Seven months ago, when I first heard of the names Letv and LeEco, I had a smirk on my face. Just another Chinese phone maker trying its hand in India, I thought. You know, like hundreds of other Chinese players who are importing stuff en masse from Shenzhen and selling it here in India? It seemed like the company had almost everything going against it – starting with the brand name itself. Its phones were branded Letv when ideally, they should have been selling TV’s using that brand name; the naming scheme of their products was a nightmare (try saying LeEco Letv Le 1S aloud). Nothing really made sense. Their first launches in India were the Le Max and the Le 1S which turned out to be surprisingly good phones. Fast forward to July 2016, within seven months of its arrival in India, LeEco has more or less managed to become an ‘established’ player in the highly competitive smartphones market in India. A remarkable achievement, innit? More recently, the company announced the successor to the Le 1S, the all new LeEco Le 2. It was launched along with the Le Max 2 which is priced much higher.
Three weeks ago, I was handed over a review unit of the Le 2 for an extensive review. I have been using the handset as my daily driver ever since. After spending several days procrastinating, I finally present to you, my review of the LeEco Le 2.
Like I mentioned earlier, the LeEco Le 2 is a direct descendant of the Le1s which itself isn’t that old – it launched just over seven months ago. The Le1s was an impressive offering for the price at which it was launched. It came with 3GB of RAM and ran a fairly powerful MediaTek Helio X10 chip. To top it all, the device sported a premium look thanks to the all-metal body. As anyone would have expected, the Le1s was lapped up by consumers in hordes. Following the success of the Le 1S, it only made sense for LeEco to name a successor to it. And that is exactly what the Le 2 is.
LeEco Le 2: Design
The Le 2 is a premium looking device, no doubt. While I did not find anything particularly wrong with the design, some of you might be bothered by the fact that it looks quite similar to some other devices that are already being sold in India. For example, the Gionee S6 that I have been using for a long time looks eerily similar. Of course, you would have to be an eagle-eyed mobile phone freak to be be able to distinguish between the two. But then, we are talking about the aam junta here.
Coming back to the design, the all-metal body of the Le 2 and the seemingly edge-to-edge display (which isn’t actually the case) does make the phone look extremely stylish. The large 5.5-inch Full-HD display dominates the front fascia. At the top, above the display are the earpiece, the front camera lens and the proximity sensor. There is no flash at the front – in case you were wondering. Below the display, the phone uses capacitive buttons for navigation which I personally prefer. I am not a great fan of on-screen navigation keys as I feel they take up unnecessary screen real estate. On the right side of the phone are the power and the volume rocker keys. On the left, we have the SIM card tray which accept twin Nano SIM cards. Like its older cousin, the Le 2 also skips a memory card slot. At the bottom, we have a USB Type-C port flanked by what looks like twin speaker grilles.
As expected, only one of the “speaker” grilles actually sports a speaker – the one on the right. The USB Type-C port also doubles up as the port where you plug in the CDLA earphones. No 3.5 mm audio port on this one! At the top, we have an infrared sensor that helps you use the phone as an universal remote control. Moving on to the rear, a slight hump flanks the 16-megapixel camera. A single LED flash can be seen right next to the camera. Below these two is the squarish fingerprint scanner which I personally felt was positioned very ergonomically. Also note that the phone still carries the Letv logo although the company has stopped using that brand name for their mobile devices. The Le 2 is fairly heavy at 153g. However, the weight and the metal build along with the rather slim profile makes the phone very comfortable to hold.
Overall, I am sure you would love the design of the phone. The only issue seems to be the fact that currently you can only buy it in the Rose Gold colour variant. The phone does come in two other colours – but for some reason, those colours have not reached India.
