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TCL Mobile is part of TCT, which also owns TCL Display. It is also the parent company of Alcatel, BlackBerry, and Palm. Rather than continuing to manufacture phones for these brands, TCL wants to start using its own name. Last year, the company launched the TCL Plex in Europe, which left a very positive impression. For 2020, TCL decided to double its efforts by launching the TCL 10L and 10 Pro both in Europe and for the first time in the U.S.
At (Check on Amazon) the TCL 10L offers good value for money, with good processing power and above-average battery life. Where TCL didn’t cut any corners is with the display. The TCL 10L features an excellent LCD panel that can rival those found on more expensive phones.
The question is: can a great display make up for this cheap device’s inevitable shortcomings? Sold at the same price, the Motorola Moto G8 Power (Check on Amazon) offers far better autonomy and sleeker design, making it the better buy.
TCL 10L – Design
The TCL 10L isn’t ugly, but it lacks the sophistication you get with the Motorola Moto G8 Power. The plastic back panel feels thin and cannot be mistaken for glass. The camera module is chunky and protrudes quite a bit while the fingerprint sensor placed under the cameras and above the company logo seems an afterthought. All of these seem to be minor problems, but they add up fast.
However, the materials and build quality are good; the back of the phone is pleasantly curved and glossy. It’s a fingerprint magnet, that’s true, but it’s a compromise I’m willing to make to have a cheap smartphone that looks nice.
The phone measures 6.39×2.98×0.33in. It’s a hair taller than the Moto G8 Power but at 180g it weighs much less, which makes it more comfortable to hold in your hand for long periods of time.
At the top rear, you will find a horizontal quad-camera module with dual-flash. The module protrudes similarly to the module on last year’s Samsung Galaxy S10e. At least it’s symmetrical and I personally prefer a horizontal to vertical distribution.
Underneath, the fingerprint sensor seems ugly but works much better than many optical sensors we find on more expensive phones.
The device has three buttons. The classic power button and volume rocker are on the right while on the left there is a Smart Key. This is a programmable button that can launch apps or activate modes and functions via a short press, double press or a long press.
Along the bottom edge, there is a Type-C USB port and two grills, one hiding the speaker and the other the microphone. TCL uses two grills to create a symmetrical look, which I really appreciate, just don’t think it comes with two speakers.
Other notable features are the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0 and apt-X audio, the 3.5mm headphone jack — always a welcome surprise — and NFC for mobile payments.
Our main problem with this phone is its durability: the 10L does not have an official IP rating (the Moto G8 Power is at least splash-resistant) and our test unit scratched easily. Luckily TCL includes a transparent protective case and while it’s not of the highest quality, it’s nice to have until you get a sturdier one.
TCL 10L — Display
It’s the 6.53-inch LCD panel with a 2,340×1,080 pixel resolution and a 19.5:9 aspect ratio that dominates the looks of the TCL 10L. The screen looks sharp, color accuracy is perfect, viewing angles are good and it’s bright enough to see in direct sunlight.
The edges around it are thinner than you’d expect from a phone at this price range, at least on the sides; the bottom edge is a tad thicker, but nothing to be ashamed of. This way the phone boasts a screen to body ratio of 91%!
The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and the device comes with a pre-applied plastic screen protector. Despite helping protect it from scratches, I’ve found that taking it off improves the display’s visibility, particularly outdoors.
TCL owns a display company — it is in fact the second-largest TV maker in the world! – so the screen is the real reason for buying this phone.
TCL displays have a function called NxtVision. This proprietary technology promises better upscaling of SDR content to HDR and photos and videos that are easy on the eyes. There is also a reading mode that makes the screen look like paper (use it sparingly though since it gives everything a yellowish tint). Last but not least Eye Comfort Mode removes 66 percent of blue light to reduce eye fatigue even more.
Nevertheless, it cannot match the quality of an OLED panel, but for the price, this display is really great. It can reproduce, for example, 122.1% of the sRGB color spectrum (in the default Vivid mode); a much higher percentage than the Moto G8 Power LCD panel capable of just 97%, and has a Delta-E rating of 0.22, compared to Moto’s 0.33 (numbers closer to zero are better).
Our only complaint here is that the screen is not very bright. Its maximum brightness of 450 nits is less than the 500 nits of the Moto G8 Power.
As we said before there is only one speaker. Its maximum volume was measured at 90dB, which is loud enough for conference calls, but its audio quality is quite poor, particularly at high volumes. In addition, the single speaker is unable to create an immersive sound stage, the timbre is blurry and muddy, and the mid to highs sound tiny.
The biggest problem is that when you hold your phone in landscape mode, your hand inevitably covers the speaker, toning down the sound.
Thankfully you can always use a pair headphones and there’s also FM radio if you connect a wired pair. Alternatively, TCL phones support “Super Bluetooth”, which allows you to connect up to four Bluetooth speakers or headphones simultaneously and reproduce music on all of them.
TCL 10L — Camera
Whenever a new manufacturer enters the phone market, the camera is often the deciding factor. It usually takes years to code and fine-tune image processing software. However TCL surprised us here; the colors are oversaturated, at least for me, but otherwise, they’re more than decent.
