Gionee S11 Lite Review: Beauty Is Only Skin Deep

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Gionee entered the Indian smartphone market way before the Chinese smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi, Honor, Vivo, etc. did. During that period, Gionee had a reputation for offering powerful, feature-packed smartphones at an affordable price. However, from the last couple of years, Gionee smartphones are lacking behind due to inadequate performance, lack of innovations, and excessive pricing.

Now the company has launched the S11 Lite with a price tag of Rs. 13,999, which puts it in direct competition with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, Xiaomi Mi A1 (review), Motorola Moto G6, and the Nokia 6.1. So is the S11 Lite any better than the competition? Is it worth buying? Here is what I think after using the device for a week.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Build Quality

The Gionee S11 Lite has a metal frame, and glass at the front and the back. The rear glass panel is curved on all sides, which makes it look like a device costlier than it actually is. The device we received for the review is the Dark Blue colour variant, and it looks beautiful. The dark blue colour is spread over the rear glass panel and on the frame as well, giving the device a glossy bling look. 

However, the glossy finish which makes the device look great also makes it very slippery and prone to scratches. The device slipped many times from my jeans pocket. Surprisingly, even after many falls, the device did not show any sign of damage. As I mentioned, the rear glass is prone to scratches, and after using the device for just two weeks, the rear is entirely scratched. I think it is best to use the device with a case; it will avoid the device from accidentally slipping out of the pocket and also from getting it scratched.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Display

The device comes with a 5.7-inch IPS LCD display carrying 18:9 aspect ratio and HD+ resolution. The low-resolution of the display is evident, and the pixelation due to it can be easily seen in the notification bar icons. On top of the lower resolution, the display also misses out on Gorilla Glass protection, making it more prone to scratches. 

The visibility under sunlight is adequate, and the display has a vivid colour tone. The display supports 10-point multitouch, and its touch accuracy is superb. Being an IPS LCD panel, the viewing angles are also excellent. The display does not pose any serious issues, but Gionee should have opted for a higher resolution display and Gorilla Glass protection. Due to lack of those two things, the Gionee S11 Lite loses to its competitors in the display section.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Camera

The Gionee S11 Lite is equipped with a 13MP + 2MP primary camera aided by an LED flash. The 13MP primary camera is used for capturing images, while the 2MP primary camera is a depth sensor that aids in bokeh effect. Gionee has not provided any info on the focusing system used in the primary camera, and it clearly shows that they are targeting the customers who aren’t much into the technology.

The images captured in daylight have a significant amount of noise, and the pictures lack details even though there is evident over-sharpening. Even the macro shots captured in daylight have substantial traces of noise. As for the lowlight image quality, the images again have tons of noise, and the details are dissolved in the excessive noise created. The lowlight images also have lens flare, which indicates that Gionee has opted for a lower quality lens. 

The dynamic range is decent, and the HDR works as it should in tricky lighting conditions. The colour reproduction is slightly on the dull side. I think a more vibrant colour tone would have helped the camera hide a few of its weaknesses.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Primary Camera Dynamic Range Sample

The primary camera also has a bokeh mode. The bokeh mode works well and differentiates the subjects from the background. However, the bokeh mode in the S11 Lite is not as good as that in the Xiaomi Mi A1 or the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. The device can capture panorama images, and they have a maximum resolution of 6.7-megapixels. The panoramas have excellent stitching, but they lack details.

Gionee S11 Lite: Primary Camera Bokeh Effect Sample

Overall, the primary camera performance is terrible. The smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi 5, and the Redmi Note 5, which are almost Rs. 5,000 cheaper than the Gionee S11 Lite have a far better image quality. When compared to the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, and the Nokia 6, the Gionee S11 Lite is simply too far behind them in the primary camera performance.

Moving to the front-facing camera, it is a 16-megapixel unit with fixed focus. The images captured with it are bright and detailed. The noise levels are also contained even in lowlight conditions. The front-facing camera offers bokeh mode, but it doesn’t work well. The bokeh mode instead of differentiating between the subject and the background, blurs the surroundings of the subject. Nonetheless, apart from the lousy bokeh effect, the front-facing camera of the Gionee S11 Lite has an excellent image quality.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Performance

The Gionee S11 Lite is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 SoC, and it is totally unacceptable for a smartphone of this price. The other smartphones in the same price range are equipped with way more powerful processors such as the Snapdragon 625 and the Snapdragon 636. 

The Gionee S11 Lite has a very sluggish performance. Opening the applications takes a lot of time, switching between apps is very slow, and the UI animations also stutter a lot. Even the basic tasks like calling, messaging, and browsing suffer from sluggish performance. For example, the device sometimes becomes so unresponsive that during web browsing, you can’t even scroll the webpage. Same goes for the other applications; scrolling in apps like Facebook and Instagram is very slow and laggy.

The lite games run fine, but as soon as you shift to heavy graphics games, there are frame drops, and the device also gets heated. I’ve run the 3DMark, and GFXBench benchmarks and the device sits at the bottom of their chart.

