost button to increase RAM by killing background apps and functions. There is a weather information widget on the notification screen, wastes some space as most of us prefer that to be on one of the home screens, giving the most screen real estate on notification panel for the notifications.
The lock screen is the same as in the other Gionee smartphones with Amigo 2.0 UI, and it presents with a time widget in the bottom, which when pulled up unlocks the screen, and when this lock screen is swiped to the left, a widget shows up with four shortcuts – Camera, Voice recording, Torch and Fake call. All of these are handy functions, not asking the user to get into the interface and search for them.
There is bloatware, as always. Apps that are pre-installed, include Amigo Paper, Color, Themes, Kingsoft Office, Du Battery Saver, Du Speed Booster, GioneeXender, Saavn, Touchpal X, GameZone and entire Google Play apps kit. The default browser as in the other Gionee smartphones, is the UC browser.
The multitasking bar isn’t easy to open, as you need to long press the menu button, but that most of the times gets accompanied with the home screen menu options. One useful application from the list is the System Manager, which has a group of options – Memory Clean, Rubbish Clean, Power Optimizer, Traffic Monitor, App Manager and Permission Manager.
The options don’t end here in the interface, as you also get to see a Guest Mode (where the call logs, messages, albums, notes, launcher settings will all be hidden from the guest, and a password is needed for the set up). And overall, our thoughts about the Amigo UI never change – not the best, but easy to use if someone has used similar interfaces, or even used an iPhone before.
The Elife S5.1 with MediaTek MT6592 does hold on with all the basic usage, but there are issues only when playing high-end games, as there is a little frame drop noticed. 1GB RAM seems like something to be concerned about, but in reality it does quite well, with about 459MB RAM available after a fresh reboot.
Benchmark tests do show a comparatively low score than the competitors with the same processor, and the major reason for that could be 1GB RAM. Amigo is one of those interfaces that can be compared to TouchWiz, when it comes to slowing down with time. The difference is with the optimization, as you can still play around with stuff and optimize the UI to make the performance better, although during this couple of weeks, there was no such moment when the interface slowed down. It was smooth, snappy and very much responsive but we cannot still vouch for the same for long term usage.
As far the benchmark scores are concerned, AnTuTu test saw a score of 30999, while it was 13944 on Quadrant Standard test. Not the best of the scores out there, and lower when compared to even a few competitors with the same MT6592 processor, but these tests also rely on the specs, and the 1GB RAM could be a reason for the low score.
We did review the Elife S5.1’s camera earlier, and you can read the same to understand how well does the 8-megapixel shooter on the back of the device does. The captures taken with the full 8MP resolution come out with the resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels, and on zooming in, the clarity is much lost.
More than just the camera, the apps are worth checking out. Especially the Charmcam, which does a good job for selfies with the Beauty Face feature as well as live filters. Panoramas captured with the normal camera app comes out good, with no stitching noticed although it might need you to pan around with a slower pace, without much shakes.
Overall, you can judge by yourself with the capture samples, but the camera for us doesn’t do a bad job at all. The front-facing 5MP camera as well takes bright and good pictures, and if you choose to use the normal camera app than Charmcam, the pictures look more natural.
Battery Life and Connectivity
The 2050 mAh battery on the Elife S5.1 dramatically gets reduced on 3G connectivity with screen continuously turned ON, but that was expected, wasn’t it? the way Super AMOLED displays work, you expect the battery to drain quicker. But, that is the only situation where we saw the battery to do not much good. Otherwise, the Elife S5.1 was going through out the day on a single charge with no problems.
The best part about the device battery was the standby, because we kept the phone on mobile network without anything else activated or running, and while it was only the calls and occasional app usage during the day, there was only about 44% of battery drain, and only the connectivity started taking toil on the battery. Inserted the SIM card, and after about 10 minutes talk time and 12 hours standby, the battery reduced by just one percent. Well optimized, is what we can say.
Wi-Fi connectivity on the Elife S5.1 worked well, and the hotspot as well could be set up easily. Although the Amigo UI isn’t that great, the connectivity options are all well organized and there is roaming reminder, WLAN direct, USB internet, Tethering and portable hotspot.
The S5.1 doesn’t come with 4G LTE connectivity, and it supports only a single SIM. That is not much of an issue for many, but the recent devices except for the Elife series from Gionee have come with Dual SIM option. There is no NFC, and the options that are available include Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and GLONASS, along with MicroUSB 2.0 having support for USB On-the-go (OTG) functionality.
Reverse tethering is a cool option available in the device, and that is a feature with limited availability and Elife S5.1 is one of them supporting it. Using this, one can share the PC’s connection with the smartphone.
Other things to notice
- Even after trying to boost up the volume, the decibel level was quite low on the Elife S5.1’s speaker located on the back of the device. There is no distortion though, and the audio was smooth and clear. Won’t be a problem calling this as one of the devices in its price range to have the lowest sound output.
- Call quality is good, and earpiece does enough to give a good output of call sound output.
TouchPal keyboard is a savior and allows swype typing, thus the typing experience is great because TouchPal allows customizations, and the keyboard is large and easy to use.
- Video calling is possible from the Phone app, and the native app does a good job if you are not looking for Skype or some alternative apps.
- The Gallery app and image editor are pretty perfect, and the editor comes with loads of options.
- There are two browsers – UC Browser and Chrome, pre-installed in the device. For several reasons, we would still prefer Chrome over the UC Browser, but to cut it short – there were unnecessary shortcuts and lesser space for the actual website content, and the browser crashed when loading graphical websites in multiple tabs, which didn’t happen in Chrome browser.
- The limited internal storage is bit of an issue, as you see not more than 12GB available, combined for both apps and media. There is no MicroSD card slot, so for the ones who haven’t used devices with limited storage options, it could pose storage issues on long usage.
- The video player that comes pre-loaded in the device can run most of the video formats, but you cannot set the subtitles to run.
- The problem with glass bodies has always been with heating up of the device on gaming or video playing for a long time. The Elife S5.1 does heat up, but that is considerably lower than what we had noticed on the Elife S5.5, and it is no where close to the heat Sony Xperia Z3 produced.
The Gionee Elife S5.1 is one such smartphone you would love to keep, for everything it has got on its design side. But things aren’t all great, if you are looking for this smartphone for a long-term usage as a primary one. Just like any other phone, the Elife S5.1 has a few pros and cons – former being its design, OS and decent cameras, latter includes limited storage, little heating issues and the speakers.
If we are to talk and limit it to slim smartphones irrespective of what they pack in, the Elife S5.1 is priced the best against the three competitors – Oppo R5, Vivo X5 Max and the Apple iPhone 6. But at the same time, some tough competitors to this in its price range, include the Lenovo Vibe X2 which indeed has a better performance and a neat camera combination, but it isn’t as slim as this.
The Elife S5.1 looks like a delicate unit before you get it in your hand, but it is actually sturdy enough and Gorilla Glass 3 protection is a reason for the same. Overall, if you don’t really have an issue with storage limitation and are fine with the low-output speaker of it, the Gionee Elife S5.1 is a mid-range smartphone to take – solving two purposes – good looks, good features.