Around six months have passed since LeEco (formerly LeTV) entered the Indian market, and it is already in its second generation of handsets. The Le 1s was the phone that really made LeEco a household name, apart from its all out advertising blitzkrieg of course. But unlike other smartphone players in the market, LeEco is a hardware company second, but a content company first. In China, LeEco has a content catalogue that has little competition and it is merely using products such as smartphones and TVs to give their users access to this content bank. With its second generation of handsets, LeEco has brought that content experience (although with local Indian content partners) to India. So let us see how good or bad it is as compared to the Le 1s.
Build and Design: 7.5/10
When placed side-by-side on their backs, you will not be able to tell the Le 2 and Le 1s apart. It is only when you start looking closely that the differences in the design language pop up. LeEco continues using a metal body for the Le 2, which gives it a slight heft with a 153 gram weight. The front face has the 5.5-inch full HD display. We got the rose gold variant of the phone.
On the rear is where you will see differences. For starters, the first thing that stands out are the antenna cuts on the top and bottom. The 16MP camera unit protrudes slightly and occupies a position in the centre, beside which you have the dual-tone LED flash unit. Just below the camera module, you have the square shaped fingerprint scanner. On the button edge, you have the USB Type-C port which acts as a data transfer and charging port as well as a CDLA port for digital audio.
The top portion has an IR blaster, the dual nano SIM card tray is on the left whereas the volume rocker and power button is on the right-hand side. There are antenna cuts on the bottom edge as well. The dropping of the 3.5mm audio jack is a bit too ambitious for a phone at this price range, but thankfully, LeEco bundles in a USB Type C earphone and a Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack converter, for those who prefer using their regular earphones.
Overall, the build quality is quite good, although the edges around the display are a bit too sharp despite the bevelling. This is compensated well by the transparent silicon cover you get. It also compensates for the bulge in the camera module. The silicon cover gives a good grip, although we didn’t find the metal body to be that slippery.
LeEco Le 2 comes with a really good feature set, as has been the case with its first generation outing as well. The Le 2 houses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chipset which has an octa-core processor with one quad-core Cortex A72 cluster clocked at 1.8GHz and one quad-core Cortex A53 cluster clocked at 1.8GHz. It is paired with an Adreno 510 GPU. It also comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage (29.12GB available to the user) — you cannot add in a microSD card to expand the storage though.
The 5.5-inch Full HD display comes comes with an LCD panel. On the camera front, you get a 16MP sensor on the rear camera with an f/2.0 aperture and phase-detect AF along with an 8MP front-facing camera with an f/2.2 aperture and 1.4 micrometer pixel size.
It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow along with LeEco’s proprietary EUI 5.8 skin atop it. There is a nano dual-SIM tray which supports 4G LTE (FDD LTE Bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/20 and TDD LTE Bands 38/40/41). There’s also support for Wi-fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS/AGPS with GLONASS and BDS positioning, a fingerprint sensor on the rear and more. All this is powered by a 3,000mAh battery which supports the QuickCharge standard.
The 5.5-inch in-cell display on the LeEco Le 2 seems quite similar to what we had seen on the Le 1s. It offers the same 400 ppi pixel density on the Le 2s. The display is sharp and colours appear natural, although with a slight bias towards the blue spectrum. The phone is sufficiently bright, although the adaptive brightness feature isn’t the best. There were some concerns regarding some creaking sound that’s heard when you tap on the phone — we found that to be true only when you press hard on the display, as hard as you would on a 3D Touch panel on the iPhone. In normal use cases you will not press that hard on the display. Watching movies on the display is a pleasure. Although the contrast isn’t the best, we still found it to be quite good.
LeEco comes with the proprietary EUI skin atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow. In terms of the design language, it is not very different from the user interface seen on the first generation LeEco handsets. There is no app drawer, so all apps that you download are on multiple homescreens.
Swiping to the leftmost homescreen, you come across a video aggregation screen called LeView. You can select videos based on genres such as News & Politics, Sports, Science & Tech and so on and you will get the latest trending videos curated by LeEco’s content partners. The LeVidi app is a separate app which gives you access to the same content as was seen in LeView, but in a more organised manner. With the purchase of the Le 2 or Le Max handset, you get access to the video services free for the first year, which comes to around Rs 4,900 a year.
The Live button in the bottom centre gives you access to TV channels across languages and genres which are powered by YuppTV. You can play 9 streams at the same time, provided you have a high-speed, stable internet connection — a rare find in India. Or you can just go right into the channel of your choice. The LeMusic and LeEco drive — which offers 5TB cloud storage space — are features that are yet to be activated.
Swiping from the top down, will reveal the recent notifications. You can further make customisations to mark certain app notifications as important or even determine whether they should show on the lock screen or only in the notification shade. You can also use the fingerprint scanner to take selfies.
The control centre is activated by tapping on the square soft key on the left hand side of the home button. It is divided into five main sections. Starting from the top, you have the shortcut switches followed by the music controller, brightness slider, shortcut switches for Wi-fi, bluetooth, profiles and so on and finally in the bottom half you have the most recently opened apps.
If you are moving from stock Android, it will take some time getting the hang of the EUI skin on the LeEco Le 2, post which it becomes easy to navigate. The skin isn’t that heavy and we did not notice any stutter or slowdown of animations or while switching apps and so on. Unlike the MIUI 7 skin, the EUI lets you access Google Now on Tap.
