Gionee has done a lot of soul-searching for creating a perfect handset with a battery that should last longer than most smartphones. And their latest Marathon M5 handset, which was first announced in China has now been launched in India today. We had the chance to exclusively play around with the device for couple of days. The first thing that comes into mind is company has finally introduced a good attractive looking smartphone in Marathon series. If you’d chance to read our Marathon M3 review, then you’d probably know we didn’t actually liked the design of Marathon series handsets, even the previous device in series, the M4 lacked a good finish. Although, I must admit they always had a great build quality. Below you can find our detailed review of the device.
Note: We have the device for around four days and since then we haven’t charged the device yet. The review would reflect the usage of three days. We would be further updating this review once we form a more concrete opinion of the battery life. We are yet to charge the device for the first time so expect information about fast charging on M5 later. Watch out for an update in this space.
It was recent that Gionee has been focused on offering a nicely designed smartphones until then company only focused the looks part on its slim series of handsets (Elife S5.1, S5.5, and S7). The new Marathon M5 particularly looks stylish, even if it might be a bulky handset at 8.5mm. It is astonishing how the brand is managed to fit a 6020mAh battery inside a handset of that thickness, whereas, for a comparison, OnePlus 2 is a 9.85mm thick and has a 3300mAh capacity battery. More on battery later.
The device isn’t a full metal, but it does imitate the full metal body look and thus giving the attractive look. Though, the frame is a metal built and it’s as solid as it gets on any other phone. When you hold the device first time you’ll notice the heavy weight, but once you start using the device, it grows on you, and you get used to carrying 214gram device in your pocket.
It sports a unibody device and thus you’ll not be able to look inside the back panel. The ports placements are ideal; you get a microSD card slot on the right edge and dual micro-SIM slots on the left edge. The volume rocker and power button keys are placed on the right edge, which is my favorite place for them. The company has offered an IR Blaster on the top edge alongside the 3.5mm Audio jack, whereas the primary microphone is present on the bottom edge with a microUSB port as well.
When the screen is off, it would seem the device has a bezelless screen, but it’s nothing more than a neat trick of covering bezels with a black layer. You have capacitive buttons on the bottom bezel while the top bezel houses earpiece, camera module and a set of sensors. Coming to the rear part, there is a camera module on the top corner of the device; it is accompanied by the LED Flash and secondary microphone. And at the bottom of the rear side is the speaker, which I must say is quite loud and sharp.
Overall, the design of the Marathon M5 is quite nice and shiny; we have the gold variant, so it looks much better than its white counterpart. The device offers a sturdy design, and that’s good enough for consumers craving attractive looks from a Gionee phone.
The real estate on the device is quite large at 5.5-inch with a resolution of 720p, which adds up to a low pixel density of 267PPI (Pixel Per Inch). Although, what’s interesting about the device is that brand uses Super AMOLED display technology instead of the LCD. And we are particularly glad to see such display being incorporated in a Gionee device. It’s quite an upgrade from Marathon M3; meanwhile M4 also comes with a Super AMOLED display.
I’m very picky about displays on my smartphones, despite being low in resolution; the M5 offers good color saturation and white balance. But I do admit that viewing angles are not up to the mark, which begs the question of the sunlight legibility. Using this handset under sunlight would be quite a task for its users, I, for instance, struggled a lot to see content as it was barely visible even with full brightness.
The display is not a fingerprint magnet, and that is one of the good things about the screen. Even, though there is an LED light present, there is no way to control its function. My final thought about display is that it would have been one of the best displays in mid range if the company has just given a 1080p resolution. The low pixels hurt the images in a sense that they look pixilated. You can enjoy the casual video streaming on YouTube, but sadly only at 720p resolution. That high-speed 4G LTE network you might have would be a waste since you can’t play a full HD content on an HD display.
The interface on the device is the standard Gionee interface that has been coming with its handset this year. We have established in earlier reviews of Elife E8 and F103 that it is a step up for the company from last year’s UI. The interface is called Amigo OS 3.1, it is based upon the Android Lollipop 5.1 version.