It is not just that the processor is weak, but the software is unoptimised. The Xiaomi Redmi 5 also uses the same Snapdragon 435 processor, but it has a way better performance; it does not lag or stutter even under heavy multitasking. I am very much disappointed with the performance of the Gionee S11 Lite, and I think it alone makes for one big reason not to buy it.

Redmi Note 5 Pro Review: The Veritable Titan Killer

Gionee S11 Lite Review: UI

The UI is another shortcoming of the Gionee S11 Lite. The UI design is outdated, and it looks very unpolished. The icons, animations, and the layout look of the past era. Not only that, but the UI also has some fundamental problems. Starting with the notifications, the device doesn’t show notifications on lock screen, and it is very frustrating. I had to unlock the device every time I had to see the notification. Gionee should have at least included an option to enable lock screen notifications. 

The second issue I faced is while arranging the icons on the home screen. I like the icons being arranged alphabetically. Now if you have ever organised icons alphabetically you might know that you have to place one icon before another, and usually in any smartphone when you place one icon before another, the other icon in its place moves to the next tile or the next row, but in Gionee S11 Lite the icons move to the lower row instead of moving forward. This made arranging the icons and widgets very frustrating.

Another issue with the lock screen is that it shows facts about rare materials, Bollywood actresses, nature, etc. Now, there might be a few people who like reading the facts and philosophy content on the lock screen but I am not one of them, and I think most of the people out there don’t want some random internet content of their lock screen every time they try to unlock the device but wait that is not the most frustrating thing. The most frustrating thing is that you can’t turn it off without changing the wallpaper, and to change the wallpaper you have to dig down in the settings. The settings menu is also very confusing, and the vital settings are hidden under sub-menus, such as that of the lock screen, battery, and storage.

As for the good stuff, the Gionee S11 Lite has many features such as call recording, instant screenshot editing, private mode to hide files and apps, dual-apps, etc. However, even considering the extra features, I think Gionee has to work a lot at improving the UI experience if it wants to keep up to the competition.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Battery Life

The Gionee S11 Lite packs a 3000mAh battery, which is relatively small in comparison to the other smartphones in the price range. In my usage, the device usually lasted for about 22 to 24 hours with a screen-on time of around 4 hours, which is just below average I would say. In comparison, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 which is similarly priced has a battery backup of 32 to 38 hours with a screen-on time of around 7 to 8 hours.

On top of an unimpressive battery backup, the device doesn’t even supports fast charging, and it takes almost 3 hours to get fully charged. The least Gionee could have done after all the device’s shortcomings, is equip the device with a large battery, as Indian consumers are very keen about the battery backup.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Connectivity

The Gionee S11 Lite supports two SIM cards and 4G LTE with VoLTE. The signal reception is excellent, and so is the call quality. The only issue I found in the connectivity section is with the Wi-Fi. The device does not come with dual-band Wi-Fi, and the 2.4G band it works on has a slow data transfer speed. 

To test, I connected the Gionee S11 Lite and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 to the same Wi-Fi network on the same band and ran the SpeedTest. The Gionee S11 Lite yielded a much slower data transfer speed than the Redmi Note 5; it was actually twice slower than the Redmi Note 5. The slower data transfer speed is very significant while installing applications, and while streaming audio. This may be a software issue, but it is still disappointing to see that the device does not get the basics right.

Gionee S11 Lite Review: Verdict

The S11 Lite is a total disappoint from Gionee. The device lacks in the display department with its lower resolution, its camera performance is way behind the competitors, the performance is sluggish, the UI looks outdated, and the battery life is also among the lowest in its price range. The only criteria where the Gionee S11 Lite shines is its design and the front-facing camera performance, but these two things aren’t enough to convince me to buy the device. 

The Gionee S11 Lite stays at the bottom among its competitors, and I think smartphones like the Motorola Moto G6, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 (review), Nokia 6.1, and even the cheaper Xiaomi Redmi 5 (review) are a better choice than the Gionee S11 Lite.

Gionee S11 Lite

₹13,999
6.8

Design

8.0/10

Build Quality

8.0/10

Display

6.0/10

Primary Camera

6.0/10

Secondary Camera

8.0/10

Performance

5.0/10

User Interface

6.0/10

Battery Life

7.0/10

Connectivity

7.0/10

What Is Good?

  • Tank-like build quality
  • Excellent selfie camera

What Is Bad?

  • Sluggish performance
  • UI design is outdated
  • Terrible primary camera performance
  • Mediocre battery life


Asif’s younger brother is the newest addition to the Gear team. He inherits the love for gadgets from his elder brother. He holds a degree in engineering and a whole lot of expertise in smartphones and computer hardware. Abid has been following the industry for quite a long time and has excessive knowledge on every topic that touches the tech domain. For anyone at office who plans on buying a new PC, speaker, smartphone, or even a toolkit, Abid is the go-to adviser.