What can be said about Android tablets and the state of the market that hasn’t already been said? Not a lot really since the market is somewhat forked by the different manufacturers who are either just participants or the dominators of the market. There is change coming though with Android L showing that Google is ready to make a real go of tablets. So in the — hopefully near — future, Android tablets will become a more viable platform for daily use, productivity and entertainment for mass-market buyers.

TCL has seeming recognised this and readied itself with the launch of the Tab 10S.

What is it?

The TCL Tab 10S is a 10.1-inch tablet that runs at 1200 x 1920 resolution and 224 PPI which looks pretty slick but is a fingerprint magnet. It has 10 point multi-touch capabilities and a host of connectivity to meet modern needs, with the exception of NFC although I’m not sure I’d use tap pay on a tablet:

  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0 and GPS
  • USB-C charging and data

    The physical chassis measures 241 x 158.6 x 8.3 mm and weighs in at 490 grams. Perhaps a little disappointing, but not a deal breaker is the fact it’s running Android 10 out of the box. The internals isn’t earth shattering offering a Mediatek chipset and PowerVR GPU which are capable of what the tablet is designed for and does a pretty solid job for daily use. The battery is impressive though, 8,000mAh that has some serious staying power, but the charging speed is a bit slow for what I would have liked.

    Users who like to backup the Internet onto their devices are probably going to give this one a pretty wide berth as it’s only got 64GB of onboard storage. That can, as you would expect, be expanded by using a MicroSD card and the onboard RAM of 4GB is sufficient but it would be nice (and offer a little performance boost) to have 6 or more. 

    Interestingly, there are a couple of design choices I really like for functionality. The first is the power button being located on the left side at the top in landscape mode and the charging port in the middle of that same side. I find these particularly useful for a couple of reasons, primarily that I don’t accidentally knock the power when I’m trying to turn video playback up or down. The second reason is that the charging doesn’t get in the way if I’m reading, watching videos or using the tablet in portrait mode.

    When you are watching videos, the audio is a bit lacking if you’re regularly using this as a viewing option. The sound is there and it would barely rate a pass, but the balance isn’t great: The vocal ranges are flat, high register is a touch tinny and there’s nothing resembling bass at all. Often using tablets as a viewing platform while working on other tasks around the house, I tend to use a set of headphones to improve the sound quality.

    The camera is about what I expect from tablets these days with the selfie camera being 5MP F/2.2 for decent quality video feed on meetings. The rear-facing is a single lens that delivers 8MP shots at an F/2.0 wide-angle. The upshot of all these numbers is that it’s not a complete potato camera, but it’s not going to compete even with a $500 mid-range phone for the quality of images it can produce. Personally, I can’t remember the last time I saw something I wanted a photo of and reached for my tablet, so wouldn’t have an issue if manufacturers just didn’t include a rear-facing camera.

    From a practical perspective, some users are going to be disappointed with these specs but let’s throw the price into the ring now: $399.00 is a really nice price for a decent, but not a mind-blowing tablet.

    Included extras: The case and pen

    Yep, for that $399 you get a screen pen and a decent folio style case that also has a loop for storage of the pen. This is a stark contrast to the big names in the tablet space that know if you’re spending $800 or more on a tablet, you’re likely to spend a couple of hundred more to get a good quality case, pen and perhaps a keyboard.

    When it comes to using the included pen, the tip is firm on the screen which is fine for adult users but I’d be concerned that a younger user may easily get over excited and put the pen through the screen. That being said, once you get in a flow with the pen it’s generally very responsive and accurate with swipe and tap gestures. Something that surprised me coming from a Samsung Tablet is the comfort of the TCL pen, it’s a bit broader and clearly a more solid construction.

    After a couple of weeks with the Tab 10S, a gut feeling is that it’s about 80% as fast as typing on a keyboard but a bit more convenient when you’ve wedged yourself in an armchair for a bit of web surfing.

    What’s missing?

