Review: Giving LeEco a Second Chance With the Le S3

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Several people took issue when I reviewed the LeEco Le Pro3. They pointed out I was too rough on the company for skinning and bloat apps when these could easily be adjusted by installing a new launcher and remapping the swapped buttons. Let’s ignore that that doesn’t change LeEco’s poor choice of shifting the quick settings from the notification shade to the multi-task window; it’s just not something your average person will do. Still, when I got the Le S3 to review, I told myself I would try that.

Looks good, right? Wrong.

Nope. Sorry, nope. Even with the software customization, this is not a phone for an established Android user. I tried to make this my daily driver three times and failed. There are just too many software differences. Quick launch settings belong in the shade, and task switching views should be clean. As a hardware note, I actually love the buttons on the bezel instead of using up part of my screen, but swapping them was just pointless. It’s a shame because, if not for these few issues, this could be the phone that I would recommend to people.

Why is that? Well, let’s look at what LeEco got right.

The Le S3’s satisfying-to-hold body has the same stunning, almost-but-not-quite edge-to-edge screen as the higher end Pro, the same camera, and strong sound. While the Octo-core chip inside is not as powerful as the one in the Pro, it’s no slouch. I had no stuttering or other issues. The 32 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM is less too (vs 64/4), but the MicroSD slot works fine (and doubles as a SIM slot for dual SIMs, something not enough US phones do). There’s no NFC (why?) or headphone jack again (but USB-C headphones are included). They also include the infrared blaster for universal remotes. That’s a ton of features for $250. That’s a great price that few phones this nice can beat right now (few, mind you–they exist), and even less can with dual SIMs.

Other phones though, don’t butcher their UI.

Keep in mind that this review is totally ignoring every single one of LeEco’s “value added” services (video streaming, backups, other cloud services) because I am reviewing it as I would any other smartphone. All those services from LeEco are neat, but they’re all services you can get from other providers. Sorry, LeEco, but you’re not adding actual value there.

As always, we are left with the ultimate question–should you buy the LeEco Le S3? Should anyone? The great sound and video are strong arguments for it for a first-time user or someone who won’t find the user interface frustrating. Most $250 phones make compromises on the screen, and LeEco did not. Add to that a nice, solid camera (left that out above) and occasional flash sales that have taken it down to $140, and it’s one to watch. As is LeEco, in general, in 2017.

Note: LeEco lent me a Le S3 to review, even after I was so harsh to the Pro. Gotta give respect to people who are not afraid of negative opinions.

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