The Amigo OS took the complete turn up in looks earlier this year, and most of it was for good while it has a long way to go for being a perfect Android skin. The clean and simplicity of interface are some points that make it stand out from the crowded Chinese UIs. The one thing it’s missing is that it has got no app drawer, which is a standard Android thing.
But lately many custom Android operating system has been adopting this no app drawer trend and people seem to like it a lot. Again it’s a personal choice, I like the UI on this handset, and it’s snappy enough to perform my daily tasks easily. You can always go with Google Now Launcher if you’re seeking an app drawer or any other third party launchers available on Play Store. I assure the performance won’t be affected as we have tried using the Google launcher.
In terms of the pre-installed apps, the device has a lot of apps and games that might not be useful for you such as Spiderman, Danger Dash, Bubble Bash Mania, etc. You get the idea that it has a lot of bloatware installed. But in this sea of pre-installed apps, you will be getting some resourceful apps like WPS Office and DU Battery Saver.
Gionee has offered quite a number of apps that would allow you to personalize the looks of the interface. Apps like Chameleon, Theme Park, and Amigo Paper are some of the apps that would be your companion if you like to give a makeover to the default look. You change the color theme and wallpaper on the system just by pointing the camera to any object, and the app would create a color in a similar sense to the object you pointed. The Amigo Paper and Theme Park are the apps where you could access the number of theme and wallpapers and set it according to needs.
Hardware & Performance
The Marathon M5 is powered by a MediaTek MT6735, which is not a very powerful processor, but it’s one of its kinds. The chipset is claimed to be first offering GSM and CDMA networks support as well as integrating a WorldMode LTE platform. It’s no competition to the Snapdragon 615 chipset but does offer a good performance for your daily usage, considering you don’t do heavy gaming or much multitasking.
Coming to the gaming part, it was a smooth experience in games like Riptide GP2 and Dead Trigger 2, they’re not heavy games like GTA V or Modern Kombat, but they do have intense graphics at some level. And device handled it pretty neat. The device has around 23GB of free space out of 32GB and a 3GB of RAM, that is to say, you can install big games. But would be disappointed while playing those big games as there is a lag and they sometimes crashes too.
The device does heat up during game play or any kind of heavy processing such as opening a large number of apps at a time. Because the processor takes a toll during such operations. I wouldn’t suggest this device if you’re into gaming and heavy multitasking. That said it didn’t heat up to too much, though.
The benchmark scores reveal that the M5 is quite powerful in many aspects such as its Multicore score in Vellamo app was 1441, which is almost closed to Asus Zenfone 2. And the Intel powered Asus device was considered quite powerful. While the browser score of 2053 and metal score of 1105 is on par with other mid-range handsets. The Antutu score for the device was around 27676, which is again not the best in its range, but the score is more than what Snapdragon 410 would yield.
The browsing on this device is quite good; the screen is responsive for Zoom-in and Zoom-out operations. You don’t have to struggle to view desktop apps on the device due to its large real estate. We tested out device for the OTG support as well, and it was not surprising that device detected the OTG drive easily. Moreover, with support of external storage up to 128GB you don’t have to worry about the storage.
The camera capabilities on mid-range smartphones have improved a lot in recent times, and such is the case with latest Marathon series handset. The 13-megapixel sensor on the rear is something of a good performer in the day as well as nighttime. We like that Gionee has offered UltraPixel feature, which they introduced on their Elife E8 smartphone. The brand is now not declining the fact that their mid-range handsets could use the features present on their premium handsets. And thus boosting the overall package.
Talking about the camera capabilities in daylight, the device was able to get detailed shots that can be called crispy. But they’re very hard to come by because of the focusing issue. Specifically for the macro shots we experienced a delay in focusing, both in auto as well as manual modes. Color reproduction and saturation was handled well by the rear image sensor. You can’t complaint about outputs, they are good enough to be shared on social media. But certainly not better than the top performing 13MP cameras such as Oppo R7 Plus.
