The Le Pro3 is also a letdown when it comes to imaging performance: Its 16-megapixel rear camera is hit or miss. In bright daylight, it takes crisp, stunning pictures, and I was happy to show off the gorgeous landscapes I shot with it. But in low light, my sample shots turned out muddy and dark while my colleagues' faces looked splotchy in a dimly lit bar. Turning on the flash helped reclaim the lost detail, and because the flash's light is a slightly warm, orangy color, skin tones look particularly rich -- not overexposed and blue, like what you tend to see with cooler bulbs.
It's mostly the same story with the 8-megapixel camera up front, which captures sharp, vibrant selfies in bright light but yields muted colors in poorly lit environments. Too bad there isn't a flash here to save your nighttime portraits.
You can play around with the camera app's various modes to try to improve your shots, but they're a bit hard to find. Four main options are available right below the viewfinder -- Video, Photo, Pano and Slo-mo. Other tools, such as Night mode or HDR, are somewhat hidden. You need to tap the gear icon on the top right of the app, which displays two different panels -- a grid to tweak things like ISO, white balance, shutter sound and timer, and a row of five additional settings below it. That second section is where you'll find HDR, Night, Beauty and Square modes, and it's easy to miss because the eye goes straight to the first set of options.
Performance and battery life
The Pro3's cameras may be disappointing, but its performance exceeded my expectations. Thanks to its 2.35GHz quad-core Snapdragon 821 chip and 4GB of RAM, the Pro3 was generally responsive as I jumped from open app to open app without delay. The phone also kept up with my somewhat maniacal scrolling up and down Engadget's home page in Chrome, pausing occasionally to load images and GIFs. However, there were some small hiccups. The Live app crashed on me the first time I tried to launch it, although that hasn't happened since.
| ||LeEco Le Pro3 ||OnePlus 3 ||Alcatel Idol 4S ||Google Pixel |
|AndEBench Pro ||13,354 ||13,841 ||9,742 ||14,941 |
|Vellamo 3.0 ||6,559 ||5,202 ||4,831 ||5,343 |
|3DMark IS Unlimited ||31,753 ||30,058 ||18,051 ||28,645 |
|GFXBench 3.0 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (fps) ||30 ||48 ||15 ||46 |
|CF-Bench ||42,572 ||41,653 ||75,760 ||30,997 |
The Pro3's benchmark results paint a similar picture. It beat other phones in its class like the OnePlus 3 and the Alcatel Idol 4S on most performance tests. It's worth noting, too, that these devices offer older, slower processors for the same price as the Le Pro3.
OnePlus took the lead on ANDEbench but lost to LeEco in every other round, including the graphics test 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. In that, the Le Pro 3 trashed even top-tier devices like the HTC 10, Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel. The latter uses the same Snapdragon 821 chipset as the Le Pro3 and delivered stronger results in overall performance.
The Pro3's large 4,070mAh battery squeezed out an impressive 10 hours and 44 minutes on Engadget's rundown test, which involves looping a high-definition video at 50 percent brightness. That's longer than the Idol 4S and OnePlus 3 lasted in the same test. Plus, it retains its power when idle. Indeed, I was impressed to find that after a couple days of languishing in my purse, the Le Pro3 was still alive.
Since the Le Pro3 supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, it's supposed to charge 38 percent more efficiently than Quick Charge 2.0, which got most phones to 50 percent in 30 minutes. In general, plugging the phone in for 15 minutes got me to about 30 percent power, which, considering the size of the battery, is pretty decent.
The Le Pro3 goes up against the OnePlus 3, the Alcatel Idol 4S and the ZTE Axon 7, all of which cost about $400. They all have pleasing designs too, though none of them feel as expensive as the Le Pro3.
Android purists may want to stick with the OnePlus 3 or the Idol 4S, both of which run skinned versions of Android but mostly stand by Google's basic navigational features. Fans of virtual reality in particular should consider the Alcatel phone, which comes with its own headset and immersive VR content. The Axon 7 is also a good VR choice, as ZTE promises it will eventually be compatible with Google's Daydream VR platform. It also has a sharper quad HD screen to boot.
If you need a phone that can handle your intense multitasking, the OnePlus 3 is a slightly better option than the Pro3, beating it in most performance tests. But the Pro3 is no slouch either, coming in faster than the Alcatel and ZTE options.
Finally, if you can't live without your favorite wired headphones, you're better off with any of the other three, all of which sport traditional headphone jacks.
The Le Pro3 feels like it costs hundreds more than its $400 asking price, and it performs well for the money too. However, as LeEco's first offering in the US, the Le Pro3 gets some important things wrong. Users here aren't likely to unlearn old habits for a phone that's not much better than similarly priced handsets, so the different software and missing headphone jack are missteps that will cost LeEco customers. I also wish the camera performed better in low light. In spite of all of this, the Le Pro3 is a capable phone that punches above its weight, at least as far as design and performance go.