When someone asks me what I think of TCL, I usually say, “Great TVs — I have one in my living room.”
TCL is one of the largest TV manufacturers in the world, but it has also been making phones for several years for other companies, including Alcatel and BlackBerry.
It recently started manufacturing Android smartphones under its own brand, and I’ve been testing the TCL 10 Pro ($449.99), which is a mid-priced Android phone with some high-end features.
Since TCL is known for its LCD TV panels, it makes sense that the 10 Pro has a very good display.
The 10 Pro is dominated by a 6.47-inch curved AMOLED (active matrix organic light-emitting diodes) display that takes up 93% of the front of the phone. It has one teardrop-shaped cutout for the selfie camera.
The display is curved on both sides, and it has a resolution of 2,340 by 1,080 pixels for a pixel density of 398 pixels per inch. It displays HDR10 Netflix content beautifully. HDR stands for high dynamic range.
The 10 Pro screen has a maximum brightness level of 986 nits (units of brightness). For reference, my iPhone XS Max’s screen tops out at 725 nits.
The 10 Pro’s screen is as good as any phone I’ve tested.
The 10 Pro is built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675 chipset with 6 gigabytes of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. You can add up to 256 GB of additional storage with a microSD card.
The battery has a capacity of 4,500 milliamp-hours with enough power to go all day and then some.
TCL says you can expect 18 hours of talk time and more than 15 hours of video playback at default brightness. It is Quick Charge 3.0 compatible. It can charge to 50% in 35 minutes and to 100% in two hours.
It can also reverse-charge other gadgets, which is handy and not something I see very often.
To keep prices low, the 10 Pro does not have wireless charging.
It has Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5, and it is unlocked to work with all carriers.
The 10 Pro has a headphone jack and charges via USB-C.
The phone measures 6.24 by 2.85 by 0.34 inches, and it weighs 6.6 ounces.
It runs Android 10 with a few TCL customizations.
The TCL 10 Pro has two biometric unlocking methods.
There is an optical fingerprint sensor under the display and facial recognition. I wish the fingerprint sensor did a better job. About half the time, I had to try more than once to unlock it with my fingerprint.
No camera bump
One thing I really like about the 10 Pro’s cameras is the fact that they are flush with the back of the phone — there is no camera bump like other phones.
The cameras are placed in one line across the back of the phone.
The main camera has a 64-megapixel sensor with a 79-degree field of view. There is also a 16-megapixel super-wide camera with a 123 degree field of view. The 10 Pro has a 5-megapixel macro (close-up) camera and a 2-megapixel super low light camera.
The 10 Pro captures 4K video at 30 frames per second.
The front camera has a 24-megapixel sensor with a fixed-focus lens with a 79.6 degree field of view.
The phone takes pretty good photos, but it lacks a telephoto lens. There is digital zoom, but that’s just cropping in on a portion of a photo to simulate zoom.
The 10 Pro fit well in my hand, but the glass front and back makes the phone a bit slippery to hold. The screen is the standout. TCL makes great TVs, and the screen on the 10 Pro is beautiful.
The cameras are above average, and the photos and videos were better than I expected from a midpriced phone.
The 10 Pro certainly has the looks of a flagship phone.
This is a solid phone with most of the features I expected and a few I wasn’t expecting, like the screen and cameras (especially without a bump).
Plenty of other companies make sub-$500 phones, including the Samsung Galaxy A50, Google Pixel 3A, Motorola Moto G Stylus and even Apple’s new iPhone SE.
Those are the biggest names in the game, and I’m not sure the TCL name is going to be enough to steer buyers to the 10 Pro.
Pros: Sharp, bright screen; solid cameras; big battery; nice phone design.
Cons: The CPU is no speed demon. The fingerprint reader is hit or miss. There’s no telephoto lens.
Bottom line: Nice enough, but it’s just one more midpriced phone in an already crowded field.
(Article written by Jim Rossman)