There is no shying away from the influx of major Chinese brands in the Indian smartphone market and LeEco is one of the newbies there. However, despite being a relatively new name in the market, LeEco has undergone a brand revamp, has launched a couple of generations of its flagship devices and broken numerous records as far as the online sales go.
The first device to come out of LeEco’s labs, when it was still called LeTV was the Le 1S. The phone was a runaway hit especially as it proved to be a good value for money, giving a premium build quality, a very decent processor and fingerprint scanner, all for just under the Rs 10,000 mark The phone stood well to the competition that was given by some of the bigger heavyweights in the category, especially the likes of Lenovo Vibe K4 Note and the Motorola Moto G Third Generation. Succeeding the device was always going to quite a task, but LeEco came up with the Le 2, which on paper looks to be a fantastic device. We wrote down our first impressions of the phone and were largely impressed with the device. It was only when we started to use the phone as our primary phone that we got to know the nitty gritty small issues with the phone, which we will cover in the review.
Is it worth overlooking these minor issues and still picking up the phone? Let’s find out in the full review of the LeEco Le 2.
We used the LeEco Le 2 for a full five days as our daily driver. The phone was used with a single Vodafone SIM in Mumbai and had three Google accounts configured to syncing live. The usage was about 60% of the time on WiFi and about 40% of the time on 4G, which is sketchy at best here in Mumbai. There were another 30 or so apps with those like Slack, Telegram, Skype always running in the background. We were given the rose gold unit by the LeEco PR team for reviewing the product.
Availability and Box
The device comes in a black cardboard box, which is fairly rigid and sturdy. The first thing you notice on the box is that it bears the LeTV branding and not LeEco, which perhaps makes you wonder whether the brand had planned this device and produced it well before it was announced. The box is black in colour as compared to the white one that the Le 1s came in. Also, noticeably, the embossed phone from the box is gone. The box bears some information about the phone and the MRP mentioned is Rs 11,999, which is for what the phone is selling for. At least at the launch, you could pick this phone only on flash sale by registering either on Flipkart or Lemall.com. The box comes with the device, which is safely placed in a Silicon case, a Type C to Type A USB cord and a power brick which is rated at 2A output. There is also a Type C to 3.5mm headphone adapter, as the device does not come with a 3.5mm headphone jack out of the box.
Le Eco is also giving away the CDLA USB Type C headphones to the first few users who purchase the smartphone and our review unit came with the headphones separately. Interestingly the box of the headphone comes with the LeEco branding.
Construction and Build Quality
There have been question marks raised about the build quality of phones coming from Chinese manufacturers since time immemorial. The likes of Lenovo and Xiaomi have faced the music, and this time looks like LeEco has been a bit lazy with the QC.
Several phones are reporting a creaking sound when you press the screen too hard, which seems like is that of an adhesive that is holding the display components together. LeEco was quick to respond to the complaint, stating that this was done intentionally to prevent the display from shattering if the phone falls flat on the face. Worth mentioning that the Chinese units of the device do not have the sound and neither has the Le Max2, the flagship from LeEco has been reported to be sporting this. The creek is also heard when you press the display really hard, something you would not really do or need to do in your everyday usage. And we are fairly sure in the coming batches, LeEco will fix this up.
Other than this minor annoyance, the LeEco Le 2 is a well made metallic slab of a smartphone. The phone on the front is dominated by a 5.5 inch Full HD display with a Full HD resolution. There is a front facing 8MP camera on the right side of the earpiece and an ambient sensor on the left. Bottom of the display are three capacitive button, which has a slight rose gold or pink tint in the backlight. These buttons are for back, home and multitasking pane from right to left. At the bottom, you have a USB Type-C port with a singular speaker on the right. The left grille is just a microphone, bit like the design on the iPhone.
The top of the phone has an IR blaster while the right side is the home to a volume rocker and power button. The left flank sees a Dual SIM card slot, which uses a Nano SIM. Turn the phone around and you will see a secondary microphone for noise cancellation bang in the center on the top where the rubber connection lines run. There is a 16MP camera, right next to the Dual LED flashlight and a fingerprint scanner. The phone on the back has a LeTV branding.