Coming to the low-light camera capabilities of the rear camera, it was surprisingly good. The Night mode on the device is the feature that optimizes the captures taken under low light. The company doesn’t claim any technologies like PDAF is used or not, but one thing is sure, the aperture of the image sensor is f/2.0, which is quite good for this resolution. Maybe that hardware is responsible for increasing the night capture; nonetheless, you get nicely detailed capture in a dark light as well. Though, note that they do look quite grainy as well.
The rear sensor on Marathon M5 is capable of recording up to 1080p resolution video, and that is as much as you could expect from a mid-range device unless you’re talking about the OnePlus 2. Under video settings in the camera app, you get an option of Anti-shaking, which does help a little bit in removing the shakes from the video. It’s not as quite good but should be fine if you like to share recorded video content on social media.
The front facing camera module is of the 5-megapixel sensor, and it seemed to be doing its job pretty fine. We tested out the selfie cam and were satisfied with captures. They look natural and detailed enough.
The large-sized battery always doesn’t mean that device would be offering wonderful battery life. The large capacity battery is just the first step that needs to be there in order to have a good battery life. We have used many smartphones with large capacity battery and in the end most of them doesn’t offer good Screen-on-Time, let alone the standby time.
Here the Marathon M5 just stand against all odds, Gionee has somehow optimized the battery life, or maybe it’s the low power MediaTek processor. Either way, the user would get around seven hours of screen-on-time (SOT) out of the 6020mAh battery. What more could you ask from a smartphone with a battery life of a power bank! It’s funny, the device weights like a power bank as well.
Jokes aside, the M5 is an ultimate Android smartphone that can be your travel companion to the wild adventures you’ve planned. The standby time on this thing is astonishing. We received our review unit around four days back, and we haven’t charged the device since we unboxed it. Though, I do admit that it was turned off for some hours, and that’s why you’ll see less than three days of battery time.
What’s more interesting is that you can charge other smartphones with this handset; the feature is called reverse charging. Of course, you’ll have to separately buy the microUSB-to-microUSB cable, or you can get an adapter that’ll attach to the cable coming in the retail unit. They say, sharing is caring, why not share the battery life with the ones in urgency.
The connectivity has been one of the foremost parts of phones and every year new technologies coming in to replace older ones. The Marathon M5 comes with a support of 4G LTE network; this high-speed network has become mandatory these days, as cheapest smartphones are offering this service. We tested out the 4G service in this device and were pretty satisfied with what we saw; the speed was on par with other devices.
There is a Hotknot service, which is an alternative for the NFC technology; it uses the display to transfer the data between two handsets. What you have to do is put two devices in a manner that there screens touch each other after pressing the transfer button. It’s not as efficient as NFC, but it does the job well.
Other interesting connectivity features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS are part of this phone too. The handsets have dual SIM slots where you can insert one GSM and one CDMA SIM. This kind of feature is very rare on current devices, and thus it has been termed as one of the USP of the device. India is a country where many users are using CDMA technology SIM cards, and it’s beneficial for them, as they can have their GSM and CDMA SIMs running on one device.
To answer your question whether the battery life of Gionee Marathon M5 is good or not? The answer is yes, it’s good, and, in fact, I would call it splendid. You can easily rely on this handset to give a long battery life even if you’re a heavy user. But you should know that the device offers more than a battery life; it has stunning shiny looks to charm and a good camera package for your photography need.
Though, there comes a question of performance, it doesn’t stand anywhere near when you rope in OnePlus 2 for comparison or even the Lenovo Vibe P1. Meanwhile, it can handle the daily tasks such as average app usage, casual gaming, and video viewing. The multitasking is not its best suite, but this MediaTek chipset is not designed for heavy performance. Now it’s you who have to choose what is important to you, the battery life or performance.