“The Elife E8 is compelling from all angles, but is overshadowed by rivals”
Gionee’s Elife E7 was a gem of a smartphone when it came out back in 2013, coming across as a VFM option for its asking price. It was also very noteworthy for its 16-megapixel camera, which, apart from being a chart-topper on the megapixel front, was also extremely capable. Gionee took its time to develop a sequel, but it seems the brand took it upon itself to make sure the new offering crammed in tons of goodies. The result is the Elife E8 (unboxing | first impressions), a phone that’s a beast in almost all respects – right from the size to the specs it offers. The spotlight is on shooting prowess again this time, as with the predecessor, but that apart, the smartphone also brings to the table a loaded spec sheet, along with a bunch of features and tweaks that should keep power users happy. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s dive into the nitty-gritties and figure out if it has what it takes to be a worthy daily driver.
Specs at a glance
- Measures 164 x 82.3 x 9.6mm
- Weighs 207g
- 6-inch display with 2K resolution (2,560 x 1,440 pixels, 490ppi)
- 2GHz MediaTek Helio X10 octa-core processor
- 3GB RAM
- 64GB storage, expandable by another 128GB
- 24MP primary camera with dual-LED flash
- 8MP front camera
- 3,500mAh battery
- Amigo with Android 5.1 Lollipop
Design: an SUV of a phone
Dimensions: 164 x 82.3 x 9.6 mm
Weight: 207 grams
Some of the words we’ve used to describe phones in the recent past (including those from Gionee) cover slim, svelte, stylish, elegant etc. None of these would be apt for the Elife E8 though – it’s simply too large and bulky. Think of it as the Toyota Fortuner, a popular SUV that looks like a beast, without any room for words like sleek or elegant in its description. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but our point is that the Elife E8 stands out as a massive device, something that cannot just be attributed to its 6-inch screen.
The wide bezels and thick girth add to that, and you end up with a phone phablet that’s 9.6mm thick and tips the scales at a whopping 200 grams plus. One would think that metal has something to do with it – but while there’s a metal frame that runs around the sides, the rear is still plastic.
The metal frame does add to the build quality, and sports chamfered edges that lend a premium appeal. The front of the phablet looks a tad staid, with the screen dominating proceedings, and wide black bezels. As usual, you’ll find the earpiece, front camera, sensors and notification LED on top, and a row of three capacitive navigation keys at the bottom. These aren’t backlit, which is bummer especially since the keys are tough to locate, and thanks to the large size of the phone, can be missed easily.
Talking about the placement of ports and controls, you’ll find the 3.5mm audio socket on top, the micro-USB port at the bottom, and the power and volume keys on the right. There’s also a dedicated shutter key for the camera on the right.
The rear looks a tad busy. The plastic back panel takes away a bit from the premium feel, but the gold finish on our review unit looked nice. You’ll see the circular lens for the primary camera placed next to the true-tone flash. The lens protrudes out slightly and is encircled by a rose gold ring, which makes it stand out. Below the camera and the flash, you’ll find the circular fingerprint scanner, encircled by a chrome ring. Further below, there’s Gionee branding and a speaker grille placed closer to the bottom.
The rear panel can be pried open (with great difficulty we might add), to reveal a pair of micro-SIM slots and a separate slot to insert a microSD card. The battery is sealed and can’t be accessed.
Screen: big, bold and beautiful
Size: 6.0 Inch
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Display Type: AMOLED
Pixel Density: 490 ppi
While phablets have become quite popular, most of the action is focussed around the 5.5-inch screen size. There are quite a few options with 5.7-inch screens as well. With the Elife E8, Gionee decided to go all out, and graced the device with a massive 6-inch display. It further justifies its flagship credentials by offering a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, otherwise called 2K or QHD. This translates to a pixel density of 490 ppi, and thanks to its AMOLED technology, impresses us with its sharpness, vivid colours and deep blacks.
Needless to say that 6-inches is a lot of screen real estate, so it works well for everything from gaming to media viewing. Touch response is good, and we didn’t have any issues with viewing angles or sunlight legibility as well. Under display settings, you’ll also get more options to tweak the, er, display settings, and you can switch from neutral to cooler or warmer colour tones if you wish.
Software: all-round improvements
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.1, Lollipop
The Elife E8 runs the latest version of Gionee’s Amigo OS, which is based on Android 5.1. Overall, the UI and its features aren’t too different from what we saw on the Gionee Elife S7 (review) and more recently, on the Marathon M4 (review), but it’s good to see that the brand is trying hard to add more features and make the platform better for its users.
This is evident from the fact there’s hardly any sign of the grammar and language issues we’ve seen on earlier versions. Then there are a few new handy features. For example, the Messaging app now segregates service messages, and neatly tucks them away under a separate tab. This is a feature that has been integrated in Xiaomi’s MIUI 7 as well. The UI now also offers support for downloadable themes, and there’s ample choice available under the Theme Park.
Coming back to the overview of Amigo OS on the Elife E8, you get a customisable lockscreen that throws up a new wallpaper every day, and lets you select from within categories like cars, sports etc. You can even save favourites. As usual, there’s no dedicated app drawer, but you do get smorgasbord of preloaded apps and even a bunch of trial games. Thankfully, most of these are easy to get rid of. The preloaded stuff ranges from essentials like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, to others like UC Browser, WPS Office, DU Battery Saver, DU Speed Booster, and TouchPal 2015 keyboard. The System Manager app offers a cache cleaner, an app manager, a power manager, a data monitor, and an Eco Mode that actively kills background apps to improve performance and battery life.