    It can be very difficult to be fair to hardware like this because tablets have evolved to be a competitor to laptops. So they’re often quite high priced to match this increasing hardware capability. I’d really like to have a keyboard case available (I’d pay an extra $100 for it in this case) to really complement the capability of the Tab 10S. A quick Google search shows that they are available overseas where TCL has a stronger footprint in the market, so I’m hopeful this will land here soon too!

    It would be nice — as earlier mentioned — to have a touch more raw performance and memory available, but I’m also very conscious of the fact, this would cost more money. There’s a very fine line being walked here between functionality and cost, with TCL managing to just land on the right side of that in my eyes.

    The performance

    I’m not going to even try to compare a sub $400 tablet to the likes of the Samsung Tab S range or iPads, it’s a different world. Where the TCL Tab 10S fits are more the average home consumer who wants email, web, Netflix (or your chosen streaming option) and perhaps a few low to mid-range games. In this instance, it will deliver everything you need and do it well.

    If you like to read the news in bed at night, watch a bit of YouTube or even check your email on the go without needing to carry a laptop this is an excellent option. Provided you’re staying in one app, you’ll also have a pretty good time of it in apps like the Office 365 suite or, of course, G-Suite with no real issues.

    I noted that the performance did drop noticeably a few times when I was jumping between apps a lot which caused high RAM use and hence, the performance drop. So clearly, this isn’t a device for heavy users but that’s fine because they’re going to be shopping at the upper end of the market anyway.

    An area that I really like in the performance is the purist or ‘vanilla’ flavour of Android you’re getting here. There is minimal manufacture imposed visual, interfacing or menu changes that really influence your experience on this particular device.

    The other facet of the Tab 10S that has been impressive is the battery life. Sporting an 8,000mAh battery, that shouldn’t be a surprise but I’m consistently getting 3 – 4 days of life even with a reasonable amount of streaming video every day.

    There is absolutely some pretty heavy battery optimisation going on here to achieve this and it’s evident when you wake the tablet after hours of standby. Expect a flood of notifications to come streaming in and dominate your screen for a moment or two, because the “deep sleep” that it goes into is very deep!

    Should you buy one?

    Hopefully, this has already been answered so far in the review and the fact remains, tablets aren’t something that everyone wants or needs. The short answer is that if you’re a casual user, or someone who tends to use a single app at a time and doesn’t (for now, fingers crossed) want or need a keyboard on your tablet – Yes!

    The performance is well and truly good enough for daily use for average users, but heavy users should steer clear. The performance isn’t going to meet your needs and that’s ok because you’ll probably spend as much on a keyboard cover that this tablet costs. At $399.00 the price is — in terms of electronics — almost at a level, this could be thought of as a throwaway item if it breaks.

    While tablets are something of a niche market, they’re still a worthwhile investment for quick and convenient use and functionality at home and on the run. The TCL Tab 10S isn’t a perfect tablet, but for the cost, it’s a really good option for a lot of users.

    The Tab 10S can be purchased from the usual (Mobileciti, Big W, Bing Lee) retail pathways.

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JeniSkunk

NFC is good for faster initial connection setup of other NFC equipped accessories, like headphones, with this tablet. I agree though with your sentiments for not wanting to use the tablet for NFC payments. That the Ausfailian release of this tablet does not have a SIM card slot, and as a consequence mobile data and phone capability, makes the version of this TCL, inflicted on Ausfailure, a device I could never honestly consider getting. Looking at the specs of this tablet on GSMArena, it has 4G capability. Also, this tablet was released on 2021-04-26. That’s 10 months ago. So what… Read more »

JeniSkunk

We’re coming up on Android 13 or T, yet this article is saying the upcoming tablet OS will be Android L . Is Google expecting tablet users to run Android 5 Lollipop on their new tablets, while phones will have Android 13 Tiramisu ???

Michael

What is TCL like for ongoing software and security updates? The performance would probably be adequate for the average browsing and media consumption use cases, but if it doesn’t get at least a few years of ongoing support, then a base model iPad is probably a better buy for an extra $100…

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