General Mobile isn’t a smartphone brand that many would be familiar with in Malaysia though their latest offering for the local market dubbed the GM 5 Plus puts them in the spotlight as it runs a clean version of Android Nougat via Google’s Android One programme and packs quite a bit of hardware for its low RM899 price tag. The GM 5 Plus is currently being distributed in Malaysia by KWS Distribution who kindly provided us with a test sample for our review.
For a sub-RM900 smartphone, the GM5 Plus brings quite a lot to the table. Out of the box, our retail sample of the GM5 Plus came in a white finish complemented by silvered aircraft-grade aluminium trim with subtle chamfering to hold the 5.5-inch Full HD touchscreen up front.
The backplate is constructed of a matte white polycarbonate overlaid with a thatched diamond weave texture to offer a better grip. Placed at the upper rear end of the smartphone is a 13-MP camera with a dual LED flash. Fortunately, the rounded lens housing is placed most of the way in save for a tiny raised portion though some care should be taken to prevent scratching it.
The base of the phone comes with a USB Type C port along with speaker grilles and antenna bands while the top of the phone hosts a 3.5mm audio jack which makes it ideally oriented for use with wired headphones when in your pocket.
The left side of the phone is unadorned save for a hybrid SIM card slot that lets you use either two SIM cards or one SIM and one microSD card up to 128GB in size. The right side of the GM 5 Plus hosts a volume rocker and power button.
Up front, the aforementioned 5.5-inch Full HD LCD display sports ultra slim side bezels, a front facing 13-MP selfie camera with a dedicated flash mounted next to it with the whole affair sheathed in curved 2.5D glass to lend it a posher feel.
In terms of overall build quality, the GM 5 Plus proved to be a pleasant surprise with its 2.5D glass overlaying the display, textured polycarbonate backplate and chamfering ticking all the boxes to give it more premium look. The only niggle from what is otherwise a top-shelf looking design are the chunky and plasticky top and bottom front bezels though that is a minor quibble.
The GM 5 Plus has a modest array of hardware and runs a clean install of Android Nougat 7.1.1 under Google’s Android One programme which ensures that it gets the latest updates. Running under the hood is a 64-bit Snapdragon 617 1.5GHz octacore processor that is a bit long in the tooth but still relatively capable. This is paired with 3GB RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.
When subjected to synthetic benchmarks, the GM 5 Plus yielded generally middling scores in keeping with its role as an entry level workhorse phone. In PC Mark, it yielded a score of 3,429. In 3D Mark, it got a score of 395. In Geekbench, the phone snagged a single core score of 691 and a multicore score of 2763. This comparably puts it somewhat on par with slightly older phones from 2016 that still cost quite a bit higher than what the GM 5 Plus is currently going for. In Epic Citadel, the phone had a decent score of 58.5FPS with high quality resolution on 1,800 x 1080 resolution.
In the field, the GM 5 Plus delivered otherwise decent performance which is helped in part by the general lack of bloatware on the phone. In general use cases, the GM 5 Plus was able to open multiple browser windows without lagging and play YouTube as well as iFlix without significant complications.
On the gaming front, the phone offered mixed performance with some games loading quickly while others, especially more demanding ones requiring longer load times. We tested it with Hitman Sniper and while it ran smoothly during the sniping sequences, it required load times stretching close to a minute between levels. Other less demanding games like Clash Royale and Need for Speed: No Limits ran swiftly without any lag.
The 5.5-inch 1080p LCD display was a treat for gaming and movies with good colours, decent overall detail and clarity indoors though visibility was a bit on the dim side under direct sunlight. Audio from the sole speaker at the base of the phone was decent with reasonable volume and clarity for videos and gaming. Notwithstanding its modest specs and price tag, the GM 5 Plus is pleasantly zippy and does well for general duties and light gaming. More security conscious folk will likely bemoan the lack of a fingerprint reader to secure the phone but some concessions have to be made for this price point and most users usually use a pattern lock in any case which the phone offers.
GM 5 Plus Camera Performance
Both the front and rear of the GM 5 Plus come with 13-MP cameras, with the rear sporting a dual LED flash and the front a single dedicated LED flash. Both cameras support up to 1080P video capture though there’s no optical image stabilisation which is not expected in phones of this price range. The user interface is somewhat basic with the option to tweak exposure, set a timer, activate a photo grid to better frame your shots, turn the flash on, off or on auto and to set HDR mode. By swiping from left to right you’re also able to take a photo sphere, a panoramic shot as well as a shot with a defocused background via the Lens Blur mode.
The rear camera is capable of delivering good shots in sufficient lighting though it struggles in low light. The HDR mode helps with shots, especially in harshly lit scenes though there’s no means to auto enable it and you can only leave it on or off which means you’ll have to waste a few precious seconds fiddling with the menus.
There’s also some marked delay between shots especially if you fire up HDR mode, which means some judicious care is required lest you mistime a shot. Captured snaps are sufficient for social media use. Of note is the Lens Blur mode that attempts to give shots with a defocused background to mimic higher end cameras. Unlike higher end phones with this feature, you’ll have to generally take a bit more time as you have to swipe the phone’s camera in a short swath after taking the primary shot for it to know what to defocus. On the bright side, the phone has a shortcut to immediately fire up the rear camera by double pressing the power button.
The front camera is serviceable for the odd selfie or two and also has access to much of the same modes as the rear camera including a photo sphere, panorama mode and the all important lens blur mode. If you’re fairly patient , you can work around the GM 5 Plus’ modest front and rear camera and get some fairly respectable shots. Check out some of the sample images below that were taken with the rear camera.
GM 5 Plus price, battery life and conclusion
The GM 5 Plus offers pretty good endurance on its 3,100mAh non-removable battery and is capable of lasting a full day of modest usage though power users will likely need a top-up come sundown. Fortunately, the phone has fast charging support and also comes bundled with a 5V/2A charger.
For what you pay for, the General Mobile GM 5 Plus offers quite a number of goodies with the phone including a USB Type C to micro USB adaptor, a USB Type C charging cable, a pair of in-ear headphones along with a spare set of earbuds. Audio quality on the earbuds are decent for a free bundled pair though they aren’t going to knock standalone versions out of the ballpark. If your expectations and your budget are fairly modest and you are looking to get a phone with a large 1080P display running a clean install of Android, the General Mobile GM 5 Plus is definitely worth a look.
What we Liked Good build quality and design, Android One, large and crisp display
What we Didn’t No fingerprint sensor, middling rear camera
We Say If your expectations and your budget are fairly modest and you are looking to get a phone with a large 1080P display running a clean install of Android, the General Mobile GM 5 Plus is definitely worth a look.
Display 5.5-inch Full HD IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 401ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 1.5GHz octacore
OS Android Nougat 7.1.1
Memory 3GB RAM/32GB storage + microSD card
Camera 13-MP w/ LED flash (rear) / 13-MP w/LED flash (front)
Size/Weight 152 x 76.5 x 7.9 mm / 160g
Review unit courtesy of KWS Distribution. For more details visit their official Facebook channel here and their website www.shop.kws.my The phone can also be purchased via KWS Distribution’s online e-store at 11street.