A few years ago, we’d have scorned at the idea of even shortlisting a smartphone from a new-age company, let alone buying it. However, thanks to the likes of OnePlus and its peers, consumers have started valuing specs-to-price ratio more than the brand equity, at least in the affordable smartphone space.
LeEco (formerly Letv) also seems to be one such manufacturer which jumped in the smartphone segment in its home country China just in April last year, but has already managed to create a stir in the market. The brand, which is part Netflix, part hardware manufacturer, part sports firm, among other diversified interests, is now entering Indian shores with its launch vehicle being the budget Le 1s and a gargantuan Le Max. The Le 1s has already got our attention during our hands-on time, but do our impressions remain the same after using it for past two weeks? Let’s find out in our review.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)|
|CPU||Octa core, 2.2 GHz, MediaTek MT6795T|
|Internal memory||32 GB|
|Capacity||3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable|
|Talktime||Up to 31.5 Hours (3G)|
|Standby Time||Up to 340 Hours (4G)|
|Primary camera||13 MP|
|Secondary camera||5 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 5.0 Lollipop|
Design: an eye candy
Dimensions: 151.1 x 74.2 x 7.5 mm
Weight: 169 grams
The use of metal as a construction material is one of the best ways to indicate the premiumness of a smartphone. While this formula has been used on flagships for quite a while, thanks to Chinese manufacturers, we’re increasingly seeing metallic phones at budget price points. The LeEco Le 1s is no different, as it features a gorgeous metal unibody.
Following the trend of phablets, the Le 1s is fitted with a 5.5-inch display panel. With the screen being the centerpiece at the front, there’s an earpiece, a couple of sensors and the secondary snapper above, and a row of capacitive buttons at the bottom. The capacitive buttons are backlit, with the first key being used to access recently-opened apps, the centre key for jumping to the homescreen and last one for returning to the previous screen.
Both the volume rocker and the power toggle can be found on the right, whereas the ejectable tray holding the micro-SIM and nano-SIM slots is available on the left spine. Up top lies a 3.5mm audio socket along with an IR blaster, whereas a USB Type-C port is available at the base sandwiched between holes that hide the speaker and primary microphone. The inclusion of the next-gen bi-directional USB port makes the LeEco Le 1s the most affordable smartphone sporting it.
We also appreciate the fact that the antenna bands have been added on the top and bottom edges, instead of at the back unlike many other phones, as this doesn’t spoil the looks of the phone.
At the back, the LeEco Le 1s’ primary camera juts out slightly, and an LED flash and a secondary microphone are placed alongside. Towards the middle, there’s a circular mirror and Letv’s branding. The mirror not only lets you see your reflection but also doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. In fact, the brand claims the Le 1s is the first in the world to offer a mirror-finished fingerprint reader. However, the area is too small to be used properly as a mirror and you’re not able to see even your full face.
While the design language of the Le 1s might seem to be inspired from Apple iPhones, the device seem to have some interesting design elements of its own. It has striking looks with golden finish and the metallic body also gives it a solid feel. The phone also manages to be quite slim with its frame measuring 7.5mm. However, the metal adds to the bulk and it weighs slightly on the higher side at 169g.
Overall, the LeEco Le 1s scores full marks for its design and build quality.
Display: sharp as a razor
Size: 5.5 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 401 ppi
For a phablet, a 5.5-inch display has somewhat become a standard and that’s what you’ll find on the LeEco Le 1s. With a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, the IPS display panel offers crisp text and you won’t have any complaints with its colour reproduction either. A layer of 3rd-gen Corning Gorilla Glass helps keep minor scratches at bay. The screen is legible under direct sunlight, so no issues there.
In case the colours don’t suit your taste, then you can head to the settings menu and choose between three more modes – vivid, natural and soft. While vivid offers high colour saturation, natural reproduces actual colours, and soft is quite useful as it protects your eyes if you’re using the phone for a long duration.
