Gionee has been making headlines with its slim phones. We have reviewed the Gionee Elife E7 and the Elife S5.5 in the past and had some mixed opinions on both the phones. But Gionee is not just sticking to flagship and slim phones. The Gionee Marathon M3 is an example of how it is playing around with specifications. As the name implies, the unique thing about the Marathon M3 is its battery capacity which is 5000mAh. This is an upgrade of the Gionee M2 which itself housed a 4200mAh battery. So let us check out the phone.
Build and Design: 7/10
Unlike its slimmer siblings, the Gionee Marathon M3 has a regular 10.4mm thickness. The edges are flat with a slightly raised white coloured surface surrounded by two silver coloured lines on either side which add an elegant touch to the phone. The rear side has slightly curved design which becomes more apparent around the edges. The plastic used in construction on the rear side is quite smooth which makes the grip slippery at times.
Volume rocker and power/standby button are placed one below the other on the right hand side whereas the microUSB charging port and 3.5mm audio jack are on the base and at the top respectively. The camera is placed on the top left hand corner on the rear side along with an LED flash unit. The Marathon M3 features a 5-inch HD IPS display which has a one-glass solution (OGS) protection.
Overall, the device feels sturdy and thanks to the high capacity battery, it weighs around 180 grams. Opening the rear cover is a painful exercise. Thanks to the strange placement of the detachment notch on the top right hand corner, just above the volume rocker. You will need to use tweezers or some external tools to open it up, lest you want to break your fingernails. The battery is not removable.
The main feature of the Gionee Marathon M3 is its 5000mAh battery, but let us also look at the phone itself. The dual-SIM Marathon M3 is powered by a MediaTek MT6582 system on chip which has a 1.3GHz quad-core processor along with Mali 400 GPU. It comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage of which 5.51GB is system capacity. Of this, a little over 2GB is meant to store the downloaded apps. There's only 2.48GB is actually available to the user, which is pathetic. You will most likely have to invest in a microSD card as 2.48GB will get filled up in no time with pictures and videos. You can also expand the memory using the microSD card slot to up to 128GB.
The 5-inch HD screen gives a pixel density of 294ppi which isn’t bad. The phone has thin bezels on the side, but the top and bottom bezels are quite large which increase the overall height of the phone. It runs on Android 4.4 KitKat OS which comes with Gionee’s Amigo 2.0 skin. On the camera front, you get an 8MP rear camera and 2MP front camera.
Gionee puts on its own custom skin on its phones. The Amigo 2.0 UI was last seen on the Elife E7 and the Elife S5.5 as well. It comes with a lot of apps pre-loaded which is useless because it tends to use a lot of RAM. Despite installing just a few new apps, I found only 200MB memory usable and despite continuous optimisation, RAM usage would still be over 60 per cent. One can just imagine what will happen if you install a lot of new apps. Thankfully, you can uninstall some of the non-proprietary apps which are neatly categorised into Games, Tools and Other apps. Proprietary apps include Amigo Paper, Theme, Color and User Feedback. But Gionee would be much better off reducing on the bloatware.
The only app from among the many that I found useful was the TouchPal X keyboard. In the settings menu, you have a quick action icon to release unused memory. The Marathon M3 also supports gestures such as flipping the phone to silence alarm, double clicking to wake up the phone and making gestures on the screen in the sleep mode to directly go to particular apps.
You’ll also find a MediaTek feature called HotKnot which basically lets you transfer content by just connecting the displays of your mobile phones. It works like NFC, but it uses a lower transmission power and phones do not need to have an NFC chip for data transfer. It makes use of the gravity sensor, proximity sensor and the touch sensor of capacitive touchscreens to create a sort of capacitive coupling to transfer data. Of course data transfer speeds are much lower than NFC or Bluetooth.
The Marathon M3’s quad core processor can handle most tasks well. But the Amigo UI, as we have experience in the past, does slow things down while you are swiping the home screens or the app drawer. Even sliding down the notifications drawer takes a visible delay. Otherwise, we did a lot of multi-tasking and did not notice any random shut down of apps. Scrolling was speedy on the Chrome browser. Games such as Riptide GP2 and Shadowgun ran smoothly, but the rear side just around the camera region gets sufficiently warm.
Call quality was decent and earpiece speaker is sufficiently loud. It supports quad-band GSM and on the connectivity front you have 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0, Wi-fi Direct and so on. The speaker section is loud enough to let you watch a movie in a quiet room without earphones. But the bundled earphones aren't great and you will need to invest in a separate pair. It could play back most video formats, but we noticed frame-skipping while playing back high bitrate full HD video files.
The 5-inch display on the Marathon M3 comes with an HD IPS panel. It makes use of one-glass solution (OGS) which is generally used to keep the thickness lower as it tends to use one glass layer less, not that it matters here. The viewing angles on the phone are quite good thanks to the IPS panel. While the blacks aren’t as deep as those seen on AMOLED displays, we did not have any major issues with the M3. The backlight bleeding is well controlled. While watching HD movies the details come out well. The display has a glossy surface so in darker scenes, the screen can be pretty reflective. Sunlight legibility is quite good as well.
Gionee Marathon M3 comes with an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera. The camera is straight forward. You get a standard settings menu, nothing like the simple/advanced menus we have seen with high end Gionee phones. The default interface of the camera is clean. but you can get into the settings menu, if you want to play around. It offers creative filters, frames, ability to adjust the white balance and so on. You also have the HDR mode, but its buried deep in the settings. I would have liked to see a direct button to activate HDR mode as is the case with most Android phone cameras. We liked the speedy shooting offered by the Gionee camera. Focus acquisition in daylight is quick. Low light image quality is not the best. Video camera mode offers basic settings such as adjusting video quality, exposure, scene modes and so on. It needs to be set before hand as while shooting you can only change the touch focus. Let us see how the camera performs.
Battery Life: 9/10
Battery life is the defining feature of the Marathon M3, and in that department I would have been surprised if the performance was lacking. I ran our standard 8 hour loop test involving 2 hours of YouTube video streaming, video playback, calling and audio playback and at the end of it all I still had around 68 per cent battery remaining. I could practically do the 8-hour loop test all over and still have some battery left. On regular use cases, the phone easily lasted for two working days. It comes bundled with a 2A charger which helps with quickly charging the device. What's more, you can also use the Marathon M3 to charge other phones, which is quite impressive.
Verdict and Price in India
This is going to be an easy verdict. Thanks to the massive battery capacity, the phone is only meant for one kind of user - he or she who need a long lasting device. If you are tired of lugging around your portable chargers because of your phone dying out within a work-day, then the Gionee Marathon M3 makes for a compelling choice. Of course you have to spend a grand sum of Rs 13,999 to get it. A quick search on online e-commerce sites will get you the device anywhere between Rs 11,800 to Rs 13,000.
Sure, it is not a flawless device. The storage space available to the user is a huge let down. Bloatware is another issue. Also I would have liked if the Amigo UI was a tad bit speedier, not that it’s as slow as the E6, but you can still notice a lag while swiping screens. The camera performance is decent. But if you are looking for more features, then you can check out Motorola Moto G second generation or even the Xiaomi Redmi Note which also has a good battery life, only catch being that it's sales are currently suspended due to a dispute settlement case. The Lenovo S860 is another phone with huge battery capacity, but it is priced much higher as well.
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