TCL. A name you probably know from televisions more than anything else, perhaps some sponsorship of sports, but for me it’s the name that’s been behind Alcatel-branded budget mobiles for years. However, TCL has lauched its own branded phones now, and we’ve been impressed with the first few that we’ve seen. Chris reviewed the TCL Plex just over a year ago and quite liked it, but 12 months is a long time.

The TCL 10L is now here, and we’re taking a look. It marks a continued push into the mid-range of the mobile market, somewhere that Oppo and Samsung have taken a commanding lead in.

Can the TCL 10L hold its own, and stand up to the incumbents in this space?

The design and what’s in the box

The TCL 10L comes in a simple box and is akin to what we see with any smartphone packaging from say OPPO, Nokia and more.

Inside the box comes the device itself, SIM Tray tool, soft plastic cover, 1 metre USB-C cord, wired earbuds and an 10W charging base.

Design wise of the TCL 10L, it certainly is something quite interesting. The front the 10L is the 6.53 inch IPS LCD display (1080 x 2340) that is almost edge to edge display. There are some bezels but it is hardly noticeable around the edges. The display is very bright, clear and not overly ambitious, though thanks to TCL’s own NXTVISION which it has developed with it’s display technology, it certainly seems to be able to provide a pleasant user experience and viewing.

The front display also houses the front facing 16MP camera which is a punch hole design located towards the top left hand side of the display.

The left hand side houses the dual-SIM and MicroSD card tray and like other dual SIM capable devices, if you wish to use a second SIM, you won’t be able to utilise a MicroSD card. Given most of the photos and work I do on the cloud, I don’t see this as a problem but can see some users potentially having issues with this.

Just below the dual SIM/MicroSD card tray is a dedicated ‘smart key’ button that can be used for activating the Google Assistant, camera, to other services, or TCL’s NXT display that helps ensure you get the most of the display when watching movies or playing games.

The top of the TCL 10L comes with the 3.5mm audio jack for those who still prefer to use hard-wired earbuds or headphones. Also the front top speaker is located more so between the top of this display and top side of the device in the middle and to the right is one of 2 microphones that ensure background noise is mitigated and enable that you can be heard by the caller on the other end in a loud environment.

The right hand side is located the volume rocker (up/down) and standby/power off button

On the rear of the device,which seems to be made from a glossy glass like plastic, we find the quad camera set up in a housing that stretches from the right to the left and is very much different to what we tend to see with most other devices, with the cameras mainly being either contained to the centre or left hand side. The quad camera set up is made up of a 48MP main camera, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro and a 2MP depth lens. To each side of the cameras are LED flashlights, meaning these are dual LED flashlights to get the best pictures possible in low light.

Just under the camera is located the rear fingerprint sensor which I have to admit I do prefer over under display sensors as these in my opinion work far better than the under display sensors.

The bottom of the TCL 10L are the dual speakers to either side of the USB-C port which is located dead in the middle. It is also important to note that there isn’t any wireless charging available so if you’re like me and find wireless charging a little helpful might want to look elsewhere.

Under the hood

The TCL 10L is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 Processor with an octa-core Qualcomm® Kryo 260 (4 x Gold 2.0GHz, 4 x Silver 1.8GHz) CPU and Adreno 610 GPU.

When it comes to multi-tasking, the TCL 10L could handle pretty much anything I could throw at it, going between my various email apps, Facebook, Instagram and chrome tabs quite well, though when playing games, I did notice that starting apps and playing games like asphalt 9 Legends or PUBG that there were occasions where the graphics seemed a little jump and not as crisp as what promotional video shots, but to be honest I didn’t expect much when it came to trying to play graphic intensive games.

In terms of memory, there are two versions and the device I was reviewing came with 6GB RAM along with 64GB on-board storage. The other version which is available comes with 6GB RAM and 128GB on-board storage. Of course this can be expanded to 256GB via MicroSD card.

