LeEco has only recently launched its first two smartphones in India that will also be pegged as its media consumption devices, considering that they will be tied up to the Le Ecosystem for content services such as movies, shows and more. We really liked the LeEco LeMax. Keeping its gigantic phablet-sized display in mind, the smartphone really impressed us with its performance and construction in our full review.
In the case of the budget Le 1s it has some really “big” shoes to fill partly due to the reputation of its bigger sibling the Le Max. But with all that was promised in terms of hardware at the launch, it is expected to be a big seller as well, thanks to its hardware and pricing. But can it stand up to the really tough competition from the budget range? Let’s find out.
The LeEco was launched at a price tag of Rs 10,999 in India. The phone looks a lot more premium compared to what the price tag suggests. A majority of those who saw and used the phone, clearly thought that it would be priced in the Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 price bracket and this is all thanks to its metal body.
Starting from the front we have 5.5-inch Full HD display with Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 screen to protect it. The look is very minimal and we have the LED notification light, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, receiver and the front facing camera on the top bezel, while the bottom bezel features capacitive multi-tasking, home and back keys that light up only when the display is on.
On the back we have a primary camera accompanied by a single LED flash top left. Sitting a little below at the centre is the fingerprint reader with the Letv logo below it. Also visible are the gold coloured plastic inserts on the top and bottom that have been placed for better reception for the smartphone's antennas.
Coming to the sides, we get 3.5mm headphone jack on the top that is also accompanied by an IR blaster. The IR blaster is used when the smartphone is used as a remote control via the Remote Control app.
At the bottom we get the USB Type C port, which is flanked by the smartphone's loudspeaker grilles on both sides. Only the grille on the right side hosts the actual loudspeaker.
On the sides, we have a sim tray for the dual 4G sim slots (one micro and the other a nano), while the right side sports the volume rocker and the unlock/power button.
The Le 1s features a 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) In-cell display that is capable of 500nits of brightness. Inside, we get a 2.2GHz, octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 (MT6795T) processor with a PowerVR G6200 GPU. Accompanying the processor is 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 32GB of eMMC 5.0 internal storage that is not expandable.
The camera department consists of a 13MP rear camera which is an ISOCELL sensor that is accompanied by a single LED flash, and sports a bright f/2.0 aperture and Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF). On the front we have a 5MP camera for selfies that sports a Samsung S5K5E2 sensor and an 85-degree wide-angle lens.
On the communications front, we have plenty of options. There's 4G LTE and 3G bands with a dual SIM setup (micro+nano) Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and USB 2.0 Type C port. On the back is the chrome-finish fingerprint reader that we had no problems with. It unlocked the smartphone almost instantly and recognised our fingerprint accurately unlocking the smartphone to the homescreen every time.
All of the above is fuelled by a 3000mAh battery and the smartphone boots to Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with the EUI 5.5 to keep things refreshed.
Coming from the Le Max, we really had no clue whether LeEco would deliver a great or even an average display inspite the mix of good hardware inside; turns out we should not have doubted them. To begin with, the 5.5-inch, Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) in-cell display was above our expectations, considering the price and the mid-range processor that this budget handset packs in.
The display was indeed as bright as mentioned during the launch event (500nits) and faired reasonably well both indoors and outdoors. Colour reproduction was a bit saturated on the default settings, but the EUI software let us tweak it to our liking and we eventually settled for the Natural setting. Also available in the Colour Mode settings were other presets like Letv, Vivid and Soft.
Sharpness was not a problem for the 5.5-inch display, which showcases a pixel density of 403ppi and we could not see any pixellation or jaggies no matter how closely we looked at our display with our naked eyes. Viewing at an angle was not a problem and we had great video viewing experience with deep blacks that almost merged with the black bezels.
The software on the LeEco Le 1s comes with plenty of customisation options. The software seemed to be a bit more updated with refreshed icon sets and more themes compared to the stuff we had on the Le Max during our review.
The customisations were plentiful indeed. You can change themes and you have a wide selection of wallpapers as well. Then there were the minor yet handy features that were similar to those on the gigantic Le Max phablet. These would include the lockscreen keypad showing up on th left, center or right depending on where you swiped up on the display to unlock the smartphone. Other minor additions include the Scale View in Display Settings that let you change the DPI (to an extent) to show more lines of text compared to what you can see on other smartphone displays with similar dimensions. Also available among the Settings was the ability to power down your smartphone at a specified time. One can also schedule the smartphone to switch on and off with an alarm.
The My Letv app for now does not do much apart from syncing your contacts and app data. The Control Center that is activated by hitting the multi-tasking key certainly impressed and you could choose from a wide range of toggles available from the selection.
The performance is an area that many Android users worry about, the LeEco Le Max with its octa-core Helio X10 chipset chugged along just fine without any signs of lag or stutter. We were thoroughly impressed by this smartphone's performance and this shows in the benchmark tests as well, where the Le 1s showed scores that were more in line with the mid-range and far ahead of any budget smartphone currently available.