The notification panel is accessible the usual way – swiping downwards from the top. While we aren’t big fans of it, the iOS-like Control Center is back, displaying a customisable list of quick settings that appears when you swipe upwards from the bottom. We’d like our quick settings on top, but preferences apart, the bottom placement is also problematic since the capacitive navigation keys keep getting in the way when you perform the upward swipe action.
The device settings packs in more stuff such as a guest mode, permissions manager, various battery saving modes and options to enable gestures. The latter includes screen-off gestures such as double tap to wake and the ability to launch apps by drawing characters, smart dial and smart answer to dial out and receive calls by placing the phone on your ear, and even an option that doesn’t let the screen dim till the time the front camera detects your eyes peering at it. Then there’s touchless control, which lets you awaken the device from slumber, or navigate home screens, pictures in the gallery and control video playback by waving your palm over the front camera and proximity sensor.
The fingerprint scanner can be set up in the usual fashion, and the device can store up to five prints. In our usage, the fingerprint unlocking worked quite snappily and accurately too – so no complaints there. Truth be told, we think fingerprint scanners placed at the front are a tad easier to access, since phones with scanners placed at the rear need to be listed up before you can use fingerprint unlocking (in case the device is lying on a table or somewhere else), but this could just be a personal preference.
Camera: can be a mixed bag, but still a capable shooter
Primary camera: 23.7 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 8 MP
The 24-meg primary camera on the Elife E8 is one of its highlights, and comes complete with top-of-the-shelf features like OIS, a 6P lens, 4K video recording support et al. There’s even a dedicated shutter key on the side for it – a feature that’s around on only a handful of smartphones, and is a boon, more so in the E8’s case since it’s a large device. On the front, you get an 8MP shooter for selfies.
The app itself is chock-a-block with features and tweaks. You can apply colour filters to your pics and make use of the usual modes like HDR, beauty and panorama. Then there are modes like Professional, Ultra pixel, Magic Focus and one that’s called ‘Take anytime’ which includes features like a trail shooting mode, a best photo mode for group shots, motion blur, and pedestrian removal. Using the Pro mode, you can tweak parameters like focus, shutter speed, white balance, ISO, and exposure. Magic Focus is Gionee’s name for the background defocus mode, while Ultra pixel shoots and stiches together multiple shots to combine one large 120-megapixel image.
Clearly, there’s a lot on offer here, and if the available options are used well, photography buffs should be able to squeeze out some nice images. Even otherwise, the image quality is quite good, especially in daylight. The HDR mode works well, and the device was able to capture sharp, detailed close-ups as well. The low-light imaging leaves a little to be desired though. All said and done, the camera quality is good, but isn’t really the best we’ve seen. You can check out our camera review for details, but if you’re in a tearing hurry, we’ll still show you some samples right here.
Performance: smooth as a baby’s derrière
CPU: Octa core, 2 GHz, MediaTek MT…
GPU: PowerVR G6200
RAM: 3 GB
Memory: 64 GB + Up to 128 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3520 mAH
The horsepower is provided by a Mediatek MT6795 Helio X10 chip, which includes a 2.0GHz octa-core CPU. Graphics are handled by a PowerVR G6200 GPU, and there’s a healthy 3GB of RAM present to make sure multitasking is a smooth affair. In our usage, the E8 fared admirably well, handling regular tasks like a champ and tearing through the heavy stuff without breaking into sweat.
Some of the complaints we’ve had previously with Amigo’s animations that make Gionee’s phones seem slow have been sorted for the most part, so the overall usage seems quite snappy. The top half of the metal frame tends to heat up a fair bit when the phone is stressed though.
As far as storage is concerned, 64GB is a fairly healthy proposition and that’s exactly what you get. A little over 52GB is actually available to use though, and in case you need it, you can always use the dedicated microSD card slot to pop in more. USB OTG is supported as well. Apart from that and dual-SIM support, the other connectivity options cover 4G LTE, dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth, A-GPS and even NFC.
Coming to the battery life, there’s a 3,500mAh pack sealed inside to provide juice. This is one area where the Elife E8 disappoints, as it can only last the day if your usage isn’t too heavy. With heavy usage, you’ll need a top-up charge in the evening. The 2K screen seems to be the real culprit, as our video loop test only ran for a little over six hours. Even the standby battery drain seems to be on the higher side. The different battery-saving modes should be able to help in a crunch though.
The Gionee Elife E8 can be yours for Rs 34,999, and that’s not a small amount to pay for a daily driver. Looked upon in isolation, it has a lot to offer, including a gorgeous high-res screen and smooth performance. The bunch of improvements we’ve seen in Amigo look nice too, and it works well as a platform.
However, we think the camera isn’t really as good as we expected it to be, and the sub-par battery life is an even bigger complaint. It’s critical for smartphones, especially flagships, to be all-rounders and the Elife E8 doesn’t seem to be one. Moreover, there are quite a few other capable options out there if you’re willing to spend its asking price, such as the Google Nexus 6P (which is priced just marginally higher) and the Moto X Style (review). Even the Google Nexus 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (review), which were both launched last year, are still good options if you’re after a large-screened phone with a 2K display. If a slightly smaller screen size works, the LG G4 is a killer smartphone with an excellent camera. Clearly, if the competition is brought into the picture, the Elife E8 simply gets overshadowed, and this is why it can’t get a wholehearted thumbs up from our side.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Good build
- Lovely screen
- Dedicated shutter key for the camera
- Smooth performance
- Non-backlit navigation keys
- Sub-par battery life
- Overshadowed by worthier rivals
Photos by Raj Rout