The TCL 10L is powered fully by a 4,000mAh non removable battery which can last the day with some medium to high usage, with the battery having up to 60% to 75% or so with normal battery saving mode which is pretty good. There is of course the bundled 10W battery charger which is ok but no super fast charge, as when I did drain the battery to about 20%, it did take a couple of hours to charge to 100% battery life.

Lights, Camera, Action

The TCL 10L comes with a quad camera set up on the rear, with a 48MP main camera, 8MP ultrawide, 2MP macro and a 2MP depth lens. The camera set up certainly has quite a set up and photos taken with the rear camera are quite good.

Camera modes settings available for both the rear and front cameras include auto, video, portrait, super macro, pro, high pixel, stop motion, slow-mo, light trace and pano modes. There is also approximately 10 pre installed filters you can also use but honestly and personally, I tend to not use the pre-installed filters.

Though, if you’re wanting or needing a telephoto lens, then sadly you’re in bad luck on this front. TCL has not included this type of lens on the camera set up, but instead gone with a macro lens sensor instead which is ok, but not something that I personally like to use given it can be hard to get the best macro shot.

In clear daylight, the TCL 10L can take some really good photos where colour is bright and clear and clarity is good, however, sadly night shots are hard to get the focus and lens to even try to focus on anything with picture clarity even blurriness alongside some graininess and loss of detail, part of any shots taken at night or low light.

The front facing camera is made up of a single 16MP camera and does take some good decent selfies but I did notice the portrait mode with its blurring of the background, does offer a little blurring around the edges and some weird halo effects but nonetheless, those instagram selfies can still seem picture perfect if not using the portrait mode all the time.

Software and Connectivity

The TCL 10L comes with Android 10 right out the box, but I’m unsure whether it will receive an update to Android 11. On top of Android 10, the TCL 10L contains TCL’s own UI called TCL UI, and I have to say, it’s not as bad as some devices which I have used that makes the device somewhat hard to use.

There are TCL own branded apps and services contained within the software of the devices such as:

  • NXTVISION – Enable you to select the right display mode for whatever your doing, say watching videos or movies, playing games and more and can also be activated by the smart key on the left hand side
    Smart Manager – similar to say Samsung device care which ensures you can get the most out of your device, close apps, clean up memory, optimise battery and more
  • Switch Phone – lets you move your apps and accounts from your previous devices to your new TCL 10L device
  • Smart Key – lets you create a smart short cut to say enable the Google Assistant, NXTVISION settings and more
  • TCL+ – takes you to a mobile version of the TCL website to find products and services from TCL
  • Support Centre – Lets you find manuals, FAQ’s, feedback, hardware diagnosis, device info and seek assistance and get help when having issues with your device
  • File Share – ability to share and receive files between your device and other devices.
  • Compass
  • Sound Recorder
  • FM Radio – which can only be used with a wired headset
  • Gallery
  • Notes – similar to Keep Notes
  • Video
  • Calculator
  • Clock
  • Music

Personally, some of these apps could be swapped out for say Google version, like Calculator, Clock, Keep Notes. With the Music app I can understand this as YouTube Music is ok, but its not the same as what Play Music was in my opinion.

TCL 10L also comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n for 2.4GHz, 802.11 a/n/ac for 5GHz, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi display, 4G Mobile Hotspot, VoLTE, along with Bluetooth 5.0. There is also NFC which is handy for when you want to use NFC payments or more at the supermarket.

Whilst the TCL 10L comes with 3G and 4G network connectivity, if you’re looking for a 5G device, then the TCL 10L might not be your thing but its 4G connectivity is still pretty damn good, just depends on the network you use and the area you’re using it in.

Should you consider buying one?

I have to say that I am a bit surprised by the TCL brand. There have been some surprises to what I really did expect, despite the few downsides I experienced.

Looking at the price of the 10L, I have to say TCL has priced the TCL in a very competitive market in the mid range market at $449. Though at this price range it is quite competitive and crowded, I have to say that you can do worse.

You can purchase the TCL from the JB Hi-Fi website or local store for $449 in the only colour available, Marina Blue.

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