To the casual techie consumer in India, LeTV is a completely unknown brand. However, things may change in the coming year, since the company is going all out by launching not just smartphones, but 3D helmets, electric Super bikes and a lot more. But that again is just a tiny part of a much bigger picture.
In China, LeTV is know for its ‘LeTV Ecosystem’, which is an online platform with content, devices and applications. Naturally, with so much content at hand, it is obvious that its products become the tools to consume media.
Facts aside, Qualcomm also announced the LeTV Le Max Pro at CES 2016, touted as the world’s first smartphone to sport the beastly Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset. Clearly, this puts LeTV as a smartphone manufacturer in the spotlight.
But when we got our hands on the LeTV Le Max smartphone, we thought of it as “just another smartphone from another Chinese smartphone maker”. But at 6.3-inch display, it is more phablet than a smartphone and it does not pack in a stylus, so its size dosen’t really seem welcoming; since a 5.5 inch display is clearly the modern day limit for smartphones.
Still then, there is plenty to explore out here, not just with the hardware but with LeTV’s software as well. So without delay, here are our first impressions of the LeTV Le Max.
Design and build
The LeTV Le Max is a massive smartphone with an abnormally large footprint that remind us of the monstrous Nokia Lumia 1520. However, the company’s engineers seem to have done a splendid job with both display and the construction, which has resulted in ultra-thin side bezels and a display that takes up almost 85 percent of the front face of the smartphone. In fact, the LeTV Le Max sports one of the best screen to body ratios that we have seen so far.
Like with most flagship smartphones these days, the Le Max sports an all-metal body that comes with a brushed metal finish. The front face shows off the massive 6.3-inch Quad HD display, with the receiver at the top flanked by the proximity and ambient light sensor on the left and the front facing camera on the right.
At the bottom we have the standard set up of capacitive buttons which consist of the Recent, Home and the Back key. On the back, we have the centered 21MP primary camera with the secondary mic above and the dual tone flash on the right. Below the camera set up sits the fingerprint reader, which was pretty quick at reading prints.
We have a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top accompanied with the IR Port (for using the phone as a TV remote) while the bottom bit is taken up by the speaker grilles on each side with a USB Type-C port placed at the centre.
The left side of the smartphone shows off the mechanical toggle switch for profile switching and the volume rocker below it, while the right side hosts the dual SIM tray.
Also visible on the right is the Wireless HD cutout, which is basically a gap for the antenna for wireless streaming. Below it, sits the power/unlock button which had no travel whatsoever.
For a phone that focusses on content, the display needs to be a really good one and LeTV’s engineers seem to have pulled of great one indeed. The 6.3-inch display sports a Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels) array that delivers well-balanced colour reproduction and great viewing angles. The images look sharp and for now the videos look great as well, with sufficiently deep blacks that almost seem to merge with the bezels. But we will need to see how the phone display looks outdoors to get a complete idea about the display.
Chipset, RAM, Storage
A good display needs some good horse power to push all the those pixels, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 seems to be a worthy contender. The Le Max sports a 2.0 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 810 chipset with the Adreno 430 running the graphics and the multi-tasking handled by the 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM module. Internal storage for our review unit was limited to 64GB and the smartphone does not pack in support for external storage.
During our hands-on, we noticed no lag whatsoever while browsing, opening apps and even multi-tasking.
Keeping the content services in mind, LeTV has done a good job with the software. Our hands-on with the device showcased software that allowed for plenty of customisations. the Le Max runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) with the EUI (Eco User Interface) skinning that delivers plenty of useful touches that can be found throughout the UI. Like for example, the keypad grid for the lockscreen will show up on the right or the left side, depending on where you swipe up to unlock.
Another well thought of feature, especially since the device packs in a gigantic display, is the ability to change the scaling; something that lets users display more lines of text on a larger display. The recents menu seems thoroughly customised and showcases not just the apps that are open, but also a selection of settings that somehow remind us of the Control Center on an iPhone.
Coming to connectivity, LeTV has literally packed in everything it could find. You get a MHL 3.0, USB Type C, 3.5mm audio jack, Wireless HDMI, 4G bands, WiFi 802.11ac/a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1 with APT-X, GPS, an IR blaster and finally NFC.
Since the LeTV Le Max is our first LeTV smartphone, we really did not know what to expect from the built-in camera. The Le Max sports a 21MP primary camera with a dual-tone LED flash on the back and an 4MP front-facing unit for selfies. The 21MP rear-facing unit packs in a Sony IMX230 Sensor, OIS, f/2.0 aperture and even dual ISP support. The 4MP unit up front comes from OmniVision (OV4688 sensor) and is accompanied by a 81.6-degree wide-angle lens.
The camera software packed in the standard modes (HDR, Scene modes) and what was missing was a manual or pro mode with shutter speed control and the rest. In our initial tests the image quality was up to the mark with the software and hardware producing well-saturated and sharp images. Video quality was good enough while recording in the Full HD but pumping up the resolution to 4K saw the camera struggle to lock focus while panning. Still then, this was a just a short hands-on under controlled light conditions. We still need to see how it performs outdoors and in different light situations. So do look out for an in-depth analysis in our full review.
The LeTV Le Max sports a non-removable 3400mAh battery. Somehow we all felt that it was a bit small considering its mammoth size, but it can be attributed to the device’s weight, which is why we think it was justified. Anything bigger than a 3400mAh battery would have certainly made the large Le Max a heavyweight indeed. How long it will last, we can only confirm after our detailed review.
As mentioned earlier in the article, LeTV is a new brand for the Indian smartphone market. But considering that many others who have entered India have been successful at setting up shop, it goes to show that consumers are open to new brands. With the specs that easily fall in flagship territory, the Le Max’s success indeed depends on its price.
For now, that is something that has yet to be revealed and we can expect the same to be announced at LeTV’s 20 January smartphone launch event. In our limited hands-on, the LeTV Le Max proved to be a capable smartphone that packs in commendable software as well. Still then, we have yet to put it through its paces before we can truly recommend it as a true phablet-sized flagship.