Gionee Elife S Plus Review: A Welcome Back Killer All Rounder Phone Under 10K!

Recently, Gionee, after several months of being out of the radar is officially back in the country in partnership with Cell Prime. As a result, they were able to finally bring their impressive line up of midrange and flagship offerings in the Philippines. One of them is the Gionee Elife S Plus with USB Type C reversible tech under 10k.
Gionee Elife S Plus Review Philippines
Gionee Elife S Plus review!

A bit of a back story, the Elife S Plus was delivered to my home few weeks back before the CloudFone group (Cell Prime) announced that they're the brand who's carrying Gionee now. And it was a pleasant surprise as I noticed that Gionee is aggressively pricing their handsets now.

Anyway, going back to the analysis of this device. Here's the rest of the specifications first.

Note: The Elife S Plus is priced at around 12K in India. In short, this device is more affordable here.

Gionee Elife S Plus Specs

Display: 5.5 Inch HD AMOLED 1280 x 720 resolution w/ Gorilla Glass 3 protection at 267 ppi
CPU: 1.3 GHz 64 Bit MT6753 octa core processor
GPU: Mali T720
RAM: 3 GB
ROM: 16 GB expandable via micro SD card slot up to 128 GB
Back Camera: 13 MP f/2.0 w/ LED flash
Selfie Camera: 5 MP
Battery: 3,150 mAh
OS: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop w/ Amigo OS 3.1
Connectivity: WiFi, 3G, LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, dual SIM, dual Standby
Others: USB Type C, Face unlock
Dimensions: 155 x 76.4 x 7.5 mm
Weight: 158 g
Price: 9,999 Pesos

Unboxing / Accessories

Gionee Elife S Plus Unboxing
The box of the phone

This smartphone comes in a premium white clean 1x1 box with simple Gionee S Plus labeling. It's also fairly easy to open that won't give you a hard time at all.
Accessories included in the package
Inclusions inside the packaging

Upon opening the package, the beautiful Elife S Plus will greet you immediately. Then after digging deeper to the box, you'll find the inclusions such as the 1A wall charger, USB Type C data / charging cables, screen protector, soft high grade silicon case and free earphones with mic that sounds so good. (We'll talk more about that later)

As a whole, the package presented by Gionee here is complete and impressive with everything that you'll need to begin with.

Build Quality / Design

Gionee Elife S Plus back
Back view of the phone

If you take a look at the build quality of the phone, Gionee was able to pull off a decent one here. At the back the material used is a good quality plastic with beautiful patterns under the glossy plastic that's stylish. Moving to the frame at first I thought that its also made out of plastic as there are some familiar "chrome paint like" style in it, but I'm wrong, this device features an aluminum frame that feels hard and tough to bend.
Headphone jack and frame
3.5 mm headphone port located on top
USB Type C and mic
Visible below is the USB Type C port
Volume rocker and power button of Elife S Plus
On the right side of the phone, you'll find the power button and volume rocker
Capacitive Keys
On this view, it shows that the capacitive keys don't have light and uses reflective paint instead

The volume rocker and power button on the side has that chrome painted plastic and in front you'll be greeted by the Gorilla Glass 3 protected AMOLED screen that can prevent scratches and cracks on not so hard drops accidents.
Gionee Elife S Plus full view
Front view of the device

Going to the design, Gionee was able to come ensures that this is a well made device that's slim and looks good to appeal most genre of life. It's also great to see that the silicon protective case that they included in the package is also aesthetically nice and soft to hold with very good grip.

By the way, I also liked that the button placements are in standard form as you can easily locate the buttons and ports with a lot of ease. The device ergonomically made as a whole except for the "at the back speaker" placement that I find odd.



Display Quality

Note 5 vs Gionee Elife S Plus
Gionee Elife S Plus side by side with Samsung Galaxy Note 5

The Gionee Elife S Plus utilizes a a large 5.5 inch HD IPS AMOLED screen with an HD resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 267 ppi. I know that some will argue that using just an HD screen won't make the display good enough, but they're wrong.