It’s also surprising to find a quad-camera module on a phone that costs less than $250 when the iPhone SE and Pixel 3a continue to have only one lens.
TCL did, though, make a critical mistake with the 10L’s cameras: it opted for a macro lens rather than a telephoto one. It is equipped, in fact, with a 48MP main camera (captures 12-megapixel images by default), an 8MP ultra-wide lens, a 2MP macro lens, and a depth sensor that helps with Portrait mode. The front camera uses a 16MP sensor.
There is a slight shutter delay, so we recommend holding the phone still for a second after taking a shot, otherwise, you’ll get a blurry result.
In good lighting conditions, the primary sensor captures good shots. The photos show an excellent depth of field and good color accuracy. At full resolution, a loss of clarity may be observed, but you will not notice this flaw on your phone or social media.
The ultra-wide lens loses some details and shows some distortion on the edges, but these photos are also easily shareable.
The macro lens is disappointing; the photos look flat and lack clarity.
The photo quality in low light conditions depends on the photographer. The 48MP lens can take decent shots if you have a steady hand. Unfortunately, since this device does not have a Night mode most of our photos were grainy and fuzzy, lacked the depth of field, and showed considerable noise on the edges. And the results were even worse using the ultra-wide lens.
The Moto G8 Power doesn’t have a Night mode also, and while its photos are just as blurry, they show much less noise.
Selfies in good lighting conditions are OK, with good depth of field and color accuracy. Portrait mode, however, shows irregular halos and blurring around the subjects. At least the bokeh effect is decent.
The 10L can capture 1080p video at 120 fps or 4K at 30 fps and there is also a slow-motion mode. Unfortunately, the device doesn’t have optical image stabilization and the electronic one doesn’t do much. Anyhow, video quality is still acceptable to show to friends or post on social media.
TCL 10L – Software
The 10L comes with Android 10 and TCL’s UI skin on top. We prefer stock Android; that said, TCL’s UI adds some interesting features like the Smart Key, Nxtvision, and Super Bluetooth that we talked about before.
Other advanced features include the Edge Bar, a shortcut bar for quick access to apps and functions, gestures to interact with notifications, Game mode to block notifications, and the one-handed mode.
In addition to Google’s productivity apps, TCL adds its own (Gallery, Video, and Music, duplicating Google ones), which are well designed, but also superfluous, something that doesn’t happen with the Moto G8 Power which runs a leaner, purer version of Android.
While we don’t yet know many details about Android 11, TCL has committed to at least one major update. Beyond that, it is unclear if this device will receive another update. It will still get bi-monthly updates for security patches and whatnot, for at least 24 months though.
TCL 10L – Performance
The 10L comes equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal memory expandable via a microSD card.
The Snapdragon 665 is a SoC designed for phones like this one: it’s affordable and offers the perfect mix between performance and efficiency. This means that the TCL 10L runs buttery smooth. The amount of RAM is very good — especially at this price — and makes switching between apps a pretty smooth experience. However, using eMMC 5.1 memory instead of UFS 2.1 has an impact on load times, and this is very noticeable when starting up the phone.
During gaming, the 10L performed surprisingly well. Load times are a tad slow, but we tested the phone with PUBG: Mobile and didn’t experience any problems. The framerate can sometimes drop momentarily, but the gameplay didn’t suffer.
In terms of benchmarks, the TCL 10L scored the kind of results we would expect from a phone with its specs. On PCMark Work 2.0, a test that emulates typical smartphone usage, the 10L scored 6,600 points, beating the more expensive Samsung Galaxy A51 (5,432), but losing to the Moto G8 Power (6,750) which uses the same processor.
In Geekbench 5, which measures overall performance, the TCL 10L’s multicore score of 1,350 was just behind the Moto G8 Power (1,385).
On paper, the 10L should be faster than the Moto G8 Power, since the latter only has 4GB of RAM. In practice, though, the G8 Power fared much better during benchmarks, probably due to Moto running a cleaner version of Android.
However, the TCL 10L beat the G8 Power in some graphics tests. In 3DMark’s OpenGL Sling Shot Extreme, the TCL 10L scored 1.785 points, thus beating the Moto G8 Power (1,705).
The processor also struggled and lagged for a few seconds each time we switched between the various camera lenses.
In our battery test, which consists of HD video playback over Wi-Fi at full brightness, the 10L’s 4,000mAh battery lasted 10 hours. This result is average among modern phones but far behind the Moto G8 Power (which lasted for more than 16 hours) which currently offers the best autonomy ever.
However, no one will be disappointed with the autonomy of the 10L. With normal use, it will easily last for a day and with moderate use, it can even reach 2 full days.
The 10L does not support fast charging and thus takes 2.5 hours to charge from scratch. At least it uses a USB-C port rather than micro USB.
TCL 10L — Verdict
What is more important for you, the screen or the battery? Your answer will tell you what the TCL 10L is worth to you.
The TCL 10L features a great display, especially for a device that only costs (Check on Amazon). If your typical use consists of watching videos, playing games, and spending countless hours on social media, then the TCL 10L is a great phone.
It’s not like the battery life or the cameras are lackluster… however, there are other cheap phones that fair better in those areas. The Motorola Moto G8 Power (Check on Amazon) is the best among them. The choice is yours.