As thin as the Gionee Elife S5.5 is, you would think that performance would have been compromised in some way. Yet it manages to pack an octa-core processor, 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage beneath its gorgeous 5 inch Super AMOLED display. Even its shortcoming of having launched running an older version of Android has been addressed in a recent update.
I’ve been using the Gionee Elife S5.5 for close to 2 months now and I’ve learned enough about this feature-packed smartphone to confidently put out a review. So what makes the Elife S5.5 different from anything else that’s out there? Read on to find out.
Build Quality and Design
While the iPhone continues to set the standard in terms of smartphone design and aesthetics, the Gionee Elife S5.5 seeks to claim the title for itself. It isn’t just thin. It achieves such thinness using some of the most premium materials that can be found on a mass-market smartphone, sandwiching a metal frame between a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 on both the front and back.
On the front, you’ll find the gorgeous 5 inch Super AMOLED display with appreciably thin bezels on either side of the screen. Above it is the earpiece, front camera, and proximity and ambient lighting sensors. Below the screen are the capacitive navigation keys: Menu, Home and Back.
Flipping the device over to look at its sides, you’ll see an aluminum strip that runs along the edge with the occasional notch every now and then to prevent it from causing network connectivity issues. Anyone familiar with the iPhone 4 Antenna-gate issue will understand why. Anyway, on the left side, you’ll find both the volume rocker and power/lock button.
On the right is the micro SIM tray with a pinhole where you would insert an ejector tool to pop the tray out.
On top is the micro USB port.
At the bottom is the 3.5mm headset jack and a microphone pinhole for taking calls.
On the back, you’ll find the 13mp autofocus camera with its LED flash. Between these two elements is another microphone pinhole, this time for noise-cancelling. Then there’s the Gionee branding in the middle and the loudspeaker toward the bottom. You’ll notice that the layout of the elements on the back are in such a way that the S5.5 looks like a point-and-shoot camera when held in landscape.
The Elife S5.5 sports a 5 inch Full HD Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 441ppi. To be honest, I have a bit of a bias toward Super AMOLED screens because quite frankly, the technology is gorgeous! Unlike IPS, Super AMOLED is capable of displaying true black because each individual pixel is able to turn itself on or off, resulting in theoretically infinite contrast.
The color gamut is also much wider, which typically results in punchy saturated colors. Detractors say it’s unnatural, but it’s something you can easily get used to over time. Besides, a punchy screen is more likely to have a wow factor versus one that has more natural color reproduction.
Also, based on this shot, it should be pretty obvious the Elife S5.5 has some great viewing angles.
The Gionee Elife S5.5 is driven by a 1.7GHz MediaTek MT6592 octa-core processor coupled with a Mali 450 MP4 GPU. To help with multitasking, you’re also getting 2GB RAM to go with it. On paper, it’s a pretty decent combination and it translates pretty well into real life too.
While navigating through the Amigo OS UI isn’t as fluid as you would expect (more on that later), apps and games are executed pretty quickly. Switching between apps is a breeze too thanks to having ample RAM and a processor that can actually make good use of it.
I ran the Elife S5.5 through a couple of benchmarking apps: Antutu and Vellamo. I’m no longer going to be using Quadrant from this point forward for my own preferences. Anyway, here are the results.
The Gionee Elife S5.5 ran Android 4.2 Jelly Bean at launch with a layer of Amigo OS on top, and so did my review unit when I first got it. However, I’ve since updated mine to KitKat 4.4, which is now available via OTA by the way. My Elife S5.5 looks and performs slightly differently now, some of which is for the better.
Like many major international phone makers, Gionee likes to install its own proprietary UI skin, similar to Samsung’s Touchwiz and HTC’s Sense UI. In this case, it’s called Amigo OS, and it plays around with a few Android elements, unifying the homescreen and app drawer so there’s only one place to launch apps from, and eliminating widgets so they don’t clutter things up. It also changes things up in the Settings menu, creating a separate menu for commonly accessed features and putting them under Quick Settings. You can still access the traditional Settings menu, although now it’s called All Settings.