Strangely, that slim metal contruction did take a toll and we had a few heat-related problems. The smartphone ran surprisingly cool, while gaming it warmed up ever so slightly with Dead Trigger on max settings and other graphically intensive games, and we noticed plenty of heating when we opened the camera.
While the heat levels were not abnormal, and the software did not shut any active apps, it did get noticeably hot especially while shooting in sunlight. Apart from this we had no complaints from the level of performance we witnessed while using the Le 1s. The volume levels on the loudspeaker at the bottom were sufficiently loud, while the audio quality while listening to music was pretty good with clear bass notes.
In terms of call quality, we had no problems listening to the caller and the receiver volume was loud enough to be heard in traffic. However, on the other end of the line, the listener did complain that the audio was muffled and not clear. All-in-all, voice quality was average and could have been a lot better.
LeEco went with a simple layout for the camera app’s viewfinder. The viewfinder (as seen from the image above) features a settings button on the top-left accompanied by the flash settings and primary/secondary camera switcher button.
On the lower side, we have a layout similar to the iPhone with selections for slow-motion video recording, standard video recording, standard photo and a Panorama mode. To the right of the shutter button are where the filters are hidden and the software allows for iOS-like live previews during filter selection.
Delving deeper into the settings, the options are again basic and have the standard set of scene modes (landscape, portrait, beautify etc) and an HDR mode. The Beautify mode is also accessible from the main viewfinder and sits to the right of the shutter button. Tapping on it, allows you to select the level of “beautification” which basically removes the noise and spots from the frame.
Coming to camera performance, overall it was pretty average but good enough considering the price you pay for the Le 1s. Daylight shooting was fine and images showed proper colour balance and saturation levels, but we could notice purple fringing near the edges of the image.
PS: Image samples have been resized here. To check the full resolution, please click on the images
HDR images showed plenty of promise and managed to balance the highs and lows pretty well as can be seen from the camera samples below.
While the images clicked during the day were fairly sharp, we also noticed plenty of lens blur near the edges of the image.
Low light shooting was a bit of a mess. While the camera did lock focus pretty quickly, it needed to be held really steady to get an image that was worth all the effort put in to begin with. In short, the image looked just passable on the phone, but when blown up on the PC did not look too good.
Clicking portrait or macro shots turned out to be pretty good in daylight (above), but we found it extremely hard to differentiate the subject from the background in low light or even dimly lit conditions.
The images shot in low light ended up looking flat and textures blotchy at best (above). While close-ups still lacked depth, colour balance was a bit off as you can see from the images below.
Shooting video was a good experience and 4X slow motion mode actually proved it worth and looked pretty smooth. However, the slow-motion videos were shot at 720p and not useful for subjects too far away from the screen. The smartphone is capable of recording 4K video at 30 fps, slow-motion 720p video at 120 fps. The front-facing camera short fairly decent photographs in daylight but suffered the same fate as the primary one in low light.
Sporting a 3000mAh battery and a 5.5-inch Full HD display, we knew that the battery would not last long and the Le 1s proved us right. With continuous WhatsApp messaging, an hour of calls and about 15-20 minutes of gaming, the Le 1s was done for. At the end of a work day with two email accounts on sync, we ended up plugging in the smartphone much before the work day ended which was a bit disappointing considering its otherwise stellar performance.
Compared to the Le Max, which did a fairly decent job, we certainly felt that LeEco needs to tweak the device's kernel that ramps up a bit too much when playing around with the camera. More surprising was the fact that the Le Max with its 6.3-inch QHD display and 3400mAh battery scored a good 8 hours and 40 minutes, while the Le 1s with a 5.5-inch FHD display and a 3000mAh battery scored just 5 hours and 42 minutes on our PC Mark work battery life test.
The LeEco Le 1s is a great smartphone and certainly impressed us with its performance, which was similar to what we experienced on its bigger sibling, the Le Max. However, it has plenty of niggling issues, like a problematic kernel that ends up eating into the smartphone's battery life and call quality issues that simply kill the EUI software experience that seems to be well thought of.
LeEco certainly handpicked the best hardware bits for its smartphone, but fell flat when it came to the basics, which are the very areas, budget smartphone buyers are picky about (battery life and call quality).
At the same time, it is hard to recommend anything apart from the LeEco Le 1s in its price range because you have smartphones with better 4000mAh battery life like the Huawei Honor Holly 2 Plus at Rs 8,999 (but sports an average design) that sit below it, and the OnePlus X with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset (that's not as powerful) that now weirdly sits higher above at Rs 16,999.
However, there could be slight competition coming from the recently announced Huawei Honor 5X that is priced at Rs 12,999. The smartphone packs in the right internals and a metal body, but again falls short in terms of benchmarks, with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 616, which turns out to be not quite the performer like the MediaTek Helio X10 inside the Le 1s.
While it is hard to recommend the LeEco Le 1s, it is equally hard to give anyone a reason not to buy it. Go for it, only if you are looking for the Helio X10's performance that delivers stutter free gaming and a buttery smooth software experience. But definitely not for the battery life.