The TCL 40 Nxtpaper is a budget phone that is doing something different, using TCL’s paper-like display technology to set it apart. At under £220, the 5G could be worth your cash if the unique screen is to your liking.
- Nxtpaper displayThe screen uses TCL’s paper-like Nxtpaper technology for added eye comfort
- Large battery5000mAh battery cell inside, and TCL claims “all-day high performance”
- AI triple camera setup50-megapixel main, 2-megapixel depth and 2-megapixel macro lenses onboard with AI features
Technology can often be a bit same-y. Manufacturers settle on a tried-and-true style in a category and you’ll see many similar devices year after year. With the new 40 Nxtpaper 5G, TCL yells “nay”.
I’m at IFA 2023 and got to check out the new TCL 40 Nxtpaper 5G but, in truth, I was hoping to see its stablemate, the 40 Nxtpaper. That model shirks 5G but actually offers better all-round specifications, despite a cheaper £179.99 price. But, that’s not all, it comes with stylus support – which you can purchase alongside a case that will hold it and the phone – taking advantage of the paper-like display.
Unfortunately, there’s no stylus fun in sight for the 40 Nxtpaper 5G but it still dons the unique display and I was excited to take it for a quick spin. Here are my first impressions.
Design and Screen
- 6.6-inch HD+ Nxtpaper screen
- 192 grams and 8.99mm thin
- Starlight Black only colour option
Looking at the front of the TCL 40 Nxtpaper 5G, before you turn the screen on, there is little to make it stand out. It is standard budget phone fare, with a teardrop notch and decently chunky bezels. But, even before you set your eyes on the Nxtpaper technology, the rear of the phone is sure to have this phone standing out as well.
The back of the 40 Nxtpaper 5G adorns rough black material, that’s grippy yet still comfortable to hold. The texture has vibes of the Asus Zenfone 9 but is rougher – a more apt comparison is the legendary Sandstone Black offered by OnePlus in the past. I really like it.
Now, the main event, the Nxtpaper panel. I was pleasantly surprised by its look, with HD+ being stretched across 6.6-inches not sounding like a great recipe for success. In truth, the textured nature of the Nxtpaper display is carrying out a neat trick and skewing the blurriness of the low resolution. It may be slight of hand but it works.
And, the reason it works is that I was so focused on what the Nxtpaper panel offers. First, it is a matte panel, meaning pesky lighting isn’t going to ruin your experience. That’s underselling it really as matte displays often only dissipate reflections but this panel positively eats them up.
Whether it is the novelty of something different, I’m not quite sure but swiping around on this textured panel feels like an unfamiliar joy too. Think back to when you started using a glossy touchscreen phone, it likely didn’t feel intuitive at first and this display reminds of those times, as having a tactile interaction with this phone is extremely satisfying.
I also expected the Nxtpaper panel to significantly hurt the viewing experience but, while colours don’t pop like they would with a traditional IPS or something swankier like an AMOLED, the screen is more than passable. It was anything but off-putting, with browsing and gameplay on this phone helped along by a 90Hz refresh rate, and colours look natural.
If the thought of the Nxtpaper display intrigues you, don’t let the low resolution or thought of washed out colours put you off, it’s a small pill to swallow. The display also brings the benefit of low blue light – another win for the 40 Nxtpaper 5G.
- Triple camera setup
- 8MP selfie camera
As a sub-£250 phone, I wasn’t expecting wonders from the TCL 40 Nxtpaper 5G and it duly obliged. I was only able to take a few snaps with the 50-megapixel main shooter and my initial impressions were that the results were pretty rough. Again, this could be another “trick” but this time working against the Nxtpaper display, as detail looked positively smudgey and colours rather warm. I’d be intrigued to see this phone’s images ported to another phone.
Elsewhere, the TCL 40 Nxtpaper 5G touts a 2-megapixel depth, 2-megapixel macro and a 8-megapixel selfie camera. TCL offers up a long list of camera features, but the jury’s out on if this phone can make them sing, ranging from AI Scene Detection, a Pro Mode and Steady Snap to Face Beautification and Selfie Zoom. There’s also support for 1080p video recording at 30fps.
Performance and Software
- MediaTek Dimensity 6020 chip
- 6GB RAM plus 6GB virtual RAM
- 256GB storage
My short hands-on time didn’t give me the opportunity to truly put the performance of the TCL 40 Nxtpaper 5G through its paces but the early signs are good. Navigation was positively snappy and I took a couple of games for a spin, with no slowdown that you might expect from a budget blower.
Unlike the in-your-face nature of this special Nxtpaper display, TCL software positively gets out of your way, with little bloatware in sight to jump down your throat. A refreshing positive. It’s the TCL UI 5.0 take on Android 13 that this phone is sporting. No word on how long support will be provided for Android and security updates for this series just yet.
For battery life, the TCL comes with a 5000mAh cell, which it claims allows you to enjoy “all-day high-performance and online entertainment on a single charge”. You’ll have to wait for our full review to give a definitive answer on how this pans out in terms of hours. It’ll also be using intelligent charging to aid with preventing battery degradation, delaying charging past 80% until shortly before you rise in the morning. The charging itself is quite underwhelming at 15W and no support for wireless charging.
The TCL 40 Nxtpaper 5G really is all about the display, as you can likely find booster camera capabilities and other features elsewhere. But, if the Nxtpaper panel does catch your eye and you can live without a decent camera, this could be a solid pick for you.
What really stands in this phone’s way is its stablemate and, particularly, if you’ve little need for 5G. The TCL 40 Nxtpaper offers better specifications across the board along with stylus support, which feels like a missed opportunity on the 5G version given the paper-like panel.