Letv Le 1s – Premium Hardware for $200

Positives
  • Amazing Build Quality
  • Good Camera
  • Bright Display
  • USB Type C Fast Charge
Negatives
  • Average Battery Life
  • Implementation of Android is Terrible

Crazy things are happening in China when it comes to Smartphones, the low end is replacing the midrange and now $200 devices are the same quality as $400 handsets. Letv (pronounced “L-E-T-V”) or its Le (“luh”) brand of phones are essentially unknown outside of China. If you have heard of them it’s likely because they are referred to as the Netflix of China, their first phone came with a 1 year subscription to the video streaming service. The Letv 1s is their 3rd handset and it’s great value for the build quality, we picked ours up from EFox shop who is selling it for 194 euro.

Hardware – Premium All the Way

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When you take the Letv 1s into your hand you could easily believe that HTC built this smartphone. It’s industrial design feels top tier and completely solid. The metal chassis and sharp yes comfortably sculpted lines. It barely has a bezel when the display is off and when it’s on it’s a little larger than you expect it to be at around 3-4mm. The single piece of gorilla glass 4 on the front is sleek and the hardware buttons don’t light up until you press them, which can take some getting used to if you can’t remember which side the back or multitask is on. (It’s multitask on the left and back on the right in case you’re wondering).

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Along the sides we’ve got a two tone finish which is fine, it’s meant to make the device look slimmer, I’m not sold on the concept, but it does look good. On the right hand side we have the power and volume rocker, on the left the dual SIM tray which doesn’t double as a microSD card slot if you’re not using the second SIM (which is a shame). The top has a headphone jack and the bottom has a next generation USB Type C connector which is great for charging and transfer speeds, but the battery life isn’t long enough and you’ll be hard pressed to find a type C connector in the wild right now. The USB is surrounded by speakers on either side which provide average underwhelming sound.

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The rear holds a finger print sensor which is very stylish looking and a 13MP camera (5MP on the front). The sensor is fast and reliable, it doesn’t vibrate to let you know the display is unlocked, it just unlocks the display.

LeTV Le 1S Specifications

– 5.5-inch FHD In cell LCD display
– 64-bit MediaTek Helio X10 MT6795 octa-core processor
– PowerVRG6200 GPU
– 3GB RAM
– 32GB ROM
– NO MicroSD slot
– 13MP (main) / 5MP (secondary) camera
– Dual-SIM
– 4G LTE
– USB OTG (TBC)
– Android 5.1 Lollipop/eUI 5.5
– 3,000mAh non-removable battery
– Fingerprint sensor

Finger Print Reader

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You can My only complaint is that I wish I could register the side of my finer. You need a significant of finger contact to register a pattern. I’m sure you know if you’ve used finder print sensors in the past that sometime the side of your finger is more prominent than the pad. This is being picky, if you place your finger on the sensor it opens in under a second. It’s a very good experience.

Display – It’s Stunning

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Letv is using some relatively new display technology in the 1s, In-cell LCD has just started to make it’s way into mass production, both Sharp and & LG have In cell LCD solutions. Typically, smartphone displays are constructed from two layers. One layer for the actual light emitting parts, such as the LCD, with a separate touch recognition layer placed on top to detect user inputs. In-cell isn’t a new idea in the mobile market, but the latest version allows panel thickness to be reduced by around 1mm. This in-cell display technology integrates the two parts into the same layer, with touch sensor circuitry and LCD drive circuitry sitting side by side in the LCD module. This may not seem like a big deal, but relatively speaking this reduces the display size by 25%. Decreasing the distance from the back light to the display surface also increases the brightness and color reproduction of the display.

The Letv 1s boasts a brightness of 500 nits and I can confirm that the color accuracy, saturation are very good. Sub $200 smartphones often have cheap display’s that give them away, there is nothing about this display that is budget. Wide viewing angles and great brightness, the only fault that I find is with the UI, it does a terrible job and showing off the 1080p display, you need to load on your own media to get a sense of what is possible.

Software – It sucks..Big Time

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I’m not sure why companies insist on making their own UI if they have no idea what they’re doing. Vanilla Android is wonderful, in fact people would go even crazier for the device if they didn’t do a single thing to the software. The list of things wrong with EUI is so long it makes me want to hug a pillow and ask it why.

The UI scaling is off, the icons aren’t sharp and switching between zoom and standard mode doesn’t do much except change the number of rows and columns available. The notification bar doesn’t have a quick launch tasks and it doesn’t give you access to the settings. The settings button doesn’t take you to settings, it provides a separate list of the notification and allows you to access each apps individual settings. Why I would want this I don’t know. If I’m being honest, the notification area is best at highlighting preloaded spam, which there is quite a lot. DuBattery Saver & CleanMaster have ‘cleaned’ up their act when it comes to privacy issues, but I still think spam every time I see them preloaded on a device.

