You’ve probably heard of TCL thanks to their surprisingly good Roku televisions, but you’ll see them much less often as a phone maker. This is because TCL has certainly earned a fair share of phones over the years, but tends to have other brand names like the BlackBerry Key2 on them.
This makes the $ 449 TCL 10 Pro special because it is a great attempt by the company to make a name for itself in the world of smartphones. The TCL logo is right on the back of the device, and thanks to TCL, it makes a great first impression thanks to a large screen, minimal bezels and a slim camera array.
In the world of television, the TCL logo has become an indicator of affordable quality, and it seems to be doing the same for smartphones. However, the modest price of $ 449 means that the TCL 1
The TCL 10 Pro has a handset design that wouldn’t have been out of place on a flagship phone a few years ago, and I mean that in a good way. It has reasonably small bezels, a curved display around the sides and a small, centrally positioned display notch. All of this means that despite its large 6.47-inch display, the phone doesn’t feel too bulky to hold.
I also really like how TCL managed to circumvent the industry’s recent trend towards massive camera shocks with an almost completely flat back. There are still four cameras here, but TCL has successfully inserted them into the back of the phone. The flash modules are only slightly protruding, but I think it’s a big improvement over other much more expensive devices that always wiggle when you put them on a flat surface. It’s mainly an aesthetic point, but I think it contributes to a much sleeker, higher quality phone.
There is a USB-C port on the bottom that can charge up to 18 W. However, you cannot charge this phone wirelessly. At this price, this isn’t an instant deal breaker, but it’s a feature that’s slowly popping up on cheaper phones like the recent iPhone SE. The 10 Pro has a water resistance rating of IP52, which means that it can handle light water sprays but is not fully submerged. This is not unusual at this price either.
It’s a little difficult to assess a phone’s battery life since everyone is currently living at home, but I had no issues with the 10 Pro’s battery life. Between charges, the average was between four and six hours, which is fine, but a bit low given the phone’s relatively large 4,500 mAh battery. Regardless, it should be enough to easily guide you through a day of use.
There is a headphone jack on the top of the device. There is a special Google Assistant button opposite the side-mounted volume rocker and the on / off buttons. TCL originally said you could remap this button, but confirmed to me that this feature didn’t make it into the final phone. Whether you can remap it or not is a bit of a minor matter, however, since I found it was far too easy to press accidentally. For example, I kept Google Assistant turned on when I put the phone in my pocket. Finally, I completely disabled it in the phone’s accessibility menu.
The 10 Pro is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, 6 GB RAM and 128 GB expandable memory, which will be reflected in solid Android specifications for the mid-range in 2020. In daily use it did more or less everything I needed, but I occasionally stuttered when switching apps and the game performance was mediocre. I would normally say that these specs are to be expected at this price unless Apple’s most powerful processor is available in the iPhone SE (2020) at a similar price. However, Apple’s budget phone is definitely the exception rather than the rule, and the 10 Pro is cheaper compared to its Android rivals.
In terms of software, TCL has made some useful improvements to Android. In other cases where the mark is missed, you can easily undo the selection.
For example, I’ve been relying more and more on the Edge bar, which gives you a simple shortcut to access your commonly used apps. Not only is it TCL’s version of Android and you will find a similar feature on the latest Samsung phones or Motorola Edge, but the implementation is solid and I found it useful for quickly accessing my password manager and authentication apps .
On the other hand, I quickly disabled TCL’s SDR to HDR conversion feature, which deepened blacks and made highlights in standard content with dynamic range brighter to look like HDR content. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but I think it makes images look a little processed and unnatural.
Apart from the misjudged function for converting SDR to HDR, I generally liked the 1080p OLED display of the TCL 10 Pro. It’s bright, colorful, and when you look at actual HDR content, it looks great. My biggest problem with the display is that its colors can be a little oversaturated, but switching the display to its “soft” color profile is a major part of solving the problem, even if it still looks a little too vivid for my taste.
The TCL 10 Pro has an optical fingerprint sensor in the display, which I think is about as reliable as any other in-display sensor I’ve used. I missed the phone at most once a day during my time, which is not a bad thing.
Unfortunately, once you’ve unlocked the phone, the display can also be painful because the curved sides are far too susceptible to accidental touch. I would grab the phone to put it in landscape mode when watching YouTube, for example, and accidentally open an ad. This isn’t a problem that only occurs with the 10 Pro’s curved screen, but it felt less manageable here.
I also had issues with the small size of the bottom bezel as TCL didn’t do a great job optimizing this phone if you enabled Android 10’s new gesture controls. When the navigation keys are gone, the 10 Pro’s keyboard is far too low on the screen. Some people hate the fact that other manufacturers like OnePlus insert a space under their keyboard, but when I used the TCL 10 Pro alongside the OnePlus 8 Pro, it was much easier to type on a keyboard higher up on the screen.
TCL has succeeded in producing a high-end telephone with a small frame. However, what hasn’t been done is optimizing the software of this phone considering these small frames. It’s a striking design, but this style comes at the expense of ease of use.
The situation is similar with the cameras of the TCL 10 Pro. They look great from the outside, but their actual performance leaves something to be desired.
The 10 Pro has four rear view cameras, a 64 megapixel main sensor, a 16 megapixel ultrawide camera, a 5 megapixel macro camera and a 2 megapixel depth detection camera. There is a 24 megapixel camera on the front.
This information sounds like you’re getting a reasonably decent photo experience, but the 10 Pro’s photos end up looking overly processed, unnatural, and sometimes completely fluorescent. The trees in the top left of the picture below summarize everything pretty well. Not only are they completely saturated, they are also sharpened so that they look almost cut out against the sky. The same picture taken with a Pixel 3 shows what the trees should look like and gives an idea of what kind of camera performance you could get with the similarly expensive Pixel 3A.
When it comes to faces, the 10 Pros make them look a little soft and brightened up, and low-light performance really isn’t impressive. This shot of a bookshelf looked like an Instagram filter had been applied to it because the cameras messed up white balance and contrast.
Similarly, the quality of the video recording is nothing special. The 10 Pro can record up to 4K at 30 fps and slow motion videos at up to 960 fps at 720p. Although image stabilization is generally okay, the same oversaturation problems occurred with video recording, and I also observed some flickering and blurring during playback. These may have been acceptable compromises just a few months ago, but the iPhone SE 2 has just raised the bar for video recording performance at this price level.
There’s a lot to like about the TCL 10 Pro, but there are also some frustrating first-generation kinks that need to be ironed out. Yes, there’s a nice big, colorful display with minimal bezels, but the phone keeps thinking that you’re touching the sides of the screen. There is a nice selection of rear view cameras, but TCL’s aggressive image processing can spoil the photos taken. There’s a headphone jack, but there’s also a Google Assistant button that’s a little too easy to accidentally press.
TCL has built much of its recent reputation based on its solid mid-range televisions. It may take a little longer for the logo to stand out in the world of smartphones.