Hands-on with the first _phone_ to be powered by Qualcomm’s brand-new Snapdragon 820
You might think the first _phone_ to come running Snapdragon's latest mobile chipset would be from a well known brand. Maybe HTC, Sony or even Samsung. I can tell you that it doesn’t. In fact it comes from LeTV, a name I had never heard of until I stepped inside the CES 2016 convention centre.
While it might sound French, LeTV is actually a Chinese OEM along the same lines as Huawei and ZTE. Both of those brands now make impressive phones, so there is no reason why LeTV can’t do the same thing. Along with being the first phone to run the 820 chip, the Le Max Pro is also LeTV’s first attempt to expand out of its native country. Let’s see how it shapes up.
Related: Snapdragon 820 vs 810
Obviously the headline feature here is the Snapdragon 820. It’s made up of four Qualcomm Kyro cores clocked at 2.2 GHz, paired with an Adreno 530 GPU. There’s 4GB RAM too, so multitasking should be smooth.
To be completely honest, if I wasn’t told about this fact before I picked up the Le Max Pro it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind that this phone would be running on some new super-fast processor. Just like nearly every other Android flagship, scrolling through menus, opening up apps and so on is fast. The Le Max Pro doesn’t stick out as being any faster.
But, that’s not to say it isn’t. I could only spend a short amount of time with the device at the brand’s CES booth and I wasn’t able to run any intensive games and fire up our usual suite of benchmarking apps. Real world use could show that the 820 is indeed much faster than its predecessor.
My first impressions of the chip are that yes it’s fast, but not noticeably enough that you'll be able to spot a phone running it without prior knowledge.
It’s not just the processor that’s top of the line, the spec sheet for the Le Max Pro is jammed full of high-end tech. You can pick it up in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB internal storage options and the display measures in at a whopping 6.33-inches. This is one of the biggest smartphones I have ever handled and I wouldn’t even recommend trying to use it with one hand.
The quad-HD panel is big and bright, with nice viewing angles and heaps of detail. It immediately struck me as being far better than the 6-inch 1080p screen on the Huawei Mate 8. The lightning in the demo room was amongst the worst I’ve ever witnessed when doing a hands-on so the fact the panel still managed to look good is big praise.
There’s a lot of comparisons I can make between this phone and many of Huawei’s recent flagships. Notably, the design. The Le Max Pro bares a strong resemblance to the Mate 8, it has the same all metal build, fingerprint scanner placed below the camera sensor on the back and a nearly edge to edge display.
It’s a good looking phone and it’s clearly well made, but this recycled design scheme is starting to feel a bit stale. After playing with the Nextbit Robin, I know that it is possible to do something a bit different and I think that phone will live longer in the memory than the Le Max Pro.
LeTV has also taken a similar approach to Huawei on the software side of things. Instead of opting for a clean build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Google’s operating system has been skinned to within an inch of its life. There’s barely a glimmer of Google here, and that’s a real shame. The notification panel, settings menu and stock apps have all been completely changed and in my opinion for the worse.
Above the square fingerprint scanner on the back – I wasn’t able to test the speed of this, sadly – is a 21MP camera. I snapped a couple of shots and the app seemed to lock on to focus quickly, but the dire lighting made everything come out with a neon blue hue. Thanks to those 21 megapixels I am sure pictures will have plenty of detail, but there’s not really much more I can say at this stage.
The Le Max Pro isn’t the device most were expecting to kick off the reign of the Snapdragon 820, but here we are. I wasn’t immediately blown away by the speeds of the device, but it’s hard to really judge fairly until we’ve spent a lot more time with it. I’m sure this thing will be fast, it’s just a shame LeTV didn’t try to do something different with the design.