Software: bare minimum customisations, but not fully refined
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.0, Lollipop
Since Google’s services aren’t available in China, all the homegrown brands offer a modified version of Android and the Le 1s is no different. The phone runs the brand’s custom skin called eui (eco user interface) which is layered on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop. The company has promised an update to the latest Android Marshmallow soon.
If you’ve used Chinese phones before, then you won’t encounter any difficulty using the LeEco Le 1s. There’s no app launcher, and all the apps are placed on the homescreens. Swiping down from the top displays the notification panel. However, it doesn’t offer any quick toggles, and those are available when you press the overview button. In fact, here you’ll see quite a lot of things – open some apps such as camera, calculator, notes, etc., quickly, control music playback, adjust brightness, toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS among other options and lastly, access the recently-opened apps.
The icons are customised and you can also change the interface with the the Themes option.
The fingerprint scanner is easy to set up, and like most handsets, you can store up to five fingerprints. The authentication is fast, but it’s not as quick as the company’s claim of being able to unlock the Le 1s in 0.15 seconds. However, what we felt is that if the screen is already on, then the device is unlocked in the blink of an eye using your fingerprint. But if the phone is on standby, then the screen takes a moment to come on, which probably means that the scanner is fast, but it’s the display that takes time in waking up. You can also utilise the fingerprint reader as a shutter button to click pictures.
LeEco being a content producer has filled the Chinese edition of the Le 1s to the brim with its apps and other preloaded content, but that’s not the case with the Indian units. However, instead of its own content, it has partnered with popular streaming services like Eros Now and Yupp TV to offer its users free subscription. Other preinstalled titles include Google’s suite of apps and Yahoo Weather.
We also appreciate the fact that the company has tried to remove any translation issues and there are a very few instances where we found Chinese-influences language. However, the OS seems to be not fully optimised as we ran into app crashes often. In fact, some apps like My Airtel refused to work at all on the LeEco Le 1s.
Camera: produces decent results
Primary camera: 13 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 5 MP
The LeEco Le 1s features a 13-megapixel ISOCELL sensor at the back, which is sourced from Samsung. For fast autofocussing, it comes with phase detection autofocus technology and also features an LED flash to illuminate the object in low-light settings. For selfie addicts, the handset offers a 5MP camera at the front, which has a wide aperture of f/2.0.
The camera app’s interface is easy to use, with the options to switch between photo, video, panorama and slow-mo modes available on the bottom, when the phone is kept in portrait orientation. Towards the bottom, you’ll also find the options to capture / record the scene, enable various effects such as Gorgeous, Black and White, Lomo, etc. The HDR mode isn’t available up front, and you need to swipe upwards on the bar available at the bottom to toggle it along with enabling the night mode or the square aspect ratio. On the left, there are options to switch to the front camera, toggle flash or access settings. It lets you adjust exposure, white balance, and ISO among other things.
Images clicked by the LeEco Le 1s offer decent sharpness along with reproducing true-to-life colours. The long shots do justice to the scenes but when you zoom in, then the objects appear blurred. The close-up photographs fare much better, and you are also able to get a nice depth-of-field effect. The HDR mode is quite effective and enhances the scene by tweaking contrast levels. The LED flash works really well in illuminating dim environments, as otherwise the camera doesn’t do a great job in poor lighting conditions.
Take a dekko at a variety of images captured with the primary shooter on the LeEco Le 1s.
While the brand claims the Le 1s features the world’s fastest autofocus, at times, it’s unable to focus even after a few seconds if the phone is moved to capture something else. This might be due to the half-baked software, and hopefully could be solved with an update.
The front shooter is quite good too and produces decent images. In terms of video recording, the rear camera can shoot 4K videos as well as slow motion videos at 120fps.
All in all, the LeEco Le 1s would serve your needs well for casual shooting, although it might not be able to produce a masterpiece.
