Chinese smartphone maker Gionee has been steadily launching big battery smartphones, including the Marathon M4 launched in October. In the last week of November, they have added the Marathon M5 ( 17,999) to the line-up. At this price, the Marathon M5 goes up against the Motorola Moto X Play ( 19,999) which also focuses on the big battery aspect.

Design: Big and bulky

The biggest challenge for big battery phones is how to pack in that much battery capacity and yet remain thin and light. The Marathon M5 looks quite good, with the aluminium back pane and the matte plastic on the edges. If nothing else, this phone just has a very simple design that would appeal to a lot of users. It tips the scales at 211g.

In comparison, the Moto X Play (170g) is lighter and its curved back panel feels much better in the hand than the Marathon M5’s flat back. Since Moto X Play’s has a more curvaceous design, the Marathon M5 looks bigger than it actually is.

Display: Big but not sharp enough

The Marathon M5 has a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a screen resolution of 1280x720 pixels This is a vivid display but it has a slight pinkish tint that becomes apparent when viewing web pages. The screen size is perfect for someone who plays games and watches movies a lot, because of the extra real estate that big screen phones tend to offer. Though videos looked good and enjoyable, they were not very sharp. The same was the case with text in the web browser and e-book. Wide angle visibility is good but under sunlight it doesn’t look very clear due to the display’s reflective nature.

This is where the Moto X Play has a significant advantage. It has a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. It also reproduces sharper text and videos, and the colours seem more accurate.

Software: Custom UI runs smoothly

Gionee has loaded the Marathon M5 with Android 5.1 (Lollipop) along with their own Amigo 3.1 UI over it. It is a heavily customized interface with very few similarities with the way the stock Android looks visually. It comes with the usual Gionee apps such as amigo paper, theme park, game zone and UC browser. Most custom UIs tend to pre-load their phones with too many apps and end up wasting internal storage, but Gionee has installed very few apps by default. The UI allows users to change the themes and icons. The Amigo UI also provides an app permissions feature, something that Google has added with the latest Marshmallow operating system to keep up with user demand for better control over what data their apps can access.

The Moto X Play also runs Android 5.1 but with a cleaner and more uncluttered plain Android interface. It may not have as many features as the Amigo UI, but of the two its more likely to get the Android Marshmallow update sooner.

Performance: Capable and consistent

Equipped with a 64-bit MediaTek processor and 2GB RAM, the Marathon M5 offers a stutter-free experience, as long as it is not stressed. We didn’t notice any lag or heating up while watching movies, playing games like GT Racing 2 or switching from one app to another. The Moto X Play runs on the more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor which has been paired with 2GB RAM, and delivers a smooth performance multi-tasking and gaming experience. Both devices have 32GB internal storage which can be expanded to 128GB via micro SD cards. This is a close call as both handled heavy tasks well.

Battery: Last over three days

Gionee Marathon M5’s key attraction is its 6,050mAh battery which lasted over 3 days of mixed use. This is by far the most we have seen in a smartphone this year. The Moto X Play is powered by a 3,560mAh battery, which though smaller in size can stay active for about two days in a similar usage scenario. While three days does sound like a lot, the reality is that a comparatively smaller X Play battery is not far behind, and that points to the Marathon M5 having a less power optimized processor and the custom interface is also draining the battery.

Camera: Colour accurate but not sharp

Marathon M5’s 13-megapixel camera is fast but the touch-to-focus feature is a bit slow. Though the picture quality is not very sharp, we like the colour reproduction. Pictures taken in good ambient light look natural, as do the close up shots. Low-light results are mostly blurry.

The camera comes with a number of additional modes such as ultra-pixel, Pic note and Magic focus. Ultra Pixel improves picture quality by combining five shots into one, but is a bit slow to process. Magic Focus allows you to focus on multiple objects in a single shot.

The Moto X Play has a 21-megapixel camera, which delivers sharp and detailed picture quality, but struggles in low-light. If you want a good camera with limited features, Moto X play is a better option, even though it doesn’t have the detailed settings of the M5.

Verdict

While the Gionee Marathon M5’s definite highlight is the good battery life, it falls short in terms of the camera, the display and the overall experience. The Moto X Play just does better in almost all aspects.

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