TCL has been known for some time now as television manufacturers, and it wasn’t until last CES, which we were fortunate to go to, that they announced their brand new range of mobile phones. One of those phones was the TCL 10 Pro, and everyone was pretty excited. Of course, TCL sold the hell out of them during their conference, but didn’t let us journalists get too hands on with them. We now know why. But first, let’s talk about the TCL 10 Pro’s design.
First, let’s flip the phone around so we can go over the rear. The TCL 10 Pro has a gradiated rear. The device that was sent to us ran from almost white at the bottom to a darkish grey towards the top, although at CES we were shown a green version, which to be honest, I prefer. But, that’s not for me to say. Personal preferences and all that. The phone’s rear is covered in glass and has an aluminium frame, which although looks very sleek and stylish, it’s very slippery in the hand to hold, but that’s pretty much expected from modern handsets now.
One thing that is strange about the design is the fact that they’ve written a CE logo as well as the company name and address of what I’m assuming is an office or factory in China. It looks completely gross and ruins the aesthetic. My eyes were drawn to it as soon as I flipped the phone over.
There are also four cameras on the back too, which are bordered with a glossy stripe that spans the width of the handset. They’re flush to the body which is a very nice feature, although each leans is smaller than similar multi-lens handsets like the iPhone 11 Pro Max or Samsung S20. One thing this phone is missing though is a little nub, like we saw on the new Oppo Reno handsets to keep the rear of the phone slightly raised from a surface to save the lens covers from getting scratched. There’s also two flashes either side of the lens too, which aids in flash photography to get a more even lighting across the frame.
Down the right hand side you can find your unlock button as well as your volume rocker. The lock button is in reach if you’re using this phone with one hand, but the volume rocker is a bit of a stretch, and will probably require a second hand to stabilize the phone. On the right you can find a dedicated Google Assistant button, which when pressed or held, opens up the assistant ready for you to speak to it. A nice feature which means I don’t have to yell ‘Hey Google’ at my phone before it comes to life. Double tapping on the lock button from anywhere will fire up the camera too.
On the bottom is a dual sim tray, which also doubles up as a microSD slot which is compatible up to 128GB cards if you’re not using both micro-sim slots for SIM cards. The phone also uses a USB Type-C port which is also capable of fast charging 50% in roughly 35 minutes. On top is a headphone jack, which is a very strange place to put it, but definitely welcome. Audio is delivered from the bottom speaker, which sounds alright, but it’s nothing special. Mobile phone sound am I right?
The handset is on the larger side of the scale, due to the real estate of the screen. It sports a 6.47″ full HD AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080×2340 with a pixel density of 398. This gives the phone an aspect ratio of around 19.5:9. It’s a decent size, especially if you’re someone who likes to consume media. Most of the time, traditional media will be shown at 16:9, but the phone allows you to stretch it across the screen for full edge to edge video. It has a tear drop notch where the selfie camera is, so there is that, but it doesn’t ever hinder the viewing experience of the device. The notch can be turned on and off in the display settings menu if seeing notifications really bothers you. But it’s not the tear drop camera anyway, and there’s no getting rid of that.
Diving into the image settings you can find all the usual stuff like turning on an Eye Care mode, or setting the adaptive brightness level, but TCL have included what’s called NXTVISION where you can set a visual enhancement which adjusts image settings like contrast, sharpness and saturation in real time or turn SDR content to HDR as this screen is rated HDR10. There’s also an adaptive tone setting so the phone decides whether to change it to warn or cool, and you can also choose the colour gamut from Vivid to Gentle as they’re calling it. I left the Visual Enhancement setting switched on during my testing though, and definitely found it to be pretty decent.
One thing I do like about the phone though is how much real estate the screen takes up. It has a curve surrounding it making it look as if the screen is disappearing into the back of the handset. It’s nice and bright making even small text readable on websites. Colours look pretty decent too when watching content on YouTube. I’vee just stuck a 4K nature video and YouTube recognised it as a HDR signal and showedd me HDR options in the menu. Never seen that before, but it was definitely welcome to bring out the rich colours.
Unfortunately though, the TCL 10 Pro is far from a flagship handset, as it’s only supporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 inside, a far cry to the current market leading Snapdragon 855 you can find in current flagship handsets. There’s also 6GB RAM on-board too. The TCL 10 Pro is one of the company’s first mobile phone under its own brand, so using a lesser chip will definitely keep the price down for consumers looking for new handsets, and it’s a decent way to try and break the mid-range market. Geekbench 5 gave me a score of 501 on a single-core and a dire 953 on a multi-core score. It sits on-par with a Sony Xperia XZ2 on its single-core score, and on a multi-core score, sits just above a Samsung Galaxy A30s according to Geekbench 5’s Android benchmark website.
It also saves battery life too, though there is a 4500mAh battery inside. That screen size and brightness will no doubt be the contender for battery hog.
My normal mobile phone workflow generally involves social media use, as well as listening to music while on the move and watching YouTube videos. And to be quite frank, it did everything perfectly. I never really experienced any kind of slowdown that could hinder my app use, although I did not ice things like auto-rotate on the screen took a while to kick in, and my thumb print for unlocking the phone just didn’t work every time, and when it did work, took an absolute age to actually read my thumb. The phone also has face unlocking capability too which thankfully was a lot more accurate, and actually unlocked the phone pretty fast, way under one second.
