Reviews

TCL 10 Pro Review: Premium doesn’t have to be pricey

For a company only on their second round of mobile phones TCL has a surprisingly long history in the mobile industry. The company has been making Alcatel and Blackberry phones for years, impressing at all segments of the market. TCL has finally drawn on their experience and launched their own brand of phones, announcing the TCL 10 Pro, TCL 10 L and TCL 10 5G at CES this year.

The TCL 10 Pro and TCL 10 L are now available in Australia, and after Trevor gave them a look over, I asked for a shot, because frankly the specs and pricing make both look attractive. 

I’ve had the 10 Pro and 10 L for a while now, and first up for review is the TCL 10 Pro, the higher end of the two, with the 10 Pro selling for $749, while the 10 L hits a much lower price point at $449. 

The ‘Super-mid-range’ market in Australia is absolutely stacked, so the big question is ‘Should the TCL 10 Pro should be your next phone?’ Let’s find out.

Hardware

In terms of hardware the TCL 10 Pro impresses straight out of the box with the beautiful, curved 6.47-inch FHD+ resolution AMOLED display. The screen is bright, has awesome viewing angles with the deep blacks and vibrant colours you expect with an OLED. You can see the screen well in full sunlight or under fluros inside with ease. There’s a tiny teardrop camera notch at the top of the display, but is barely noticeable, sitting in the middle of the screen in the status bar. 

There’s an in-display optical fingerprint sensor about a third of the way up the screen. It’s pretty good, though I had to retrain it to get a more accurate read. The positioning of the fingerprint sensor is great, and I can reach it with one hand no issues.

The curved sides of the display meld into the rear of the phone at the sides. There’s a tiny lip where the plastic and glass meet, but it’s nice to grip and fits comfortably in your hand. TCL has included an ‘Edge Bar’ for the curved display which lets you access your apps, contacts and a ruler quickly. I’m not a huge fan of these apps, but it works and the ruler is fairly useful though not something I need a constant shortcut for.

The screen quality of the NXTVision display is no surprise with TCL’s heritage in displays – their TV’s are also very high quality – and it makes for a solid start to any phone.

The phone is fairly tall with that large display, so it’s something to think about.There’s the usual volume rocker and power button on the right which are easy to reach, but the Smart Key button on the left is extremely useful. You can program single and double press, as well as have Google Assistant show up on long press.

While there’s a speaker at the top of the screen, it’s not actually used for anything other than phone calls with the speaker at the bottom of the phone doing all the work for any videos etc. you want to watch. 

You DO get a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone, and even more interesting for my money: You also get an IR port on next to the headphone jack so you can control all your devices, it still can’t find my Sony TV, but got every other TV in the house…as well as the one at the motor registry! 

Though there’s only one speaker, quality is pretty decent with a lot of oomph there to punch out sound when needed. It’s still a speaker in a mobile phone, so don’t expect high-quality sound.

The performance of the TCL 10 Pro is decent, though with a Snapdragon 675, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (there’s a microSD card slot to expand it) it could be better. There’s no obvious holes in TCL’s performance beyond the limitations of the processor, there’s no lag but there’s an occasional ‘beat’ as the phone takes a little longer when you’re doing something intensive like gaming or multi-tasking. 

The battery on the 10 Pro is great. Despite having a massive 6.7-inch display the battery life doesn’t suffer, largely thanks to the mid-tier Snapdragon 675 process and obviously the massive 4,500mAh battery inside. 

I absolutely caned the phone and got full day battery life with no issues. There is a fast charge option with an 18W charger included in the box so you can nab a few hours charge in a few minutes before you head out. There’s no wireless charging, which is a bit of a bummer, but it’s not really needed.

As far as design goes, I’m totally in love with the rear of the TCL 10 Pro with its Ember Grey coloured rear. The colour starts out light at the bottom before grading to the full Ember Grey at the top of the phone. It looks classy, and moves away from the now common colour shifting options on other phones. 

To protect your phone, TCL has included a basic clear TPU case in the box. I still like to call out manufacturers who go the extra mile to include this basic protection because not every one does it. So, bravo TCL.

Continuing with the rear design, TCL has a neat take on the camera array for the rear quad-camera setup. For a start the cameras sit flush with the rear of the phone in a horizontal stripe, with an LED flash either end of the array – though these protrude just slightly from the rear. It’s a big change from the massive camera continents we’re seeing on flagship phones these days – and best of all the phone sits flat on a desk without rocking.

