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Hands on: TCL 10 5G Review

Hot on the heels of the superb TCL 10 Pro, the Chinese manufacturer's back with its first 5G smartphone.

First Impressions

The TCL 10 5G is sure to find an audience at its affordable £399 price point, but there it's noticeably lacking in some of the best features that made the TCL 10 Pro such a standout device.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £399
  • Quad-camera module
  • 6.53-inch FHD+ LCD display
  • Qualcomm® Kryo™ Octa-Core CPU
  • 128GB storage
  • 6GB RAM
  • 4500mAh battery
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 765G
  • Dimensions: 163.65 x 76.56 x 9.05mm

Hot off the heels of its latest handset – the wonderfully innovative TCL 10 Pro – Chinese manufacturer TCL is back with another affordable handset, this time aimed at the early 5G adopters hoping to hop on board without breaking the bank.

At a glance, it’d be easy to mistake the TCL 10 5G as being nearly identical to the TCL 10 Pro, only this time with 5G functionality added, but there’s actually a couple of key differences to be found between the two phones. Those same differences might be the key to swaying buyers in either direction, with a strange give and take situation having seemingly occurred in the feature set of TCL’s new phone.

For starters, TCL’s given its first 5G handset a bump in screen size, weighing in with a 6.53-inch screen over the TCL 10 Pro’s 6.46-inch offering. While that’s definitely a plus point in getting more retail space for your money, it doesn’t necessarily equate to a better viewing experience as the 10 5G suffers from a screen downgrade from AMOLED to LCD.

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This is by no means a deal-breaker for the average user, but if you use your smartphone as your main means of watching film and TV then you’ll notice the difference immediately. TCL has also morphed the dew-drop notch into a hole-punch camera, which I find to be a lot less distracting when watching content.

TCL 10 5G

Speaking of cameras, one of the TCL 10 Pro’s most defining features was the use of a recessed camera module, allowing the back of the phone to feel completely smooth to the touch. In a world of growing camera modules (Apple, we’re looking at you), seeing a company fly in the face of said trend felt like a breath of fresh air, which is why it’s so strange to see TCL do away with the design for the 10 5G.

Beyond that, there’s isn’t that much of a difference in the camera offering. In the TCL 10 5G you can find a main 64MP f/1.9 main sensor, an 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide sensor, a 5MP f/2.2 macro sensor and a 2MP f/2.4 depth sensor.

Related: TCL 10 Pro Review

You can still shoot video in up to 4K 30fps, but noticeably absent is the ability to record slow-mo at 960fps – maybe the idea of slow-mo just flies in the face of 5G speed, enough to warrant it being dropped. 

Where early adopters will see an uptick however is in the TCL 10 5G’s performance. Under the hood you can find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chipset, alongside a 2.3 GHz, Octa Core processor. While these specs won’t necessarily wow flagship smartphone users, they’re certainly impressive for the price.

TCL 10 5G

A few other points to note – the TCL 10 Pro’s dedicated Google Assistant button makes a return here. While I have run into a few accidental presses whilst using the phone, it’s still handy enough to have instant access to the Google Assistant, especially if you’re like me and use a smart assistant to set constant work-related reminders.

Additionally, the in-display fingerprint sensor has been taken out of the screen and moved to the back of the device. Again, this will be a personal point of preference for most people, but I find that dedicated fingerprint readers tend to be a lot more reliable than their in-display counterparts.

Early verdict

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the TCL 10 5G is TCL’s top-pick from its affordable range. In many aspects, the phone pales in comparison to the high bar set by the TCL 10 Pro, but that doesn’t mean you should write it off completely.

Getting a fast, 5G-compatible phone with a large screen for under £400 is no mean-feat, and the TCL 10 5G is sure to please anyone wanting to jump on the 5G bandwagon early, without said jump costing a small fortune.

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.

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