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Review: The Le Pro3 phone -- low price, great hardware, pushy UI

Dan Rosenbaum | Nov. 10, 2016
LeEco's high-spec Android smartphone sounds like a great deal. But it may not be a deal you’ll want to make.

If you've heard of LeEco at all, it's probably because it bought the budget TV maker Vizio earlier this year. LeEco is a Chinese media company that has been expanding into cloud computing, mobile hardware and even driverless cars. In many ways, it sounds like a baby Google or Amazon.

There's a lot to like about the company's new Le Pro3 phone, but the most impressive feature is the price tag. The Le Pro3 feels, and acts, like an $800 premium phone -- and costs $399 unlocked. (It is a GSM phone, which means it will work with most carriers except those that use CDMA, such as Verizon, Sprint or Boost Mobile.) Actually, it costs even less than that, because you can get an additional $100 off if you sign up for LeEco's LeRewards program (and the company's sales site -- LeMall.com -- makes it hard to avoid).

That's a terrific bargain. Like the similarly priced OnePlus 3 phone, LeEco can probably keep the price low because it doesn't have a big marketing budget and because it sells only through its own site. More than that, LeEco wants to get the phone into your hands because it wants you to use its cloud infrastructure.

LeEco makes no bones about its desire to bring its customers into its ecosystem. Executives held a big press conference and webcast in October to introduce the phone and a 7-foot-wide TV, also at a bargain price. They discussed at great length their plans to use their infrastructure to push content to both TV and phone buyers. The business model currently appears to be to make money by charging only a little for the razor while still giving away the blades -- so how they plan to profit by this is still unclear.

As razors go, this is a good one. The Le Pro3 is a rocking piece of technology. It's a plus-sized phone -- 6 x 2.9 in., the same size as a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and a little smaller than an iPhone 7 Plus. It uses a top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad core processor. The 5.5-in. IPS LCD screen shows 1080 x 1920 pixels.

When I ran the AnTuTu Benchmark, it came up with a number of 155190; in comparison, the LG V20 scored 143861, and the Google Pixel XL (which also uses the high-performance Snapdragon 821) hit 140747. The iPhone 7 Plus still rules the roost at 172644, but this phone is no slouch.

The body is polished metal, pleasing to the touch, with two antenna bands around the back. The battery is a huge 4070mAh unit; using Qualcomm's QuickCharge 3, it charges in two hours. When I ran the battery drain test, something interesting developed -- even with all power-saving settings off, the battery went from 100% to 20% in four hours, then shut down the test and plateaued there. I couldn't get a full battery drain. (This could have been a problem just with the review unit, but buyers should be aware, just in case.)

 

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