Letv or LeEco has just made its entry into the Indian market and it has done so by not just introducing smartphones, but electric cycles, 3D helmets and other consumer technology products as well. So when we got our hands on a LeEco Le Max, which is the biggest smartphone (more phablet) in its range, we did expect a typical Chinese smartphone with oversized proportions that goes big on numbers and pointless on software, but as it turns out this was not the case.
Build and Design: 8/10
The LeEco Le Max is a gigantic smartphone that measures in at 167.1×83.5×8.95mm with a 6.33-inch display and weights a hefty 204 grams. And the first time we got our hands on it, it reminded us of the Nokia Lumia 1520 that packs in an equally large (massive) 6-inch display. But after using it for a week, we kind of began to appreciate the design of the device.
LeEco has gone with a unibody metal design, with plastic inserts (gaps for the antenna) at the top and bottom, which seems to be inspired from HTC devices. But a glance at the almost bezel-less display, and you will know that this has more similarities with Apple's Mac range than anything else. Aluminum check, glass covering the entire front surface till the edges, check.
And yes, that is one large glass panel, that runs from the bottom of the smartphone where the three capacitive keys are located, all the way to the top, where the earpiece (with a metallic insert) sits flush with rest of the surface. The earpiece is accompanied by the front facing camera on one side and the proximity and ambient light sensor on the other side.
The bezels on the Le Max are just 1.6mm in thickness, which is pretty thin for a device this large. However, never during our entire review process did we find the device flimsy. It felt like solid block of aluminium and the sharp and minimalist front design did impress plenty of onlookers.
Talking about size, the phone packs in one of the highest screen to body ratios we have ever seen. The Le Max has a 80.2% screen to body ratio. This is a feat considering the phone's size and it comes pretty close to what we have on the Oppo R7 Plus, with minimum bezel on the top and the bottom. LeEco seems to have moved the fingerprint sensor on the back for same.
On the back things look almost typical. We get the 'Letv' branding at the bottom, with the camera, dual LED Flash, secondary mic and the fingerprint sensor taking up the space at the top.
Coming to the sides, the left side consists of the mute switch (that also helps change profiles) and the volume rocker.
The right side hosts the power button and the dual nano SIM slots. No, LeEco has chosen not to provide a microSD card slot on this device and the reason for the same can be attributed to the company's content (it is a content company after all) that it plans to keep inside the device. Basically, downloaded content coming from Letv servers will be stored on the device memory itself that helps keep content pirates at bay.
At the top, we have a an infra-red port (for use as a TV remote control) and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The bottom area consists of a USB Type-C port with speaker grilles on either side. One thing to note is that only the right speaker grille is functional, while the left one is purely for aesthetics.
LeEco has packed in everything under the sun that one could want in a phablet form factor. We have a massive 6.33 inch Quad HD display (2560 x 1440 pixels) display with a brilliant screen to body ratio. Under the hood, it hides a 2.0 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC coupled with 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Letv has not provided a memory card slot for storage expansion.
Coming to the optics, the Le Max packs in a good setup. There's a 21MP Sony IMX230 Sensor with f/2.0 aperture, OIS and a dual-tone LED flash on back. The front however sports a smaller than usual 4MP OmniVision OV4688 sensor with a 81.6-degree wide-angle lens.
There's plenty of connectivity options available on the Le Max. You get a MHL 3.0, USB Type C, 3.5mm audio jack, Wireless HDMI, 4G bands, WiFi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1 with APT-X, GPS, an IR blaster and finally NFC (that's a long list!).
All of the above hardware is powered by a 3400 mAh battery.
While we loved the screen to body ratio of the Le Max and liked its ultra-thin bezels, the display of the smartphone turned out to be an even better experience. The 6.33-inch Quad HD display, is a stunner and is extremely sharp at 465ppi, considering how much its display array was spread out on a phablet-sized screen.
The display that built by Sharp, is bright both indoors and outdoors and viewing angles are great. We managed to dim the display to some really low brightness levels and it did so without a hiccup. The blacks are deep, and the colours are well-saturated.
More importantly, it is paired up with some great software that even allows for colour profile (mode) selection. There's LeEco colour profile that is set as default with Vivid, Natural and Soft selections available as options. While watching movies we preferred the Natural mode, while for regular mode it was the Letv profile that showcased the sweet spot. One thing to crib about the display, was that it was a bit to glossy. While this would not be a problem indoors, it literally reflected everything around us outdoors; and this is a problem while viewing dark scenes in movies.
The software onboard the LeEco Le Max comes with plenty of customisations, but most of the skinning and customisations have been kept minimal and don't take a toll of the overall user experience. While content will be the highlight of any Letv smartphone or device, it is interesting to note the level of detail that its UX designers have gone to, that results in some handy features.
The customisations however, do not go too deep. While you can change the UX themes, and wallpapers, you cannot individually select icon packs and custom fonts, like with other smartphone skins. In all there are just three themes available but owners will be able to download more from the built in LeEco theme store that is available in the wallpaper settings. The selection of wallpapers is pretty large and varied and they look sharp when applied to the Quad HD display.