This device is one of the few under 10K smartphone with this type of configuration that uses the AMOLED display technology. The result, you get eye popping colors with good viewing angles and really deep blacks. The brightness is also a bit brighter than the Huawei G8 and lower than the Galaxy 8 that I'm currently testing which put it in between that makes the phone usable even under direct sunlight.
Multi touch test and color options
5 point multi touch and other display options

It was just saturated and might be too warm for some. Fortunately, the phone has an adjustable LCD effect color tuner in the settings to fit the display best for your eyes. The Elife S Plus also comes with 5 points of multi touch that makes it good enough for navigation, gestures and gaming.

Audio Quality

Moving to the speakers of this phone that's located at the back of the phone, it goes with good clarity, acceptable loudness (though I would like it better if its louder) and doesn't sound distorted most of the time. Good enough for watching movies and listening to your favorite tunes on a quiet enclosed room.

The headphone out quality (DAC) speaks a different tune on the other hand. It was definitely acceptable even for the picky music lovers. It's a near v-shaped sounding smartphone that goes with emphasized bass response with more prominent highs that can get peaky at times. It can also get analytical at times as the details were very much present most of the time from the vocals, instruments and headroom.

Having said that, this is one of the phone that has the widest soundstage I tried that gives you a 3D like effect even without the use of the DTS software. It's also surprisingly good for most genres even the likes of jazz and classical music.

Note 1: Forget the DTS equalizer the presets there will either give you ear piercing highs, muddied mids or bloated bass. It sounds a lot more natural and friendlier to the ears when turned off.
Note 2: The driving power (loudness) was several ticks better than My35 and Honor 6 Plus

The surprise here is the type of in ear monitors with mic that Gionee used. It's honestly, the best sounding earphones I heard since the FREE  LG Quadbeat 2 and Sony MH1C!

The sound quality is superb with warm and smooth sound that's clean across the spectrum. It gives you big and well bodied bass response that extends really deep with massive sub-bass and bass decay. The good thing here is the mids isn't bloated at all and decent in any sense even with that massive bass. It's also has a close to hall like soundstage good enough to determine sound location and decently detailed to hear good instrumental separation.

This earphones is so good for a freebie that's worthy enough for a separate review on alone. I'm not saying that its on the level of the VSD5 and Mi Hybrids, but it can put a good fight with my worth 1.8K Soundmagic E10.

Note: Comfort and Isolation is also on point with this IEM (In ear monitors)

Battery

Gionee Elife S Plus battery test
Battery life with power saving options

For a phone that's rated at just 3,150 mAh, the battery life of this phone is insane. It was able to give me almost 7 hours of heavy usage with Geek bench battery test with max brightness, Bluetooth, data, WiFi and GPS on settings. That's a whole lot more than most 3,000 mAh phones we tested with an average of 4.5 hours. Under normal usage, the device was able to give more than a days worth of battery life.

Moving to the future proof USB Type C thing, I loved the way that it makes charger plugging a whole lot easier as it is reversible. Going a bit out of topic, the file transfer is also noticeably faster with the USB Type C.

However, the wall charger included in the package is only rated at 1A. As a result, charging time isn't that fast. I recorded 3 hours and 31 minutes from 0 to 100% with my test.

Camera

The Gionee Elife S Plus is using an 13 MP and 5 MP combo with unknown type of sensor with this phone. At first I wasn't really expecting too much, until I tried it. It was able to give me breathtaking photos on both the rear and front cameras.
Gionee Elife S Plus Manual Camera
Manual camera mode

Going to the rear camera, the the shots I was able to take were of very high quality capable of comparing with other well known midrange to high end smartphones. The colors is a bit on the warmer side and a bit saturated, but the quality is very evident. It was sharp, rich in colors and great to the eyes for most. Focusing is also fast with just a second on good lighting as well as the one click fast shutter. What I like here is it also has an easy to use spot metering feature for better lighting adjustment.

The selfie camera on the other hand is one of the most detailed I ever tried. Even at just 5 MP, I was blown away by the quality it was able to deliver that will definitely surprise a lot of people. It's even better than other selfie centric handsets I tried sans the flash. It doesn't have auto focus though, but has fast shutter speed. 

Note 1: Both the rear camera and selfie camera falls short in super low light conditions though.
Note 2: The anti shake on the video options helps a little in stabilizing video shots.

