LeEco Le Pro 3: The most compelling Android smartphone of 2016 (review)

The smartphone market has reached its saturation point of adding new users. The battle for your pocket is now even more fierce with a drop off in new users, which means manufacturers need to be more creative to get your hard earned money.

For the past decade there has been a huge vacuum of smartphones in the mid-range price range that work well. Most of the US smartphone market is wholly owned by Samsung and Apple. All other manufacturers like LG, HTC, and Sony are flailing in this saturated market as they try to compete in the $600+ price range. They’ve missed out on the huge vacuum they created in the mid-range market and now we have players like LeEco stepping up to the demand.

Who is LeEco?

It’s only been one year since Huawei entered the US market a year ago and it is already making huge waves. Now it’s LeEco’s turn. LeEco is probably the most important company to enter the US market in all of 2016.

LeEco (Chinese: 乐视生态) is a group of companies founded by Jia Yueting, the founder of Le.com. LeEco is made up of companies that look to take the next generation of technology and wrap it into one big ecosystem. Not just with software or hardware, but both. In July, 2016 LeEco bought out major TV brand Vizio to add to its portfolio. It wants to be your one stop shop for music, VR, sports, movies, smartphones and even wants to take you around town with its driverless car. Amazingly most of this has developed over the last two years alone.

Where today’s focus though is on its smartphones. In just two years, LeEco has managed to crank out 13 phones, and it was the first to use USB type C in smartphones. I predicted a year ago that LeEco (formerly known as LeTV) would be a major player in the smartphone market, and was proved correct when it decided to launch into the US this October.

LeEco launched a host of smart devices – televisions with Android TV, two smartphones, wireless accessories, and even a smart bicycle.

The most compelling smartphone it brought to the US is the LeEco Le Pro3. It’s also my pick as 2016’s most compelling Android smartphone.

Specs

  • Released October 2016
  • MSRP $399 (but can be purchased for as low as $299 during weekly flash sales)
  • 5.5″ FHD 1080p display with 403 ppi
  • Processor – Snapdragon 821
  • Memory – 64GB/128GB (not expandable)
  • RAM – 4GB or 6GB
  • GSM Network compatible (not for Verizon and Sprint customers)
  • Dimensions – 151.4 x 73.9 x 7.5 mm (5.96 x 2.91 x 0.30 in)
  • Weight – 175 g (6.17 oz)
  • Software – Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EUI
  • Rear camera – 16 MP, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
  • Front camera – 1/2.8″ sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama, HDR
  • Dual stereo speakers
  • USB Type-C, no 3.5mm audio jack although an adapter is included
  • Battery – 4070mAh
  • Colors – Gold and Silver

Build

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The LeEco Le Pro3 has a build that you would be familiar with if you’ve used all metal phones. It has a sleek and very sturdy metal build with polished and chamfered edges that give the brushed metal a refined finish. The phone certainly has the weight of metal, but exterior has a clear coat on it to give it a glossy and smooth finish. The power button sits under the volume rocker on the right side of the phone, while the left side is where you will find the SIM card slot.

The Le Pro3 does use older generation Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it, but it is of the 2d variety which is much thicker and resists scratches better compared to its flat counterpart.

On the back of the phone is where you will find LeEco’s branding with a interweaved LE that looks as luxurious as the phone. It is the same polished metal that is found on the fingerprint reader which resides just under the camera. It’s a very solid phone and almost reminds me of HTC’s build quality which is one of the best in the industry.

Software

The LeEco Pro3 does run Android 6.0 Marshmallow which is one of Google’s most stable versions of software to date. If you’re familiar with stock Android devices like the Nexus or Pixel smartphones, you wouldn’t recognize Android except for the Google Keyboard and apps in the preinstalled software.

The Pro3 runs a heavily skinned version of Android called EUI.

This is where many enthusiasts are going to scoff at this phone without even giving it a fair shot. Android enthusiasts give Chinese smartphones an unfair rap of never getting updates. That simply isn’t true as Huawei is updating many of its phones to Android 7.0 right now. Updates are an issue on all Android devices, save for Nexuses and Pixels. One of the worst offenders of slow updates is Samsung who is the largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world. There isn’t one current Galaxy device that is running Android 7.0 today. Enthusiasts will also give the Le Pro3 UI a rough time because the software is so different than what Android users are familiar with.