There are other small touches that will keep you wondering. Like for example, the touch pad for unlocking the smartphone appears either on the right or left side, or at the center, depending on where you swipe up from the lockscreen. Then there are some display features that we appreciated, like the ability to change the dpi of the software or scale apps to display more lines of text. And there were plenty of features like the ones, above that make using this phablet with a large display worth it even if it means carrying around a device that weights 204 grams.
Design aside, during our review of the Le Max we were unable to access the My Letv app, which connects us to the cloud and content services or the LeEco Ecosystem. However, we will update the review once LeEco opens up access for the same.
Coming to the stuff that matters to most Android smartphone users, performance. And for a flagship smartphone, the Le Max certainly does not disappoint. It scored pretty well on the plethora of benchmarking tests we threw at it, in fact, we were a bit surprised as to how well LeEco has optimised its software for the powerful hardware.
While apps chugged along just fine, gaming performance was pretty good as well. The smartphone easily runs most 3D games at high settings. We had no problems playing intensive 3D titles like Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and other casual games worked flawlessly as well. Real Racing 3 had a strange set of problems, with low framerates, but the same can be attributed to the developer of the game rather than the hardware. Talking about gaming, the phone did heat up a bit, but not hot enough for us to take a call and pause our hour long gaming session.
The fingerprint reader that is placed on the back was pretty quick when it came to recognising fingerprints and seemed pretty much like the best and the quickest way to securely unlock this behemoth.
Watching videos was a great experience thanks to the immersive display that appeared to have no borders when the scenes in the videos went dark. The audio quality on the Le Max is top notch and provided rich sound quality, that did not need any intervention from an equalizer. The same can be said for voice calls at the receiver, but the speaker output at the bottom of the device was a bit low and simply not loud enough.
LeEco has gone with a fairly 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. In the bottom area we have a layout is similar to the iPhone with selections for slow-motion video recording, standard video recording, standard photo and a Panorama mode.
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.
While daylight shooting was a breeze, we did notice that most of the photographs sported a blue tinge. Low-light images on the other hand showcased a red tinge, which resulted in bad colour reproduction.
PS: Image samples have been resized here. To check the full resolution, please click on the images
The 21MP sensor however churned out plenty of detail thanks to its high-resolution sensor, but it is the colour reproduction that made shooting a hit and miss situation with unbalanced colour.
Another area where the camera struggled to get even decent images was in brightly lit situations. The highlights were blown up out of proportion and even the HDR more could not help.
Low-light shooting was quick and the camera did not struggle to lock focus. The resulting images thanks to optical image stabilisation, were sharp even in low light, but upon zooming in you begin to notice how the noise kind of kills the details resulting in blotchy looking textures. The front-facing camera however, saw great wide angle coverage but produced poor images at 4MP resolution.
Video recording worked flawlessly, and the device did not heat up even while recording 4K video, which is kind of an accomplishment for LeEco.
Battery Life: 7/10
The LeEco Le Max packed in a surprisingly small 3400 mAh battery considering its beastly size. This makes even less sense when you consider the 6.33-inch display that also happens to pack in a battery draining Quad HD resolution. What this resulted in was a smartphone that had to plugged in by the end of the day.
Still then, the phone is pretty light for its phablet form factor and we think this is where the LeEco engineers made a choice to go ahead with a smaller battery on the Le Max. The smartphone however, does pack in plenty of battery saver modes that can deliver varying levels of standby time at the cost of lowered performance. The packaged quick charger however does charge up the phone quickly.
Verdict and Pricing:
The LeEco Le Max is a good smartphone thanks to its nifty features. The hardware is top notch and the same can be said about its software. The only problem is its camera, something that could be resolved with a minor software update since the Sony IMX230 is known to deliver good images.
The LeEco Le Max is priced at Rs 32,999 for the 64GB version, while the 128GB version is priced at Rs 69,999. While those who are interested in the Le Max may go in for the 64GB version, it is wise to keep in mind that it does not sport external storage. With that said, there are much better flagship smartphone options available in the Rs 60,000 range with better specs.
However, at Rs 32,999 price bracket, there are some good choices available. Going with the Snapdragon 810 brigade, we have just one contender, the OnePlus 2 that sells for Rs 24,999 (invite-free) for the 64GB version but certainly falls short on many features. Next up are the smartphones that pack some great cameras and performance like the LG G4 (from Rs 32,300) and the Samsung Galaxy S6 (32GB) that retails for Rs 31,000. And then there are the all-rounders like the Motorola Moto X Style (16GB at Rs 26,999) and the LG-made Google Nexus 5X that is now selling for Rs 31,499 for the 32GB version.
As mentioned in our first impressions, the highlight of any LeEco smartphone will be the company's content offering. And with tie-ups with the best in the industry (Eros), users will have to choose between a just a flagship smartphone, or a smartphone that comes tied with a plethora of content services.
While LeEco's focus is content, the company has certainly delivered a well-polished product, one which showcases the company's skills in building quality smartphones that showcases no compromise when it comes to design.
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