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If you're looking for the best performing smartphone in the sub-15k price point, then the LeEco Le 1s is the right phone to go for. If you're questioning brand value and after sales support, it's something only time will tell us.
Update: Due to the launch of new smartphones since we reviewed this phone, we have updated its rating retrospectively. The phone was originally rated 81, but now it scores 77, since the competition has become tougher.
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After a year in the making, Chinese LeTV has finally made its way into the Indian market. While phones are just a part of LeTV’s overall business, they’re still difficult to ignore. When last I saw a LeTV phone back in China last year, the company was already talking about Super Cars and Super TVs, while content remained at the core of all of its offerings. No matter the device, LeTV’s discussion so far has always had something to do with LeTV’s ecosystem, rather than just one product. In fact, the company recently changed its name from LeTV to LeEco, emphasising on the ecosystem element of its devices even more.
Of the two phones that LeEco announced today, the cheaper, Le 1s, is of course the more intriguing device. What you must know is that the launch price of this phone in China was 1,099 Yuan. Considering the fact that one yuan translates to about Rs. 10.37, the Rs. 10,999 pricing of the Le 1s seems to be a nearly direct conversion from its Chinese pricing. Intriguing enough? How LeTV is managing the duties and extra costs, is anybody’s guess. Nevertheless, the pricing is set and the Le 1s is poised to become the budget performer of the year. Here’s how.
Build and Design
The focus has been shifting to design for a while now and the Le 1s brings a full metal unibody design to the budget segment. It’s not cheap tin-like material either, the Le 1s actually feels like a well-made device, with a metal frame and metal on its back. You may expect such a device to be big and bulky, but there again you’d be surprised. The Le 1s weighs 170 grams and feels light and easy to use. The 5.5-inch screen has been managed well, keeping the overall dimensions comfortable to use, while the nine-odd millimeter thickness, makes the phone feel good and premium.
While looks may be subjective, there’s not much that one can complain about in the build department for the Le 1s. It looks as good as or better than the Xiaomi Mi 4i and feels much more premium than the Asus Zenfone 2, both of which cost more than this phone.
"While looks may be subjective, there’s not much that one can complain about in the build department for the Le 1s"
Display and UI
That said, the 5.5 inch FHD display has a weakness that has been pretty common from Chinese manufacturers. The display is quite dim and not the ideal choice for using under direct sunlight. However, the colours and sharpness aren’t under question. The phone runs eUI 5.5, LeEco’s own user interface/operating system, and the display makes the UI look good. The viewing angles are good if not great, and the colours look good and well balanced.
Being a new interface, eUI does come with a learning curve, but it’s easier to learn here than in China. In fact, the all important Blinkfeed-like screen, which holds all of the content services that come with LeTV phones, is missing in the Indian variant. This is because the company currently doesn’t have content to offer in India, a gaping hole in the company’s ‘ecosystem’. Currently, eUI uses the multi-tasking button to get you to the quick settings, brightness slider and recent apps. There are other changes, but the lack of extra content is something anyone who’s seen a LeTV phone in China would miss. The statement is simple, you’re currently buying this phone as a phone, with no added benefits.
In fact, the company's eUI seems to need better optimisation in terms of compatibility. Various apps on Google Play are not compatible with it, with Apple Music being a notable example.
But what a phone it is. Along with cosmetic changes, LeEco’s eUI also does well in terms of background activities. The UI shows no lags and what the phone lacks in graphics performance, it makes up for in multi-core performance. Let me explain.
On regular usage, the Le 1s almost never stutters, performing much better than any phone that it competes with. The Xiaomi Mi 4i, Asus Zenfone 2 and even the Lenovo Vibe K4 Note, don’t offer an experience as smooth as this one. Of course, having the octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 Turbo processor gives this phone a massive edge over those others. You’ll see a stark difference in the time apps like Netflix and Hotstar take to boot up on the Le 1s, which shows that this phone is more powerful than its competitors. Think back to the Xiaomi Mi3 when it was launched in India, the performance to price factor is on the same lines here.
The Le 1s isn’t the best when it comes to graphics performance though. For the most part, you can play any game you like, but on deeper inspection, the Asus Zenfone 2 is a better performer in terms of gaming. I have to say though that the difference is mostly in terms of numbers and won’t matter to most regular users.
"What the phone lacks in graphics performance, it makes up for in multi-core performance"
The mirror fingerprint sensor on the Le 1s is very similar to the Gionee E8 smartphone. It's fast when it works, but isn't the best in recognising your fingerprint. Placing the finger carelessly on the back often results in failure to unlock, making the fingerprint sensor slower than phones like the Coolpad Note 3. The fingerprint scanner can also be used as the camera shutter button.
With all of the above, by the time I got to testing the camera, I was expecting something groundbreaking. The 13MP shooter on the back though is quite standard as far as 13MP cameras on phones go. It’s good for its price range, but not something you wouldn’t expect. The Lenovo Vibe K4 Note and Xiaomi Mi 4i can provide similar shots.
Under low light, the Le 1s suffers from noise, like many of its competitors, while images are satisfactory under normal outdoor conditions. Under indoor lights, images seem somewhat subdued and lacking in details. On the other hand, the camera on the Le 1s is crazy fast with almost no time taken for processing and shooting images.
"It’s good for its price range, but not something you wouldn’t expect"
The Helio X10 Turbo hasn’t been known for its battery prowess so far, but that’s another area where LeTV seems to have made the right tweaks to bring the most out of the 3000mAh shooter. On a regular day’s usage, with about 15 minutes of gaming, lots of IMs, and browsing, the phone could last me through the day, but not more. The battery, like the camera, is good, but not great. On the Geekbench 3 battery test, the Le 1s lasts for over 7 hours on full battery.
In its events in China, you’ll hear about LeEco being compared to Xiaomi very often. Entering India, the company has done something Xiaomi is well known for. The LeEco Le 1s smartphone is the best in its price range right now, despite the fact that LeTV’s ecosystem elements haven’t been brought into play in India. The company has promised multiple times that it’ll bring its complete ecosystem to the country, including devices and content, so the Le 1s may get even better as time passes. For now, you can buy this phone for what it is and your money will be well spent. If you’re asking brand value and services, that’s something only time can tell.
Watch build quality, design and specifications overview video