That’s all well and good except for one thing: navigating through it is slow. Even if you stick to the stock homescreen animation, swiping through the screens is still noticeably sluggish. Believe it or not, it was actually slower when the Elife S5.5 was still running Jelly Bean 4.2 so it’s actually slightly more responsive now. Still, it’s quite slow. Thankfully, it’s easily remedied by installing a 3rd party launcher like Apex or Nova.
Telephony and Wireless Connectivity
As powerful as the Elife S5.5 is, it’s still a phone and should still function as any phone should. Of course, this isn’t a problem for most phones, although there’s often a usability issue here and there. For the most part, the Elife S5.5 passes this section of the review with flying colors.
As a messaging device, the screen of the Elife S5.5 is very comfortable. It’s the result of a combination of things like the slimness and lightness of the device, the amount of screen real estate you’re getting, as well as the screen’s sensitivity. Making and taking calls isn’t as perfect as it could have been though. The handset fits nicely in the hand and I didn’t have issues with the other person on the line hearing me. Unfortunately, it was me who couldn’t hear them as well though because the earpiece wasn’t that strong.
As far as wireless connectivity goes, you’re getting a full suite including HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. Unfortunately, there’s no LTE, but that’s a limitation of the MT6592 SoC. One thing I’m very happy about is the Elife S5.5’s hotspot functionality. During typhoon Glenda, I cycled through all of the review units at home and used them as portable hotspots. Of all of them, it was the Elife S5.5 that never once had any issues connecting to 3G whereas a couple of local brands often had trouble maintaining a strong connection.
The Elife S5.5 is equipped with a pretty decent 13mp rear-facing autofocus camera with LED flash. The phone actually comes pre-loaded with two camera apps, both of which offer their own unique functionality. The main camera app is your typical stock Android camera that’s been given a facelift. This is especially obvious in the camera settings view.
The other camera app and one that will likely appeal to all you selfietographers out there is the Charm Camera App. You won’t see any of the typical camera options here. Instead, you’ll get several self-explanatory modes like Live Filters, Stamps, Frames, Face Beauty and even a Makeup mode that lets you test several styles of makeup without actually using any!
Of course, the camera isn’t just about gimmickry. Here are a few a samples shots that I’ve taken.
When it comes to entertainment, the Elife S5.5 certainly doesn’t disappoint. Much of it is centered around the 5 inch Super AMOLED display, which makes just about everything look gorgeous on it. This is true whether you’re watching movies, playing games, browsing through your gallery or even just reading an eBook. You’ll also benefit from the MT6592’s built-in ClearMotion technology that smooths out frame rates when watching movies, making it an even more enjoyable viewing experience.
Of course, you don’t necessarily have to use the screen to enjoy the Elife S5.5’s entertainment capabilities. It also functions as a music player after all. My only gripe is that the output when wearing a headset is just average.
So Should You Buy the Gionee Elife S5.5
The Gionee Elife S5.5 is a gorgeous marriage between reasonably high end specs and premium design and materials. Sure, at Php21,999, it might be way more expensive than local phones with similar specs and performance. However, it’s important to note that people who want to buy the Elife S5.5 aren’t buying it strictly for performance, but to make a statement as well.
I honestly find the Elife S5.5 to be quite refreshing. By now, I’ve grown used to looking toward the iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and 5S when I wanted to point folks toward a fashionable phone whereas I’d point to whatever high end Android flagship was out there if I had friends asking me about something more high performance. Now there’s the Gionee Elife S5.5 — a phone that compromises nothing.
Gionee Elife S5.5 Specs
- 5″ Full HD Super AMOLED display (1080 x 1920 resolution, 441ppi)
- 1.7GHz MediaTek MT6592 octa-core processor
- Mali 450MP4 GPU
- Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Amigo OS UI overlay (KitKat 4.4 update now available via OTA)
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB ROM, non-expandable
- 13mp rear-facing autofocus camera with LED flash
- 5mp front camera
- WiFi b/g/n
- Bluetooth 4.0
- GPS with A-GPS
- 2,300mAh battery, non-removable
- Price: Php21,999
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