We tested one of the first proposals from the Asian manufacturer TCL for the West in this TCL 10L review. It is the modest mobile of the Chinese company for these first months of 2020, but for its screen and, above all, battery, it is one of those that earn a place as a recommended product within the mid-range.
Chinese companies have definitely stormed the western market. In 2019, the already consolidated ones were joined by others such as realme (which is conquering the market based on good and cheap mobiles), and this year two companies arrive that in China have “worked” very well.
On the one hand, we will have Vivo phones (and we have already been able to take a look at what will come with the Review of the Vivo X30 Pro and its software in Chinese). On the other hand, TCL. This is the Chinese company that bought the Alcatel brand and that, in recent times, has continued to launch mobile phones under that traditional French brand. We tested the TCL 10L .
Now, they want to try their luck in the western market with their own brand, and one of the first to arrive is the TCL 10L for the mid / entry range. Before giving our opinion in the TCL 10L review, we leave you the characteristics of the terminal:
FullHD + resolution (2,340 x 1,080 pixels)
IPS panel with hole for the camera
Expandable via microSD up to 256 GB
|Main cameras||Main – 48 Mpx f1.8|
Wide angle – 8 Mpx f2.2
Depth – 2 Mpx f2.4
Macro – 2 Mpx f2.4
|Frontal camera||16 Mpx f2.2|
Charge with USB Type-C
|Operating system||Android 10 + TCL UI|
|Dimensions and weight||162.2 x 75.6 x 8.4 mm|
|Price||From 229 euros|
Design that draws attention
Well, really the TCL 10 are not the first mobiles of the brand that arrive in our country . At the end of 2019, the company dared to launch the TCL Plex, a mid / low-end mobile that we liked in our first impressions and from which, of course, the 10L drinks a lot in terms of design.
One of the best things that happened to the mid-range in 2019 is that companies finally started paying attention to the finishes . Although they are made of plastic, they can be pretty and eye-catching mobiles, and not bland devices with matte finishes and rough monochrome texture.
We find plastic both on the back and on the sides, as well as in that inner frame that surrounds the screen . However, at first glance it seems that the back is glass (the traces stick together which is nice) and the sides look like aluminum, and that is what it is, in many cases, about making your product look more premium than it it really is. And it is not bad, far from it.
The back is attractive, with a light color that takes on yellow, purple, blue or green tints depending on how the light hits (very much like Samsung’s Note 10 ) and the camera module, although huge, is elegantly arranged and, being horizontal, it prevents the mobile from “dancing” on a surface.
If we continue with the back, we have the fingerprint reader that works as expected . Lately we have become accustomed to the sensors on the screen, and although seeing that sensor in the back is a step back, the truth is that for speed and ergonomics, it is still perfect.
In the chrome part (remember, plastic), we have the volume and unlock buttons on the right side as we look at the screen, as well as the nanoSIM and microSD module on the left, just above a programmable button that we will talk about in the software section.
At the bottom we have the USB Type-C port and six slots that can imply that we have stereo sound … but they actually hide a speaker to the right of the USB port and a microphone to its left. On top, surprise, a 3.5mm headphone jack .
If we go to the front, we have a screen that occupies, according to TCL, 91% of the front . We have our doubts about this figure, but good. We have 3-millimeter sides, a 4-mm upper and a 7-mm chin. The edge finish is 2.5D thanks to the glass, since the IPS screen is flat.
In hand, we are talking about a mobile that fits well thanks to its rounded edges . It weighs 180 grams, which is not a little considering that it is polycarbonate and not glass, but the truth is that we are dealing with a large mobile, 16 centimeters high and 8.4 mm thick. And, that size is needed to house a 6.53 “screen.
FullHD + screen with a special mode to consume content
The strong point of a TCL terminal is the screen . The reason? The company is one of the leaders in the world market for both IPS and AMOLED panels. They are image specialists and, therefore, although we are talking about a mid-range terminal, we must highlight the screen.
Let’s start with numbers. As we have already said, the panel is 6.53 “IPS LCD. The TCL 10 Pro has an AMOLED HDR10 panel with Netflix certification, but in the L range we have the IPS that, certainly, behaves great.
The company, as we mentioned, states that it has a panel / front ratio of 91%, although this is counting the black frames (beyond the plastic ones on the sides). Actually, we are talking about a panel that occupies 85.4% of the front and has FullHD + resolution .
This translates to 2,340 x 1,080 pixels and 395 pixels per inch , more than enough not to distinguish pixels with the naked eye. The refreshment is 60 Hz and has HDR. Can we configure the image? Yes, and the truth is that TCL is quite generous in this regard.