Phones aren’t necessarily designed for enthusiasts – instead they are designed for the mass consumer. Especially the Pro3 which has an amazing price tag at $299.

The UI is actually pretty cool and useful once you spend some time with it. The notifications are still apart of the drop down, but instead of having quick controls up there too like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Battery Saver, and other tools, they are listed when you hit the menu button on the bottom left of the phone.

Menu button on the LeEco Pro3
Menu button on the LeEco Pro3

After getting used to the new buttons, I actually preferred this method over the pull down menu on what you would normally find on other Androids. This leaves me more room to see my notifications, and it keeps all of the quick toggles in one location under one button. What’s nice about the toggles above, is they can slide to the right to reveal even more toggles to switch on and off. From here is where you can close open apps, as well as adjust the brightness through manual adjustments.

At the top left of the quick toggle menu is a remote control feature since this phone has an IR blaster built into the top. The remote control app is right at the top because LeEco also offers a full lineup of TVs as well. I didn’t even need to configure the remote to recognize the LeEco Super4 X55 that I have been using as my primary TV.

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It’s a simple app that gives me full control over my TV and is a nice option for when I am already browsing on my smartphone while watching a show.

The UI in no way slows this phone down. I have yet to experience one stutter or lag, which is gives it a very smooth and clean feel. Something I long for whenever I am using a Galaxy device since they always suffer from speed issues.

In EUI are other nifty features like themes which are found on Samsung Galaxy devices as well.

LeEco Pro3 themes
LeEco Pro3 themes

Themes are a great way to change the entire look of your smartphone without needing to install a third party launcher like Nova. There is not a huge selection of themes to choose from, but all of the themes are well thought out and designed. They’re also free which isn’t commonplace in all theme stores.

Earlier I told you that LeEco is made up of multiple companies. Many of those companies offer media content and this phone is a great way to access it. When you swipe to the right on the home screen, you will be taken to a menu of popular videos across the web. While this might seem like junk to many of the younger readers, for a man in his 30s, I love this feature. I rarely ,if ever search for new content on YouTube and this phone manages to find quite a bit of content that I find myself enjoying on a regular basis.

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For those who still prefer traditional forms of video, LeEco also offers a free limited time subscription to its EcoPass which gives users access to a wide range of features such as videos. It has a large library of movies and TV shows, similar to what you would find on other subscription services like Netflix and Hulu. The EcoPass also includes an extended two-year warranty on its smartphones, gets users early access to deals, as well as unlimited backup of photos and videos, with an additional 5TB of LeCloud storage for other types of files. Read that again, 5TB. That’s 1000 times more space than Apple gives its iPhone users.

It’s easy to understand why so many reviewers will not like EUI. The software is manipulated pretty heavily but not anymore than what TouchWiz does for Samsung smartphones. I do believe, if given a fair shot, most people would find the additions in software to be rather functional beyond the extra entertainment value. It was also a very wise decision of LeEco deciding against duplicating every single app that Google already has an option for, especially in the case of the Keyboard. The Pro3 uses the stock Google Keyboard which is one of the best you can get.

Being an unlocked phone means it will not come with carrier bloatware commonly found on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint devices. While many think this phone will never get updates, I have already received an OTA update which helped fix minor bugs and improve the device in a multitude of ways. While many may gripe that this isn’t running Nougat yet, keep in mind that very few phones are running Android 7.0 as well.

Performance

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Day to day, the Le Pro3 is as fast as any phone as I have used this year which includes the iPhone 7, Galaxy S7 edge, Note 7, LG G5, Pixel and Pixel XL and V20, and One Plus 3. Keep in mind, when I evaluate the phone speed, it’s in normal daily functions. Those functions include playing games, taking calls, sending texts and emails, browsing the web, and taking pictures. I noticed no speed variations between the Le Pro3 and other flagship devices and that’s impressive considering its low price tag.

Even running the standard AnTuTu Benchmark app proved this phone is as fast as any. That’s also with a phone that has been used for a month without performing this test.

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Performance is definitely helped by the inclusion of a 1080p display over a 2k QHD display.