If you take a look at the multitasking page, this is where they’ve basically put everything you’d usually want in the notification bar. It’s a beautiful and well designed page, it’s clear that the notifications areas is exclusively for this activity and they’ve bundled in phone interactions together. It’s different and it left me wanting to download launchers and apps to alter the status bar.

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If we move past the look and feel of the UI and accept that it’s Android and there for customizable, you’re going to have to do a few things to make the Letv 1s more seamless. The GoogleNow launcher won’t show up as an option in the Homescreen’s I can select (pain! I don’t know why it won’t show up!) So I’ve gone with Nova launcher, which I love, but the problem is that most launchers don’t actually do anything about your notification bar. You need to download a separate app for that, I’ve gotten several suggestions I like Widgetsoid the best.

Camera

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The Letv 1s takes photos well above it’s weight class, they are vibrant and it’s capable of a good amount of detail. It offers a few tricks like Slow Motion video which works fairly well but I wasn’t able to get the panorama mode to work. Press the button and move the camera, hold it down move the camera, if it’s not one of these two they need to rethink their camera trigger.

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The camera UI is basic and full of functionality, timer, voice control, exposure, white balance & ISO.

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Edited with Snapseed

After some editing I was able to post some really great photos, the 13MP shooter was able to handle back lighting. What I did have to watch out for was the swing in the exposure. If you take a look at these series of photos of JD the dog we rescued on our road trip through Taiwan last summer the Taipei 101 disappears if I tap to focus on the wrong part of the image.

The front facing shooter is 5MP and comes with a beauty mode which I tested out for you, you can see the different effects and degree of ‘beauty’ that my face experience. I didn’t get a great night sleep last night so I can’t tell if this is doing a good job or not! Lol

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Sound

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The speakers are located at the bottom of the handset and offer tinny but loud sound. If you’re looking to share a video or play a bit of music for a few friends, you’ll be able to do it, I just don’t think the quality of the sound would make it a permanent solution. With many phones I’ll forget to turn on my bluetooth speaker in the morning, I never forgot once with during the week I spent reviewing this smartphone. Call quality was acceptable though I did have to turn the volume all the way up the first time I received a call.

Performance

The MediaTek X10 Helio X10 MT6795 is an octa-core processor running at 2.2GHz with 3GB or RAM and a PowerVRG6200 GPU. The UI has been the biggest problem with the device, but even though the interface has been unacceptable in design it’s never once stuttered. The only performance issue that I came across was Facebook froze and crashed a few times. This could be the app, but it’s not something that I’ve encountered often on any device.

The mobile chip supports MediaTek’s CorePilot technology that allows all of the 8 cores to work at their maximum capability when needed and thus boosts the overall performance even further. Not only that, but it also helps lower the energy consumption and according to MediaTek keeps lower outer temperatures.

Benchmark wise if we just look at AnTuTu and what average processors scores look like, the MediaTek Helio X10 Turbo MT6795T processor scored 50,958 points on Antutu benchmark test. The Exynos 7420 octa-core processor scored the highest with 61,000 points followed by Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor with approximately 55,000 points. The Snapdragon 801 processor is further behind with about 42,000 while the Hisilicon Kirin 935 scored the lowest around 40,00 points.

Here are some other benchmarks to give you an idea of how the MediaTek X10 performs in the Letv 1s.

Battery Life

You’ll get through the day, but towards the end of the day you’ll be down to 20% which is acceptable, but since I left the USB type C connector at the office I had to turn the phone off at night to make sure that I had enough juice to make it to the office. This 20% got me through my work out at the gym streaming Soundcloud but shut down before I got to work. It’s all day battery life, but you will need to charge every night, you will never find your self in a situation where you get into a habit of charging at the office if you forget to plug in at night. This works for everyone, but big battery life like this is what you’ll often find on premium devices, and since the Letv 1s feels so premium it’s easy to forget this is a $173 handset not $600.

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Typically when I checked the screen on time 25% of the charge meant 1 hour and 36 minutes.

When battery life isn’t as big as you’d like a premium feature is present the Type C connector and cable provided offer 24W connector which is capable of 3A out, so 5min of charging using the provided or fast charge hardware will give you 3.5 hours of call time off 5min of charging.

Verdict

The Letv is hitting well about it’s weight class in terms of build quality, display, design and camera. It’s all metal chassis is flawless in construction and has raised the bar on what a $175 smartphone looks like. Where it falls short is battery life which is great if you’re a light user and the software is a disaster. You’re going to need to heavily modify the UI to make it easier to navigate.

You’re going to need to use a launcher and put in a new status bar the amazing price tag makes the time investment into tweaking your phone an easy decision.

 

Rating
Design / 8
Camera / 7.5
Sound / 7
Performance / 8
Battery Life / 7
Software / 4
Price / 9
Editor's Choice / 8
Hardware / 9
Display / 8.3

The Letv 1s has a sturdy all metal chassis with a decent camera and bright display, you'll be hard pressed to find a $173 dollar Smartphone with as good a built. You're just going to have to put up with crappy software and average battery life.

7.6
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