TCL’s new 10L, a GSM unlocked handset from the TCL 10-Series, is a solid budget phone that can take on everyday tasks and even gaming at under $250.
The TCL 10L has a plastic chassis but is sturdy with no creaks. The 3D back in Mariana Blue looks cool and shines an iridescent glow against light. Its four-camera setup, which holds a slight bump, is laid horizontally for a nice symmetrical look. The body itself is a bit wide but comfortable to hold. Login features like Face key and the rear fingerprint reader are quick and accurate. TCL includes a bonus plastic case for the 10L, but it obscures the 3D back.
The TCL-made 6.53-inch LCD FHD+ display at 1080 x 2340 resolution is fantastic at this price point. With a 91 percent screen-to-body ratio and TCL’s in-house NXTVISION display technology which upconverts to HDR to real-time, the large screen is crisp, clean, and color accurate.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 may be an older chipset, but attached to 6GB of RAM, the 10L is fast for most tasks. Users may encounter some minor lag and longer wait times for app installs, but for the most part, the device is peppy.
In addition, the 10L is a competent gaming device. In our test, Call of Duty: Mobile ran at a solid 60 frames-per second on the High graphics setting during a multiplayer match. Another action title, The King of Fighters ALLSTAR, held at 60 frames-per-second at a mid-graphics setting.
The mono speaker in the 10L is decent for podcasts and YouTube but doesn’t have much to offer in the low levels for explosive action movies. Thankfully, the handset includes a 3.5mm headphone jack and Bluetooth 5.0 to use more capable audio devices.
The TCL UI is clean and unobtrusive with little bloatware and performance impact. It contains useful functionality including a Dark mode that can be set to timer, a Eye comfort mode to reduce blue light, and the NXTVISION HDR up-conversion, which can be turned off.
The Smart Key, a feature on all TLC 10-Series phones, is a tactile button on the left side that can be assigned to perform up to three functions with a single press, double press or long press. From taking a screenshot to toggling on/off functions, it’s a great button to have that isn’t tied to an assistant that may or may not be used. It can also be turned off to avoid unintentional presses.
TCL’s four camera setup for the 10L offers good to average performance. The 48MP main camera takes sharp shots in lit areas, but the Auto mode processing can oversaturate color. The 8MP super wide camera takes adequate, but grainy wide angle shots. The 5MP Macro camera is sufficient for close-up shots. And the 2MP depth camera helps to add a nice depth effect to main camera portrait photos. The 16MP hole-punch front camera captured solid selfies even in lower lighting. Video quality is average with Electronic Image Stabilization and maxes out at 4K and 30 frames-per-second.
The 10L’s 4,000mAh battery is a champ. After a full day of LTE, Wi-Fi, browsing, streaming, and gaming, we were left with 47 percent battery life by 10PM. Lighter use yielded a 61 percent battery life at the end of the day. At this price, the 10L does not include fast-charging (or wireless charging) so expect a two hour wait for a full charge via USB-C.
Finally, the 10L includes NFC, a component neglected in most handsets in this price range, making the 10L a great entry point for contactless payments.
The TCL 10L is a formidable budget competitor at $249.99. From tackling daily tasks to gaming, the 10L is more than capable for the average consumer. Add in a best-in-class display and NFC, and TCL has one of the smartest buys in the mobile market to date.