It has been roughly six months since LeEco entered the competitive smartphone market of India. During this time, the company has managed to keep the industry abuzz with a slew of aggressively priced devices, tie-ups with local content partners and more importantly plans to open single brand retail stores and locally manufacture under the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. LeEco has had some good devices as well. I had reviewed the Le 1s earlier, which was one of LeEco’s first smartphones in India. It was a beautifully designed smartphone with top-of-the-line features and at an affordable price of Rs 10,999.
Earlier this month, LeEco launched the Le 2 and its flagship Le Max2 smartphones in India. The Le Max2 moves beyond 2015’s 4GB RAM power benchmark to include a whopping 6GB of RAM, which is coupled with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor. The 64GB variant with 6GB of RAM is priced at Rs 29,999, while the 32GB variant with 4GB of RAM is priced at Rs 22,999.
Another unique thing about the Le Max2 is the new Continual Digital Lossless Audio (CDLA) standard, which the company claims allows lossless high quality data transfer via USB Type-C port. The LeEco Max2 is one of the first smartphones, even before the rumored Apple iPhone 7, to ditch the 3.5mm audio standard. I have been the using the 6GB RAM variant of the Le Max2 for a few days and here’s my review.
LeEco has played it safe by not tweaking the design very much. The Le Max2 follows the same design language as its predecessor Le Max, and even looks identical to the Le 2 and Le 1s smartphones. Like the other smartphones in the series, the Le Max2 is also elegantly designed. The metal unibody looks quite impressive with silver accent on side frames and slightly rounded corners. For a large 5.7-inch smartphone, the Le Max2 is pretty slim with a thickness of only 8mm. Though it feels slightly heavy at 185 grams, you will soon get used to the weight and size.
The front of the smartphone is dominated by the display along with front camera, sensors and LED notification light on the top. The base houses the USB Type-C port and speaker grilles. The volume buttons along with power button are placed on the right edge, while the left edge houses the dual-SIM (nano SIM + nano SIM) card slots. The camera module at the back sits in the center with the fingerprint scanner below. The camera module is slightly protruding, and could be prone to dents or scratches after extended use.
Overall, the Le Max2 is a well designed smartphone, though existing LeEco users may find it monotonous.
Display and UI
The LeEco Le Max2 comes with 5.7-inch IPS LCD display with QHD resolution (2560×1440 pixels). The 2K display makes the difference when you are watching any high-resolution videos or playing graphic-intensive games on the smartphone. I am not really into streaming 1080p or higher resolution videos on YouTube (due to data constraints, of course), but if you load some high-resolution videos on the device, you will notice the difference in quality between a full HD and 2K display. Other elements such as outdoor legibility, adaptive brightness and overall viewing angles are fine on the Le Max2. If you don’t like the default display tone, you can go to Settings, and choose from Soft, Vivid and Natural modes.
The Le Max2 runs on a custom eUI 5.6 based on Android Marshmallow 6.0.1. eUI is a highly customized OS and hasn’t changed much from the ones on the older smartphones like the LeEco Le 1s. From icons to navigation settings, eUI is far from what you can call a near-stock Android-like experience. One of the noticeable alterations is the app icons, which are flattish. Swiping down the screen you access the notification panel whereas pressing the task button on the front panel gives you shortcuts to necessary features like Wi-Fi, camera and torch among others. While eUI looks fluid, LeEco could have avoided unnecessary tweaks such as removing drop down settings panel to just have the notification panel, and keep it pretty simple. That said, eUI 5.6 does support Android Marshmallow’s default Now on Tap contextual search and improved app permissions among other features.
LeEco has been extensively focusing on content integration on its smartphones. With the launch of the Le 1s Eco, the company had introduced a content membership program. The LeEco content ecosystem includes India-centric music, movies and live TV. Users can access these programs for Rs 490 per month or Rs 4,900 annually. Let’s take a look at the bundled content you get with the Le Max2.
Live: Like the Le 1s Eco, the Le Max2 also comes with a Live button (in place of the onscreen app launcher), which gives you access to movies, live events, music and TV channels. The Live button essentially sources the content from the Yupp TV app. There is also content in local languages such as Odia, Marathi, Kannada and Punjabi among others. The Yupp TV catalogue isn’t really big right now, but does give you enough options for news and music categories. There aren’t any sports or movie channels though, which is a bummer.
While you can stream these content on your cellular data along with Wi-Fi as well, you can choose quality between minimum 270p resolution and highest 396p resolution. The idea behind Live is to have users access their favorite shows on the ago, but I’d rather have the TataSky Everywhere or Ditto TV that gives access to live TV channels.
Levidi: Another major content-based app is Levidi, which is a content on demand platform. It features content including exclusive movies and TV shows from publishers like Eros Now, T-Series and Colors TV among others. For Bollywood buffs, the Levidi app is quite good. It also has a YouTube integration but experience on the Levidi app isn’t really same as the app.
LeView: LeEco has its own version of HTC’s Blinkfeed search, which you can access by swiping right on the home screen. LeView too aggregates content from YouTube, but again the overall experience isn’t up to the mark. The only advantage is that it aggregates content from different categories like news, sports and comedy among others. It’s more of video-based search aggregator, which isn’t as good as Blinkfeed.
