820 Critics, the LeTV Max Pro is not the Phone You’re Looking For

820 Critics, the LeTV Max Pro is not the Phone You’re Looking For

But the one you would like to see anyways

The LeTV Max Pro. You’ve probably heard of it by now, yet not because the brand itself brings any excitement, but because of its chipset. At Qualcomm‘s CES press conference this year, the company officially unveiled the first smartphone containing its highly anticipated Snapdragon 820 SoC.

Credits: DeviceCustomizer

Credits: DeviceCustomizer

That’s right, the Chinese company LeTV’s new “superphone” claimed the title as the first Snapdragon 820-powered device. Android bloggers flocked like vultures to LeTV’s booth at Pepcom’s Digital Experience event to experience the first ever Snapdragon 820 phone, with the phone itself attracting very little interest. Many people tried to test the LeTV Max Pro (or rather, the Snapdragon 820), by downloading benchmarking apps (seriously, there were a lot of them in the Downloads app) and measuring the performance with the built-in developer options. But in the rush to be the first one to test out the Snapdragon 820, many people are overlooking the fact that the LeTV Max Pro is not the phone you’re looking for.

Technology Specs
Display 6.33″, 2560×1440 resolution LCD display @ 464 ppi
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
GPU Adreno 530
Camera 21MP back camera + 4MP front facing camera
RAM 4GB LP-DDR4
ROM 64GB/128GB
OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Battery 3400 mAh
Connectivity 802.11 ad/ac/a/b/g/n WiFi
VoLTE & Le HiFi
Features Snapdragon Sense ID

3D Fingerprint Recognition

IR Blaster

Qualcomm hit a bit of a rough patch in 2015 thanks to events surrounding the Snapdragon 810. Regardless of whether or not the accusations of overheating were true, Qualcomm’s reputation among the Android enthusiast community took a nosedive. It’s entirely expected that users are keeping their eyes glued to the screen for any news whatsoever about how Qualcomm’s latest offering will perform on the next generation of smartphones that we’ll soon own. But if you truly want to find out how the Snapdragon 820 will perform, you shouldn’t base your opinion on just the LeTV Max Pro, lest we return to the same situation of FUD that surrounded the 810.


Throttling this Phone with no Survivors

Credits: Andrew Cunningham/Ars Technica

Credits: Andrew Cunningham/Ars Technica

Let’s return to the early months of 2015, when rumors surfaced that Samsung was avoiding the 810 for its Galaxy S6 series due to overheating problems. Around this time, the speculation that Qualcomm was providing a faulty chip that overheated certainly seemed plausible. After all, phones such as the LG G Flex 2, HTC One M9, and the Sony Xperia Z4, all experienced overheating and subsequent throttling issues after benchmarks that other phones didn’t seem to suffer from. These phones all carried the same chipset, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810, and so in order to test the Snapdragon 810 itself, Android bloggers tested multiple phones carrying the chip to come to their conclusions. Such a methodology appears scientific, but there is one huge, glaring flaw in this test. You are not only testing the performance of the SoC, but of the entire phone as a package. There is no real way to just test the Snapdragon 810 itself in these phones without also testing the phone’s internal hardware design and the OEM’s specific kernel configuration to manage the CPU/GPU performance.

Credits: Whitson Gordon/LifeHacker

Credits: Whitson Gordon/LifeHacker

Now, you might stop and say “what about desktop CPU/GPU benchmarking, aren’t those objectively testing performance?” For the most part, those tests, albeit on different hardware configurations across various tech blogs, do give you an accurate picture of the system’s performance. But these tests have a distinct advantage over phone benchmarks in that the custom built desktops have a wide variety of options to handle the heat generated by the chip, and most custom builds made for benchmarking purposes don’t heavily customize the kernel responsible for managing the processor speed.

On a phone, however, the way heat escapes the device depends entirely on how the manufacturer designs the phone’s body (inside and out), what materials they use, and what software changes they made to the kernel for managing the cores. These are powerful SoCs crammed into a small body that fits into the palm of your hand, and it’s up to the OEMs to make sure their end user’s experience isn’t affected negatively by their choices. Indeed, we’ve seen how phones released in the later months of 2015, such as the Google Nexus 6P and Sony Xperia Z5, fared with the same Snapdragon 810 chipset. On the other hand, phones such as the OnePlus 2 benchmarked rather poorly compared to its other Snapdragon 810 cousins. It is not Qualcomm’s decision how these OEMs design the phone or software, but it is in their best interest to ensure that OEMs do it right.

The thermals of the Snapdragon 810 were known to Google and were of some concern. Qualcomm attached a team of engineers to help control thermals and supplied Google with a third version of the Snapdragon 810 – reddit user sylocheed, relaying a statement made by Google engineers at the New York Nexus event

Sony Added a Second Heat Pipe for the Z5

Sony Added a Second Heat Pipe for the Z5

Thus, when you see the inevitable benchmarks and reviews of the LeTV Max Pro claiming that they’ve uncovered the true nature of the Snapdragon 820, take it with a grain of salt. Reviewers will be quick to push the new phone to its limits in an attempt to test the SoC, but please keep in mind that an indictment of the 820 based on a review of the Max Pro is only an indictment of the Max Pro itself and its particular. You’ll have to look out for in-depth performance reviews from publications such as Anandtech if you’re interested in seeing objective benchmarking tests of a specific phone. If, for whatever reason, you still want to know how the Snapdragon 820 performs, you’ll need to get your hands on the Qualcomm’s reference platform for developers.

These devices come straight from Qualcomm, without all the bells and whistles put into the design of other smartphones. Although, you’ll have to wait some time for Qualcomm to begin selling these phones/tablets to developers before we can see how it really performs. But even then, for the end user (you) how the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 performs on the development platform is not really relevant. Pay attention to the real world performance of whatever device you’re interested in rather than worrying if the chipset contained within passes every benchmark thrown at it. Every device is constructed and configured differently, so ultimately how one device performs is not indicative of how your device will perform.

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