The TCL 10 Pro (along with the TCL 10L) is the first phone from TCL to hit UK and US shores with the company's own branding on it – though TCL is already a well-known name in electronics thanks to the affordable television sets that the manufacturer cranks out.
As this is TCL's first proper debut on the smartphone scene, we're heading into unknown territory. There's no previous phone to compare this against, no series that has been released year-on-year: the TCL 10 Pro is a newcomer, and it's already caused quite a stir.
Look at the price of the TCL 10 Pro – around the £400 or the $450 mark, before discounts and sales – and straight away you know that this is intended to take on the likes of the iPhone SE and the upcoming Pixel 4a from Google... and that's some tough competition.
Does the handset have what it takes to hold its own? In our TCL 10 Pro review we'll take you through all the key features and specs of the phone, explain what it's like to use day to day, and give you an idea about whether or not it should be your next phone upgrade.
TCL 10 Pro review: design and screen
This might be the first time that TCL has tried its hand at building its own smartphone from scratch, but it doesn't show: this is a very appealing phone in terms of its aesthetics, even if it doesn't quite hit the heights, design-wise, of the premium-level devices from Apple and Samsung. Everything is solidly put together, and the TCL 10 Pro feels great to handle and hold.
The way the quad-lens rear camera has been arranged takes some getting used to, but it's growing on us, and it's a nice change to have a phone without a camera bump to worry about. We're also pleased to see that the TCL 10 Pro is sporting a headphone jack, which means we can carry on using our existing headphones without a dongle, while the data port on the bottom uses USB-C.
Unusually for a phone at this price, the TCL 10 Pro uses an OLED rather than an LCD screen (no doubt thanks to TCL's TV manufacturing expertise). That typically means deeper blacks and more vibrant colours, and the display on this handset doesn't disappoint – whether you're playing games, watching movies (with full HDR10 support on Netflix), or just browsing the web, the 6.47-inch screen really shines.
That screen is running at a 1080 x 2340 resolution, and at a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and is only interrupted with a small teardrop notch for the front-facing selfie camera. As far as looks and build quality go then, the TCL 10 Pro definitely impresses – a sleek grey and a more exotic green are your two colour choices.
TCL 10 Pro review: camera and battery
The TCL 10 Pro camera is a quad-lens affair, though it's perhaps not as advanced as that sounds: you get a 64 MP wide lens, a 16 MP ultrawide lens, a 5 MP macro lens, and a 2 MP depth lens. There's no optical image stabilisation or optical zoom, like you would expect on higher-end phones, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve – such as an AI engine that will automatically adjust the camera settings for each shot.
We found the shots we got from the TCL 10 Pro camera more than acceptable, most of the time (see below). Shutter speed is quick, and colour and sharpness are good. The phone does well with macro shots too – thanks to that macro lens, no doubt – and while you're unlikely to win any photography contests with the TCL 10 Pro, the rear camera isn't going to let you down either.
There were a few shots we took that were a little noisier than we would've liked, and low light performance isn't really anything to get excited about: results are passable but that's about it. Unfortunately for TCL, the camera department is one of the areas where the Google and Apple mid-rangers really excel, and so if mobile photography is important to you then there are better options around at this price.
As for the generous 4,500 mAh battery, it got us through the day with no problems at all – often with 20-30 percent of the battery left (note though that all phone batteries degrade over time, and that we weren't really pushing the phone with extensive use). In our usual hour of video streaming test (max brightness, mid volume), the TCL 10 Pro went down from a full charge to 95 percent – one of the best results we've seen to date.
TCL 10 Pro review: other specs and features
The TCL 10 Pro is powered by the perfectly respectable Snapdragon 675 processor (see also the Motorola One Zoom), and we noticed very little slowdown or lag in our time with the phone. Heavy-duty games and websites might give you a second or two of extra loading time, but overall the chipset (and 6GB of RAM) can handle everything you might want to throw at it.
There's 128GB of internal storage on board, which should be enough for most, and that can be extended with a microSDXC card if needed. It's good to see phones at this price point keeping useful features like expandable storage and a 3.5mm audio jack, because they're rapidly disappearing at the flagship end of the market.
Biometric security is provided with a fingerprint sensor embedded in the screen, which works well in our testing. To reach the price that it has, TCL has cut some corners along the way, however – the phone isn't waterproof or dustproof (so a case might be in order), there's no 5G connectivity, and it doesn't support wireless charging. The Quick Charge 3.0 standard is supported, so the phone can take on 18W of power and charge up to 50 percent from zero in 35 minutes.
The single speaker offered by the TCL 10 Pro is nothing to write home about, but will do the job if you need to listen to a podcast or a song or two out loud. Overall, performance is on a par with what you would expect from a lower mid-range phone like this, though we're glad to see a generous amount of RAM and on-board storage included. Android 10 is the mobile OS here, and thankfully TCL hasn't messed with it too much.
TCL 10 Pro review: price and verdict
If there's one stand-out feature of the TCL 10 Pro, it's undoubtedly that 6.47-inch OLED screen – you're unlikely to find a bigger or better display for a mid-range phone at this price. Elsewhere the story isn't quite as impressive, with camera performance and general performance satisfactory rather than spectacular. Still, the phone is very much at the affordable end of the scale, so compromises have to be made.
While the Pixel 4a will almost certainly take better photos than the TCL 10 Pro, and the iPhone SE 2020 is a good deal faster, neither of those competitors can match the screen size and the screen quality that TCL has managed here. If you want something that will make your movies and your games look as good as possible on mobile, then give this phone some serious consideration.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the TCL 10 Pro is the strength of the competition: the aforementioned Motorola One Zoom, for example, has a better camera and a screen that's almost as good, and there are plenty of other decent handsets at this price, with a similar set of internal components under the hood.
So, should you buy it? That large, eye-catching screen is definitely one reason too, as is the impressive battery life (especially for watching video). If you can live with a camera that's good rather than great, and you're not going to be too demanding in terms of the games and the apps you run, this might be the phone for you.