TCL’s 10 5G UW Phone Review
Ever date someone who is actually just a really good person right now, but they have some growing to do? I mean, you like who they are right now, but you really see their potential and are looking forward to where they’re going in life.
That experience is like TCL’s 5G UW Phone on Verizon. Exclusive to Verizon, this version of TCL’s 5G phone has a lot going for it if you buy it now, but there are some things you may have to wait on for it to reach its full potential.
I’m going to pack a few weeks worth of testing into a short review for you. So think of it as a tech speed date with Verizon’s TCL 10 5G UW Phone.
TCL 10 5G UW Overview
So right out of the gate, you need to know that you’re getting a TCL phone right now. This is a first generation device–generation one of their own branded devices to be exact.
Normally, I’d tell the average user to avoid first-gen devices, but I’ve tested TCL’s 10L, 10 Pro, and the REVVL 5G, which is T-Mobile’s branded version of TCL’s 5G devices, and they’re all solid performers.
Of course, we’ll have to see over time how well they hold up, but in the short term, all things considered, there’s much more to love than about this device than not.
Let’s check out the phone. On the right side of the phone, you’ll get a power button and volume rocker. On the left side of the phone is the SIM tray with expandable storage. On the op of the phone, you’ll get a microphone and you’re going to get the 3 1/2 millimeter audio jack. On the bottom, you’ll get a USBC charge port, microphone, and mono speaker.
Now, TCL is known to most people probably for their displays, and they’ve brought their acumen to this area of the 5G UW. It’s a 6.5-inch full HD plus display. It is large, and bright, and contrasty, and is driven by their next vision technology, which you can turn on and off.
When I first reviewed the 10 L and 10 Pro, Next Vision was a bit inconsistent across the devices. With the phone being turned on or off, it may affect the luminant of the display significantly when watching darker programming like The Witcher or Daredevil. I ended up having to turn it off to watch those shows, which left colors a bit flat, and in some cases, a bit washed. This time around Next Vision produced solid HDR-like images without crushing the brightness or black levels.
Turning on Next Vision when watching The Witcher on the UW expands the color depth of the content, but whether that is good is going to be subjective. The colors are definitely warmer and some people may prefer the more natural skin tones you’ll see when the feature’s off.
Daredevil is finished in post-production in HDR, and though Netflix doesn’t support HDR on mobile yet, the show was watchable despite its being one of the shows on Netflix with a lot of dark scenes. And the vibrancy of the colors was notable.
So, my advice, play with Next Vision, watch a few minutes of your favorite show with it on, watch a few minutes with it off, and see which mode suits you.
It should be noted that when it comes to cartoons and other animated content, there’s little perceptible difference with Next Vision on or off.
Rounding out the tech on the front is the speaker grill for calls only–no dual stereo speakers on this phone.
The mono speaker does get plenty loud but, of course, it suffers from the issue all mono speaker setups do and that is audio is firing away from you.
Now, a lot of tech does that, most notably your TVs, but the difference here is that your TVs are generally in front of a wall or mounted to one so what happens is the sound has a surface to immediately bounce off and come at you, bro.
When listening to a down-firing mono speaker, that audio is firing at the ground or a table if you’re holding the phone in portrait mode or firing away from you into infinity, if you’re holding it in landscape.
Also, on the front of the display, you’re going to get a 16 megapixel, front-facing camera. I took photos with it in low-light and in more favorable conditions and the experience was a good one.
As you can see in these low-light photos, a solid amount of detail was captured while noise in the image was relatively low. The images are crisp and it is only when you zoom in that they soften a bit. These photos were taken around 5:00 in the morning outdoors with some grounds’ lighting illuminating the darkness.
In these images here, I was in a hallway which had no light except the exit sign, which cast a green tent on everything in that corridor. There was less light here and you can definitely see more noise in these images and they were softer. But overall, they’re still quite fine for sharing on social media channels.
The back of the phone is where we get to these cameras, three of them, a 48-megapixel wide-angle, 8 megapixel super-wide, and a 5-megapixel macro.
The macro is okay. In ideal conditions, the images it captures aren’t bad at all, but they are a tad soft, but you probably won’t notice that on the display unless you go pixel peeping. So the only thing with the macro lens, and I’ve seen this across their other macro lenses on the other models, is that you’re going to get a green cast, a green tint on the phone.
They do capture a nice amount of detail though. As you can see in this image of my glasses case on the unfinished pine desk, you can clearly see the texture in the case and grain on the desk.
Finally, let’s get to the main camera. There is no optical image stabilization here, but you do get a decent camera for your money. This low-light shot is detailed and sharp, as is this shot of a cloudy sky in the middle of the day. This pink flower looks beautiful. And even this deeply colored fuchsia flower maintains much of its detail, though a tad soft.
It’s when we hit that dreaded red that the shortcomings come to the fore. In all fairness, most cameras have a hard time with these reds, as I’ve stated before.
Phone Gallery App
One cool feature of the photo gallery app as you’re looking through your photos is that you can turn the Next Vision enhancement for the images on and off and see what they look like.
In some photos, like this macro, the difference is negligible. And some photos like these green room shots, the difference is more apparent.
I grew up in the era of dial-up. You’ve got mail, that sort of thing. Connectivity has changed a lot since then.
Speaking of connections, as I alluded to in the beginning of this review, though this is a solid phone now, you may find one aspect lacking—5G connectivity.
Verizon’s high-speed, millimeter wave, ultra-wideband network may be tough to find depending on where you live. Whether it’s in the suburbs, urban areas, or rural areas, there’s no place close to me that a millimeter wave is actually deployed.
The only area that I could test it out in was downtown Los Angeles but that’s it.
Looking at Verizon’s map, the rest of the area is either sub 6 or 4GLTE. Those speeds were plenty quick though. What you need to know buying this phone is that the UW in the name is still likely going to take some time to be available to you.
Lack of that doesn’t mean you’re going to suffer for speed. Like I said in the beginning, it just means there’s some growing to do until your device reaches its full potential.
Overall, for most people, specifically those looking to get in on what is Verizon’s most inexpensive 5G phone, the camera’s here should be a good option.
The rest of the user experience is solid, though you should know that the phone comes stocked with the usual Verizon bloatware. Other than that, the TCL really stays out of Google’s way for the most part, and lets you have a fairly close-to-stock Android 10 experience.
TCL has officially said that their phones will receive one update at least. And you aren’t going to be hurting for power. Even without 5G, battery life out of this 4500 milliampere-hour battery was very solid.
The phone feels peppy, apps launch with only a hint of delay from this Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor. Switching between apps is plenty quick.
The main place on this phone you may notice any slowing is in the camera app. There’s definitely delay when switching between modes but we’re nitpicking because, though it wasn’t instant.
So in the end, is this phone a good deal? If you’re on Verizon and want 5G but don’t want to break the bank, absolutely.
The 10 G UW gets you in on the high-speed network once it’s deployed in your area and then deployed ubiquitously enough to be impactful. So pack your patience because, though this is definitely a quality phone, UW really means for many who may buy–it you’re waiting.