This is a unibody metallic construction and our unit held up well when we tried to bend or twist it with moderate pressure. The corners are nicely curved while the edges have chamfered edges. The Silicon case that comes with the phone covers the chamfers well, so on the protection front, this is good news. Once LeEco will inevitably get the QC issue out of the way, you can definitely trust the build on the LeEco Le 2.
Display and Screen Quality
The display on the Le 2 is one of the best that we have seen in the price range. Not only are the colours sharp and the reproduction is accurate, there is little to no colour shifting when viewing angles are shifted. The outdoor visibility on the device is good too, though the automatic brightness or adaptive brightness as LeEco is calling it is at times way too aggressive in toning the display backlight down. Therefore, we chose not to have Adaptive Brightness on. There is also a Color Mode in the Display settings on the phone, which would let you choose between four colour modes.
We personally liked Vivid more than the default LeEco one which let the bright colours off the hook a little bit too much for our liking. Mind you, this is an LCD panel, and despite that blacks and whites are actually pretty good.
There is no confirmation if there is any sort of Gorilla Glass on the display, but there are unconfirmed mentions of a Gorilla Glass 3 being there. In our time with the phone, we played around with the phone without any tampered glass or screen protector and the phone held up very well. There were no visible scratches or scuffs on the display.
Everyday performance on the Le 2 was solid without ever blowing you out of the water. If you have multiple apps open in the background and if you are frequently switching between them, little animations do take a beating. For example, there is a noticeable slowness in the Play Store opening up, which would be butter smooth when the phone is immediately booted up.
The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 652 chipset, which is an octa-core chipset, even though when you run CPU-Z on the phone you see the app recognise the phone to be running Snapdragon 650 with 8 ARM Cortex A-72 CPUs. There is 3GB of RAM and you get about 1.8GB of RAM free when you boot the phone up. If you feel the phone is slowing down and wish to free some RAM, simply press the multitasking button, located to the left most button on the three capacitive button and at the bottom you will have a cleaner icon to dismiss the apps that were being run in the background. Playing games like Temple Run and Asphalt were no problem, however, slight lag was noticed when we played PES Club Manager, where all the eight cores were firing at full steam. The phone did get fairly warm too, but nothing extraordinary. We did run the phone through some popular benchmark tests and the phone performed respectively.
The AnTuTu score, for example, was 81,188 while that on the Quadrant Benchmark was 35007. We did notice that the phone automatically entered the High-Performance mode when we ran AnTuTu benchmark test. The fingerprint scanner on the Le 2 is much improved from the Le 1s and unlocked the phone within about a couple of milliseconds. It struggled with wet hands, but that is expected.
General multitasking and scrolling on the phone was good and we always got a very solid reception on the phone. In fact, at places where our Nexus 6P could pull only 2 bars, the LeEco Le 2 was showing 3 bars. There was no major difference in the call quality, but it was a nice psychological thing. The battery on the phone lasted a whole day with about 20% to spare by the time it was time for bed. This was a Screen On time of about 4 hours, which is very very respectable. We did oddly notice that WiFi on the phone was draining a lot more battery than it was expected to, in fact, it was one of the major sources of battery drain, which did not really correct itself till the time we closed and sealed the phone back.
The output from the speaker was loud and clear, even though it does not pack a punch either at too high or too low frequencies. Call quality from the device was very good, it was, in fact, better than that on the Le 1s, where we did complain of a poor microphone. LeEco has worked on this most likely because the experience of talking on the phone was top notch.
Those CDLA USB Type C Headphones
A lot has been said and written off late in the debate of whether it is right to ditch the traditional headphone jack or not. Whichever side you are on, one thing you will agree to is that at this point, the decision is a serious pain. LeEco has decided to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack on the LeEco Le2. One evening, returning from work, I forgot the adapter from USB Type C to 3.5 mm headphone jack, and could not connect my poor old AUX in the car. I had to resort to Bluetooth, which in itself is a pain to pair in slow moving traffic like Mumbai.
