Gionee Marathon M5 Plus first look: A refined version of the Marathon M5

With improved software and hardware, the Gionee Marathon M5 Plus certainly seems like an evolution and less of an upgrade similar to what we saw with the Nexus 5 and Nexus 5X.

Gionee recently announced a new version of Marathon M5, called the Marathon M5 Plus in China. The smartphone almost seems like an upgrade to the M5, but delve a bit deeper, and you will see a whole new product in there that almost seems like a redesign. Coming to the pricing, the Gionee Marathon M5 Plus will be priced at 2499 RMB (approximately Rs 25,500) and it will go on sale starting 25 December  in China. Availability details for the Indian market have not been confirmed for now, but it is expected to be launched in February 2016.

While the M5 seems to have grown bigger, there are plenty of improvements not just under the hood but in terms of design and optimisations as well that should make this smartphone worth a look when it comes to India. We got a chance to spend some time with this phablet at the Gionee launch event and these are our first impressions.

Build and Design
The branding of the Gionee Marathon M5 Plus does come from its predecessor the Gionee Marathon M5. The earlier M5 did sport a large 6020 mAh battery and that's where all the chubbiness comes from. With the M5 Plus, Gionee completely redesigned the phone and even went with a smaller battery, making it slimmer and polished and not as heavy as you would expect it to be.

Gionee Marathon M5 Plus first look: A refined version of the Marathon M5

On the front we have a massive 6 inch, AMOLED display with the front, back and multi-tasking keys at the bottom. The back and multi-tasking key are capacitive ones while the home button can be pressed and also houses the fingerprint reader.

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The 6 inch display that sports a 2.5D arc symmetrical design made of Gorilla Glass. The display underneath covers 77.5 percent of the phone's front., which is an achievement when compared to other phablets like the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with 67.67 percent coverage.

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There are the power and volume buttons on the right side and the USB Type C port accompanied by the 3.5 mm headphone jack at the bottom. The camera unit sits on the back with an LED flash and the secondary mic. The smartphone is entirely made from metal, which gives it a premium feel.

Display

The Gionee Marathon M5 Plus on the left alongside the Marathon M5.

The Gionee Marathon M5 Plus on the left alongside the Marathon M5.

It sports a 6-inch full HD display which gives a pixel density of 368 ppi. It is sharp and the AMOLED array really makes the colours pop. The viewing angles are great and we did not have any complaints about the display during our limited hands on time.

Chipset, RAM, Storage
The Gionee Marathon M5 Plus sports a 1.3 GHz octa-core CPU with 3 GB of RAM. The make of the processor was not specified during the launch event but it ran the Amigo OS smoothly without any hiccups and definitely felt like an improvement over the currently available Marathon M5. The smartphone sports 64GB of internal storage which can be further expanded up to 128GB via microSD card.

Software and OS
At the event, Gionee showcased a couple of new features with its Amigo 3.1 OS that runs on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop. While there plenty of new software features including an app locker, improved mailbox, and a refined kids mode, this was a launch for the Chinese market, so we cannot confirm whether the cool new features will arrive in India. Among them was also native apps like Private Sector with a focus on security and  a data transfer app for those switching between phones called Ami Clone that can transfer up to 10 GB of data in half an hour between phones.

Camera
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For the camera Gionee went in with a 13 MP primary sensor on the back with a dual LED setup and a 5 MP unit up front for selfies. Not much was detailed back at the event, so our best guesses are that the camera unit remains the same as it was on the M5. The camera seemed decent given our short hands-on so it is best that you look out for our full review on the same when the device comes to India.

Battery, Connectivity

The Gionee Marathon M5 Plus on the left and the M5 on the right.

The Gionee Marathon M5 Plus on the left and the M5 on the right.

While everyone expected the battery of the Gionee Marathon M5 Plus to be even bigger that the original M5, that was not the case. Instead, the phablet packs in a smaller 5020 mAh battery (small by marathon standards indeed) and it seems that Gionee did get plenty of space to spread it all over the smartphone's body, which is a lot slimmer than the M5.

The focus was also on durability and optimisations. The 5020 mAh battery according to Gionee will retain 90 percent of its capacity even after 600 charging cycles, which is about two years of use claims Gionee. The charging mechanism uses two chips to help charge the smartphone quicker as well.

Conclusion
While the Gionee Marathon M5 Plus seems like a bigger variant of the original M5, there is new hardware hiding under the hood in the form of a fingerprint reader and also a USB Type C port, which are both turning out to be a standard for Android smartphones. So with improved software and hardware, the M5 plus certainly seems like an evolution and less of an upgrade similar to what we saw with the Nexus 5 and Nexus 5X.

Disclaimer: The correspondent was invited to Shenzen, China by Gionee India. All travel and accommodation expenses were borne by Gionee India.

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