In the screen settings section we can establish a dark mode (which does not serve to save battery power, but which dyes the system a dark gray color pleasing to the eye in low light conditions. It also has a blue light filter, the Automatic brightness adapter works precisely and we can hide the hole on the screen (4 millimeters in diameter, by the way).
However, the strong point is the Nxtvision engine . It is a TCL technology for both the camera and the screen that analyzes the scene displayed on the mobile and adapts the color to make it as attractive as possible. In addition, it has an SDR to HDR content converter automatically and the possibility of choosing between a live or standard screen mode.
We leave you two examples. On the right, Nxtvision activated. On the left, disabled , resulting in a flatter image:
To do the TCL 10L review, we have had these two options activated (since the results are very attractive), as well as the live image mode. The feeling is that of facing a very good IPS panel, with good color calibration and deep blacks. It does not reach the level of an AMOLED panel, but the color representation is good, the brightness is high and we can easily view content in a bright room or in full sun.
Of course, the viewing angles are upgradeable, since the screen, when the background is white, shoots in bluish tones. Despite this, as a “cheap” mobile to consume content, it is armed with a remarkable screen.
Snapdragon 665 that continues to surprise with its flexibility
And is it a mobile phone for more than just watching Netflix or YouTube? We are facing a modest terminal and, considering that the screen is the strong point (next to the battery) we have a mid/low range SoC to reduce costs. The good (very good) news is that we have a Snapdragon processor, which always ensures a lower consumption than the equivalent MediaTek and, in addition, very good performance of both the CPU and the GPU.
It is the Snapdragon 665, an SoC built-in 11 nanometers with an eight-core processor (four at 2.0 GHz and another four at 1.8 GHz) and the Adreno 610 GPU. It is an SoC with practically a year behind it, but that continues to measure up.
This time, we have 6 GB of RAM . Before seeing how it works with different applications, we leave you a comparison of benchmarks with other equivalent mobiles and a realme x2 that exceeds it in range, but which is useful to compare the jump from a Snapdragon 665 to a 730G:
|TCL 10L||realme 6i||Oppo A9 2020||realme x2||Galaxy A70||Redmi Note 7|
|SoC||Snapdragon 665||Helium G80||Snapdragon 665||Snapdragon 730G||Snapdragon 675||Snapdragon 660|
|3D Mark Sling Shot||1,698||1,337||1,146||2,395||1,063||1,360|
As we always say, the numbers of these tests … numbers are, and although they are used to compare devices, the important thing is how it works on a daily basis. The TCL 10L has been up to par at all times in our tests . If you are going to use the mobile with social networks, to surf the net and view the mail, you will not have any problem.
The hardware + software union is very solid and is a solvent terminal in tasks that a non-enthusiastic user can demand. Now … what happens if we stick it in? I have to confess that I came to the TCL 10L review after testing the OnePlus 8 Pro, the Galaxy S20 Plus, and the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, three top-of-the-line phones with a screen of more than 120 and 90 Hz.
They are terminals to play and, obviously, I did not expect the Snapdragon 665 to perform well with demanding games. I was wrong . I started testing titles like Oceanhorn or Archero, simpler, but I said … what if I go to the one I like … Call of Duty Online? Yes, perfectly in high graphics quality and at the maximum frame rate per second.
In addition to that game, I like to edit photos in both Snapseed and Photoshop Express on mobile . Photos not from the mobile, but heavy .RAF files made with the camera. Here, and playing games like CoD, is when we are demanding the most from the mobile, and you can see that the SoC is heating up. It’s not an annoying heat, but it’s right there under the cameras and at the top of the screen, which is where the processor is located.
As for the speed of storage and memory, we are dealing with a mobile phone with UFS 2.1 standard . We did not expect a performance from UFS 3.0 due to its range and the results are what a terminal with this type of storage memory should have:
|Sequential writing||106.64 MB / s|
|Sequential reading||204.87 MB / s|
|Random write||8.81 MB / s|
|Random read||5.50 MB / s|
|Copy in memory||4.03 GB / s|
In the end, we have modest hardware, but it allows us to play heavy games, as well as use applications that are not exactly light, without any problem.
It is heated under pressure, yes, but it is normal considering the Snapdragon 665, its 11 nm and that we have taken it to the limit. Of course, I really like its 6 GB of RAM that, above all, allow very good app management thanks to both Android 10 and a good layer of TCL.
Android 10 with its own layer that plays just right and works very well
When we talk about software and Chinese companies, we must distinguish between those that profoundly modify software with their customization layers (Vivo or Xiaomi, for example), those that are not as aggressive (Huawei with GMS and Oppo) and others that they stay close to stock Android (Redmagic, Asus or BlackShark, for example).
TCL is in the intermediate group with its TCL UI layer. The TCL 10L arrives with the latest version of Android , so all of Google’s security improvements are implemented at the factory. On the other hand, there is the personalization layer that, visually, is not something that will confuse a user of Android terminals.
