LeEco is finally coming to Western shores. The company has made a name for itself as the “Netflix of China,” but now it wants to expand beyond being a China-only company and enter the U.S. market with the Le Pro 3. This phone may have the looks and specs of a flagship, but it costs much less than the $650+ iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, and Google Pixel.
The $400 Le Pro 3 falls into the flagship killer category with high-end specs to match the best phones out there and a lower price tag. LeEco has company in this space, though. ZTE’s Axon 7 and the OnePlus 3 offer similar specs for the same price.
Can the Le Pro 3 compete against fellow flagship killers and well-known brands like Apple, Google, and Samsung? We put the $400 handset to the test.
Same old metal design
These days, most high-end phones are made of metal and they all look more or less the same. The Le Pro 3 is no different. The device features an aluminum unibody look that is very similar to the HTC 10 and iPhone 7, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s an attractive phone that feels high end. While the overall look of the phone may not score any points for originality, certain aspects of the phone will.
For example, one of the coolest aspects of the phone’s design is that it doesn’t have on-screen buttons – instead, it has capacitive buttons like the Galaxy S7. The buttons aren’t lit up until you actually use them – so when you’re not, you can’t see them at all. It’s a unique aspect of the phone’s design that helps give the device a premium feel. It also keeps the front of the phone totally symmetrical. Even the front-facing camera and ambient light sensor are symmetrical – they’re exactly the same size and found on either side of the speaker.
The rest of the front of the phone is dominated by the screen. The display panel itself is edge-to-edge, meaning there’s no aluminum bezel on either side. That doesn’t mean that the display itself is bezel-less. There is a slight bezel in the display panel, but at least with the screen off, it doesn’t look like there’s a bezel at all.
For a phone that performs so well and comes at such a low price, there has to be a compromise. Turns out, there is, and that’s the software.
The back of the phone is also pretty symmetrical, too. The camera protrudes in a small bump that sits in the center near the top of the device, right above the fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint sensor is a shinier silver than the rest of the phone. Ironically enough, it’s a real fingerprint-trap. While the phone in general isn’t great with fingerprints, the fingerprint sensor is terrible. It picks up prints very easily.
The Le Pro 3 is pretty comfortable to hold, but it’s a little thick. When you’re trying to reach across the screen, you may run into some trouble, but that’s to be expected from 5.5-inch screens.
LeEco opted to save on power consumption with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution screen. The screen may not be as high resolution as the Quad HD resolution of the Zte Axon 7, but it’s on par with the screen resolutions on the OnePlus 3 and iPhone 7 Plus. Unless you’re a real stickler for having a top-of-the-line display, you’ll be fine with what the Le Pro 3 has to offer.
When it comes to ports, LeEco is just like Apple. The company decided to get rid of the headphones jack. LeEco gives you a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box, so you can still use your wired headphones if you want to. The lack of a headphone jack will likely annoy many people, but otherwise, the phone is normal. You’ll find the volume rocker and power button on the left side of the phone, and the SIM card tray on the right side.
In the box, you’ll actually find a nice slate of accessories. You’ll get the standard wall adapter and charging cable, but on top of that, you’ll find a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter and something we’ve never seen come with any other smartphone – a clear gel phone case. Since the case is included, you don’t need to shell out extra cash for a case unless you want something special.
There’s cutting edge tech inside
It’s what’s under the hood that really counts. Luckily, LeEco has plenty to offer on the Le Pro 3, which packs the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. That’s a pretty impressive spec sheet for a phone with a $400 price tag.
As you might imagine, these scores caught us a little off-guard, in a good way – they’re incredible.
Before diving into benchmarks and whether the device stands up against the competition, it’s important to note that the LeEco Le Pro 3 runs very smoothly. Apps load nice and quickly, the user interface is responsive and fast, and there’s rarely a stutter to speak of, especially in day-to-day use.
The phone’s performance remained nice and smooth even while we were installing dozens of apps in the background. Sure, it got a little warm, but that’s to be expected when you’re downloading a bunch of apps at once.
Of course, benchmarks are still important. Everyone uses their phone a little differently, and benchmarks help give an overall idea of how a device will perform relative to other phones.
Here’s a quick rundown of the benchmarks we put the Le Pro 3 through:
- AnTuTu: 159,542
- Quadrant: 35,389
- 3DMark Slingshot: 2,261
- Geekbench 4: 4,333 multi-core, 1,847 single-core.
As you might imagine, these scores caught us a little off-guard, but in a good way – they’re incredible. On AnTuTu, the Le Pro 3 scored a massive 159,542, which is absolutely amazing. Not even the Google Pixel XL scored that high, coming in at 138,946 during our tests. Still, the device didn’t beat out the iPhone 7, which is this year’s phone to beat with its insane 178,397 AnTuTu score. The iPhone still blows every single Android phone ever made out of the water in benchmarks.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that the LeEco Le Pro 3 is one of the highest performing devices out there and it can outperform flagships from the likes of Google, Samsung, and even the OnePlus 3 in benchmark tests.
Fingerprint sensor failures
Phones have progressively gotten more secure over the past few years with the addition of fingerprint sensors, which is a good thing for those who hate having to remember a password or PIN number. The Le Pro 3 also has fingerprint protection that can be used to unlock your device or make mobile payments,
Unfortunately, the fingerprint sensor is nowhere near as accurate as we would have liked. Often times, it took three or four attempts before the device unlocked. In comparison, on the Google Pixel XL, the sensor usually read our print the first time. Very rarely did we have to make two attempts to unlock the Pixel XL. You’re going to have to be a lot more careful about finger placement to get the right reading with the Le Pro 3.
