(Pocket-lint) - LeEco, the Chinese company that dabbles in everything from self-driving cars to Vizio-branded televisions, seems like it's trying to be a one-stop shop of sorts in the tech world.
Having handled the Le Pro 3 for a number of months, how does LeEco fare in a market that's already full of affordable Android phones?
LeEco Le Pro 3 review: Design
- Aluminium, unibody with brushed-metal finish
- Rear fingerprint reader
- No headphone jack
- USB Type-C charging port
- Stereo speakers
The Le Pro 3 is a metal-bodied phone with a brushed-metal finish that has a super glossy feel to it - almost as though it has a protective covering. There's a fingerprint reader on the back, too, but it may take a bit of time to find because of the glossy material.
Elsewhere, there's a power button on the right edge, with volume positioned above it; the top has an IR port and mic opening; the bottom has a secondary speaker and USB Type-C port. There's also a nanoSIM card slot found on the left side.
The entire 5.5-inch device feels super weighty given its solid unibody construction. The angled edges, which have a different finish than the outdated brush-metal design you see all over, give a smooth finish.
You won't find a headphone jack anywhere, because like iPhone 7, the Le Pro 3 has ditched the port, meaning you have to use an adapter if you plan to use regular 'ole headphones with this phone.
LeEco Le Pro 3 review: Display
- 5.5-inch IPS display (1920 x 1080 resolution)
- Adjustable colours, scale view, and DPI
- Thick bezels
The Le Pro 3 has a sharp display. And because it's IPS you'll be able to see it clearly in daylight and from all manner of angles.
The resolution isn't near its higher-end Quad HD (2560 x 1440 resolution) competitors, but it's not a huge issue. Funnily enough you can adjust the scale view and DPI (dots per inch) to be lower, in order to save battery life.
However, in our opinion, the colours by default aren't very bright or saturated. If you'd like a bit of vibrancy, there is a vivid mode you can enable within the settings.
But enough about the panel itself, let's talk about those bezels. They're hard to miss. We think they make this phone look more budget than it actually is. Still, at this price, you can't complain.
LeEco Le Pro 3 review: Hardware
- Snapdragon 821 (same in Google Pixel)
- 4GB RAM base model (6GB option)
- 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB storage (no microSD)
The Snapdragon 821 processor on board is plenty powerful and helps the Le Pro 3 to stand alongside other 821-packers, such as the Google Pixel and OnePlus 3T. Therefore everyday tasks like launching the camera will seem smooth and fast. There just isn't any noticeable stuttering or lag.
However, the 4GB RAM base Le Pro 3 model, while decent for most, might not be enough for power users. They'll want the 6GB model instead.
In terms of other hardware, the sound from those dual speakers is great for watching YouTube videos or playing games. The audio coming out of the phone is pretty impressive, to say the least. It really helps make up for the missing headphone jack. You'll want to use wireless headphones with the phone, unless you feel like carrying around an adapter that you'll inevitably lose.
It's worth noting that - for some reason - the Bluetooth connection on the Le Pro 3 seems really unstable. Our device had trouble connecting to and finding the few Bluetooth speakers we own to the point where we wanted to chuck the phone across the room. But, we didn't. Almost, though… almost.
Another annoying point is the rear fingerprint reader. Maybe we're spoiled, thanks to the rear readers found on the OnePlus, Pixel and newer Nexus devices, but we just couldn't get LeEco's reader to recognise our finger tips on several occassions. We re-added our prints and everything. It just pales in comparison to what other Android phones can offer.
And finally, you'll get 32GB of storage with the base model of the Le Pro 3. You'll probably want the 64GB or 128GB options, because without expandable storage, you'ill need to ensure you have plenty of space for applications and more.
LeEco Le Pro 3 review: Camera
- 16-megapixel rear sensor (with 4K video)
- 8-megapixel front sensor (with Beauty mode)
The Le Pro3 has a 16-megapixel main shooter capable of 4K video recording. It also has a few different modes to choose from, while the front-facing camera comes with a default beauty mode that smooths the wrinkles in your selfies. We think it's a bit much.
Taking pictures in general is a little irritating. The app isn't very fast. The saving time after you snap a photo seems to take a couple seconds too long. Flicking through the different modes and features is fine, though.