Everything is where it should be and almost all configuration menus include “standard” options. Sure, there is a modification by the manufacturer to include the manager (for example, the information about the battery is there, and not in its own tab in configuration), but the truth is that the software is “invisible” and the menus are clear.
With “invisible software” we mean that peculiar windows or pop-ups will not appear in applications resulting from the system (as it happens in other Chinese mobiles). The most we have found has been a game mode.
Yes, we are not facing a mobile gaming (although we can play perfectly, as we have already indicated), but we have a game mode that restricts notifications, sends all the SoC processes to the game, allows us to record and capture screen and has security systems, such as the blocking of control gestures or the Smart Key.
And, speaking of the Smart Key, it is the button on the right side . It is a configurable button that allows us to perform different actions (turn on the camera, Google assistant, delete notifications and other 20 actions) by pressing one, two or a long press.
It is useful when you take it easy and responds very well, like the rest of the terminal. We have not suffered crashes in these two weeks of use, nor abrupt closure of applications or slowdowns.
It is round? No. There are applications like the alarm that do not work at all well (and it is essential …) and there is excessive bloatware . As soon as the terminal is switched on, we have Google apps (it is normal), as well as a photo gallery, another video gallery, a “Manager” app, direct access to Smart Key, direct access to both the manager and Nxtvision, the TCL technical service, the TCL + app (to download topics on the device or learn more about the brand), but also apps like Booking, a news aggregator, Netflix or Facebook.
Yes, they can be uninstalled, but I prefer to be the one to choose what I want to have on my phone. By the way, we have Google Photo Unlock and it works … correctly . It is not slow, but also not the fastest we have come across in recent months. It is more recommended to use the biometric sensor on the back.
Four cameras with macro and 48 Mpx, compliance pack
he camera is one of the most important elements for a mobile, although we are talking about a mid-range or entry-level one. In all ranges we find terminals that make very good photos with light , and what distinguishes between segments is the treatment of color and, above all, the performance when light is scarce.
When we analyzed the realme 6i we wondered who offered more than five cameras in this segment. The TCL 10L does not have more -it has the same-, but it does have one more flash … which is useful for a very specific use, the macro.
Before going on to see in detail how each of the cameras behaves, we leave you the characteristics of them:
|Sensor||Resolution||Opening||Pixel size||Sensor size|
|Principal||S5KGM1||48 Mpx||f / 1.8||0.8μm||1 / 2.25 “|
|Wide angle||GC8034||8 Mpx||f / 2.2||1.12μm||1/4 ”|
|Macro||GC2385||2 Mpx||f / 2.4||1.65 μm||1/5 ”|
|Depth||GC2385||2 Mpx||f / 2.4||–||1/5 ”|
|Frontal||S5K3P9SP04||16 Mpx||f / 2.2||1.0μm||1 / 3.1 “|
Before moving on to camera performance, let’s talk about the app. We have an application that is not complicated . We have the automatic mode and, there, we can zoom 2x (digital) or go to the wide angle by pressing a digital button. We have quick access to video, portrait mode, professional … and super macro.
You do not have to enter the configuration to select the 48-megapixel shooting or the HDR, since all those options are in view, and the truth is that it is an app that works as it should: without burdening yourself with many options and the main ones distinguishable options and modes at a glance.
In fact, in the “more” section, which hides the 48 megapixel mode or slow motion, we can customize the options by adding or removing modes. It is something that I liked.
Now, how is the camera doing? Looking at the characteristics of the sensors, there is not much misterior. The main one is the one that is “worth it” and it has a sensor that, although it has a somewhat small pixel size, does binning pixel to shoot at 12 megapixels.
Yes, we can shoot at 48 megapixels to get an image with a bestial resolution, but in our opinion it is not recommended .
First: with that pixel size, we will have a lot of resolution, but also more noise. Second: in low light conditions, the detail we get is … scarce. It is much better to shoot, in both good and bad light, at 12 megapixels. We have more detail indoors and less noise. And, in addition, the file weighs less and the mobile does not take long to process the photo, something that it should do at 48 Mpx.
Speaking of the subject, indoors, with conditions that are not ideal, we do not have brilliant results , but we are good enough to share the photo on networks.
Outdoors, the performance is much higher, something that falls within expectations. If we shoot in a burst, the app tells us which photo it thinks is best and if we point to something with text, for example, it adds an extra sharpness. It is something that we can disable, of course.
For portraits, TCL has introduced a depth sensor that we see in many phones in this price range. I’m not a fan of this type of sensor and the truth is that, in the tests carried out, yes, you can see the influence of that sensor to calculate the depth more accurately, but the weight of this task continues to fall on the software.
