If the LeEco LePro 3 were the only $400 (or about £320 and AU$530, converted) phone in town, I'd say you should buy it, no problem. At that price, many of the qualms I have with it would be offset by its lightning-fast speed and long battery life.
Unfortunately for LeEco, it isn't the only game in town. Though it's certainly a capable handset for the company to court its new US market with, its problematic interface and underwhelming camera keep it from besting the OnePlus 3 (and the upcoming 3T), or even the Motorola Moto Z Play -- all of which hit that sub-$450 price range. The LePro 3's streaming video platform, which is tied to LeEco's overall media ecosystem, is also nothing to be too excited about.
That's not to say that these other companies shouldn't be worried. For some countries, this is LeEco first high-end phone and if it continues to push out low-priced, high-end devices to market, it could soon become a top contender for the budget market. But for now, the LePro 3 is not the standout choice.
It's well-made, but heavy
The LePro 3 has a solid, unibody construction, a sharp display and its angled edges keep it from falling out of my hand. The edges also have a different finish than the rest of the phone, so it catches the light in interesting ways.
But despite being solidly made (it certainly doesn't feel cheap), it looks uninspiring. The brushed-metal finish feels outdated, and it's heavy. Also, don't expect it to fit comfortably in your pants pocket. Even if it does, it will weigh you down. The camera also has a noticeable, unsightly bump. And finally, there's no headphone jack. Just like the Apple iPhone 7 and the Motorola Moto Z (excluding the aforementioned Z Play), you'll have to listen to music using either a headphone dongle or wireless Bluetooth headphones. Ugh.
It's super fast
The LePro 3 has a Snapdragon 821 processor, one of the most advanced mobile processors available right now (it's the same used in the Google Pixel and the OnePlus 3T). Day to day tasks like launching the camera, quitting apps and calling up the keyboard were smooth and fast, and I didn't experience any stuttering or lag. On paper, the LePro3 edged out its other Android competitors -- even the OnePlus 3, which has been leading the scores in these tests. (Keep in mind that the OnePlus 3 has an 820 processor, and we have yet to test out the upcoming 3T's 821 chipset).
As for its big nonremovable battery, during our lab test for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, it lasted 16 hours and 25 minutes. Though I expected it to last even longer than that (the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, for example, lasted 19 hours with an even smaller battery and the Moto Z Play's 3,510mAh battery lasted more than 23 hours). Still, 16 hours is nothing to shake a stick at, and it gives you time to watch a whole downloaded TV season or so.
The camera is good, but not amazing
The back camera works quickly, and for your casual photo needs,takes good, steady shots. I also like how whenever you turn on a certain setting (like HDR or Night Mode), a small onscreen dialogue pops up that'll let you turn off the mode if you decide you actually didn't want it. It also does 4K recording, slow-mo video, photo filters and burst shots.
Closeups and low-light shots weren't really impressive though. Images weren't as focused or well defined compared to the OnePlus 3. Night shots looked muddier and grainier. However, if I was in a well-lit environment, the LePro 3 took sharp bright photos with accurate colors. For more on photo quality, check out our photos below and be sure to click on each image to see it at its full resolution.
The interface is totally frustrating
The LePro 3 features Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow and runs its own user interface. I'm a longtime Android user and even this UI takes awhile to get used to. My annoyances with it run the gamut between small and nitpicky (the back button is on the right, there is no app drawer, the dialer is just plain ugly) to justifiably maddening.
For instance, when you're in the LeView home screen page, the home button doesn't return you to your main home screen (you have to swipe left instead). Recent apps and the quick settings tray is mashed together in one hot mess, and the "Management" icon in your notifications shade doesn't take you to Settings. Instead, it launches the notifications settings for your apps. But after you tinker with those during your initial setup, how often are you going to need to access that?
Over time, anyone can adjust to these irritations. But you shouldn't have to. It's not just about buttons being in the right place -- user experience is essential to a phone's success and the LePro3's interface is unintuitive and unpleasant.
It really, really wants you to watch video
The device has several apps that all center around streaming video content: LeLive, LeView, the Le app and LeWatchWhatever (I made that last one up, but you can see how that too was getting LeAnnoying).
It makes sense; LeEco started out as an online video company in China, and it views some of its current ventures (like making phones and TVs) as extensions to broaden that platform. During its US debut, the company announced partnerships with tons of media companies like MGM, Lionsgate, Showtime and more for future content.
For now though, the videos are...slim pickings. LeLive, which broadcasts shows live from the Internet, has travel, food and exercise channels you can glance through. LeView is just a curator of YouTube videos, and a few titles from the Le app include "Breaking Wind" (a Twilight parody), a drama called "Johnny Skidmarks," and that 2011 classic thriller "Abduction" starring Taylor Lautner that nobody watched.
I may be cherry picking some of the content (spoiler alert: I am), but there's not a lot worth watching here that you can't already watch on other platforms (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.) If you're a video addict, you may enjoy these apps as a way to casually browse videos, but it's definitely not the central reason to get this handset.
A decent debut
Despite its drawbacks, the LePro 3 is a promising device, and a strong phone to pin LeEco's US debut on. It has premium hardware at a sweet $400 price (or about £320 and AU$530, converted) and for those on a budget, this is a very tempting buy.
But the phone needs work -- the interface is rough around the edges, the design can be sleeker, and the camera doesn't outperform other Android competitors in its price range. That's not to say LeEco will never get there, but the LePro 3 isn't the only great $400 phone that exists.
The OnePlus 3 costs the same and has a better UI and camera. Its upcoming 3T counterpart costs a bit more at $439 and £399 (approximately AU$580 converted), but it has a bigger battery and the same 821 processor as the LePro 3. And if you're tempted by the LePro3's battery life, know that the Moto Z Play costs $450 (or £370 and AU$700) and is a battery champion.
LeEco LePro 3 Spec Comparison
|LeEco LePro 3||OnePlus 3||Motorola Moto Z Play||Alcatel Idol 4S||Google Pixel XL|
|Display size, resolution||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920X1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||403 ppi||401ppi||403ppi||534 ppi||534 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||5.96x2.90x0.29 in||6.01x2.94x0.29 in||6.16x3x0.28 in||6.06x2.97x0.28 in||6.1x2.98x0.34 in (at its thickest)|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||151.4x73.9x7.5 mm||152.7x74.7x7.35 mm||156.4x76.4x6.99 mm||153.9x75.4x6.99 mm||154.7x75.74x8.58 mm (at its thickest)|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.24 oz; 177 g||5.57 oz; 158 g||5.82 oz; 165 g||5.26 oz; 149 g||5.92 oz; 168 g|
|Mobile software||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 7.1 Nougat|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820||2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625||1.8GHz + 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821|
|Expandable storage||None||None||Up to 2TB||Up to 200GB||None|
|Battery||4,070mAh (nonremovable)||3,000mAh (nonremovable)||3,510 mAh (nonremovable)||3,000mAh (nonremovable)||3,450mAh (nonremovable)|
|Fingerprint sensor||Back cover||Home button||Home button||Back cover||Back cover|
|Special features||Access to LeEco's streaming platform with Live button||Notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging||Moto Mods connector, NFC, Turbo Charging||Boom Key (programable key), reversible OS, dual-SIM||Google Assistant built-in, unlimited cloud storage, Daydream VR ready|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$399||$399||$450||$400||$769 (32GB), $869 (128GB)|
|Price (GBP)||Converts to £325||£329||£344||£385||£719 (32GB), £819 (128GB)|
|Price (AUD)||Converts to AU$520||Converts to AU$530||AU$594||AU$470||AU$1,269 (32GB), AU$1,419 (128GB)|