Performance: on the fast track
CPU: Octa core, 2.2 GHz, MediaTek MT6795T
GPU: PowerVR G6200
RAM: 3 GB
Memory: 32 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Not too long ago, MediaTek was known for its affordable chipsets and hence it was a dominant choice in budget offerings. However, the Taiwanese chipmaker has now started moving up the value chain by offering high-end SoCs under the Helio branding. The LeEco Le 1s comes powered by its top-of-the-line processor christened Helio X10 and thus is the most affordable phone in the Indian market with this silicon. The X10 is made up of eight Cortex-A57 cores running at 2.2GHz. The CPU also offers the PowerVR G6200 graphics engine for taking care of the visuals. The processor has impressed with its chops in quite a few devices such as the MEIZU MX5 (review), and our experience remains the same with the Le 1s. Multitasking doesn’t pose any problems for the handset either, thanks to 3 gigs of RAM. There was nary an instance where the phablet struggled in opening apps, switching between various tasks or even playing games.
We ran titles like Implosion and Leo’s Fortune and the LeEco Le 1s handled them with extreme ease. Of course, stressing the processor with these games also result in heating troubles, and the Le 1s is no different. The handset gets warm while even watching movies and the heating becomes more apparent due to its metallic body.
The LeEco Le 1s would be a delight for multimedia enthusiasts as it comes with ample storage – 32GB flash memory. After accounting for OS and other resources, end user would get around 24.5GB of space for their personal use.
In the connectivity department, the device supports 4G on both the SIM slots (both TD-LTE and FD-LTE bands). User can forgo the memory expansion option to insert a secondary SIM card. It also offers usual connectivity options such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.
Battery: you can count on it
Running the show on the LeEco Le 1s is a 3,000mAh Li-Po battery. While it fared poorly in our standard test by playing back an HD video for slightly more than six hours, with the brightness and volume set at 50 percent and radios turned off, in real-life usage, the capacity is enough to ensure that the phablet lasts an entire day of use. That remained the case even when we pushed its usage with battery-draining features like navigation and gaming.
Like most phones these days, there are various battery-saving options. Under the Battery assistant, the LeEco Le 1s has Smart, Super and Ultra-long standby saving modes. As the name suggests, Smart and Super modes reduce vibration, sync, etc. to extend the battery life, whereas the Ultra-long standby only offers basics like calling and messaging, while disabling network access.
The device also features flash charging technology, which lets you juice it up quickly with the bundled adapter – providing you up to three and a half hours of talktime within just five minutes of charging. Sadly, we were unable to test it out as our review unit came with a Chinese adapter. It also goes without saying that you’ll always need to lug the bundled USB cable with you or purchase spare ones, since there’s still some time for the USB Type-C to become a standard.
Chinese smartphone brands have played a big role in challenging the status quo of specs-to-price balance and the LeEco Le 1s seem to have taken it a step further. With the sticker price of Rs 10,999, the company has priced it at almost its BOM (bill of materials) cost.
At this price point, it undercuts the competition and can easily take on the formidable options such as the Xiaomi Mi 4i (review | FAQs), 3GB RAM variant of the ASUS ZenFone 2 Laser and the newly-released Lenovo K4 Note (first impressions). As it stands currently, the LeEco Le 1s is the most affordable smartphone with MediaTek’s Helio X10 processor, a USB Type-C port and 32 gigs of storage onboard. You’d need to be patient to get your hands on the phone as it’ll available via flash sales on Flipkart starting February 2nd. If you are worried about service issues, then don’t worry as the Chinese company has set up over 550 dedicated service centres for the same.
In sum, the LeEco Le 1s is a compelling smartphone that scores well in most aspects. It does have a few rough edges like an inconsistent camera and software that feels a tad buggy, but overall, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses significantly, and its pricing sweetens the deal further, especially when it’s compared to its closest rivals.
Editor’s rating: 8 / 10
- Gorgeous metallic body
- Loaded internals
- 32GB internal memory
- Attractive pricing
- Poorly-optimised software
- Camera quality isn’t the best
Photos by Raj Rout