Smartphones might be the one gadget we’re never without, but you might very well begin to question why they can cost more than your laptop.

Remember the first Moto G? Yes, we keep going on and on about that device, but bear with us - the Moto G was perhaps the first time we got a budget device that made for a pretty smooth experience. And that’s where LeEco’s Le 1S comes in - as an evolution of the same ‘loud-bang-for-a-smallish-buck’ philosophy. Priced at ₹10,999, it’s priced pretty much in the middle of the budget-mid segment, but gives you specs you’d expect from a device priced twice as much… But does it get the user experience right as well? That’s what we’re gonna look at.

Sharp-dressed feller

The Le 1S has to be one of the best-looking devices around - not just in its price bracket, but also beyond (far, far, beyond, in fact). It’s slim, though not absurdly so, the aviation-grade alloy body (which is quickly becoming the next Big Thing for smartphones) feels great in your hand, and the slim bezels make it surprisingly capable of the ‘coffee in one hand so I hope I don’t drop this’ one-hand routine.

Armed to the teeth

It might be a looker but don’t dismiss the 1S as just a pretty face. Inside sits Mediatek’s Helio X10 which has pretty much become the go-to processor for any smartphone company aiming for performance on a budget. It’s fast, and works admirably across the board. Factor in the 3GB RAM and you get a device made for multitaskers - the 1S never seemed to find itself out of sorts, although it does get a bit warm during heavy usage.

There’s a fingerprint scanner as well, and while we’ve seen faster ones, at least the one in the 1S isn’t too finicky about how you place your grubby fingers - we’d wager that’s actually more important in daily usage than shaving off a fraction of a second.

Features galore

We also tried out the IR transmitter of the 1S - something you rarely seen in phones these days, and while you might find the novelty of using your phone to control your appliances wears off soon enough (a multifunction remote is far more usable as you don’t need to keep glancing at the display), it can still come in use once in a while. (We’d advise you to keep the ‘haunted TV’ effect to a minimum when visiting your friends, although it’s perfectly justifiable if they insist on showing you their shaky holiday videos or putting on a Twilight movie). Sadly, Tata Sky or other Indian set-top boxes won’t work, er, out of the box, although there’s a learning mode that you can use to program the remote control app.

As for storage, there’s 32GB on board, with around 24GB free for your apps and music. No, there’s no SD card support, so make sure this is enough for you. Battery life? No worries on that score - even if the 1S doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t let you down. We didn’t have any trouble making it through the end of the day, and thanks to quick charging, a short and sweet top-up kept us going when we used it a lot.

You can’t break this!

Oh, lest we forget to mention, the Le 1S uses USB Type C, which might need you to replace your car charging cables till the standard becomes common, but we cannot overstate the benefits of having a reversible charging plug that won’t break ‘cos you jammed it in the wrong way. (This feature might especially be appreciated by party animals, night owls, morning haters, and those prone to stumbling home after a bit too many at the pub)

Win some, lose some with the display

The 1S’s Full HD, 5.5in display is very sharp, with its tint slightly on the warmer side. Colours are perfectly saturated - just the right amount without going overboard. Sadly, the black levels aren’t as impressive and while you’d excuse an IPS display for not matching up to the deep blacks of AMOLED screens, we have seen other IPS screens do better.

As for the brightness, it seems just fine -even with the very reflective screen -  although the auto-brightness doesn’t pump up the power as much as you’d like it to - necessitating some fiddling with the brightness slider.

Punchy lil camera

The Le 1S has a great camera - and does well in bright conditions - colours and contrast are on the deeper side, and close-ups look nice. However, low-light conditions mean plenty of noise or a slow shutter speed. Overall, the camera is perfectly fine for this end of the market and you won’t find us complaining too much.

Initial impressions

You’ll find better camera performance if you move up slightly, and the display is average, but if you crave performance and smooth as silk multitasking, you’re gonna have to pretty pay a lot more. As of now, the LeEco Le 1S is one helluva phone at one helluva price - with the features, performance, and overall feel to satisfy pretty much everyone. Along with the OnePlus X, this has to be one of the best buys under 20K!