The smartphone market now is more like a battlefield as most small time handset manufacturers are seen showing off their powerful multi-core Android handsets. Moreover, the success of Micromax’s Canvas 2 and the Canvas HD has further influenced the market with their dual and quad core processors respectively. Manufacturers such as WickedLeak, Karbonn and Spice too are not far behind with their multi-core processor handsets. While the war for the cheapest and most powerful handset is on, Gionee has entered the Indian market to give its contenders a very tough competition. The Dream D1 from Gionee definitely has a unique spec sheet and price and is sure to turn heads for now. Read on to find out how the Dream D1 fares.
Good build quality with a very slim chassis
Design and Build
Definitely the best build quality in the budget series handsets we have seen, the Dream D1 takes the cake here. The entire handset is encased in a chassis that is just 8.6 mm thick and is built with a rugged plastic frame. The rear panel is a thin clip-on plate, similar to the Galaxy series' rear panels, and has a matte-finished exterior. The bottom on the rear side is part of the chassis which houses the onboard speaker. The rear sports the main camera with an LED flash.
4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD display
The phone will remind you of the Samsung Galaxy S2 or the iPhone 4 except for the missing large home button below the screen. The front is a plain panel with absolutely no buttons on it. All that is visible on the front panel is the camera, the ear piece and a window with a few sensors beneath it. The volume rocker and the power/standby button are placed on the right and left sides respectively. Lastly, the top features the micro USB slot and the 3.5-mm headset jack is located on the bottom.
Dual SIM (GSM + WCDMA), 16 GB micro SD card free, non-removable battery
Pull open the rear panel and the housing reveals the dual SIM slots, micro SD slot and the non-removable battery. Yes, that’s correct—it looks as though the battery can be removed, but it is fixed and cannot be removed. In fact, the battery does not need to be removed as the SIM and micro SD slot are placed above the battery compartment. The manufacturer seems to have missed attaching a warning sticker to keep users from trying to pry out the battery thinking it can be removed.
1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM
The entire chassis, apart from the rear panel, is a highly-glossy graphite black which is a fingerprint magnet. The manufacturer has also bundled along two rear clip-on back covers sporting a rubberised matte-finished exterior. The idea is to protect the phone from the rear and sides in case it has to take a fall. Sadly, the case itself started cracking after a few days of use. However, the clip-on cover does give the phone an elegant look apart from protection. The phone weighs just 132 grams and has a very firm grip.
Power and volume rocker on either side of the phone
We must admit, Gionee has managed to design one of the finest dual SIM budget handsets in the market. The Dream D1 has the highest feature-set and is one of the cheapest Android handsets in the budget series (based on the feature-set). The D1 is powered using an MT6589 SOC, which features a powerful quad core ARMv7 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz and a PowerVR SGX544MP graphics processor. The hardware is supplied with 1 GB of RAM and the internal storage is a total of 4 GB with 1 GB expandable to 32 GB via the micro SD card slot. Bundled along with the phone is a 16 GB micro SD card for free.
Micro USB on the top, audio jack on the bottom
The Dream D1 is also one of the first budget handsets to sport an HD AMOLED display. The display is a 4.65-inch HD super AMOLED Plus with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 316 ppi. It also sports a Gorilla Glass 2 sheet glass which is meant to be thin, strong and scratch resistant.
The rear shooter is an 8 MP camera with an LED flash. The front camera is a standard 1 MP camera for video calls. Connectivity options include 3G, Bluetooth v4.2 with A2DP and Wi-Fi a/b/g/n. Other features include GPS, compass, sensors for proximity, light and gravity, FM radio with recording and call recording. To complete the specifications, the Dream D1 runs on the Android Jelly Bean v4.1 operating system and is fuelled by a 2100 mAh battery. The overall aesthetics of the phone is also good and it will definitely appeal to you at first glance.
This is one section that reveals the gut strength of any hardware. As usual, the benchmarks were run on the Dream D1 and here are the following scores. AnTuTu scored 12559, Quadrant revealed a score of 3588 and NenaMark2 scored 39.2 fps. Linpack scored 37 MFLOPS and 118 MFLOPS in the single-thread and multi-thread tests respectively. Comparing the scores to other quad core handsets in the budget segment revealed that the Dream D2 is not any faster and averagely performs as well as the others.