The headphones themselves produce very decent output. In fact, we would rate them just a bit better than what our iPhone produces, but that is expected. What is not great is the build of these headphones. While the cable is largely flat, there are thin connecting wires from where the cable splits and you always feel these will just be pulled to death. There are no silicon ear tips that are included, so not only are the headphones mildly irritating when you put them in your ear, but also leak a lot of sound, especially at very loud volume. We did connect the headphones to our Nexus 6P and they worked perfectly well. The only problem was that we really had to raise the volume to be able to hear the sound from the headphone, perhaps this is due to the output being largely digital from the phone and being converted by the DAC in the headphones. Either way, we were not totally blown away, nor did the output make us feel like listening to live music. No doubt there was an improvement in the audio output, but is it worth carrying an extra pouch with more cables and adapters, we are not so sure about that yet as USB Type C continues to be a bag of pain
LeEco runs Android Marshmallow with EUI 5.6 on top of it. It was a pleasant change to notice that LeEco has made several software improvements on the latest release as compared to when we had last checked it out on the Le 1s. The whole experience feels a lot more refined. There is still no app drawer here and you have a new LeView screen on the first home screen video, which has curated videos from the internet. In our initial impressions, we stated that this cannot be hidden, but we were wrong. You can simply long press and disable the LeView by tapping on the Hide icon on te top. Or just simply move on to a new launcher altogether.
There is also LeLive that the phone comes with, which is basically live TV on your phone. Channels like NDTV, Times Now, CNN are a part of this. You will need a Le account in order to login to watch the content here. Some of the notifications that the phone throws up has poor English translation, though given that the phone is actually from China, that is somewhat forgivable.
The icons of apps in the control center are finally right and they do not distort, which is a good news. You cannot control your music directly from the lockscreen, and must unlock the phone for the same. We also noticed that on apps like Saavn, the phone only downloads one thumbnail size so if you have the player open in expanded mode in the notification bar, the thumbnail will be distorted. The lockscreen stores all your notifications at the bottom rather than in the middle, so it will take time to get used to that.
There are a few really sweet tweaks that have been added. The one that LeEco has persisted with, and we really like is that the number pad to unlock the phone with shifts based on where you swipe the screen to unlock for easy one handed usage. There is a large file cleanup available in the Storage of the phone to help you clear file you do not use and have on the phone. This is useful as there is no expandable storage option to the 32GB ROM that is included. You have features like displaying the internet connection speed, taking backup of your data in LeCloud and changing the scale view. You do get a remote control app to make the most of the IR blaster.
EUI also lets you map what the long press on the capacitive buttons will do as well as schedule the phone to turn off and on at the time of your choice. The keyboard by default was the Google keyboard so the typing experience was good. You do miss having quick toggles in the notification bar, but all of that is located in the Control Center, which also doubles up as the window to host the multitasking pane on the phone. There were very few crashes in our time of using EUI, this time, around, and overall the experience was really polished when compared to last time.
The camera on the LeEco Le 2 is average. While taking pictures on the phone is a breeze, thanks to a zero shutter lag, the problem we found was that the pictures had a very slight red tint on them. This is something that we would expect LeEco to get right with a software update.
There is a neat add on to the camera app, where if you launch the app and do not take an action for 90 seconds, the camera goes into standby.
The camera app in itself is rather simple and very similar to what we have seen on iPhones. You have a button to call filters on the phone, and a button on the left of the shutter button to check out and review the pictures you have clicked. You can swipe on the screen to bring up the video, slo-mo or pano mode. The video quality was also average and the picked up audio had a fair amount of distortion. If you are in the mood for something fancier and would like more freedom with the camera, you can click on the gear icon on the top of the camera window to bring about some manual shooting options like the Exposure, White Balance, ISO etc.
The HDR Mode on the phone had major issues focussing on the subject for a Macro, but other than that worked alright. The Beauty mode for selfies was pretty accurate though sometimes made far too many rectifications to the skin tone. Overall, the camera takes shots that are decent for sharing on social media, nothing more nothing less.
The Le 2 is definitely a step up and improvement as far as the experience of using the phone goes when compared to its predecessor Le 1s. The phone disappoints with its QC issues such as the display creaking and the red tint on the camera. If you can look past these issues, the phone is definitely worth considering for you, if you are looking something under the Rs 12,000 budget. There is also the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, which has a slightly better battery life but lacks the entertainment lead ecosystem that LeEco provides. The LeEco, in general, feels a little flatter in the hands too rather than the curvy Redmi Note 3 device and a little faster in day to day usage too. Eventually, the Note 3 and the LeEco Le 2 are fabulous options and finally you could foresee the monopoly of the Note 3 in this price segment ending especially if LeEco can get their QC game on the money.