Portraits, both of people and “objects” work well , with a correct implementation and blurring of the background, although there are times when photography will not come out the first time. Ah, we can select the simulated aperture for the portrait before taking the photo, but we will not be able to correct it later in the gallery.
If we go to the wide angle, we have an 8 megapixel sensor that does not present an exaggerated distortion , but that we will certainly leave for very specific occasions. The HDR auto mode works with the wide angle and the colors are similar to what we got with the main sensor, but the poor resolution prevents this lens from being secondary.
What I did like is the macro . Okay, so we have a macro with a minuscule sensor size and also only 2 megapixels, but the inclusion of the dual flash helps take interesting pictures.
It is true that the resolution is very poor, which prevents having detailed photographs that are spectacular, but this double flash achieves that, in broad daylight, we photograph objects that reflect the light from flashes, creating the effect of a very background dark, almost black at times.
To photograph flowers, it is something that comes great. Of course, stabilization is missing. I didn’t expect OIS, but an EIS wouldn’t have been bad to avoid jitter.
By the way, we do not have night mode , since it is the automatic that is in charge … and the truth is that the results are not entirely good, raising the exposure and the ISO too much and obtaining very unnatural colors:
What about the video? Here … there is no show . We have electronic stabilization and a resolution that goes from 720p to 4k30, with the option of recording at 1,080pa at 30 or 60 frames. It is best to use the 1,080p mode, since at 4K there is jitter.
Slow motion has only one option: 240fps.
In short, we have a camera that lives up to what is expected in its range, with a main sensor that is better to use 12 megapixels and a macro that yes, it may not matter to many users, but others we find very interesting.
Battery that never seems to run out, but has a slow charge
The screen is the strong point, but one of the things that has surprised us the most in this review of the TCL 10L is the battery . It has a capacity of 4,000 mAh, but in our tests we have achieved very, very good results despite having a high-resolution IPS screen and an 11 nanometer SoC (which, if we don’t squeeze in games, really don’t “eat” too much) .
Thus, with intensive use, I reach practically two days of use . An intensive use with this terminal is social networks, Spotify, Netflix and some casual game. When she suffers the most is when I add Call of Duty Online or PUBG to that process … and the editing of several photos to share on Instagram. There, I arrive at the end of the day with 15-20%, approximately, so it is better to leave it charging at night. And it takes time.
Charging is done via USB Type-C, but with a 10 W charger with 5 V / 2 A linear charge that gives us 50% in about 55 minutes and 100% in just over two hours and 15 minutes.
It is not a fast charge like the one we are used to seeing , and knowing that there are cheaper mobiles that reach an 18 W charge, we miss that extra “push”. but we like how well the background software works to put idle applications to sleep to maximize terminal life.
Very good connectivity and sound for which we need headphones
And another good news is both wireless … and wired connectivity . We have already said that we have USB Type-C that, although it is type 1.0, improves compatibility with many modern accessories and laptops. On the other hand, we have a 3.5mm headphone jack port.
In the wireless field we find Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi ac dual band and NFC. We love to see phones in this price range with this technology that will soon allow charging devices .
As for the sound, we have a speaker in the lower right part of the terminal (well located for my taste when it comes to picking it up in landscape format to play or watch series) and a double microphone system, one below and one above to eliminate noise call environment.
The speaker is not overly powerful, and it squeaks in the highs and mids when we turn the volume above 80% . On the other hand, there are no bass. We also found no equalization options on the built-in speaker or when connecting headphones.
Good proposal for the mid-range thanks to a very well-calibrated screen
We come to the end of the TCL 10L review, an adventure during these two weeks that has not been particularly hard. As I mentioned, I have gone from mobile phones of 1,000 euros to one of about 250, but hey, I have not missed either autonomy or performance, and neither screen.
It is clear that the Snapdragon 665 is a mid-range SoC, but for the daily tasks of a user of this type of device, it is a processor that exceeds exceedingly well. It moves the operating system very well (thanks to a very well implemented software layer) and allows us to play demanding games or edit photos without any problem.
It is true that it is not as fluent saving heavy files (due to its UFS 2.1 memory) and that it heats up under stress, but playing almost to the maximum one of the most demanding games … it is not turkey mucus.
The battery is inexhaustible and allows us a day and a half with intense use , although the black point is in a charge that takes too long due to the 10 W of the “travel charger” that is included in the box.
And the camera … well, in this segment we can not expect wonders, but we have a main camera that complies and a macro that certain users will know how to extract the juice. It is undoubtedly one of the roundest terminals in its category, and a good entry point for a “novice” TCL in the western market.
It is true that the competition is tough, but if you are looking for a mid-range mobile with a good battery and screen, it is a very valid candidate. It is for sale for a price that starts at 229 euros.