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Hands on: LeEco Le Pro3

Forgive the name. LeEco's LePro 3 is an amazing phone at an amazing price

LeEco hungrily eyes the U.S. market with the $400 flagship-killing Le Pro 3.

LeEco is making a serious push into North America, and on Wednesday, October 19, announced its LeEco Le Pro 3 and LeS3 smartphones, which will both be available in the U.S. in November. But the company has some serious competition – Google just launched the Pixel and Pixel XL, and it’s not like Apple is going to bow down and give up its throne anytime soon.

We managed to get our hands on the new Le Pro 3 at the LeEco announcement event to see how the phone compares to other flagship devices for this year. These are our first impressions, so hang tight for a full review.

Slim aluminum design sacrifices the headphone jack

The first thing to notice about a smartphone is always its design, and the Le Pro 3 has a very nice one indeed. The device continues on the recent tradition of offering a very minimalistic look that’s similar to the HTC 10 both in look and feel. For example, the device offers the same aluminum unibody build made famous by the likes of HTC and Apple.

The Pro 3 is an absolute beast in the battery department, boasting a whopping 4,070mAh pack.

The phone boasts a 5.5-inch screen, which puts it in phablet territory. However, it doesn’t feel huge in your hands, which is  largely owed to the thin, inconspicuous bezels. Speaking of thin, the phone is quite slim, coming in at 0.29-inches, which is on par with the likes of the iPhone 7 Plus. Unfortunately, it feels a little thicker than it actually is because of the blocky design on the edges. They aren’t really rounded over like the edges on the iPhone.

Part of the reason the Le Pro 3 is so thin is that LeEco has removed the headphone jack, like some other smartphone manufacturers out there, including Apple. That’s right, if you’re a music lover, you’re going to need to get used to using Bluetooth headphones with the Le Pro 3 or cough up more money for a pair of USB Type-C headphones. LeEco does include the headphone adapter in the box, which will make your old 3.5mm headphones work with the Le Pro 3, but we haven’t had a chance to test it out yet. If it’s anything like the iPhone 7’s adapter, it’ll likely annoy you.

Specs and display

The Pro 3 has a great design, but the premium feel doesn’t stop there. Featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage, this phone can compete with the best Android phones out there.

Related: LeEco introduces 4K HDR TV lineup, featuring the 85-inch, $5,000 uMax85

Those are strikingly similar specs to the newly unveiled and very well-reviewed Google Pixel, although the Pixel offers slightly more storage at as much as 128GB.

Beyond specs on paper, however, the phone feels pretty zippy. It manages to open and close apps really quickly and with no stutter. Of course, many of the apps included on the Pro 3 we held were LeEco’s own. We’ll talk a little more about that later.

When it comes to the display on the phone, LeEco continues to impress. Although the 5.5-inch screen has a Full HD, 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution and not a Quad HD resolution, it looks very nice indeed. Colors popped, blacks were deep, and we never found ourselves wishing the display looked better.

That’s often the case with strong 1080p smartphone screens. You don’t often miss the Quad HD resolution until you start to use VR headsets. Google’s Pixel also has a 1080p screen, though the XL version, which is the same size as the Le Pro 3 features a Quad HD screen.

A big ol’ battery with Quick Charge 3.0

The Pro 3 is an absolute beast in the battery department, boasting a whopping 4,070mAh battery that LeEco says will get you 33 hours of talk time. For comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus will last for 21 hours of talk time, so LeEco is really going above and beyond here. It’s a wonder the company has managed to include such a huge battery in this very thin device.

LeEco has followed Apple’s lead and removed the headphone jack.

We couldn’t test LeEco’s claims with battery life in the short time we had with the phone at the event, but we’ll update you on how it lives up to those claims when we do a full review.

On top of the high capacity battery, LeEco went a step further with quick charging tech from Qualcomm. Quick Charge 3.0 will reportedly charge your phone by one third charged in only 20 minutes or fully charge it in an hour. That may seem like a long time, but for such a high capacity battery, it’s not bad at all.

Camera holds promise

The camera continues the tradition of high-quality specs on the Le Pro 3. While we were really only able to test the camera in the low-light conditions of LeEco’s event hall, it managed to handle taking photos in those conditions quite well indeed. The sensor on the device is a hefty 16-megapixel camera that can record 4K and slow-motion video. The front-facing camera is 8 megapixels, so you’ll get plenty of quality for those selfies, too.

LeEco Le Pro3
Christian de Looper/Digital Trends

We’ll have to test the camera further to offer a full judgement, so stay tuned for our review.

LeEco meddles with software

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Le Pro 3 isn’t the specs at all, but rather the software. The phone uses Google’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but LeEco uses its self-built EUI over the top. As you might have guessed, that interface seriously pushes LeEco’s apps and services.

Related: LeEco wants to woo Americans with the affordable, feature-packed Le S3

For example, when you swipe to the left on a Stock Android phone, you’ll  find Google Now, which will offer you personalized information, news, and events. On the Le Pro 3, you’ll find “LeView” instead, which is basically LeEco’s version of news and current events.

The changes continue across the board. Instead of an app drawer, you’ll see a little button that says “Live,” which is basically an app designed to give you access to live and recorded TV. It seems like a slightly weird place to put a feature that might better serve as a standard app, especially considering the fact that watching TV isn’t really central to how a smartphone works, but it’s clear that content is a big part of LeEco’s vision, so it’s pushing that by bringing it front and center.

Overall, EUI isn’t bad, but it’s best for those willing to dive headfirst into LeEco’s ecosystem rather than those that simply want a new phone to do phone-like things. LeEco is seriously pushing its ecosystem, which includes TVs, VR, and eventually electric cars, so if that interests you, then maybe switching to LeEco isn’t such a bad idea.

However, we’re not sure too many people will be so enthusiastic to join into the ecosystem of a company they’ve never even heard of before today.  If you’re not into LeEco’s ecosystem and just want a nice Android phone, the Le Pro 3’s custom software approach may put you off.

Price

The best thing about this phone has nothing to do with the specs or the software. It has to do with the price. Coming in at only $400 – with a Snapdragon 821 chip, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage – this phone is a steal. The Google Pixel XL, which has mostly the same specs, starts at $770. LeEco is staring down fellow flagship killers like the OnePlus 3 and ZTE Axon 7, too, both of which offer similar specs for $400.

Conclusion

LeEco has come up with a winner with the Le Pro 3. With excellent specs at a very low price, the company is entering the U.S. market pretty damn aggressively. Only time will tell if LeEco manages to actually make a big splash in the U.S. market, which is dominated by the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Google. One thing’s for sure, though – if LeEco does have a chance, it’s certainly seizing that opportunity with a pretty serious contender.

Highs

  • Sleek design
  • Excellent specs
  • Nice camera
  • Amazing price

Lows

  • A little blocky
  • Too pushy on LeEco’s services