Battery life is stellar
When it comes to battery life, this phone is a beast. The phone may be thicker than its super skinny competitors, but that giant 4,070mAh battery is well worth the extra girth. The Le Pro 3 easily lasts well past a single day of use and into the second day, even with heavy use. The 1080p screen resolution certainly helps improve battery life. LeEco also offers Quick Charge 3.0 tech, which means you can juice up your phone in 15-30 minutes.
The battery life on the Le Pro 3 is better than any other smartphone we’ve tested in 2016. The longer the battery life, the less often you have to charge. If your phone is always going dead, you may want to check out the Le Pro 3.
Camera quality is solid
The camera on the LeEco Le Pro 3 features a 16-megapixel sensor with a f/2.0 aperture and phase detection autofocus. It takes solid photos in most scenarios, but colors are a little less realistic than, say photos taken with the iPhone 7. When HDR mode is on, things just look a little faker. But in general, we’re not complaining. The camera responds well to low-light situations, and the camera app works super quickly, so you won’t have to wait around to take a photo once you open the app.
The camera isn’t a standout feature of the phone, but it’s not a drawback either. For most people, it’ll offer plenty, even though it’s not as good as the cameras on the Google Pixel, iPhone 7, or Galaxy S7.
The 8-megapixel selfie camera is solid, so selfie snappers are all set, too.
Software is the sticking point
For a phone that performs so well and comes at such a low price, there has to be a compromise. Turns out, there is, and that’s the software. LeEco packed far too many special apps onto the Le Pro 3, and its Ecosystem User Interface (EUI) is far, far away from pure Android.
I get it. LeEco is trying to push its ecosystem. Unfortunately for LeEco, it’s going to be a while before that ecosystem really takes root in the U.S., and until then, having all that bloatware on the phone really sets it back – it’s by far the worst thing about an otherwise amazing phone. EUI changes how you interact with the phone’s software completely.
For example, on most Android smartphones, swipe right from the home screen and you’ll be greeted with Google Now, Google’s attempt at giving you the news you would be interested in, events for the day, and so on. It’s a service that’s really grown over the years into a very useful tool. On a LeEco phone, however, you’ll swipe right to “LeView” instead.
It’s LeEco’s attempt at making a Google Now competitor, but LeView doesn’t hold a candle to Google’s system. LeView doesn’t present you your calendar events, news isn’t as accurate to your tastes, and the info it does show is unhelpful. Google has spent years personalizing Now to your tastes based on years of search data. LeEco doesn’t have a tenth of Google’s knowledge, and it shows.
Then there’s the real culprit — “Live.” On most Android phones these days, you’ll find an app tray on the bottom of the home screen. On the Le Pro 3, in exactly the same spot, you’ll find “Live,” which is LeEco’s on-demand TV and video service. There’s a reason LeEco is known as the “Netflix of China,” after all.
Unless you’re seriously plugged into LeEco’s ecosystem, you’re going to find the UI on this phone annoying.
The only problem is, we don’t always want to watch TV on our phones. Sometimes it’s nice, but it doesn’t need to be front and center like it is on LeEco’s phones, especially when LeEco doesn’t have the content we want to see. We want Netflix, Hulu, or Sling TV. Maybe that will change someday, but until that day, LeEco’s TV services don’t need to be shoved down our throats. A simple app would suffice.
Unless you’re seriously plugged into LeEco’s ecosystem, you’re going to find the UI on this phone annoying. After a while with the Le Pro 3, we deeply missed the simplicity of the perfectly stock Android experience on the Google Pixel.
To make matters worse, the Android interface buttons are reversed. Sure, after a few days we got used to the fact that the back button is on the left and the multitasking button is on the right, but those few days were excruciating. It doesn’t make much sense that the buttons are reversed.
LeEco’s EUI isn’t all bad. It’s relatively well-designed and offers a few interesting apps. However, we just can’t accept LeEco’s decision to push half-baked services in EUI.
The heavy user interface will also delay software updates and vital security patches, which is just unacceptable. ZTE’s Axon 7 offers a much cleaner software experience on an equally well-specced phone for the same price, and, ZTE is more reliable with software updates. Of course, if you really care about security on Android, you’ll want to opt for Google’s $650+ Pixel instead.Our Take
The LeEco Le Pro 3 is an amazing device, but it’s held back by a few key problems. The user interface is annoying and pushy and there’s no headphone jack. It does offer extraordinary specs for a $400 phone, making it a true flagship killer.
The DT Accessory Pack
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. Fellow $400 flagship killers like the ZTE Axon 7 and OnePlus 3 are a better bet for consumers. LeEco is an unknown quantity in the U.S., while OnePlus and ZTE have been around for some time. We worry about timely software updates and customer support for the Le Pro 3.
The Axon 7 and OnePlus 3 may have the Snapdragon 820 processor instead of the 821, but they are still very powerful devices with better cameras, cleaner software, headphone jacks, and slicker designs. Of course, that’s not to say that the Le Pro 3 is a bad deal. It’s an excellent price for a phone with these specs.
If you can spend more than $400, we recommend you buy the Google Pixel or Pixel XL. You’ll get the same specs as the Le Pro 3 with pure Android software, a better camera, leading customer service, as well as guaranteed timely software updates and security patches.
How long will it last?
This phone won’t last longer than other phones, although it may last less than some phones if you’re not careful. There’s no waterproofing, so if you tend to be careless in the bath or around the pool, you may want to rethink your phone choice. It also may not get timely software updates, which makes its longevity questionable.
Should you buy it?
Probably not. If your budget is limited to $400, you have three solid options: the ZTE Axon 7, the OnePlus 3, and now, the LeEco Le Pro 3. If you don’t mind the software and absence of a headphone jack, it’s a fine buy, but the Axon 7 is still a better deal for the same price.