Gtel has continued with its onslaught against the established flagships on the local market, bringing to the table a new device with specs similar to the big time marquees.
The latest offering is the Gtel SL 5.5 a phone dubbed as the second slimmest in the world (at the time of launch) and the slimmest in Zimbabwe.
This time the build quality is second to none with both the front and back both having Gorilla Glass, and the edge having a magnesium alloy. The moment I held the Gtel SL 5.5 I was impressed, purely by the effort that I could see had been put into the making of this device.
As with the Gtel Xplora, the packaging of the device includes not just the regular accessories, but a few extras as well. These include a pair of in-ear earphones, a USB data cable, a charger, a screen guard (because they know even with the Gorilla Glass, scratches do come), a SIM extractor, a manual and also this time a connector to USB devices. As before the earphones give decent bass, but treble leaves a lot to be desired.
The phone has glossy Gorilla Glass on both the front and back, and for the sides has segmented magnesium alloy edges, similar in design to those found on the iPhone 4 and 4S. The left side has the power button and volume rocker; a deviation from the norm where you have the power button on the right.
I found the placement of the buttons a bit awkward to handle, but probably one would get used to the design with time. The right side has the SIM tray on the upper end, which takes a micro SIM card.
On the front face, you have a 5 MP front secondary camera on the top, and at the bottom you have hardware touch keys for menu, home and back.
On the back of the Gtel SL 5.5 you have your 13 MP primary camera which protrudes a little, not sure if this is by design or if the phones profile was too thin to work with. This might prove to be an interesting bit to look at with time depending on the material used for the outer piece.
Next to the primary camera is a secondary microphone presumably for clearer audio during video recording. The phone’s memory is restricted to a rather low 16 GB (7.9 user addressable), with no hope of expansion as there is no micro-SD card slot.
Like the Gtel Xplora, the Gtel SL 5.5 is completely sealed, meaning no hope of replacing the battery if it dies. I hope that Gtel is capable of supporting repairs for its devices.
The camera is to be honest quite good, giving rather crisp daylight images. It is able to auto focus based on where you tap on the screen for the camera to focus, compensating for lighting conditions in the process. This means that the image almost always comes out well.
Under low light conditions the camera is not that good, more often than not failing to focus and when it does it occasionally gives grainy images. The flash tries to compensate for the low light and does so well enough, given that it’s an LED flash. The only short coming is on the camera UI, which seems rather lacking, in terms of features.
The settings area of the app does not rotate when the phone is held sideways, which could make altering setting on the fly awkward.
It is however possible to install a camera app, like Google camera which offers some extra features for free.
The display on the Gtel SL 5.5 is not just crisp with its full HD resolution, but bright as well. The display used is a Super AMOLED display similar to those used in the Samsung range of phones, the result is a bright display with vibrant colours. Visibility both indoors and outdoors in bright sunlight was good, something that seldom happens with slim profile phones.
|Dimensions||145.1 x 70.2 x 5.5 mm|
|Display Type||Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours|
|Display Size||1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches (~441 ppi pixel density)|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
|USB||Yes, microUSB v2.0|
|Primary||13 MP, 4160 x 3120 pixels, autofocus, LED flash|
|OS||Android OS, v4.4.2 (KitKat)|
|CPU||Octa-core 1.7 GHz|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass|
|Stand-by||Up to 490 h|
|Talk time||Up to 27 h (2G) / Up to 11 h (3G)|
|Price||$490 or $64 per month for 12 months on Telecel Khuluma Contract|
User Interface on the Gtel SL 5.5 is the same Amigo OS 2.0. The Amigo OS 2.0 is skinned on top of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Like on the Gtel Xplora, there is no app drawer, instead the system has home screens and quick shortcuts for the regular apps.
Swiping between home screens is fluid with no lag whatsoever. The tap twice feature is still there for activating the screen. The icons have retained their flat appearance. I felt the experience might have been somewhat better had it been on stock Android.
The notification area, has two sections. One section gives system notifications, the other gives access to quick settings. The quick setting section seems to have been updated since the last iteration on the Gtel Xplora, featuring more vibrant colours now.
Telephony, Phonebook and messaging
The dialler app, has a simple interface, with the contacts link on the bottom left hand corner. There is an option for native video calls where supported. Icons retain the same flat colour used on the main system menu. On the bottom right hand corner, there are three dots which show or hide the speed dial menu. Texts can also be sent when you choose not to answer a call.
Benchmarks confirmed the expected performance of the Gtel SL 5.5. However, the phone did get a bit warm during tests, and during web browsing. As can be seen, the Gtel SL 5.5 is quite a performer, launching itself into the lower range of the flagship section.
Gallery and Media Players
The gallery app is a simple affair, with no menu options whatsoever. It like the one on the Gtel Xplora is quite basic with regard to features. What I found annoying was that the gallery app would not rotate to a landscape mode when the phone was held side ways.
The music app was handled in a much better way. It has all the sort criteria, i.e. artist, albums, folders and all songs. The only let down from the music app is that it does not automatically detect the music after it has been copied onto the phone. Instead one has to run a manual scan for the library to be updated. The SL 5.5 like the Gtel Xplora features DTS settings, which allow one to alter how the audio sounds according to one’s taste.
The video app is decent, and includes touch gestures, not just dedicated on screen keys. I found it occasionally would have audio lag when playing high resolution video. On the whole though it is a decent offering for a video playing app.
The battery on the Gtel SL 5.5 is 2300mAH, which is rated to give up to 11 hours on 3G talk time. Experience though was that with video playback the battery seemed to drain rather fast. However with normal use the phone seems to keep its charge and can last until the evening with a full charge in the morning.
Gtel has yet again presented something for the local market that is a worthy alternative to the more expensive giants like Samsung and Sony, especially for those looking for a 5 inch phone. I would have however preferred that the phone have at least 32GB storage or that the memory be at least expandable considering how 1080p video recording takes a lot of space.
For its $490 asking price the Gtel SL 5.5 should be able to compete with the big names, On the whole, this is a good presentation from Gtel, here’s to hoping they keep up the performance.