Camera

Beyond the great looking quad-camera setup, there’s a fair bit of power in terms of cameras on the TCL 10 Pro. The Quad camera array consists of a 64MP primary sensor with a 16MP Super-Wide angle lens, a 2MP super low-light sensor with 2.9µm pixel size for improved night shoots and there’s also a 5MP macro sensor for close-up shots. 

The quality of shots is pretty decent with a decently fast shutter speed allowing you to grab a shot quickly. The snaps are nicely colour accurate and sharp, as you’d expect for a 64MP sensor. The pictures taken on the main sensor aren’t 64MP in resolution, instead they’re ‘binned’ to produce a shot at 16MP, with the images stacked to create quite a good picture. 

The night shots aren’t great, but for a first shot, this is a decent effort.

Macro mode is fun, but I’ve always been a little confused as to use case. I can generally take a decent close up shot if I use the optical zoom on other phones, with the results fairly similar. Still, it’s there and if you do need a closeup shot, it’s pretty good.

Selfies on the TCL 10 Pro are good. The 24MP selfie camera nestled in the teardrop notch on the front has plenty of power, but again the resulting pictures are stacked with the resulting image around 6MP. 

The Selfie mode has a ‘Beauty’ option, but it’s actually one of the more laidback ones I’ve used. But, as always if you want to remain au naturale in your selfies you can switch it off really easily.

The TCL camera app is pretty good with everything laid out in a simple , easily accessible way. TCL has given you fast access to zoom and wide-angle options – though remember it’s only digital zoom on the TCL 10 Pro. The additional button on the UI is for a way to view the preview of three sensors: Main, Ultra-Wide and Night shot. It’s an easy way to get an idea of which mode you should use, and you can simply tap on the view you like most to instantly switch to that mode in full-screen.

Software

TCL has launched the 10 Pro with Android 10 on board, with the latest security patch from July 5th 2020. There’s a few updates missing, though it’s been pretty common for most manufacturers to do quarterly updates, so I expect an update in the next month.

TCL skin Android with ‘TCL UI’ on their phones, and it’s not a huge departure from stock Android. You’re given the choice between having an app drawer during setup, and while you get the standard Android navigation keys  (Back, Home, Multi-tasking) you can also choose to take advantage of swipe gesture navigation.

There’s some useful updates in TCL UI, like the ‘Smart Key’ function which lets you assign certain functions to it. The only thing I don’t like about this is the inability to assign a specific app to it, but there’s a bunch of options to choose from and a shortcut to the torch was great for me.

Another feature of the TCL 10 Pro is Super Bluetooth — an option that lets you play audio concurrently on up to four separate Bluetooth devices. I tend to use Google Assistant groups on my smart speakers, but if you have a bunch of Bluetooth speakers around your house this feature is pretty neat alternative.

A small note on wireless connectivity on the TCL 10 Pro, it works almost flawlessly with the only hiccough being the WPA3 connection on my Google Wifi. Once I switched it back to WPA2 the 10 Pro connected fine.

TCL has included a lot of apps with their default app loadout. There’s some useful utilities like the IR blaster, FM Radio and other apps including a local gallery, but there’s also some gnarly ones like ‘OfficeSuite’ which wants you to try out the premium option, that will charge you $47 per year if you forget to cancel it after the free 7-day trial. 

I’m ok with manufacturers including apps they want to highlight through partnerships – as long as you can remove them, and you can on the TCL 10 Pro, so don’t stress, spend 5 minutes deleting apps you don’t want and you’re good to go.

Should you buy it?

TCL’s brief history as a first tier mobile maker is off to a great start with the 10 Pro. The design is well thought out and executed, and a decent amount of power has been included under the hood as well.

There’s some room for improvement on the camera front, but that’s the story with every phone.

There’s a lot to like about the TCL 10 Pro and the price is just one of them. The NXTVision display is fantastic, performance is good, battery life is absolutely on point and the design is great.

TCL may only be a relatively new name in the mobile market, but they’re not only on the right track they’ll pleasantly surprise anyone who gives them a chance.

TCL 10 Pro Review: Premium doesn’t have to be pricey
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