The stupendous growth of India’s indigenous smartphone industry is proof of the demand for smart devices at ‘feature phone ‘ prices. We’ve finally reached a point when even the mid range devices can be considered as fast enough for a majority of the users and smartphone manufacturers are definitely capitalizing on this.
Another day and we spot yet another entrant in the increasingly packed Android phone market in India with hopes of carving a niche for itself. Gionee has launched its flagship device, the Dream D1, that hopes to hit all the checkpoints in terms of buzzwords and provide ‘high-end’ features to users on a moderate budget. Can it succeed in providing a flagship level experience at a fraction of the price ? We spent a week with the handset to gauge for ourself and here is our Gionee Dream D1 review.
The retail package of the Gionee Dream D1 has some interesting additions along with the usual accessory bundle.
- Micro USB cable
- 16GB memory card
- Screen guard
- Replacement shells
On the outset, there is nothing particularly distinguishing or special about the design of the Dream D1. Indeed it highly resembles the rather popular Samsung Galaxy S2. While it might not be deliberate, one just can’t feel that it might be a move to play on the emotional mindset of the Indian consumer by offering a device that looks and feels like a popular one at a fraction of the price.
The front of the phone is dominated by a 4.65″ Super AMOLED 720p display covered with Gorilla Glass 2 and is definitely the highlight of the handset. Users also get a front facing camera at the top while an ambient light sensor is located to the left of the earpiece.
The left side of the phone has the volume rocker while the power key is rather inconveniently located towards the left.
A micro USB slot is located at the top of the phone while the headphone jack takes a leaf out of the iPod Touch’s playbook and is located at the bottom of the phone. While not too common and certainly not a deal breaker, we do prefer to have the 3.5mm jack at the bottom of the phone to avoid tangles.
Coming to the back of the phone, the Gionee Dream D1 bears an uncanny resemblance to the Samsung Galaxy S2 with a very similar grippy material at the back. The back cover easily bends over while opening but seems sturdy enough to last a while. Gionee has bundled in two additional covers in different colors. Towards the top lies the 8MP snapper capable of capturing video in 1080p. A single LED flash is placed to the left of the camera. A slight bump at the bottom of the phone makes it a bit easy to hold the phone as well. The phone does not break any boundaries for hardware design but is generally usable enough to not have any major issues.
The phone runs Android 4.1.2 with a more or less stock build of the operating system on it. Slight modifications have been made by Gionee in the form of custom icons and light skinning. Unfortunately this does have an effect of the performance of the device. Interestingly, a theme switcher is included that lets you switch to a theme that is almost entirely stock.
Using the handset over a period of time highlights some of the software optimization issues. There are occasional lags or frozen screens the reason for which can almost definitely be narrowed down to poor optimization. Using a third party launcher like Nova Launcher pretty much alleviates all those issues resulting in an experience that can be compared with other flagship devices.
Gionee has bundled in some popular and not so popular apps like Facebook,Twitter and Netquin onboard the device. The theme chooser can be seen above. We’d recommend prospective users to steer clear of the default launcher and switch to a third party offering like Nova Launcher that we highly recommend.
The company’s customization effort continues right into the notification panel which has a swipe-able quick access toggle panel.The latest weather updates also show up here.
The phone runs on Android 4.1.2 Jellybean as can be seen in the screen above and in our discussions with Gionee, it promises to provide long term support in the form of updates to end users. Whether this holds true however remains to be seen.
Synthetic benchmarks tell only half the story but they can be a good way to compare performance in terms of figures. The closest competitors for the Gionee Dream D1 are the Micromax Canvas HD and Samsung Galaxy Grand. Let’s see how the devices compare in terms of benchmarks.
In AnTuTu, the Gionee Dream D1 comes close to the Canvas HD and has a significant lead over other competitors. The benchmark is an all rounder and tests CPU, GPU performance as well as memory speed.
In Linpack, the Dream D1 leads but by a wide margin. Linpack can be used to test single threaded and multi threaded processor performance. Synthetic benchmarks hence corroborate our experience that the Gionee Dream D1 is plenty fast for all but the most demanding of users.
The screen is one of the biggest differentiating factors on the Gionee Dream D1. The Super AMOLED 720p display is exactly what you’d expect it to be. The size at 4.65″ is also perfectly serviceable for people who want a big screen but don’t want to go all the way to 5 inches. Being an AMOLED display, the contrast levels are exceptionally good and the blacks are as deep as they can be. The screen is however fairly dim. It won’t be a problem while using the device indoors but sunlight visibility isn’t the best out there.
The screen is of the pentile variety and if your eyesight is good enough, you might notice blurred edges on text. This however really isn’t a problem for a majority of users going by the past success of pentile screen equipped devices like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2. The best recommendation here is that you see for yourself before making a call if the display irks you. In our opinion, the high resolution and smaller than usual size of the panel mitigates the effects to a degree and we didn’t have much of an issue with the screen.
Gionee has loaded a custom camera application onboard the Dream D1. The application is quite well equipped and offers a range of features and modes including HDR capabilities. The image quality itself is right in line with other devices of this category.
Photos in bright lighting were acceptable though the camera tends to blow highlights. As can be seen in the image below, in normal mode the exposure levels are set way too high. Taking the same photograph in HDR mode helps but further accentuates the noise that can be seen in images.
The camera has fairly decent macro capabilities and was able to successfully lock focus 9 out of 10 times. Using the HDR mode once again draws out more detail and balances out the overexposed image.
Low light photos were however extremely disappointing with a massive amount of noise in the photos. Even the LED flash had issues with throttling down resulting in unusable images. Over all the camera is nothing worth writing home about but should suffice for the occasional snapshot. Needless to say, you should be carrying a real camera with you for any serious photography.
Connectivity & Battery Life
The phone offers the standard connectivity options including WiFi, Bluetooth. The phone is of the dual SIM variety and interestingly offers two full size SIM card slots which isn’t too common.
A microSD card slot is also located below the back cover of the phone with a 16GB card pre installed. Battery life on the phone is rated at 2100 mAh which in our experience was sufficient for at least a whole day of usage if not more.
The Gionee Dream D1 is quite the compelling product from the indigenous manufacturer. While the hardware is solid, we felt some rough edges around the software but nothing that would be a deal breaker. Additionally, the camera is not particularly impressive.
As always, the concern here is less to do with the hardware than with after sales support or the lack thereof. Priced at Rs. 17,999 we were fairly impressed by the Android Jellybean running smartphone. Prospective buyers should also take a look at the Micromax Canvas HD and the Samsung Galaxy Grand before making a decision.
- Good display
- 16GB memory card bundled
- Poor camera
- Software optimization
- Questionable after sales support