Two coloured clip-on back covers bundled free
The Dream D1 has a custom user interface developed by Gionee. By the look of the UI, it seems like a tweaked version of the MIUI interface as most icons and a few stock apps resemble the look and feel of the ones featured in MIUI ROMs. We did find a few areas of concern, which we would like to highlight. In the settings, under the Developer Options, the only menu available is to enable or disable the USB Debugging mode. You do not have options to tweak any other options here, which include animation speed modes for Window and transitions, 2D hardware rendering and a few others. Though they might not be required by most users, we did notice that the absence of the animation tweak settings causes the app drawer to open up very sluggishly. We had to confirm this by installing a third-party home launcher and cut off the animations, which then worked as fast as usual. The second issue we noticed is the absence of proper drivers for ADB mode. We had to use Samsung’s ADB driver as an equivalent driver to get ADB mode working with our PC. The driver provided by the manufacturer on their website did not help. The manufacturer also has provided a PC suite for the handset, which has basic features to operate it. Lastly, the Android installed on the phone cannot be rooted by any means available. We did speak to a Gionee representative regarding the issue and got feedback stating that they want to protect the warranty and hence not allow rooting. Well, if you are an advanced Android user, then this phone could get knocked off your list since many utilities have the requirement of a rooted handset. The phone is shipped with Android JB v4.1 and there are no custom ROMs developed either for this phone. Sadly again, Gionee has confirmed that the phone will not receive the Android JB v4.2 update, at least for now. Their upcoming higher-end models will feature the latest 4.2 OS. Sad in a way as the next OS update could be great on the hardware it features. Nevertheless, the Dream D1 performs as expected and even better in some aspects.
The UI is custom-made and looks like a tweaked version of MIUI
Display and media
One must admit, the D1 is the only budget series quad core Android smartphone with a Super AMOLED HD display at a cheap price. The Super AMOLED screen used here is Pentile display, which helps reduce the cost to an extent. The photos and videos are crisp and clear on the screen and so are the brightness and contrast levels. The viewing angle too is great with absolutely no blurring or distortion. We threw our test videos at the phone and the D1 could play them all with absolutely no hiccups. The full HD videos were very enjoyable with crisp and clear details. We also did try playing a 4K video, but it failed. The video was very sluggish and not n sync with the audio. The onboard speaker is great too. It is loud, pretty clear and reproduces a decent audio quality with no shrill or distorting sounds even at high volume levels. The bundled earphones have a build quality, are white glossy in colour and look aesthetic too. The audio performance of the earphones are also good enough for media entertainment and phone calls.
System information from AnTuTu
The Dream D1 features an 8 MP camera as the main rear shooter and a 1 MP camera on the front for video chats. The main camera also features an LED flash for low light photography and it definitely does justice to the shoots in both still shots and videos. The images shot by the camera are good enough for casual shoots, but cannot be compared with high-end models like those from HTC, Samsung or Sony. But they are definitely better than other budget series handsets available in the market today. Images are nice and sharp. Macro images are also great and usable, provided they are shot in good light. Indoor shoots are below average and the colors are slightly pale or seem washed out. Using the LED flash is recommended, but only for close up shots. The video recording is also great with capabilities of 720p HD recording. Full HD 1080p recording is also possible, but the final output is a tad jittery. Here again, the colours are not as vibrant as they should actually be and look washed out.
Outdoor shots are clear and good
As part of our review and benchmarking, the battery life is also tested. We ran a standard definition video in a continuous loop until the fully charged battery was exhausted. The battery lasts 8 hours and 45 minutes. We then juiced up the battery and used the device as our primary phone for a day or two to average out the battery performance in real world. During this time, we used it to make calls, surf the Internet using the wireless network, streamed videos from YouTube as well as the local network, watched a few HD movies and played a few high-end games. The battery gave way only after a whopping 9.5 hours till we had to reach for the charger after a battery warning on the screen. Overall, the Dream D1 has a good battery life and an excellent multimedia performance—thanks to the AMOLED display and the Quad Core processor which helps in both performance as well as saving on battery life.
Indoor shots are grainy and the colours are pale.
Verdict and Price in India
The Gionee Dream D1 with the quad core processor and super AMOLED HD display, is one of the best budget phones we have witnessed in the market. The manufacturer has tagged an MRP of Rs 17,999 for the D1 and an MOP of Rs 16,500. We have rated this phone with 8 out of 10 simply because of the build, feature-set, performance and the MOP price tag. If you are looking for a sleek handset on a budget with the fastest processor and a great AMOLED display, the Dream D1 is definitely recommended. But if you are an advanced user and would like to have the phone rooted for custom ROMs and specific utilities, the Dream D1 would disappoint you. Nevertheless, the phone is a great buy if you want a cheap and yet feature-rich phone.
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Oct 27, 2016