Display

Le Pro3 display playing a video from YouTube.
Le Pro3 display playing a video from YouTube.

I admit that I think Samsung Galaxy devices and iPhones have the best displays on the market. Samsung’s displays are bright, ultra clear and offer unmatchable performance when it comes to contrast ratio. iPhones have accurately colored displays that work great for everyday usage, while getting as bright as need be to even see the phone in full daylight. Having a great display is near the top of my list as a must have in a smartphone.

The LeEco Pro3’s display is gorgeous. It blows my mind to think that LeEco could manage to create a phone on a limited budget with this good of a display. It’s ultra clear, very bright, and the colors are excellent. Having the 2D Gorilla Glass 3 on top also gives it an almost bezel free look that makes the phone look as premium as any other. When using the Le Pro3, I never missed the displays on the phones listed above.

Camera

Le Pro3 camera sample
Daylight photo using the Le Pro3 camera at Legoland in Carlsbad, CA.

Google Photos Sample Gallery – Click on this link to see the entire gallery of camera samples

The camera on the Le Pro3 might be the one weak area on this device. It doesn’t have a bad camera by any means, but when compared to smartphones with cameras like the Pixel and iPhone 7 Plus, this camera has some room for improvement. The camera is definitely above average in full daylight settings, but without optical image stabilization it does mean some pictures will come out a bit blurry if you don’t have a steady hand.

The last three phones I used were the Pixel XL, iPhone 7 and Note 7, all of which have incredible cameras and it’s not really fair to compare the Le Pro3 to those since they are more than double the price. The camera is more than good enough for me to use on a regular basis for things like Instagram, Twitter and sharing media over SMS.

Battery Life and Audio

Le Pro3 Audio over USB C
Le Pro3 Audio over USB C

The battery in the Le Pro3 is massive. It has a 4070mAh internal/non removable battery, which is almost a third larger than the 2900mAh battery in the iPhone 7 Plus. Having such a large battery means I can use my phone all day without ever having to worry about remaining power. I frequently pulled in 4-5 hours of on screen time which is actually pretty good for me considering I push my phones so hard.

The Pro3 shines in the audio category. It might be the phone that convinces me that audio sounds better over USB C than it does through the 3.5mm audio jack. There’s more power supplied over USB C and it’s very noticeable when comparing traditional earbuds with the included adapter. The level of detail is also much improved in USB C and I used the included Le Pro3 USB C headphones against traditional earbuds that cost $200. The sound stage, clarity, and richness in the supplied headphones are audiophile grade quality which is an impressive feat.

Le Pro3 USB C headphones glow when plugged into the phone.
Le Pro3 USB C headphones glow when plugged into the phone.

The Le Pro3 also has stereo speakers, one on the bottom and one through the earpiece. The sound is on par with most other smartphones. It’s nothing to write home about.

The Le Pro3 is the most compelling phone of 2016

Le Pro3 in Gold and Silver.
Le Pro3 in Gold and Silver.

Even though the list price on the ultra powerful Le Pro3 is $399, which is a fantastic price for a phone of this caliber, it can be purchased for $299 during LeEco’s weekly flash sales. At $299 I can’t think of a single phone that is better on paper or in practice than the Le Pro3. I think this phone is so good that I would easily take it over my Note 7 or S7 edge without using cost as a consideration. Even though the Galaxy devices have better displays and cameras, the overall performance of the Le Pro3 is superior to both devices.

The Le Pro3 is a surprise hit for 2016 and Android. If you use a carrier on a GSM network, I would highly recommend upgrading your current device to the Le Pro3 and save yourself quite a bit of money. If you think about the Le Pro3 compared to an iPhone 7 Plus, which starts at $749 for 32GB, you could get the Le Pro3 ($299) and a 4K LeEco Super4 43″ 4K Android TV ($449) for the same exact price. That goes for the unlocked Pixel XL too which costs $769. While the cameras are better, I don’t think the cost justifies the difference.

The build, performance, battery life, software and price make the LeEco Le Pro3 the most compelling phone of 2016. If it were unlocked across all networks including Verizon and Sprint, I would call it the best phone of 2016.

Check out the LeEco Le Pro3 at www.lemall.com.

 

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