The LeEco Le 2 stands among the rising crop of Chinese handsets that are looking to capture the attention of Indian smartphone buyers the same way that Xiaomi and OnePlus have managed to. The company is using every trick in the marketing book to get its point across. The launch of the Le 2 (Rs 11999) and its larger cousin the Le Max 2 (Rs 22999) attracted a lot of attention recently. While the latter has been positioned as a competitor to the Mi 5 and the OnePlus 3, the former sits at a very interesting point. Not a lot of devices in its price range offer metal bodies. Besides, there’s the bold decision of shunning the 3.5mm headphone jack which stacks a lot of odds against it. If you’re considering giving the Le 2 a go, let us give you a little peek into what it has on offer.
– Display: 5.5-inch IPS LCD, 1080p full HD resolution
– OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow with EUI 5.8
– Processor: 1.8GHz octa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652
– GPU: Adreno 510
– Memory: 3GB RAM, 32GB storage
– Cameras: 16MP rear, 8MP front
– Battery: 3000mAh
– Dimensions: 74.2 x 151.1 x 7.7mm
– Weight: 153gm
– Connectivity: Dual SIM, 4G, USB Type-C, Bluetooth 4.1, A-GPS, Wi-Fiac
The elegant approach has been taken by LeEco while designing this smartphone; the kind that involves going for the tried and tested metal unibody blueprint, adding antenna lines on the areas corresponding to those on the iPhone, having a fingerprint scanner sitting at the exact place where a similar-looking Apple logo basks on the iPhones and placing speakers at the very bottom, just like on iOS handsets. But that’s just how things roll in the Chinese market where manufacturers are constantly trying to emulate everything that Apple does. This is why it’s essential that we look at the LeEco Le 2 with subjective eyes.
We’re afraid there’s not much good news here. Firstly, the front end of the device which might seem alluring to you in the press images will turn out to be a bummer. The extremely thin black bezels shown in the promotional pictures are in fact quite wide in reality. LeEco seems to have slimmed them in the images as a marketing gimmick. The front of the Le 2 device not just showcases a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a earpiece and a sensor hub, but it also plays home to a thick black colored cage that encloses the panel from all sides. A number of phones these days possess such an anomaly; so it really would have gone down well with us had the company published images that actually gave a clear picture of the whole front area.
That aside, the Le 2 has some decent design elements of its own. The metal surface is smooth to the touch, and the 153 gram weight gives it an overall impressive feel. The fingerprint scanner has a sweet mirror effect on it that’s ironically also a fingerprint magnet. This little guy gets blemished with a single touch; so there’s no use trying to keep it clean. The camera module gives this phone a slight bump at its rear end, though this is nullified by the clear cover that it ships with. On the top end, what would seem like a slot for 3.5mm headphones from afar is actually an IR blaster.
If you don’t know yet, the Le 2 does things a bit differently when it comes to audio. It has bid adieu to the 3.5mm jack, and made friends with the CDLA standard that works with the device’s USB Type-C port, which is also where the charging cable goes. LeEco bundles the Le 2 with cool new CDLA headphones. What’s worth appreciating is that the company has chosen to include in its box an adapter that lets you fire up your current 3.5mm headphones as well. On both sides of the USB Type-C port are speaker holes for the Hi-Fi sound system that has been fitted inside this smartphone. To wrap up our say on its facade, the Le 2 feels good in your hands, and is a treat to the eyes as well.
Before we end this section we would like to address the controversy about this phone’s display. A lot of units reportedly shipped with quality control issues which makes their display panels produce a creaking sound when pressed upon with force. The unit we received did not have this problem. But what’s weird is, LeEco actually justified this flaw by saying that it’s due to an additional gasket inside the device to protect it from hard presses. If such a gasket indeed exists, then the display should have creaked for us as well. We did face another issue with the panel though. Our unit’s display was prone to arbitrary bursts of flickering every once in a while. The flickering wasn’t visible when held at a normal distance though, but became quite evident when brought closer to the eyes. Like we said, this issue is completely random and lasts only for a few seconds. This is not at all nice for a company that is looking to build a reputation for itself in India.
Display and audio
Equipping phones with 5.5-inch 1080p displays has been somewhat of a common practice lately. The Le 2 benefits from an IPS LCD panel which is sharp to the last pixel. The color reproduction is great, and temperature is extremely balanced. Since the monsoons are here, we haven’t really been able to test the outdoor visibility of this display and can’t tell you how it will fare under direct sunlight. The viewing angles are brilliant however.
Bottom firing speakers have now become a standard for metal unibody handsets. LeEco’s Le 2 features a set of twelve pores at its base, spewing out sound from a single speaker. This component is one of the strongest points of the device. It is loud, which makes it a pleasure for those who watch a lot of videos on their phones. You won’t ever need to bring your device closer to your ear in order to hear those inaudible parts you generally miss on other handsets. A Dolby Atmos option is available in the settings menu for enhancing the audio quality furthermore. All this feature does is increase the volume a bit more. At its highest, the audio will feel slightly distorted, but that’s a trade-off we will happily accept in exchange of a truly loud speaker.
