We’ve not had much hands-on experience with TCL products. They’re still relatively new to the western world. We first came across them in a big way at CES 2020, and were impressed with what we saw there. We’ve also only had one of their handsets in the office, the TCL 10 Pro, and guess what… that was a surprising product too. Now we’re beginning to see their cheaper end of the scale, and with it, comes the TCL 10 L, a budget-friendly smartphone that packs a whole lot of features.
For a budget handset, the TCL 10L looks surprisingly stylish. Granted it’s not the best quuality in terms of build, but you can’t really expect much at this price point. The rear is made from plastic, but it is coated in a shiny dark plastic housing, which I like. The TCL 10L comes in two different colours, this purple finish, which is actually called Mariana Blue and Arctic White.
The screen comes in at 6.53-inches, which is some great real estate for a budget handset. And what’s more, the bezels and nice and slim too which really makes you look twice, thinking it’s more premium. One thing though, this phone is an absolutely finger print magnet, so make sure you’re wearing gloves while using it otherwise you’re going to be wiping it against your t-shirt every time you pull it out your pocket to clear the smudges.
It uses IPS technology, which gives the phone some decent vibrancy, and it has a resolution of 1080×2340. The pixel density is where this phone falls down slightly, at 395ppi. Saying this though, I couldn’t find fault when watching media. You can only get a 1080p image out of this phone though, and anything released in 4K just won’t display in apps like YouTube. The max settings we could see was 1080p. TCL have their NXT Vision software, to improve the quality of colours on the screen too, and as we’ve said before, it works very well for media use.
Around back you can find the usual camera block that’s come to be a staple of TCL handsets, as well as a finger print sensor, which is pretty accurate, although is a little sluggish when it comes to unlocking the phone, especially if you’ve already got an app open in the background.
On the bottom you can find a USB Type C charging port and two speaker grills. The majority of sound comes from the base of the handset, which is alright, but lacks clarity across frequencies. Sound is a little tinny, and this was apparent in the voices of videos on YouTube, especially those that are narrative or presentation heavy. Music on the other hand, fared a little better, but still it loses out when compared to flagship handsets. There is a headphone port on top though, so if you’re really that bothered by it, then you can plug in a decent set of earbuds..
Inside the TCL 10L you can find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chipset, 6GB RAM memory as well as an Adreno 610 graphics processor which make it quite a capable little phone. Unfortunately though, it’s no where near flagship level, with a Geekbench 5 benchmark coming in at 310 on a single core score and 1335 on a multi core score. This puts the TCL 10L on par with the likes of the Honor 10 Lite and the Samsung A51, so not the fastest on the block. In terms of graphical performance, the TCL 10L scored 220 on the 3DMark Wild Life benchmark. I felt it a little unfair to run the Slingshot benchmark, as I said, it’s not too powerful when it comes to gaming performance.
But, don’t fret over these scores, as the TCL 10L has been more than adequate when using your eveey day social media and work based apps. In fact, I was even impressed with the speed of the phone when switching between them using the ‘recent apps’ tabs. In terms of storage, the model we reviewed had 64GB of space, so plenty to save your photos and videos.
There’s also a 4000mAh battery, which again was plenty for us to run during a day’s work. I was reaching for my charger though at the end of the day.
TCL are running their own skin over Android 10, which is aptly named the TCL UI. No fancy branding here. For the most part, it has been a smooth experience, the only hiccup I’ve had with the device so far is an annoying thing that keeps happening every time I try to go into the menu, and I have no idea how to sort it. The phone keeps asking for its ‘Launcher’ permissions, and every time I go into the menu, I’ve switched everything on, excpet the ability to download what TCL are calling ‘Unknown Apps’.
But this has been the only hit to the phone’s performance that I have experienced. For the most part, TCL’s UI is pretty good. And one surprising thing, is the fact that the TCL 10L comes with very little bloatware. Booking.com has snuck in there with a presumably paid-for presence, and there’s an office suite that’s ready to go. The rest of them are very much utility apps that could actually prove to be quite useful. So good job TCL. It’s nice to see cleam implementations of Android.
Round back, TCL have put four snappersm which is a lot for a phone coming in at this price. The first is a 48MP main camera, while the others are a low 2MP macro lens and an 8MP ultrawide lens. The last camera is a depth sensor, which is pretty common on multi camera phones now.
For the most part, the phone takes some respectable images. Photos come out sharp, and have a decent amount of vibrancy to them. There is no telephoto lens though, which is frustrating. But after all there is a 48 megapixel camera that can deal with any pixelation that comes with a digital zoom. You do have to turn on ‘High Pixel’ mode to activate this though or you’ll be stuck with 12 megapixel photos.
You can expect all the camera modes from Android, like slowmo, timelapse, night shot and portrait, and the portrait even provides some decent separation between subject and background which is surprising for a budget handset. But, unfortunately it’s not the perfect setup. The macro photo has a hard time focusing on subjects. You got a Pro mode too if you want to get super creative as well.
Lastly, there are few oddities, which try to pander towards AI capabilities, which fall a little short, like Calorie Detection, which tries to detect accurate calorie counts of food. It’s a fun little distraction, and an interesting way to use a camera feature on a mobile, but it detects very generic foods, and shouldn’t really be used as a calorie counter if you’re into your fitness. The last feature though, is a guide to taking portrait shots. It helps with framing and that sort of thing, and it’s helpful.
The TCL 10 L is a budget handset, there’s no doubt about that. And you can really tell from the build quality. It just doesn’t screan premium. However, the TCL 10 L is a feature rich handset that does so much right with its software. And that’s the takeaway here. TCL have done a great job with this phone, and if you’re not into a super expensive flashy phone, then you’ll be onto a winner with this. For more information, head over to the TCL website.