TCL, best known for affordable television sets in the U.S., released the TCL 10-Series smartphones, the first products to be sold under the TCL Mobile brand.
With many components developed and manufactured in-house, TCL is aiming to deliver high-quality mobile devices at under $500, and the TCL 10 Pro largely succeeds in that effort.
The TCL 10 Pro, at under $450, is a mid-range GSM unlocked device with a build quality that is all business. Like a nice suit, the matte metal Ember Gray chassis coordinates seamlessly with the curved glass display. Despite the large screen real estate, the device is comfortable to hold and lightweight at 6.6 ounces. As a bonus, the TCL 10 Pro includes a clear plastic case which offers decent protection.
The four camera array is set horizontally across the top rear of the device under solid glass and sits completely flush against the metal chassis. Two flash modules that flank the camera setup are raised minimally above the surface. The result is one of the best designed multi-camera setups yet, particularly compared to the stovetop camera bumps that have plagued recent smartphone designs.
The included Qualcomm 675 chipset and 6GB of RAM may not set a spec sheet on fire. But its real-world performance relayed flagship-like speeds through apps, browsing, and split-screen multitasking. 4G LTE and Wi-Fi performance was fast and reliable.
In addition, the 10 Pro is a solid gaming device. In our testing, Call of Duty: Mobile ran at a solid 60 frames-per-second (a frame rate required for accurate shooting in FPS titles) on High graphics settings in an online multiplayer match. Meanwhile, casual fare like Super Mario Run and Sonic Dash held the same consistent 60 frames-per-second fidelity.
The TCL UI, which includes an Always-on display, Dark Mode that can be set to timer, Edge Bar to quick access apps, and Status Bar option to hide the camera notch, had little if any interference with overall chipset performance. In terms of software longevity, TCL has committed to at least one OS update and two years of security updates.
TCL’s in-house NXTVISION visual technology, which powers the TCL-made 6.47-inch curved AMOLED FHD+ (2340 x 1080) display, is the 10 Pro’s standout feature for its mid-range price point. The technology includes a real-time up-conversion to HDR which boosts contrast, sharpness and saturation, for phenomenal video quality. Netflix, for which the TCL 10 Pro is HDR10 certified, and Disney+ both look fantastic. NXTVISION can be turned off completely for those who want a more subtle screen palette.
Sound quality is good with a single bottom-firing speaker. Turned to full volume, the speaker emits loudly with strong low levels and no distortion. The 10 Pro even includes a headphone jack and an IR blaster, both rarely seen in modern smartphones. As a phone, call quality was crystal clear for both standard and speakerphone calls.
The TCL 10 Pro is armed with a four camera setup that takes good to average photos. Cameras include a 64MP main camera, 16MP super wide-angle lens, 5MP macro sensor, and a 2MP super low-light video camera.
The main 64MP camera is mixed in Auto mode, which can take either a great photo or an oversaturated one. Testing the Pro mode, we adjusted the ISO and shutter values which resulted in more even saturation in outdoor shots.
Portrait mode works great for bokeh depth shots, while Super Night mode inadvertently added a brown tone to each photo.
The 16MP super wide-angle lens, which holds a 123-degree view, worked as advertised. The 5MP macro sensor produced somewhat processed but detailed up-close shots. And the 24MP front camera snapped bright and clear selfies.
Perhaps the most interesting component of the four camera setup is the 2MP low-light video camera. When limited light is detected in video mode from the main lens, the software turns on Low Light mode to switch to the 2MP low-light video camera. The camera, in a dim lit area, added an impressive amount of light into the lens to record at 30 frames-per-second and 1080p resolution.
Despite not having Optical Image Stabilization, the cameras consistently produced sharp photos using software alone.
Video recording maxes out at 4K at 30 frames-per-second. Electronic Image Stabilization worked well to stabilize a slow pan, but quick camera movement resulted in blur and noise.
With a 4500mAh battery, the 10 Pro had no problem lasting a full day with the Always-on display activated. Owners can quick-charge the device via USB-C with the included 18W charger to boost battery from 0 to 55 percent in 35 minutes. Our test yielded a 30 percent boost with a 30-minute mid-day charge. While the 10 Pro doesn’t include wireless charging functionality, it does include reverse charging to use internal battery to charge other devices.
Login functions like Face key and the fingerprint on-display unlock are both solid and produced few errors.
A trademark feature on the TCL 10-Series is the Smart Key. A small button on the left side of the handset can be short pressed, double pressed, or long pressed to map to a range of functions, from opening apps to screenshots to on/off toggles. It’s a great tactile shortcut key that isn’t tied to an unwanted assistant.
The TCL 10 Pro is a pro level device that challenges the best mobile devices in and above its price range. While the camera could be improved, the 10 Pro’s top build quality, standout display, and flagship speed make it an impressive debut for a smartphone model, and for the TCL brand.