The camera software of this device is also impressive that can rival even the offerings of well known brands. Honestly, it's one of the best I tried. It's feature packed, easy to understand and goes with good post processing.

It also has a pro camera mode (full manual controls, a lot of filters, night mode, face beautify, magic focus (with refocus), panorama, take anytime (best multiple shot, great for moving and action shots) and HDR functions.

Rear Camera Samples

Look at the details and colors
Sample wide angled under direct sunlight shot
Macro mode on
This phone is good at macro shots too!
Moving objects shot
A sample action shot using magic focus (yes, not only the take anytime mode is good for action shots)
Some light bleed
Against the light shot with a little light bleed on the upper right side
100 cropped view
Take a close look to the leaf it still detailed even after 100% crop
Dim light macro test
Sample dim light macro shot
Evening sample shot
Great photos even at night
Gionee Elife S Plus Night Mode test
Sample night mode shot (good even with noticeable grains)
low light and with flash comparison
Low light and with flash comparison

Selfie Camera Samples

Direct daylight sample front camera shot
Outdoor on top of the mountain selfie shot
Good light selfie
Indoors with good lighting
Skin Smoothening mode
The beautify mode doesn't over beautify! 5 am in the morning shot
Front camera needs improvement in low light
I would like it better if they can make the screen flash ala LG, Huawei and etc. as the selfie cam doesn't perform well in low light

Quick camera comparisons

Elife S Plus vs Huawei G8
Gionee Elife S Plus (left) and Huawei G8 (right)
Elife S Plus vs Samsung Galaxy A8
Gionee Elife S Plus (left) and Samsung Galaxy A8 (right)

I'm not saying here that Elife S Plus can beat the pricier phones such as the Huawei G8 and the Samsung Galaxy A8, but for a 10,000 Pesos phone, it only lags behind by a small margin.

Video Samples



Performance

Antutu and Geekbench test
Antutu and Geekbench score

Under 10,000 Pesos, this phone is using a familiar setup used by most local branded phones, but not from highly acclaimed international brands such as Gionee. This phone features the 1.3 GHz 64 Bit MT6753 octa core processor, Mali T720 GPU and 3 GB RAM that's sufficient enough to run any type of apps and games decently. I also never experienced any lags when switching from one app to another thanks to the large amount of RAM and quite fast processing speed.

It was able to perform the way a modern midrange device should work in general. Never had a problem with light and moderate games and slight frame drops sometimes with games that requires heavy processing power.

Note: The Elife S Plus is also pretty good when it comes to thermal management as I only experience mild heating even when using LTE data and gaming at the same time.
Amigo OS 3.1
Amigo UI features and extreme battery mode (basic phone functions)
Phone System manager
System manager and gestures


Going to the UI part I was generally pleased with the Amigo OS 3.1 as it was snappy, modern looking, theme-able loaded with features and easy to navigate. Though at first it may require a little time to get familiar with as the settings shortcuts it located below instead of the traditional on the top one. I just find it hard to locate the storage options and I find its config lacking.

I liked that it has its own phone manager where you cna clean the cache, manager power options, your apps and etc. It's also complete screen gestures like the write the letter you want while the screen is off as a shortcut to a certain app that you want and it has a near full double tap to wake and sleep function ala LG Knock Code.

I also never had a problem with calls and connectivity. I get the usual signal rate I'm used to and connecting to WiFi, 4G and Bluetooth is relatively easy.

What I didn't like here is the amount of bloatwares installed. Fortunately most of them are removable in case you don't need it. Anyway, that doesn't remove the fact that this is an outstanding phone for the price as a whole.

Pros - Incredible value for money, top notch cameras, great specs, long battery life, very good FREE earphones
Cons - Capacitive keys don't have light, for now USB Type C cable replacements might be hard to find if it breaks, speakers located at the back, bloatwares, not that fast charging time

Note: I wasn't able to test OTG capability due to the lack of USB Type C port accessories as of this moment.

Verdict

Gionee is back in the ball game with a serious game face on. They started hotly with this Gionee Elife S Plus, a serious under 10K phone that most people will surely find hair raising for what type o exerence it can deliver more than just the "on paper specs" at this low price tag. An absolute STEAL for most as a whole.

GIZ Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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