Gionee is still one such smartphone brand in India, which has got a good response and limiting its number of devices in every price range. The Elfie E7 flagship was what made quite an impact, and then came in, a series of smartphones with something special – slim profile (Elife S5.5), mammoth battery life (Marathon M3) or an even slimmer flat surface build (Elife S5.1). All in all, Gionee had given users some good options to choose from, but except for the Marathon series, there was a scarce of smartphones from Gionee in the budget range. The new one from the Chinese manufacturer, Gionee Pioneer P6, is made to fit exactly in that market.
The Pioneer P6 comes with a 5-inch display, quad-core chipset clocking at 1.3 GHz, 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage. Everything else seems moderate on numbers, including a 5-megapixel camera on the back, and a 1950 mAh battery.
Design, Form Factor
The design looks super cool, and for this price range, offering a phone that is this comfortable and good to hold, Gionee deserves the appreciation. It is no where a compact one in size, but still, very much comfortable because of the curvy design. The front resembles the way Huawei’s Honor Holly looked like, and there is a LED flash just beside the selfie camera, a recent trend seen in a few smartphones.
The back has the brushed aluminum look, although it is a smooth one, the pattern on the back looks radiating from the top center Gionee branding, which looks really cool. The back is prone to scratches and fingerprint marks easily, but the company is making that up with all good stuff on the other side – buttons placed aptly, removable back and battery, as well as a rim around the back camera so that the impact doesn’t fall directly on the lens when placed on a flat surface.
There’s a certain slim metallic line that runs along the entire side frame of the Pioneer P6, adding a little touch to the looks, but nothing on the negative side. Under the removable back cover, the two SIM card slots and a MicroSD card slot are seen alongside the battery that can be pulled out. Speakers are located on the back, while on the front, the navigation buttons are not a part of the display, and they come with a silver color, no backlight.
The FWVGA resolution serves no great purpose, while we see some good HD displays in this price range. Given that this is a 5-inch screen and not a smaller one, the pixel-per-inch count is below par in the current competition. The pixels are actually differentiable, but if you let go of that, the actual color output is great.
The screen is well responsive to touch, but just like the back cover is, the panel seems to attract fingerprints easily. You’d want to place a screen guard, especially for this reason. Still, as much we feel the resolution is too low for the size, we are quite satisfied about the output of content and the readability. The screen is reflective, but on full brightness, it is good enough to be readable under bright sunlight.
OS, Interface & Apps
The Pioneer P6 runs Android KitKat, i.e. v4.4.2, and that is already good for those who always had complaints about slow updates to Gionee smartphones, except for the Slim series. It isn’t the Amigo UI, which Gionee has in its flagship range, and that is another big plus. A very simple, neat and easy to use interface, with just a few changes to the stock Android.
There is a proper app drawer, and there are several pre-installed apps – along with a few games as well. Tools include FM Radio, Notes, Compass, Kingsoft Ofice, Truecaller, Clean Master, Touchpal X and a few others. The System Update app has been always useful in Gionee devices, with both, OTA and Manual update options available.
For the personalization, Color app is pre-loaded with a limited number of themes, wallpapers and effects for desktop switch. Overall, the UI is simple, neat and gives some control to the users over its looks. Being at Android Lollipop version, that is an added advantage for those always concerned about it for app compatibility.
While the Pioneer P6 handled most of the apps pretty well, there were some noticeable lags on heavy games, even in Gallery while it was filling up with pictures. Similar was the case with games like Asphalt 8, which was unplayable because of the resolution problem and nothing to do with the chipset. We played a few other games, namely Subway Surfers, Temple Run 2 and such, and they played with no frame drops or lags.
Benchmark scores on the Pioneer P6 were as expected for a device with Mediatek MT6582 chipset and 1GB RAM, though the low resolution made the number a little lower than what you would see in this price range. UC Browser actually responded better than Google Chrome, interestingly, unlike in the other devices from Gionee in the past. Out of the 1GB RAM (965MB), about 510MB is what you get available after a reboot.
The cameras on this device don’t seem great by numbers – a 5MP rear and a 2MP front camera. But contrary to that, we are impressed with the capture quality, with both the cameras. The 5-megapixel rear one has a great color reproduction, and is much better than 5MP cameras in this price range, for e.g. Moto E. Zooming in produces a lot of grains, but that is quite expected. While the picture capture quality is decent, the video quality is not good in any light condition.
The camera app is familiar, with a long list that shows up when tapping on the square options icon in the left bottom, and there are several manual control options for saturation, colors, brightness, white balance, capture action and the capture modes. There are a few color effects that the user can change between. HDR mode is available, face detection, continuous shot and self timer options too are given under settings.
The assistance of LED flash on the front, for selfies to come out better is quite handy. It isn’t a flash light that matches up with the shutter, but keeps itself filled in, giving a more natural capture than the light thrown during capture. Check the following captures to judge the quality.
Just to note, the rear camera on the Pioneer P6 can record 1080p videos as well, but the quality isn’t good. You might still find it good that Full HD videos can be taken.
Front-facing camera captures, without and with flash.
These captures were taken using the 2-megapixel front camera, first without using the given flash, and next using the flash light. Since this is a fixed focus camera, you notice that the closely captured objects aren’t focused, but here, we’re trying to show you how bright the pictures can get with that flash above the screen.
As far as the battery is concerned, you should better look at Gionee’s own Marathon M3 if you are serious about the battery capacity, though the 1950 mAh battery in Pioneer P6 has a good standby, and it can last till the end of the day on regular usage. The best part was that the battery didn’t drain much because of the screen, which took about 16% of the battery for the 3 hours it was active.
The connectivity options are no scarce, and each of them, including the 3G data network were swift in toggles and connections. We could, with ease, connect about 3 devices at once using the Pioneer P6 as a portable hotspot. The device also comes with HotKnot feature, common in Gionee smartphones, where the two phones need to be touched in order to transfer content.
There is not a small number of smartphones in the budget range, but Gionee Pioneer P6 can be one of those we can recommend for the good interface, a decent camera combination, and a good build. There are some worthy competitors, with better performance but similar pricing – Xiaomi Redmi Note, Asus ZenFone 5 as well as Yu Yureka. But every device has its own disadvantages here, especially with the after-sales service, and with issues such as heating up (in case of Yureka), absence of app drawer in case of Redmi Note, while ZenFone 5 is the best bet against the Pioneer P6 in this case.