Jumping into a game of Naruto Slugfest, Game Mode kicked in straight away, which is supposed to optimise the phone’s hardware to get the most out of your games. Unfortunately though, Naruto Slugfest, being an MMO on a mobile, was a little glitchy inside the starting area where loads of other players congregate. Online shooter Dino Squad fared much better, and also looked pretty sharp on the screen and ran pretty smoothly too. Game dependant of course, but I don’t think the Snapdragon 675 is as much of a hinderance as you might expect. The phone recommended me to run the Slingshot Extreme benchmark inside of 3DMark, and I got back a score of 1,032 on OpenGL 1,080 on Vulkan. The benchmark glitched all throughout so dropped it down to the standard Slingshot benchmark, still retained the same glitchy benchmark but got a score of and got a score of 1,710 which is again, miles below the flagship handsets.
The TCL 10 Pro runs Android 10 but has its very own TCL UI skinned over the top of it. For the most part, it looks like a traditional Android experience. App icons look nice and clear and zipping from one screen to the next is also pretty fast. There is one thing I’ve not seen before, and that’sthe categorisation of apps on the main menu. You can sort them by name or by label, usage installation order, and category, which bunches up the apps depending on their task. Communication houses your Contacts, Facebook, Duo calls, Gmail and Phone while Utilities is anything from your Google Chrome browser to a calculator to File Share and Keep Notes.
What I didn’t like about this phone though is the fact that it comes with a bit too much gumph for my liking. And what I mean by that is third party apps approved y TCL to ship as default with their handsets. It’s official name is bloatware. And I’m not a fan. I don’t need Booking.com, we’re in a pandemic. I don’t need an Office Suite, as my phone is RARELY used for work in that capacity and there’s TCL’s very own Browser. I’m not sure who it’s powered by, but the logo looks very similar to Google’s Chrome logo.
As default, TCL set you up with the traditional three button setup at the bottom of the screen: one for home, one for back and one for recent opened apps. This can be changed to full gesture control if that’s more your thing. But with the size of this phone and the reach I had with a single thumb, I opted to stick with the nav bar at the bottom of the screen. There’s a couple of cool themes you can apply to your phone, which doesn’t do much except change some colour schemes and wallpaper on the homepage, and the widgets for your home screen are the usual generic widgets that can be found on an Android phone.
As we said before, round back you can find four lenses, each with their very own jobs to do. The first is a 26mm wide, 64-megapixel beast with an f/1.8 aperture. The nest is a 16-megapixel ultrawide lens at 13mm, the third a 5-megapixel camera for Macro shots, and the last is a 2-megapixel, f/2.4 lens which helps with depth. And for the most part, photos turn out surprisingly well. I know I can’t test this camera fully, as I’m pretty much isolated to my house and garden, but below are some of the best results I could get from this phone.
The camera comes with all the features we’ve come to expect, like a standard snapper, a portrait mode which blurs the background of your photos which is also available on the selfie camera, and a night shot, which brings out more detail when shooting at night.
The camera in all honesty surprised me, and the quality of the photos really shined. The standard auto mode produces some really sharp, vibrant images, and although I’ve only really got my garden to take photos in right now, I think the camera did a really good job. The only downfall was in its saturation, in which I thought was a little oversaturated at points, especially when taking landscape shots. Furthermore, where this camera really shines, is in its super-macro mode. A couple of pictures I took of flowers and ornaments came out very detailed. The biggest issue with getting that close to a subject, is holding the phone steady, which unfortunately, the in-built stabilisation isn’t enough to do. Best bet is to use a small tripod with a mobile adapter. Portraits are also nice, but they lack the hard edges that we’ve come to expect from flagship handset cameras.
Video shoots at up to 4K at 30fps, and it’s a shame that video can’t shoot at a smoother 60fps at top resolution. Even at lesser resolutions, you’re still locked to 30fps. But the quality I got from shooting video was nice, but again, a little oversaturated and a bit fake looking. It’s also got some very decent image stabilisation built in too, which helps when hand holding your phone trying to capture action shots, though you can’t get many action shots when in a garden.
Slow motion capability is available, and does shoot up to 960fps at 720p, but you have to be careful with what you’re filming. I tried to do some distance filming in slow motion and the camera stuggled with what to focus on. Same on close up too. Once action started happening, the camera started focus hunting around. For best performance, you’re going to have to lock focus to your subject, and that’s easily done by holding your finger down on the screen rather than tapping. And the slow motion capability definitely shoots in a lower resolution to the rest of the video modes, and this is a bit of a problem if you’re shooting something that’s a distance away.
The TCL 10 Pro is a nice phone. It looks premium, and feels premium, but unfortunately, lacks that processor power you’d expect from premium. Sure it can play certain games although struggles with others, and it can easily handle all of your social media needs, and it even has a pretty decent snapper all said and done. The Android bloatware I could have done without, but it is what it is, and they need to recoup some of the cost from manufacuring somewhere. It’s not too intrusive though which is nice. It’s TCL’s first rodeo when it comes to own brand handsets, and they’ve played it safe. But to be perfectly honest with you, I think they’ve done a pretty good job. Next time though, aim for the stars and stick a top processor in there.
The TCL 10 Pro will be hitting the UK on June 1st 2019, and should be found priced around £399.00.