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TCL 10L review: As solid of a budget smartphone as you can get

TCL 10L review

There are a lot of choices out there in terms of budget smartphones and the TCL 10L is as solid of a budget smartphone as you can get.

Techaeris Rated 8.9/10

TCL has been making moves in the smartphone world and making waves at the same time. The company has released two phones this year with mixed reviews. We recently reviewed the TCL 10 Pro, which we found to be a great flagship effort from the company. The other device they released is the TCL 10L, which is targeting the budget buyer.

While some may disagree that the TCL Pro is a flagship, it’s hard to disagree that the TCL 10L is a budget phone, albeit on the higher end of the budget spectrum. There are a lot of choices out there in terms of budget smartphones and the TCL 10L is as solid of a budget smartphone as you can get. Read on for the full review of the TCL 10L!

Specifications

The TCL 10L has the following features and specifications:

ModelTCL 10L T700B
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 665 Octa-core
GPUAdreno 610
Display6.53-inch LCD Dotch display (1080×2340), 395ppi, 19.5:9, 91% screen-to-body ratio
Memory6GB RAM
Storage256GB, MicroSD card support (FAT 32)
Rear CameraQuad rear camera: 48MP hi-res + 8MP super wide + 2MP macro + 2MP depth
Front Camera16MP
Networks4G LTE/3G/2G
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz, NFC, 3.5mm audio jack
SensorsGPS Galileo, A-GPS, Accelerometer, Gyro, Proximity, RGB Light, face unlock, in-screen fingerprint sensor, NFC, IR sensor
Battery4500mAh
ChargingUSB Type-C, Quick Charge 3.0 (9V/2A), OTG reverse charging (5V/1.5A)
Splash, Water, Dust ResistantNo
Operating SystemAndroid 10 with TCL UI
ColorMariana Blue finish: 2.5D front glass, 3D PMMA back, blue holographic film
Dimensions6.38” x 2.98” x 0.33” / 162.2 x 75.6 x 8.4 mm
Weight6.35oz / 180g

What’s In The Box

  • TCL 10L
  • USB Type-C to USB-A cable
  • Charging adapter
  • TCL branded clear case
  • SIM/SD card tray ejector tool
  • Manual and Documentation

Design

These days, smartphones have settled into a familiar form factor and design aesthetic across the board. While most of them have a few design elements that set them apart, generally most smartphones are two glass slabs held together by a metal bumper. This is basically what the TCL 10L is.

That’s not a bad thing because this phone, from a distance, looks like just about any other Android smartphone out there.

At the top of the TCL 10L you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack and one of the microphones. At the bottom of the smartphone you’ll find the USB-Type C port and speaker. Along the right side is the power button and volume rocker, both of which have nice tactile feedback. The power button is placed at just about the perfect spot as well. Along the left side is the “Smart Key,” to which you can assign different functions.

The Smart Key can be used with a single press, double press, and long press. Each press can be assigned a different function from turning on the camera to launching Google Assistant. There is plenty of customization ability.

TCL 10L review
Camera array

Around the back of the TCL 10L you’ll encounter the quad camera array along with dual LED flash. I found the flash setup interesting as there are two flashes situated on the left and right of the camera array and not set together. The fingerprint sensor is also on the back along with the TCL branding.

Around the front is a very nice LCD display with slim bezels at the top, right, and left with the bottom bezel being slightly thicker. The TCL 10L also comes with a clear case that is boisterously branded with their slogan. The case itself is fine, it’s a TPU case and offers minimal protection, but the branding is obnoxious. For added protection, the 10L also has a pre-applied screen protector.

Overall, the design is nice. It’s not mind blowing or cutting edge, but it follows the current idea of how a smartphone should look and feel. I’m still not a fan of the included case, but that’s really not a deal breaker.

Display

Before we dive into the display, keep in mind that this is a budget phone, and we’re obviously not going to get the same display you’ll see on higher-end phones. That being said, the TCL 10L offers one of the best displays for a smartphone in its price category.

I’ll start with my one con of this display, and that is the brightness. Again, this is a budget phone so we’re not going to see the same performance we would from a flagship. The brightness on the TCL 10L is just okay. It’s not the best I’ve used and I felt it could be a tad brighter. This was especially needed in very bright conditions where the display was harder to make out.

TCL 10L review
A good LCD display for a budget phone, does struggle in bright sunlight.

Aside from the display not having the brightness I prefer, the overall experience here is good. Colors pop, blacks are deep enough, and the whites don’t look like yellow. Text is crisp and gestures like pinch-to-zoom and scrolling all worked flawlessly. The TCL 10 Pro display is most certainly much better than this display and the NXTVision tech doesn’t really add much value here.

