Here’s the thing about a market. Any market. There’s one product which sets the trend, one that follows, one that does almost everything right but goes under-appreciated, and one that tries to seize the opportunity but doesn’t do enough and fails. Let’s take period drama shows for instance. There was Mad Men… popular… but possibly overhyped, Downton Abbey… a massive hit, a dark horse like Vikings, and a doomed show called The Bastard Executioner. You can spot pretty much the same trend if we talk about smartphones, especially in the VFM niche. This year, the LeEco Le 1s (review) took the market by storm with its loaded specs and aggressive pricing. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (review) followed, and was immensely successful. We also saw the Lenovo ZUK Z1 (review), which is the dark horse in the segment. And then the likes of Honor 5X (review) and Micromax Canvas 6 (review), which weren’t as critically acclaimed as the other smartphones.
Seeing how the price segment is still raging, it only seems fair that we see sequels to popular devices. And that’s exactly what LeEco did with the Le 2. The smartphone packs in pretty decent specifications, along with offering CDLA technology for a completely overhauled audio experience. At least that’s what the company says. Let’s get into the review and see how worthy a sequel the Le 2 is to the Le 1s.
Specs At A Glance
|Resolution||Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)|
|CPU||Quad core, 1.8 GHz + Quad core, , Snapdragon 652|
|Internal memory||32 GB|
|Capacity||3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable|
|Primary camera||16 MP|
|Secondary camera||8 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
Design: Better Than The Competition
Dimensions: 151.1 x 74.2 x 7.5 mm
Weight: 153 grams
There’s only so much you can do when it comes to designing a smartphone. Since you can’t miss the screen, the ports and the camera modules, a tiny window remains for a company to be creative. Add to that the burden of keeping up with what’s in, and all that’s left is a smartphone that pretty much looks like the competition. The Le 2 is no different.
While it does look slightly better the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, its fiercest competitor, it’s still a regular full metal body smartphone with not much innovation on the design front. When tapped or pressed upon, the screen of the device makes a creaky noise. While it might seem like a defect, LeEco has issued a statement saying the noise is due to an electrostatic interference between the display and gasket placed underneath it. While the Le 2 is slightly on the thicker side, it’s still convenient to use with a single hand.
The port placement is more or less standard. You find the volume and power keys on the right edge, while a SIM tray rests on the left one. Up top there’s an IR blaster, while on the bottom, you get a Type-C port sandwiched between to sets of precision drilled holes, one of which hides the loudspeaker, and the other conceals the primary microphone. The 3.5mm audio socket is missing in action, but let us get to the how and the why of it a little later.
The display comes flanked by the usual assortment of some sensors, an earpiece, a front camera, and a notification LED on top. The Le 2 uses capacitive navigation keys. The back panel of the device sports smooth finish, and comes minimally accessorised by a primary camera module, an LED flash, a fingerprint scanner, and some branding.
To sum it up, the LeEco Le 2’s design is not something really out-of-the-box, but it’s one of the better-looking smartphones out there.
Display: Bright and Brilliant
Size: 5.5 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 401 ppi
The 5.5-inch full HD display on the Le 2 is decently sharp. The texts and icons appear crisp and colours look vibrant and rich, without looking oversaturated. If you do not like the default colours, you get an option to switch between Vivid, Natural, and Soft colour settings. The screen brightness of the phone is pretty impressive, and enough for you to comfortably operate it in under any sort of lighting. The viewing angles do not disappoint either. Overall, it’s one of the better displays in its price segment.
Cameras: A Mixed Bag
Primary camera: 16 MP
Flash: Dual-color LED Flash
Secondary camera: 8 MP
The camera configuration on the LeEco Le 2 is on par with the standards, as the device uses a 16-meg snapper on the back, assisted by a dual-tone LED flash, and an 8MP front camera.
The default camera app offers a bunch of shooting modes along with giving you control over settings like ISO, exposure and white balance. The primary camera focuses quickly and the shutter speed is pretty impressive. When it comes to image quality, the pictures do look nice on the phone’s screen, but you see a fair deal of pixelation when you view them in their original size. The camera captures depth in macro shots only in some specific light settings. However, we did find rich colours in all the pictures, and the colour reproduction was almost perfect. Compared to other phones in the segment, the low light and night photography was better on the Le 2. The front camera clicks good selfies as well. While the LeEco Le 2 is a decent shooter overall, it does something to be desired. You can check out our LeEco Le 2 camera review to get a better insight on the shooting capabilities of the device. Meanwhile, here are some pictures clicked with the primary camera of the handset.
Software: Work with What You Get
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 6.0, Marshmallow
On top of Android Marshmallow, the Le 2 runs EUI v5.6 out of the box, and v5.8 once you update it. Now, as you might know from our previous reviews of the LeEco smartphones, EUI is a heavy skin, and hence the software on the Le 2 is far from stock.
Like most other Chinese smartphone in the market, the Le 2 also utilises space on the homescreen to lay out all the apps, instead of offering an app drawer. While the phone does not offer any standout features, the overall UI might need some getting used to because of a few things like having to access the quick settings and toggles from the recent apps screen, instead of being able to swipe down from the top of the display. There’s no gesture support either which is a little disappointing.