LeEco Le 2: Hardware/Performance
The Le 2 comes with a fairly potent hardware set. Powering the handset is a Snapdragon 652 chipset that houses a quad core chip clocked at 1.4 GHz. For graphics, the device uses the Adreno 510 GPU which is clocked at 600MHz. There is 3GB of RAM thrown in as well – making the handset very competitive in the price bracket it finds itself in. Probably the only let down in what is arguably an overall great package is the fact that you are stuck with the 32GB of onboard storage space which sadly, cannot be expanded any further. This might not be great news for people who love to carry along their high quality video content on their phones. Also, if you are into recording 4K videos, you may find yourselves taking backups more frequently than you would fancy doing.
After using the device extensively for over three weeks, I was left pretty impressed with the performance of the Le 2. The phone did not show any signs of stress or lag even after I opened multiple applications simultaneously. The only area where there was significant lag was when I tried scrolling through the image gallery. Here, the scroll was choppy and the overall experience was marred by the app occasionally freezing. This seems to be more of a software issue though, which could be potentially fixed in a subsequent update.
I did ran a few benchmark tests on the LeEco Le 2. Here are the results from the AnTuTu, Vellamo and Geekbench tests.
As far as gaming is concerned, the Le 2, surprisingly managed to do well with the graphically intensive game, Asphalt 8. I was able to comfortably play the game on medium settings. I also installed other games that are not very taxing on the GPU, and the phone handled them all with aplomb.
Moving on to call quality, I was quite happy with the loudness of the earpiece. However, you may face issues in a loud environment. I had to move out of my office on multiple occasions to make and receive phone calls.
LeEco Le 2: Software & Multimedia
The Le 2 runs the company’s own custom UI called the EUI (Emotion UI) over an Android core. It runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow as of now. Like typical Chinese custom UIs, EUI too, lacks an app drawer. Apps are stacked across multiple home screens that you can scroll through to get to your app. Interestingly, there is a button at the centre which may initially look like the app drawer. This however, is the “Live” button which will open up the Live TV application that LeEco bundles with the phone.
The Live TV feature is powered by YuppTV and Le 2 users get a one year free subscription of the package when you buy the phone. It offers a host of TV channels that you can stream live. HD broadcast of some channels are available too. Of course, you may end up hitting your data limit in case you are hooked to it all day – unless of course you live in a city like Hyderabad. That said, I did notice that the service has a huge downtime issue. For example, right now, when I tried to access it, it throws up an error message. The application is still buggy and LeEco might want to work with YuppTV to get it fixed.
When you scroll to the right from the first home screen, you are presented with the LeView app that presents curated videos that are currently trending. The process seems to be automated at this point. This is because on more than one occasions, NSFW videos were presented. This was before I set up the phone properly, so clearly, it wasn’t based on my usage pattern. Another app that is bundled with the phone is the LeVidi app which offers premium content through the phone.
The handset also supports a wide variety of themes that can be downloaded from its own themes store.
Overall, I found the UI very zippy and easy to use and except for the aforementioned issue with the image gallery app, it was a breeze using it.
LeEco Le 2: CDLA Audio/Music
The Le 2 is probably the first phone in India to come sans a 3.5mm audio port. Instead, it uses something the company calls CDLA (Continuous Digital Lossless Audio) that makes use of the USB Type-C port at the bottom of the phone to deliver audio signals. LeEco claims that the new CDLA standard will ensure that there is no loss in sound quality when the digital signals are passed on to the earphones by the phone. The old 3.5mm audio port is an analog technology which meant that all phones that came with one, also came with a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). This DAC converted the digital files stored inside your phone into analog signals your earphones could decipher. This meant that the overall sound quality of the file also depended a lot on the quality of the DAC being used by the phone. LeEco also adds that on phones that sport the 3.5mm audio port, a significant amount of quality is lost in the process of conversion from digital to analog. This is what CDLA audio does away with.
While all this technical mumbo-jumbo sounds great on paper, what was the actual experience like, you may ask?