What I did find interesting is that the TCL 10L display is slightly larger than that of its big brother the TCL 10 Pro. It’s not that big of a difference but it is worth noting. The punch hole camera didn’t bother me at all but I know some people have an aversion to punch holes and notches. Those don’t matter to me, so it was not an issue.

Overall, the TCL 10L display delivers what most budget devices deliver these days. It has great colors, good blacks, clean whites, and is FHD+ giving you a very good performing screen for the price.

Software

The TCL 10L is running Android 10 with TCL UI. I didn’t find TCL UI to be too bad of a skin. It’s very subtle and easy to navigate, it’s really not far off from stock Android, and the icons are even pretty attractive.

I had no issues with any of the apps installed nor did I have any issues with the system not working. Everything worked perfectly fine and exactly how you would expect Android to work.

Overall, this is a typical Android software experience that’s using the latest Android OS.

Performs well for a budget device.

Performance

The TCL 10L is using the Snapdragon 665 and Adreno 610, and both are one step down from its big brother, the 10 Pro. I don’t see this as a bad thing as the 10L was able to handle pretty much everything I did on a daily basis. This includes heavy email use, heavy social media use, occasional light gaming, web browsing, media playback, and photo/video capture.

Scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, and gestures all worked without any issues. Seriously, performance of budget and mid-tier phones is getting so good, the only good reason to get a flagship is for the better camera.

I know, that’s a bold statement but it’s very nearly true. There are some performance issues when trying to play intensive games, but we feel that users who are considering a budget phone aren’t playing intensive games. I have seen some reviews claim the performance is bad on the TCL 10L but I disagree, that just wasn’t my experience. I also think most reviewers have gotten used to having the best flagship on the market and often compare these budget phones to more expensive offerings.

Overall, the TCL 10L performs well for being a budget device. All of the basics work without stutter and you can get most of what you want to get done very easily with this device.

Speakers/Sound

Budget phone means a budget speaker and that’s what you’re getting here. The mono speaker really isn’t meant to make your music or movies sound immersive. It’s good for phone calls and that’s about it. If you want better sound then use headphones, this does have a headphone jack.

TCL 10L review
Outdoors in the shade, and Saab’s rule!

Camera

As with most budget phones the TCL 10L struggles in low-light but that’s expected. As much as I like the cameras on $1100 phones, I just can’t compare them to this camera due to the huge gap in price.

The camera here will serve you well in good lighting and does really well in bright sunlight conditions. The portrait mode sometimes struggles to grab good focus, so snapping a few pics is recommended.

There are a few lenses to choose from, your regular lens, macro, and wide angle. The results from each is similar and I’ll say it again, good lighting is your friend. Like many Android devices, the TCL 10L has a ton of options in the camera, many of which I don’t think you’ll use.

I’d recommend just poking around in the camera app to see what options are available and find what you like to use. One major con I had has been fixed with a recent software update, and that’s watermarking. The TCL 10L watermarks photos out of the box and it seems TCL has changed that so you no longer have a watermark out of the box.

Overall, the camera performs as expected for a budget device. It could be better in low-light, it performs well in good light, performs really well in sunlight, and some of the extras (like portrait mode) can be finicky.

Reception/Call Quality

Reception and call quality are both good here. At this point, even budget phones should be doing this well and the TCL 10L does it well.

Battery Life

Battery life is so subjective and it really depends on how much you’re doing and what apps you’re running. Screen brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, all of these add to battery drain. Intensive games, Maps, and other apps will also affect battery.

For my normal use, very little gaming, lots of social media, lots of emails, photos, and video I was able to get through the day with about 30% left in the tank. I think this is acceptable as I plug my phone in before bed each night.

Overall, battery life is acceptable in our view.

Price/Value

The TCL 10L is priced at US$249.99 which is on the high end of the budget spectrum. There are competitors to consider that perform just as well or even better and are priced about the same or sometimes lower. That being said, the TCL 10L still holds value and is worth the asking price.

Wrap Up

The budget smartphone market is hot right now. There are a lot of great devices on the market and the TCL 10L is entering a really hot arena. The TCL 10L is certainly a handset to consider if you’re looking in this price range.

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TCL 10L

US$249.99

Design

9.0/10

Display

9.0/10

Software

9.0/10

Performance

8.5/10

Speakers/Sound

8.5/10

Camera

8.5/10

Reception/Call Quality

9.5/10

Battery Life

9.0/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • A very nice design
  • Great display for this price point
  • Decent performance for this price point
  • Camera performance is decent in good lighting
  • Great battery life

Needs work

  • Some bloatware included
  • Speaker is a budget speaker
  • Camera isn't great in low-light
  • Display could stand to be brighter

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