There are not many preloaded apps which is great. However, you do find LeEco’s LeVidi and LIVE apps. While the former offers Bollywood content to users through Eros Now, the latter, as the name suggests, streams live content, with the help of Yupp TV. It also offers live TV on demand.
However, we feel it is going to take some time for users to completely rely on these service for all the video content they want to watch. More often than not, we went for our usual options like YouTube and Hotstar.
The fingerprint scanner on the Le 2 takes negligible time to set up. While it does not miss recognising the fingerprint, it is a little slow. With v5.6 of EUI, the fingerprint sensor on the phone could only be used to unlock the device, however, the new update brings more functionality to the sensor, for now you can use it to capture images as well, when using the default camera app.
CDLA: bidding goodbye to the 3.5mm jack
The LeEco Le 2 was launched alongside the Le Max 2, and both these smartphones were the first from the brand to ditch the 3.5mm audio jack for Type-C audio. CDLA, a technology exclusive to LeEco, stands for Continually Digital Lossless Audio. Since the Type-C port does not need any digital to analogue conversion, there is zero loss in the audio, at least in theory. The company has been bundling the CDLA in-ear headphones with the smartphone as an introductory offer, which is still going good and strong, but we do not know how long this offer will last.
Just in case it ends, the smartphone comes with a Type-C to 3.5mm jack connector, for you to be able to use your regular earphones with the Le 2. However, that voids the whole purpose of having the CDLA tech.
Moving on the to the audio quality, the earphones do deliver loud output, but we won’t call it the clearest. The overall output was not very bass driven, and at high volumes, the audio sounds distorted at times. The last software update now lets you enable or disable the CDLA HD mode when you plug in the Type-C earphones.
In terms of wearability, the bundled headphones aren’t the best. Since you do not get any cushioning, it’s difficult to wear them for long periods of time. We managed to bear with them for 30 minutes in one stretch.
While the concept is great, and makes the whole audio output dependent upon the hardware of the headphones or any other audio device completely, and not on the port, the CDLA technology needs some time to mature. In addition to that, you need to listen to audio files coded in a lossless format to use the CDLA tech to full potential. The file types include formats like WAV, FLAC or ALAC, which are not the most popular formats people consume audio content in. Moreover, while we agree that the number of Type-C smartphones is growing by the day in the market, there still aren’t a lot of them out there, neither have we seen a lot of headphones with a Type-C connector. So, the liberty a 3.5mm audio jack gives you to connect your headphones to almost any device is still unmatched.
Performance: smooth is the word
CPU: Quad core, 1.8 GHz + Quad cor…
GPU: Adreno 510
RAM: 3 GB
Memory: 32 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3000 mAH
While the Le 1s was launched with an octa-core chip from MediaTek, the Le 2 is a slight upgrade, featuring an octa-core Snapdragon 652 chipset assisted by 3GB of RAM. The processing was more or less a breeze on the phone. And by that we mean smooth, not lightening fast. That said, the regular usage on the phone will be hassle free. There’s an integrated Adreno 510 GPU to aid the gaming.
We played heavy games like the Modern Combat Blackout and Asphalt 8 Airborne on the LeEco Le 2. Much to our delight, apart from a slightly long loading time, the games ran stutter-free. The graphics rendering was good too. However, the phone warms up a bit after heavy use, but we’ll give that to the Le 2, since it’s almost inevitable.
The battery in the LeEco Le 2, which is rated at 3,000mAh, sounds good on paper, but unfortunately that doesn’t translate into real life usage. It lasted for about 10 hours on our standard battery test, where we run an HD video on loop till the battery drains from full to nil, with the brightness and volume set to 50 percent. This is a good result. Charging it fully and using it like we normally would, including running 4G data, listening to music, using Instagram and WhatsApp, gave us about a day’s worth of use.
There are a bunch of parameters you can tweak to optimise the battery life, and all these options can be accessed from Power saving management menu, in the battery settings. The phone does support quick charging, which can be enabled or disabled, depending upon whether or not are you comfortable with your device heating up due to fast charging. Interestingly, the phone does not take ages to charge completely even when the quick charging is disabled… we recorded about one and the half hours for a full charge.
The LeEco Le 2 offers a nice display, and a powerful processor, but that’s about it. Everything else is just decent… something you can work with, but not the best in the segment.
In terms of competition, the Lenovo ZUK Z1 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 are also decent all-rounders, and we must not forget about the latter’s brilliant battery back up, a department where the LeEco Le 2 falls slightly short. The CDLA tech is something that is definitely interesting and unique about the Le 2, but it’s not compelling enough for you to buy this phone for just that reason. The content ecosystem however, is an interesting proposition and adds to the pull. The Le 2 has its share of niggles, but then, no phone out there is perfect. In our opinion, the LeEco Le 2 then, is definitely an option you should be shortlisting in your hunt for a daily driver that offers good value for money.
Editor’s Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Stunning display
- Powerful processors
- Efficient fingerprint scanner
- Cameras are mixed bag
- You can’t charge the phone and use headphones at the same time
[Update: portions of this review, mainly regarding the battery life, have been updated after trying out a fresh review unit]
Photos by Raj Rout