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LeEco LePro 3 review: Affordable, but not a standout

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You can see a lot of digital artifacts and muddied objects in this night time image.

Lynn La/CNET

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?

Quick Settings, recent apps and music controls together equals one hot mess.

Lynn La/CNET

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.

Some of the phone's video offerings from LeLive.

Josh Miller/CNET

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

The LePro 3 isn't your only affordable option.

Josh Miller/CNET

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
Camera 16-megapixel 16-megapixel 16-megapixel 16-megapixel 12.3-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 5-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
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
Storage 64GB 64GB 32GB 32GB 32GB, 128GB
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
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C Micro-USB USB-C
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)

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