The TCL30 SE is this year’s iteration in the SE series, replacing last year’s 20 SE. While there are a great many similarities between the two, the differences all seem to be natural evolutions – an upgraded CPU, chipset, GPU and camera, and it’s running the latest version of android.
In the box TCL provides the handset, charging cable and brick and a set of wired earbuds since the 30SE has a headphone jack. No case is supplied but there are many aftermarket options available should you want one.
The phone fits the hand nicely and is quite comfortable to hold. The power and volume buttons are both on the right hand side, allowing easy single hand use, and the fingerprint sensor is conveniently located on the back just below and to the side of the camera bezel. There is also a headphone jack, which is rare to see these days, at the top of the phone and a USB C connection at the bottom. The 30 SE comes in 3 different colours – Space Gray, Atlantic Blue, and Glacial Blue.
The setup was fairly straightforward, I was pleased to note that it did allow multiple unlock methods to be organised during the setup process, rather than only allowing for the setting up of one option, requiring you to dig around in the settings afterwards to do the others. It also set up GPay as part of the setup process which I hadn’t seen before.
My old nemesis ‘add apps to home screen’ was on by default again – though I did manage to get into the settings and turn it off before all my apps downloaded this time!
The app tray has a nice feature allowing you to with a single tap change how your app tray is arranged and allows multiple sorting options – by category, name, usage, installation, icon colour, or label. There is also a quick launch edge bar which allows you to put in any apps you want immediate access to, a floating window option and ‘minus one screen’ which is set to the google discover feed. There can be a bit of a delay when opening apps – by delay I’m only talking 1 or 2 seconds, it’s nothing onerous but enough to be noticeable.
The battery life is excellent, lasting me a full 2 days of my normal use. It’s not stunningly fast to charge, but it’s not slow either, the 15W fast charge feature takes only a few hours to go from 12% to fully charged. The 30 SE makes use of ‘intelligent charging mode’ to prolong the life of the battery. The phone ‘learns’ the charging routine of the phone’s user, pausing the charging of the battery when it gets to a specified percentage, then trickle charging the rest of the way so it’s fully charged in the morning but not sitting fully charged plugged into power all night.
NXT vision gives the images and videos viewed on the 30SE a great depth of colour, enhancing the contrast and depth of detail, it also boosts your gaming experience by enhancing the graphics. While the display in general is crisp and clear, NXT also has 4 additional modes for general screen display – reading, eye comfort, darker display and sunlight display.
The 30SE comes in two models (6156H/6156H1 and 6156A/6165A1) the 6156H unit comes with dual mic noise cancellation, the 6156A does not. The unit I reviewed had the noise cancellation and I found the recordings made by the microphone to be impressive, the voice recordings had excellent clarity, and this quality carried over into sound reproduction during phone conversations as well.
Unlike the 20SE the 30SE only has a single speaker at the base of the phone. This doesn’t affect the quality of the sound produced, which is very good for both speech and music, but I found that at times my grip on the phone covered one side of the speaker, requiring me to readjust my hold.
The fingerprint sensor on the 30SE is on the rear of the device, and my experience with it was a little hit and miss. Initially I had trouble getting the sensor to read, but I soon found that a slightly longer hold/press than I was expecting – only a second or two – was required for it to recognise. On a few occasions, the phone vibrated to indicate a scan attempt but wasn’t able to recognise my print.
When it comes to biometrics I have always had better luck with the face unlock than with fingerprint unlock and the 30SE worked smoothly for me using this method.
Combining the two methods, in any case, gave me a near 100% unlocking success rate regardless of which method I was intending to use.
The 30SE features a 50MP main camera, a 2MP depth camera and a 2MP macro camera on the rear and a 8MP front camera. It has all the standard features and a few extras like High pixel mode, HDR and AI scene detection, and a few fun ones like light painting and stop motion recording.
The high pixel mode and HDR (High Dynamic Range) are what combine to allow the 30SE to produce some pretty impressive photographs and videos. It produces images that have more detail in the representations of light and shade, and higher intensity in the colour reproduction.
The rear camera is able to take decent pictures at quite low light levels, but they can tend towards being grainy if you zoom in on them.
I had a bit of fun with the light painting option, discovering that it’s not just about waving a light around in front of the camera, you can in fact, do the opposite. I set up a reflective surface and shone a light on it, then moved the camera around, and was able to – sort of – draw an image with the light.
On a side note, the front facing camera, I was delighted to see, does have the “face beauty” option, but it is off by default!
The 30SE 6165H supports dual Sim and has an expansion slot for a microSD card which will support cards up to 512GB. It has an octa-core 2.0GHZ processor, a MediaTek MT6762G Helio G25 (12 nm) chipset, a GE8320 650MHz GPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 5000mAh 15W battery. It has a 720 x 1600 HD display on a 6.52-inch screen, supports Bluetooth 5.0, 4G, WiFi 4 and runs Android 12.
For the full specifications visit the TCL website here
The RRP on this phone is $329, but the price can vary between $200 and $300 depending on where you buy it. I do think the 30SE is worth its price tag, while there are cheaper phones out there, the performance delivered versus the cost of this unit is amazing – it works smoothly with no real ‘deal breaking’ issues, it takes great photos and is affordably priced. Overall it’s great value for money and you can pick one up at all the usual online and in-store retailers.