TCL 10L Smartphone Deep Dive Review

A smartphone with an attractive price point and an impressive display.

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Tshaka Armstrong
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July 11, 2020
4 min read

This is the TCL 10L, available now for $250. TCL is known for its high-quality, inexpensive displays, but they also have their hands on other things along the supply chain which allows them to have more control over keeping costs down.

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What is the TCL 10L’s display like?

Since most of you know them by their Roku SmartTVs and other monitors, we’ll start off with the display. Unlike the TCL 10 Pro, the L has a flat, not curved display. The Pro, however, is a nicer AMOLED display with HDR10 certification, whereas this 10L has an LCD.

But it is no slouch either. This 6.5-inch, full HD+ (1080x2340) display reproduces wonderful images. The details are sharp and the colors are vibrant.

How does the TCL 10L’s NextVision work?

The display is equipped with NextVision like the 10 Pro, which pushes the colors and saturation when you're looking at photos and watching videos, and it does a solid job of that. They call this a dodge display, which is a term meaning there's a notch in the corner for the camera. Watching content on this $250 phone is a satisfying experience thanks to the quality of the display and the speakers, which get more than loud enough.

NextVision with the LCD panel has the functionality to give you extended color range and really provides some beautiful warmth to images and videos. It can be set to upscale standard definition video to HD, and the colors can be set to vivid with the slider in the middle of warm and cool.

The weak point of this LCD is the brightness. While text and related content are bright and readable outdoors, watching The Witcher's banquet scene exposes the difference of brightness between this and the 10 Pro's AMOLED. Color-wise, it looks great, but for movies that have a dark atmosphere and colored accordingly, the TCL 10L takes a hit.

Here's the catch: That hit is only with NextVision activated. With NextVision disabled, the dark scenes become watchable again without a hit to brightness, but it will take a hit in color saturation.

For live-action content, which is bright and vibrant, you'll have no complaints with NextVision activated. Here's the rub with NextVision off, the lack of color saturation is highly noticeable and makes things drab. All in all, live-action with NextVision on, the quality will vary video to video depending on what it is. For animation, you're good either way.

How long does the TCL 10L’s battery last?

Fortunately for consumers, there's much more to the TCL 10L than a pretty face.

Under the hood, you're getting a 4000 mAh battery, which, when paired with the lower power consumption LED technology, tested to last 21 hours, 12 of which were screen-on time, and it still had 2% left.

There are no compromises where power and stamina are concerned with the phone.

What is TCL 10L’s user interface like?

On the back of the TCL 10L smartphone, above the battery, you'll find the fingerprint scanner, which works flawlessly. The phone unlocks immediately when you place your finger on the scanner, faster than the screen takes to light up. The phone's UI, the first by TCL, gives you plenty of options to extend the functionality of the fingerprint scanner beyond just unlocking your phone.

This UI gives you plenty of customization options elsewhere, too, along with helpful tweaks and functionality on top of Android 10. There's a smart key on the left side of the phone, and the software allows you to connect shortcuts to this button, which can be accessed by a single tap, double-tapping the button, or long-pressing the button.

One of the enhancements in TCL UI is the ability to change screen brightness when you're in the gallery looking at images full-screen by swiping up on the left side of the screen. The folder carousel is pretty handy. When you tap on a folder on the home screen, the folders on all of your home screens come up in a carousel. Thanks to the 6 GB of RAM, everything feels like it moves nice and swift between folders.

What is the TCL 10L’s camera like?

The TCL 10L has a quad camera with a horizontal stack on the rear of the phone, flanked by LEDs. You get 48- and eight-megapixel superwide lenses, a two-megapixel macro lens, and two-megapixel depth image sensors.

For $250's worth of camera, you wind up with pretty solid images from the main camera. The images are sharp with low noise, but some may find the color to be oversaturated. You can always turn off HDR and go into Pro Mode to control that. Images are sharp and the colors are true to life.

Using the two-megapixel macro, your pics are going to look great on this display, but zoomed in, you'll notice noise in the image. There is no Night Mode on the TCL 10L, but you can use Pro Mode to get in there and adjust those settings so that you can get the most out of low-light captures.

Recap: Is the TCL 10L budget smartphone worth it?

At an attractive price point of $250, you can’t go wrong with the TCL 10L. The fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate, the display looks great, and the speakers get pretty loud. The absence of rapid charging isn’t too bad since the battery lasts so long.

Now the only thing which remains to be seen is longevity. How long will this phone last until you need the next one? TCL has officially said that we'll get at least one future Android update.

Tshaka Armstrong
Written by
Tshaka Armstrong
Tshaka is a nerd and Griot. Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer, and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

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