TCL 10 5G review: 5G and a big screen on a budget

The TCL 10 5G gives you plenty of value for your money

TCL 10 5G
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

While the TCL 10 5G hardly revolutionises the mid-range smartphone market, it does give you 5G and a good-looking phone for not much money. Perhaps the biggest problem for the phone is that there are so many other excellent handsets available at the same price.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Large, vivid display

  • +

    5G connectivity

  • +

    Appealing price

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Mid-range specs

  • -

    Some unnecessary apps

  • -

    Strong competitors

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The TCL 10 5G brings you 5G on a budget, and is the second smartphone to arrive from TCL after the TCL 10 Pro – a handset that's a bit more powerful and a bit more expensive than this one. If you want top connection speeds without paying a premium, it's worth a look.

While the TCL 10 5G certainly isn't going to trouble any of the 2020 flagships in terms of power and performance, it has specs that mean it can hold its own in the mid-range section of the market – and considering the price, that means plenty of bang for your buck.

That price is £399 SIM-free in the UK at the time of writing, though check the widgets on this page for the latest deals. That's the same price as the TCL 10 Pro, though this phone adds 5G and a bigger screen, while making do with slightly less powerful components.

In the end, it really depends what you need most from a phone when it comes to choosing between the two handsets that TCL has on the market at the moment. Read through our full TCL 10 5G review to find out everything you need to know about the smartphone.

TCL 10 5G review: price and availability

The TCL 10 5G is currently available to buy direct from Three in the UK, with the phone costing you £399 without a SIM or a contract. Pricing on contract starts from £27 a month over 24 months with a £19 up-front payment – that gets you 4GB of data per month.

The TCL 10 5G isn't available in the US, and at the time of writing TCL hasn't announced any plans to make it available in the near future either. 

TCL 10 5G review: design and screen

TCL 10 5G

(Image credit: TCL)

The TCL 10 5G comes with a 6.53-inch, 19.5:9 aspect ratio LCD display, running at a resolution of 1,080 x 2,340 pixels. It's undoubtedly one of the best parts of the overall experience of the phone: this is a display that's bright and sharp, with thin bezels around the sides and a punch hole notch (the bottom chin of the phone is a little bit chunky side, but we can live with it).

You also get something TCL is calling Nxtvision, which promises to boost vibrancy and colour range – it's like HDR even with SDR sources, TCL says. Based on our experiments with different apps and types of content, it certainly adds more punch and vibrancy to the display, but some users might find it a little too much. It's at least nice to have these display tweaks available if needed.

From Netflix in full HDR10 mode, to games from the Google Play Store, almost everything you get up on the screen of the TCL 10 5G looks great. There's the option to have full screen mode include or exclude the punch hole notch, which is a handy setting to have, and there are a lot of other display tweaks available through the software menus (including dark mode, of course).

There's a dedicated button on the left of the screen for launching Google Assistant, if those are the sort of hardware shortcuts that you go in for, and then the volume controls and the power button are on the right. You get a fingerprint sensor on the back, a USB-C port for charging and data charging, and a 3.5 mm audio jack for connecting up your wired headphones directly. Only one colour is available, Mercury Grey.

TCL 10 5G review: camera and battery

TCL 10 5G

(Image credit: Future)

The TCL 10 5G comes with no fewer than four different cameras on the back – 64MP wide, 8MP ultrawide, 5MP macro, and 2MP depth – but of course multiple lenses doesn't always necessarily mean quality shots (the Google Pixel 4a takes excellent snaps with just one rear camera). As is the norm for many budget phones, there's no telephoto optical zoom and no optical image stabilisation either.

The photos we took with the TCL 10 5G came out looking good overall, and the ultrawide lens is handy to have if you want to fit more into a single frame. We found plenty of colour and sharpness in our snaps, though we don't think the handset can quite match the best phone cameras in this price range. Shutter speed is nice and fast, and for most people, the TCL 10 5G camera will do just fine.

As is often the case with phones at this price, night shots can be a problem. If some light is available you can usually get a decent photograph, but capturing the photo takes a second or two. There's a dedicated Super Night mode that boosts dark spots even more though some advanced image processing techniques – while the resulting images are certainly brighter, we're not sure they're any better than the shots taken without the night mode, and capturing them takes even longer.

As we get limited time with review units it's not always easy to assess battery life (especially as new phones come with brand new batteries), but we were easily getting through a day of use with the TCL 10 5G between charges. You won't make it to a second day, and you might run out of charge by the evening if you're really pushing the phone, so we'd say battery life is acceptable rather than spectacular. Our two-hour video streaming test knocked the battery down from 100 percent to 70 percent (with the screen on maximum brightness), suggesting 6-7 hours of streaming if you've ramped up the brightness and the Nxtvision settings.

TCL 10 5G review: other specs and features

TCL 10 5G

(Image credit: Future)

The very respectable Snapdragon 765G chipset from Qualcomm is powering everything here – the mid-range processor found in phones such as the OnePlus Nord and the LG Velvet – and it's accompanied by 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (which you can expand with a microSDXC card. In terms of the specs list, this is one of the best deals you're going to get for the money.

Those very competent specs do a commendable job in day to day use as well: we didn't notice any serious lag or any slowing down while we were testing out the TCL 10 5G. The Geekbench scores of 623 (single core), 1903 (multi core), and 1270 (OpenCL) put it ever so slightly ahead of the OnePlus Nord, but there's not much in it – and benchmarks don't always tell the full story in any case.

As is normal for phones in this price range, the TCL 10 5G doesn't offer wireless charging or the best IP68 waterproofing. There is, however, 18W Quick Charge 3.0 wired charging for the battery. You get a single speaker for audio, which performs as well as you might expect – it's fine for movie dialogue and blasting out a few podcasts, but you wouldn't want to rely on it for high-fidelity music playback.

Android 10 is running on board the TCL 10 5G: TCL hasn't messed with it too much, thankfully, but there are various aesthetic tweaks and a few apps that you're probably not going to use. It seems a bit pointless to have bespoke TCL apps for photos, files, notes and so on when the Google equivalents are mostly superior (all the key Google apps are preinstalled too).

TCL 10 5G review: price and verdict

TCL 10 5G

(Image credit: TCL)

At a shade under £400 (check the widgets on this page for any cheaper deals), the TCL 10 5G is really good value for money – 5G is by no means a given at this price point, and on top of that you also get some decent specs, a decent camera, a nice big screen and a fairly slick version of Android.

What might hurt the chances of the TCL 10 5G the most is that there are so many other excellent phones at this price. The £349 Pixel 4a takes better photos while the £419 iPhone SE 2020 has an arguably more polished operating system and much better performance – both those phones lack 5G though, of course. The £379 OnePlus Nord excels in most areas, while the Moto G 5G Plus has 5G on board and a bigger screen than the TCL 10 5G, while still hitting a starting price of just under £300.

Weighing up the pros and cons of these various handsets isn't easy, and the TCL 10 5G can certainly hold its own – it just doesn't have that must-have feature or that bargain basement price that might draw your attention away from the other smartphones currently available around the £300 and £400 mark.

All that said, we've been impressed by this and the TCL 10 Pro – the first efforts at smartphones from TCL. Both of these phones are worth considering for your next purchase, finding a smart balance between price, performance and features – they just lack a little something special in what's already a very crowded field.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.