Despite a small stable of devices under their own brand, TCL has been a long time player in the smartphone market, stewarding brands such as Alcatel and Blackberry. Since 2020, TCL has gone forward with their own TCL branded series, this year unveiling the TCL 30 series at CES.
The TCL 30 series, consisting of four phones: the TCL 305 and 306 and TCL 30 SE and TCL 30+ arrived in Australia last month with their stunning NXTVision displays. TCL has sent over the TCL 30+ for us to check out, and after impressive outings on the TCL 10 and TCL 20, I’m keen to check out their latest offering.
Priced at $399, the TCL 30+ includes a large 6.7-inch display and 50MP AI triple camera array on the rear. There’s a large battery inside for all-day battery life and an octa-core processor with 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage.
I’ve been using the TCL 30+ for just over a week and here’s how it went.
Design and Hardware
The TCL 30+ colour options include either the Muse Blue or Tech Black, however unlike the metallic options on previous models there’s a matte look and feel to the plastic rear. The rear is definitely not going to attract too many fingerprints, though it’s worth using the form-fitting clear TPU bumper included in the box which protects it from bumps as well as fingerprints on the rear.
The other change to the rear of the TCL 30+ from previous generations is the move to a more traditional camera island to house the 50MP AI triple camera array.
I was a huge fan of the look of the horizontal camera bar which sat flush on the TCL 10 Pro, and when it went vertical on the TCL 20 Pro it also looked good. The new camera island design on the TCL 30+ is more common these days with a larger sensor at the top with macro and depth sensors below but I would love to see that previous distinctive look.
The rest of the phone includes a volume rocker on the right hand side with the power button below which includes a fingerprint sensor. The sensor works quite fast, but can be a little finicky when scanning your finger at setup.
The phone includes a SIM card tray on the left which has a slot for a microSD card to expand your storage and there’s a USB-C port at the base with a headphone jack and speaker.
The phone has stereo sound with the phone speaker pairing with the bottom firing speaker for some surprisingly decent audio quality. Of course if you turn the volume up too far or start with some heavy bass you’ll get some distortion, but at mid-range it’s quite good.
Of course one of the things I was looking forward to was checking out the 6.7-inch AMOLED NXTVision display. The NXTVision display offers improvements to saturation and enhancement of images, video and gaming, as well as offering eye protection with blue light filtering.
You can tune the NXTVision display to your personal preference with its own dedicated menu within the Settings. You can tune the temperature to your preference or switch it off entirely.
It’s a nice, bright and clear display especially indoors, but also operates very well outside with the screen capable of up to 900 nits of peak brightness.
The TCL 30+ runs on a Mediatek MT6765V/CB Helio G37 platform with 4GB RAM and 128GB of onboard storage, with the option to add up to a 512GB microSD card .
Previous generations have used Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, however the TCL 30 series has switched to Mediatek Helio processors as an alternative. The Helio G37 processor and 4GB RAM combo in the TCL 30+ has some performance issues when under load and while multitasking. Once an app or game is loaded though it performs well.
The phone includes support for Wifi, though it only supports 2.4GHz which presents an issue connecting to the AA Wireless unit in the car for Android Auto which requires 5GHz support. It does connect to the wired connection easily enough, but I found certain apps (Pocket Casts and Waze) couldn’t load from the head unit unless you pre-loaded the app on the phone before you got under way.
Bluetooth was fast to connect with the Android Fast Pair and connected to my Sony headphones quite well with a solid connection, though struggled a little with my Pixel Buds A-Series (though that’s more likely on them at this point).
For those into Tap & Pay, you can rest easy with an NFC chip included in the Australian model that works well with Google Pay at all the EFTPOS terminals I tried.
Battery and Charging
The TCL 30+ includes a large 5010 mAh battery with 18W fast charging support with a 15W USB-C charger included in the box.
With day-to-day use, I took the phone off the charger at 6am typically and found it ready for a charge by the time I was going to bed. It can be a bit of a battery hog though, so it can be handy to keep the charger around.
There’s no wireless charging support, but that’s unsurprising at this end of the market, and a day of use is about what I’d expect with such a large FullHD+ resolution display pushing 900 nits.
The TCL 30+ has a 50MP AI triple camera array on the rear which includes a 2MP Macro camera and 2MP depth sensing camera as well as the 50MP main sensor. There’s also a 13MP ultra-wide angle selfie camera included in a tear-drop notch in the display.
The selfie camera is quite good in the right light, though struggles in lower lighting conditions. The ultra-wide angle isn’t super wide at 96° but it certainly gives you a decent option to fit more into the frame.
The rear camera array also offers some decent results in the right light, and offers some AI enhancement in low-light conditions at night. The results are pretty good if you have the time to really let the camera focus.
Most of your shots are taken with the 50MP main sensor, with the 2MP depth sensor coming into play when shooting in portrait mode. The portrait mode is quite good, offering decent blurring of the background while keeping the subject in frame. The Macro camera is also decent if you’re into those close up shots.
There’s no optical zoom, so you will need to rely on the digital zoom which is fairly serviceable if you don’t push it too far.
There is AI Scene detection which can offer enhancements for shots, with the camera app automatically picking up what’s in the frame and optimising the shot automatically. Or you can of course switch to pro mode to gain full access to the camera settings.
The app itself is fairly easy to navigate with the main functions available front and centre on a slider. For those who love extra features in your camera app, there’s options in a sub-menu including stop motion, light painting, movie mode for cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio video and loads more.
The TCL 30+ comes with Android 12 on board with TCL UI v4.0.2 running over the top which adds in support for a slightly different UI from stock Android and some baked in apps. In terms of updates, the phone is running the February 5th security update from earlier this year, though TCL has promised security updates through until December 2023, however haven’t mentioned any feature updates to Android 13 or beyond.
The Android experience on the TCL UI is quite good, not diverging too far from stock Android. There are some thoughtful touches though including a decent launcher with themes, and a revamped quick settings UI putting quick actions like auto-rotate, torch, mobile data and screenshot in smaller buttons – and you still get separate Wifi toggle. The app drawer allows you to sort apps in a number of ways, offering by category as the default.
The baked in apps include Linkedin which can simply be uninstalled, but there’s more system apps like the notes, sound recorder etc. which, while very useful, are unable to be removed. There are also some handy tools including a radio app if you plug the wired headset in.
I was also a pretty big fan of the Edge Bar which allows you to have fast access to apps, contacts, functions like shortcuts to take a selfie and even a ruler. The Edge Bar is a UI element that sits up at the top left edge of your screen letting you quickly swipe it across and get to what you need.
Should you buy this phone?
The TCL 30+ is a decent mid-range smartphone, offering an excellent NXTVision display with stereo sound and a decent camera platform.
There is however some stiff competition at this end of the market from other manufacturers including from Motorola with their G22 which offers similar specs at $100 less. TCL is also eating into their own market with their TCL 20 series phones selling at this price point.
The TCL 30+ though has some nice style to it and it’s thin and light with a great screen. So it’s certainly worth a look.
You can find the TCL 30+ at Officeworks, Harvey Norman, Mobile Citi, Amazon and Dick Smith.