The LeEco Le Max2 comes with 21-megapixel camera with PDAF, OIS and dual-LED dual tone flash. The Le Max2 delivers near excellent results in good light conditions. There’s the right balance of brightness, contrast and saturation levels on the normal mode. Thanks to PDAF, the camera quickly focuses on the subject. In case of macro shots, I’d recommend manually focusing on the subject to get the images quicker. The camera also has OIS that helps take some really stable shots of moving objects. I did take a few images of moving traffic, and I was satisfied with the results.
Though there’s no dedicated Pro mode, the camera app does give you the option to change the ISO, white balance and exposure among other features. For videos, you can take videos in 2K. You can also take slow motion videos at 720p resolution.
The camera quality is underwhelming in low light conditions though. You can spot noise in the images and the camera tends to struggle to focus in such conditions. That said, the camera quality looks fine for its price point.
For selfie lovers, the 8-megapixel front camera on the Le Max2 doesn’t disappoint. It comes with a beauty mode, which can be customized as well, to take flawless selfies. Here are some shots taken by the Le Max2 in different light conditions.
The Le Max2 is one of the few and affordable smartphones to run Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 820 processor. Coupled with 6GB of RAM and Adreno 530 GPU, the Le Max2 smoothly handles graphic intensive games like Asphalt 8: Airborne and Modern Combat 5: Blackout. The smartphone doesn’t heat up much during long sessions of gaming or camera usage. Be it multi-tasking or switching between different apps, I didn’t come across any lag during my time with the Le Max2.
I will give thumbs up to the Le Max2 for being a powerhouse but did I really need the 6GB of RAM (technically pay Rs 7,000 extra to get the higher RAM variant and more storage) to have these apps run smoothly? Perhaps not.
A smartphone with 4GB of RAM is more than enough to get these tasks done. Powerful smartphones like the OnePlus 2 and Samsung Galaxy S7 (both have 4GB of RAM) are some of the best examples why you may not need the 6GB of RAM. In case of the Le Max2, you are compelled to choose the more expensive variant, because the other variant only has 32GB onboard storage that cannot be expanded. So, even if this variant is an equally good performer, you have to compromise on the storage front.
In order to make the smartphone a powerhouse, LeEco missed out one important aspect — battery life. The 3,100mAh battery doesn’t even last a day on moderate to heavy usage. My day-to-day usage included at least couple of hours internet browsing, background messaging apps like Slack and Messenger, and a few hours of gaming and multimedia streaming. Perhaps on moderate-to-low usage, you can draw a full day of life.
The smartphone does come with some battery management features like aligning wakeup, which reduces times of phone wakes up, and a clock alignment, which reduces times of phone wake ups during the night. Another solace is that it comes with Quick Charge 2.0 for fast charging, but nonetheless you will need to carry the USB Type C cable or a portable charger all the time.
The fingerprint scanner on the device is quite snappy, and quickly unlocks the smartphone. Though reaching to the fingerprint reader on this big screen phone can be a task, and you may resort to routine power button on the side followed by on-screen passlock to unlock the phone.
LeEco has been extensively advertising the new CDLA standard for audio. The technology is claimed to deliver end-to-end lossless quality. LeEco is offering LeEco USB Type-C CDLA earphones that can be purchased separately for Rs 1,999. The headphones feature built-in CDLA decoders to deliver Hi-Fi audio. I tried the CDLA headphones and found the audio to be more clear and punchy. The headphones are pretty okay for those who love vocals-based music. Try listening to Kailash Kher’s Kailasa album or something similar, and you will love it. But if you like bass-heavy music, these headphones aren’t worth the money you spend. Compare the sound quality through the 3.5mm audio jack on the iPhone 6 and the CDLA on the Le Max2, the former still has the better output, at least in certain genres.
While integrating the CDLA technology, the company has completely removed the 3.5mm audio jack. This makes your existing headphones useless with this smartphones. LeEco is bundling an adapter with the smartphone to address this issue, but it also adds a disclaimer that the CDLA-like lossless quality will not be there. I don’t really see CDLA technology as the compelling factor to buy this smartphone. In fact removal of the 3.5mm audio port is more a hassle than an USP for this smartphone.
We have been hearing for a very long time that Apple is planning on ditching the 3.5mm audio jack to support audio transfer through Lightning port on its future iPhones. OPPO has already done this with its Oppo R5 smartphone, and recently Motorola’s Moto Z too did the same. The trend makes it very clear that the 3.5mm audio is soon going to be passe. But that’s in the future. Right now there’s hardly an ecosystem evolved for this technology, and there’s a dearth of good quality affordable USB Type-C based headphones.
I have one basic problem with USB Type-C based or any similar standard based headphones. How do I charge the smartphone while listening to music from a USB Type C headphones ? Should I wait for the device to charge enough and then plug in the headphones? Yeah, sure.
The LeEco Le Max2 with 6GB of RAM is a powerhouse but then you really don’t need to pay Rs 7,000 extra to have the same experience. The CDLA tech may be futuristic, but right now it’s more of a hurdle than an advantage. The poor battery life is something unforgivable for a smartphone at this price point. Priced at Rs 23,000 approximately, the 4GB RAM variant could have been a better option given the smartphone, if it had more storage or a microSD card slot.
If you really want to try out the CDLA audio, and are okay with ‘paltry’ 4GB of RAM, you should go for the lower variant of the Le Max2. And if you are adamant on having a 6GB RAM smartphone, you might also want to consider the OnePlus 3, which has 6GB of RAM and Snapdragon 820 processor, and costs Rs 2,000 less — Rs 27,999.