Call quality on the Le 2 is quite good. Sound coming from the earpiece speaker is loud and clear. Even at higher volumes there was no distortion from the earpiece speaker. The same cannot be said of the speaker, which tends to distort at high volumes. You are much better off with the bundled USB Type-C earphones.
The USB Type-C earphones is a huge bone of contention. There seems to be no logic to doing away with the 3.5mm audio jack on a budget device, other than to have the tag of being the first phone company to do so. We have seen non audio jack sporting phones in the past in the form of the Oppo R5, so Le 2 isn’t the first of its kind we are coming across. But with the Oppo R5, it just made sense for the company to do away with the audio jack because R5 measured just 4.85mm thick. The LeEco Le 2 is not slim by any means and moreover, the USP of the CDLA feature — high definition audio — makes little sense for the price point the phone is selling at. A lot of people prefer using their own earphones. The USB Type-C to 3.5mm audio jack adapter is not really the best implementation, making the adapter hang at a weird angle.
Having said that, the audio output was decent, nothing out of the ordinary. The ear buds are not the best at isolating your ears from ambient noise, and on many occasions we had to press them in to be able to listen clearly in noisy situations. The in-line microphone has a single button which needs to be pressed once to stop music play or to answer a call, two presses takes you to the previous song and three presses takes you to the next song.
The LeEco Le 2 comes with Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 chipset and 3GB of RAM. These specs are enough to ensure that the Le 2 runs smooth on most occasions. There were no issues with any of the apps we threw at the Le 2, including high-end games such as Asphalt 8: Airborne. Heat management was quite good and we noticed that temperatures never crossed 38 degree Celsius even after a good 30 minutes of heavy gaming. Benchmark scores are in line with the ones we had seen on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 — which houses the Snapdragon 650 chipset.
The fingerprint scanner is a bit of a hit and miss affair though. It is certainly not the fastest we have seen and many times it took us more than two or three tries to be able to log in. It can be used for clicking selfies though. We'd also like to point out that we had similar issues on the Le Max 2 and it does seem like this is a larger issue with LeEco's current devices.
LeEco Le 2 comes with a 16MP rear camera with an f/2.0 aperture and an 8MP front facing camera with f/2.4 aperture. The rear camera supports phase-detect AF. These are quite high specs on a budget handset. The camera interface is simple and there are four main tabs: Slo-mo, Video, Photo and Pano. The Photo screen has a slider which shows you options such as HDR, Night mode, Square frame, Beauty and Scene mode for quick selections. Settings menu gives further tweaking options. The video camera is capable of shooting 4K videos as well.
Image quality is usable for daylight images but not so great with low light samples. The focusing is quick during day time, and you can also lock focus and then select exposure from another area. The daylight images give a lot of details and even fine objects such as leaves in the distance are resolved relatively well, especially when compared to the phones in this price range. Having said that, the HDR mode certainly needs some work. There were instances where despite selecting HDR, images still turned out overexposed or in shadows. Low light photographs are quite waxy in appearance and noise is easily noticeable even with indoor shots. It is best to use the Le 2 camera in daylight situations only or well-lit interiors. Else just stick to using a flash indoors, which at least cuts down on the damage to some extent.
Videos shot during the daytime are usable, although the shift between exposures is quite drastic when you move from shadow areas to highlights. Panning does introduce rolling shutter and you may not want to shoot videos while walking as the lack of image stabilisation gives a shaky output.
The LeEco Le 2 comes with a 3,000mAh battery which easily gives you enough juice to get through my average work day without feeling the need to charge the device. The Quick Charging feature is optional and when you activate it, you get a warning that the phone will heat up while charging. While charging is quick, we noticed on a couple of occasions that the discharging was equally quick. We stuck to regular charging, which tends to hold charge longer. PC Mark for Android predicted a battery life of 8 hours and 14 mins.
Verdict and Price in India
As a standalone smartphone, the LeEco Le 2 offers tremendous value for money at Rs 11,999. The powerful Snapdragon 652 chipset with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage are impressive features which ensure that the phone does not falter in the performance department. But LeEco goes even further by adding its Le Ecosystem benefits to the device. The first year of LeEco membership is free for anyone who buys the Le 2, after which you can take a call if you want to continue with it or not.
The LeVidi app is a good start, but we did not get all nine channels running simultaneously despite being in a good Wi-fi environment — we're lucky enough to be blessed with a 100mbps connection.
The content library does not seem to have changed since we first saw the Le 2 at the launch event. Having the same featured movies for months is just sad and I hope LeEco rectifies this. The Live feature which streams satellite TV is great to catch up on news or your favourite TV shows provided you have stable internet connectivity.
The USB Type-C earphones bundled retail for Rs 1,999 and as a promotional offer, Le 2 buyers will get it for free. Since the headset supports the CDLA standard, you will have to go with LeEco’s Type-C headset. This can be an unwanted cost when buying the device, as unless you have lossless audio you will not really be able to enjoy this headset. The price is also very high for the quality on offer.
In the sub-Rs 15,000 price bracket, the Le 2 certainly emerges as the phone to go for. As compared to its closest competitor — the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 — the Le 2 offers slightly better performance and comes with the Le Supertainment bouquet which gives it an edge. In terms of camera performance and battery life though, we would still go with the Redmi Note 3. If content is what entices you and you are willing to invest an additional amount for the headset, then go for the LeEco Le 2.
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