Next we talk about the controversial CDLA integration which needs you to connect your headphones to a USB Type-C port rather than a 3.5mm audio jack. This is a major inconvenience mainly because it makes all your expensive headphones obsolete. And secondly, you cannot charge your phone when you’re listening to music. When you’re indoors that may be fine, but for those who are accustomed to charging their phones via power banks while on the go, this will be a huge disappointment. That aside, does the CDLA standard indeed deliver substantial quality? The answer is a resounding yes!
It’s quite obvious since CDLA headphones have a digital audio processor and an amplifier both built into them. This means that they consume the phone’s power, but there’s really nothing to worry about in terms of battery life, since the loss is negligible. The advanced technology of these headphones allows them to deliver high resolution music, thus enhancing your music listening experience by leaps and bounds. For audiophiles, this will be a major selling factor, but for the usual consumer, it won’t be something they will prefer to sacrifice the 3.5mm jack over.
LeEco’s very own EUI 5.8 can be found running on top of Android Marshmallow here. It you’re a first-time user of this ROM, a major change you’ll need to get used to is not finding the quick settings in the dropdown notifications menu. You can only access them via the Recents button. Although an inconvenience at first, you won’t be annoyed with this at all after a few hours of usage. Bloatware is present on this ROM but it’s not all that much. LeEco likes to refer to its phone as the ‘mobile internet ecosystem,’ and this is why its own apps are aimed at providing premium video content.
Levidi is an app which displays YouTube videos coming from the channels of LeEco’s partners. The Live icon which sits in the place of an app drawer icon lets you view live television content as long as you’re subscribed to the LeEco membership package. While the firm makes it look like something of its own, this app is nothing but a customized implementation of YuppTV. Live TV content worked pretty well for us during our time with the phone.
The last big LeEco offering is LeView which adds an exclusive panel towards the left of the homescreen for offering news articles and, you guessed it right, more videos. The rest of the software is pretty similar to other Chinese ROMs like MIUI. We found the user interface to be very intuitive overall and despite its uniqueness, it didn’t take much time for us to get used to it. The intrusive Live button sitting at the bottom is very annoying though.
A 16-megapixel f/2.0 camera can be found resting on the rear surface of the Le 2. Images shot on this can best be described as satisfactory. The year-old OV16880 sensor from Omnivision struggles to deliver the sharpness and details you would expect from a smartphone in its price range. This is a big downside since there are phones with better cameras available in the market at around the same retail value. Where the LeEco Le 2’s camera indeed shines is in the color reproduction department. No matter what the lighting condition, the colors are on point and accurate. The high dynamic range of this shooter is also worth appreciating. In low light, pictures are littered with a highly visible amount of grain and again, you can forget about getting any details here as well.
4K videos are possible on this smartphone, and they are not much different from the camera’s photographs – lacking in detail and trying to make up for that with good color reproduction. The Le 2’s 8MP front camera sounded great on paper with its f/2.2 aperture, 76.5-degree wide angle lens and 1.4μm pixel size, but that’s not the case in reality. The colors in your photographs will appear washed out, while the overall image will be extremely soft in terms of focus.
The camera app’s interface is reminiscent of that on the iPhone. You need to swipe left or right depending on whether you want to access the Slow Mo, Video or Pano mode. No separate Manual mode is at your disposal, but the Camera app’s settings menu does allow you to play with stuff like white balance, exposure and ISO. There’s a surprising absence of a grid lines option though. The Camera app having a good interface is very important for a smartphone, and the Le 2 gets this right. That said, the front and rear cameras on the Le 2 are strictly for basic point-and-shoot photography. Do not expect to become the next Instagram sensation if you’re buying this phone.
Performance and battery
With an octa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 CPU and 32GB worth of RAM inside it, the Le 2 manages to handle everything you throw at it comfortably. It’s indeed a good choice for power users as well. Heavy apps and games did not load as fast as they do on high-end smartphones, but they never let us grow impatient as well. The device scored 81869 on AnTuTu and 39164 overall in Quadrant which is again an impressive feat. It was able to handle playing HD and 4K videos easily.
Coming to the battery of the Le 2, the 3000mAh unit inside it offers a satisfactory amount of usage for the everyday consumer. Even if you’re using your device heavily, you’ll still be able to go through your entire day with some charge left on it. That being said, the implementation of Qualcomm’s quick charging helps it gain juice incredibly fast, which is also a big plus.
– Impressive performance and battery life.
– Top-notch audio output on speakers as well as headphones.
– Great display.
– Issues with quality control increase chances of you getting a faulty unit.
– Camera results are not up to the mark.
– No 3.5mm jack
In its price range, the LeEco Le 2 sits comfortably as an all-metal phone with impressive specifications. A major factor that will affect consumer interest is the absence of a 3.5mm audio jack. The CDLA implementation is excellent, but some may look at it as unnecessary. Since we did not get a unit with a faulty display like many others, we will not be including that aspect in our judgement. The occasional flickering we experienced was something we haven’t seen others complain about; so it’s possible it might be a one-off issue. But all this does indicate that the quality control team hasn’t done their job properly. The cameras on this device cannot be described as great, but they are satisfactory to say the least. The phone wins in the performance and battery departments though. We give it 3 out of 5 stars.