To start with, note that the retail package of the Le 2 does not come with CDLA capable earphones. To enjoy CDLA studio, you will need to purchase a separate earphones that the company sells. Thankfully, the box does include a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter which you can use to connect your existing earphones to the Le 2. Since this was not the retail packaging but a review unit, I did not receive the adapter and was unable to test it out.
However, I did get to try out the CDLA audio since the review unit did come with USB Type-C earphones. I did not particularly like the earphones as they were not of the in-ear type. Once I started using it, there was no noticeable difference in quality that I could make out that warranted this change. Probably, the difference might be noticeable when you use a pair of high quality digital earphones. But then, I am no audiophile and even if I happened to be one, a smartphone is the last device which I would use to consume my music. While I do appreciate the leap in technology, the move to ditch the good ol’ 3.5mm audio jack would always remain a contentious issue. That said, the supplied converter should keep most normal users happy since they would be able to use their older earphones with the Le 2 without having to shell out money for the digital earphones.
LeEco Le 2: Camera
The Le 2 comes with a 16-megapixel main camera at the rear and an 8-megapixel shooter at the front. The rear-facing camera boasts of an F2.0 aperture and gets phase-detection autofocus that ensures faster focus times. The main camera can capture images in three sizes – 16-megapixel (4:3), 12-megapixel (16:9) and 6-megapixels (16:9). In practical usage, I noted that the autofocus works great only when you use the camera in optimal lighting conditions. The Le 2 struggled to maintain the same focus speeds under poor lighting. The rear camera takes some great shots during daytime. I was not too happy with the macro photography on the Le 2 as it has a major issue focusing on subjects in close range. The touch-to-focus function in the macro mode is a pain to use and many a times, you may end up with a blurry flower. That said, once it does manage to focus, pictures do turn out good.
I also noticed that images captured in low light were decent. The Le 2 also takes decent shots in a well lit environment – under artificial lighting.
The camera gets plenty of modes that let you fine tune your shot. A completely manual mode is absent, though. Standard features like an HDR mode, night mode and beauty mode can be accessed by clicking the settings menu within the camera app. The phone also gets a variety of filters.
The rear camera also gets an option to capture panorama shots. In the video mode, you get the option to capture videos in 4K, Full-HD and 720p resolutions. The front camera is capable of capturing videos in 720p. The front camera can take pictures in 8-megapixel and 6-megapixel sizes – the latter in the 16:9 mode.
Overall, I thought the camera was great for a phone in this price range.
LeEco Le 2: Battery Life
Coming from the Samsung Galaxy J7 which I reviewed before the Le 2, the battery life on the Le 2 felt grossly inadequate. With my kind of usage which involved intermittent WhatsApp conversations, hours of browsing Facebook and occasional phone calls, the phone barely lasted me an entire working day. The Le 2 found itself connected to a charging port almost every time I returned from my office. This, in spite of a largish 3,000mAh battery that the phone comes with. On the bright side, since the handset supports fast charging, you can charge the device back real quick. On average, it took a little over one hour and 20 minutes for the phone to charge from zero to 100 percent. With the brightness level set to minimum and with frugal usage, the Le 2 did manage to last an entire day. However, I am sure no one would use the phone in such a manner – unless of course you are stuck in a desert.
LeEco Le 2: Conclusion
The LeEco Le 2 is currently being sold in India for a very attractive price tag of Rs.11,999. For the price you pay, you do get a very competent handset that offers great performance and loads of oomph. The only niggles that I faced with the phone were the occasional lag in the image gallery, less than spectacular battery life and the poor macro performance. The CDLA audio was not much of an issue since the phone will ship with an adapter to connect your existing earphones. These, mind you, are minor issues that can be overlooked once you look at the price tag.
That said, the Le 2 does face some stiff competition from the likes of the Redmi Note 3 (32GB, 3GB RAM version), the Lenovo Z1 Zuk and the Moto G4 which also sell for around the same price. However, if you are looking for a different device from the usual crop of Android phones that retail at this price range, the Le 2 will definitely make for a great buy.