Photos themselves are fairly decent, though, with a good level of detail if you're shooting in good lighting conditions. In dim situations, expect image noise to rear its head.
Problem is getting the camera to work proficiently: it just doesn't autofocus well, often failing to focus. Compared to the Pixel and OnePlus 3, the Le Pro 3 is nowhere near.
Power users will want more speed in the app, as well as the ability to take better shots in a variety of conditions, but for a sub-$400 handset, you'd be hard-pressed to find a superior camera experience.
LeEco Le Pro 3 review: Battery
- 4,079mAh battery (not removable)
With a capacious battery on board - more capacity than any other flagship we can think of, including the Huawei Mate 9 - the Le PRo 3 should be able to go the distance.
It's not removable from the body, but we think that would break up the design. It's not necessary anyway, as this LeEco has an excellent battery life.
It lasted through a full day of Facebooking, Twittering, YouTubing, and gaming - about 16 hours (whereas our iPhone 7 doesn't even come close to that).
LeEco Le Pro 3 review: Software
- Too many Le-branded services
- Bloatware duplicates many Google services
- Gimmicky hooks to get you into LeEco ecosystem
Before we get too deep: let's just say right off the bat that LeEco's user interface - named "EUI", which is built upon Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and looks similar to other Chinese operating systems - is probably what's at fault when it comes to any hiccups or weirdness you may experience on this phone. It's the device's weak link.
There's no app drawer (for now - an update is rolling out, which will add an app drawer), but instead, you get a few different features and settings. You'll find quick settings above the recent apps screen, and the notification shade only displays notifications along with a huge button on the bottom to manage your notifications.
You'll also see lots of ties to LeEco's services as well as partnerships with networks such as SeeSo and Showtime, but those require paid subscriptions to the EcoPass, which uses a digital currency called EcoPoints. You can also use EcoPoints rather than cash toward purchasing things in the LeEco's LeMall.
The default EUI setup makes the centre on-screen button launch the Live app rather than app drawer. It takes you into a landscape orientation with a screen of video content ranging from movie channels to sports. As for the task switcher, it's labeled Control Center, and you can customise what appears at the top under settings.
There are also several duplications with Google products, which make things on the Le Pro 3 seem like a total mess. For instance, you can sign up for the LeCloud option, which will sync your contacts, messages, call history, browser history, Wi-Fi access points, photos, videos, and more. No thanks.
Although LeEco's utilities and services are everywhere on the Le Pro3, you can customise several aspects as well as install third-party launchers to significantly change from the default experience. We installed the Google Now launcher, so when we press the LeEco logo center button, it launches Google Now or whatever you have setup.
The average user will be overwhelmed by the Le Pro 3, especially because the internet doesn't yet seem to have a lot of tutorials to guide you. There seems to be Le-branded products, services, and features everywhere, each of which copy Google products or attempt to get you hooked into LeEco's ecosystem, but it's just too much - even for us.
Basically this software experience is confusing.
The LeEco Le Pro 3 is an affordable phone with potential. Consider its aluminium unibody design, the beefy Snapdragon 821 chip, long-lasting battery, and great-sounding stereo speakers and there's plenty to praise.
But it's also just plain aggravation-inducing. The software is a mess. The bezels are huge. The competition from OnePlus is strong at a similar price.
Ultimately, you'll have to decide if it is worth it. If, however, you are part of the LeMall and the Le ecosystem then you can get the Le Pro 3 on sale (about $100 discount) which may be even more enticing.
Overall the Le Pro 3 is just too much LeEco and not enough Android. It needs a faster camera experience, lighter body, better display and a lick of extra polish.
There's potential, but right now we're erring towards "no go" rather than "Pro".
The alternatives to consider...
The OnePlus 3T is a brilliant smartphone, regardless of the bump in price. Its build quality and design is up there with the best of them, it has a vibrant and punchy display and a battery that can last practically all day on a 30 minute charge. There's very little to criticise.
Read the full review: OnePlus 3T review: The best mid-price phone, now with Nougat sweetness
If money is no object and all you're interested in is the latest and absolute best Android experience around, you'll struggle to get anything better than a Pixel or Pixel XL. They're loaded with the brand new version of Android Nougat, have fantastic cameras and smooth snappy performance.
Read the full review: Google Pixel review: Android at its best