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TCL 10 Pro – loads of style

4.2Overall Score

Name: TCL 10 Pro
Price (RRP): $749
Manufacturer: TCL

The TCL 10 Pro is the first TCL phone GadgetGuy has reviewed. TCL briefly flirted with the $399 Plex – the 10-series indicates it is serious about Australia. It has loads of style – let’s test its substance.

We put the TCL 10 Pro through more than 70 exhaustive hardware and software tests. We want to know what makes TCL special and why it is entering a very crowded and low volume market? What does it offer that others don’t?

The result? It is a fine 4G phone but at $749 exists in the ill-defined wasteland between the new Qualcomm SD765G 5G phones like the 5G OPPO Find X2 Lite at $749 (that is blitzing 5G sales) and some better 4G phones like the 4G Samsung A71 ($699 4.6/5) and the 4G realme x3 SuperZoom   ($649 4.9/5) that, frankly offer much more.

On the second point, Australians bought about eight million smartphones in 2019.

With COVID and the recession that number has dropped to under 7 million, prices have dived, and 80% of sales are well under $600. Apple has 53% (3.71 million mainly iPhone SE and refurbs), Samsung 25% (1.75m), OPPO at 4% (280,000) and Google at 1.7% (119,000) – Source Statcounter activations.

Add to that existing suppliers like LG (in a renaissance), Moto (in a resurgence), Nokia (Pire Android and steadily plugging away), realme/vivo/OnePlus (BBK siblings to OPPO combined making it the second or largest global smartphone maker), Xiaomi, Alcatel (TCL owned along with Palm), and minnows like Mintt (Pure Android) and Aspera. Then you have global brands like Sony, HTC and Pansonic that just can’t make a profit here. Nor global brands like Acer, ASUS, HTC, BenQ, Blu, Gigabyte, NEC and the dozens of Indian and Chinese home brands.

Now, TCL has aspirations to become the ‘Samsung of China’. Instead of growing the pie (which it can’t in a fixed market like Australia), it has to eat someone else’s. Marketing logic is that to gain market share; you need to create a better and/or cheaper mousetrap.  Yes, we expect a lot. How does it fare?

Australian review: TCL 10 Pro Model T779H-2BIZAU12

  • Australian Website: None. The US site is here.
  • Manual and basic specs (it is a PDF – check downloads)
  • Price: $749
  • Elevator Pitch: The new kid on the block looking to earn its stripes
  • From: JB Hi-Fi online  (not in store – Forest Mist and Ember Grey) and Officeworks (Ember Grey). Any other suppliers are grey market and not selling the Australian model
  • Warranty: 1-year ACL warranty
  • TCL is a Chinese company with aspirations to be the ‘Samsung of China’ with a broad range of consumer electronics, TVs, home appliances and smartphones. More here.

We use FAIL, PASS and EXCEED against more than 70 test paradigms to arrive at a rating. As this is the first TCL device, we have seen it is more comprehensive.

First impression – EXCEED with a couple of fails

  • Forest Mist is very nice – loads of style
  • The Quad camera and two separate LED flashes make quite a statement on the back
  • Nice size – just a tad too long for one-handed operation
  • OLED curved waterfall edge screen
  • Under-glass fingerprint reader
  • USB-C and 18W charger
  • 3.5mm jack
  • TPU bumper case
  • The website would have you believe (as is its job), it is the best things since sliced bread

After two weeks of use, I have no complaints. It does all you should expect. Well, I actually do have one complaint and one observation.

The complaint. Every time I turn it on the TCL Launcher app requests access to the calendar, call logs, contacts, phone, SMS, storage, media, photos, location… This is the first time I have encountered such a launcher, and I assume that is a TCL custom boot loader for loading the TCL Home app. Denying access does not seem to affect phone use at all – it is just damned annoying.

The observation. It does not have a C-Tick regulatory approval symbol under System, Regulatory and Safety. As Alcatel manages TCL phones in Australia (that are strong supporters of certification and regulation) I expect a correction of this oversight quick smart.

Now I am not paranoid, but no other smartphone has asked for these permissions. We will seek further information about this.

Screen – PASS

Size 6.47″ centre O-hole, OLED NXTVISION
made by TCL CSOT
Curved waterfall style with an edge screen
Resolution 2340 x 1080, 60Hz
PPI/Ratio 398ppi, 93% STBR
Colour NXTVISION can control the screen according to content and ambient light
Claim: DPI-P3 colour gamut (no percentage given)
Tests: Standard (95% sRGB), Gentle (70% DCI-P3), Vivid (adaptive)
Delta E: Approx 6.75 (<4 is good) – See comment on colour tint below
Dark Theme: Yes
Warm to cool slider: screen defaults >6000° Kelvin – cool blue
16.7m colours
Nits Claim: 600 Typical, 986 Max HBM (Hidden Brightness mode)
Test:  Approx 350 HBM OFF and 425 HMB on
Brightness 2,000,000:1 (AMOLED has pure black)
HDR 10
Ratio 19.5:9
Daylight

Viewing angle
AOD

Not great, which is unusual for OLED.  There is a ‘Sunlight Display’ button to ‘increase readability under sunlight’ – we suspect this is part of HBM but does little.
Approx 135° H/V
Yes but turns off ambient display
TUV Low Blue light certified
Protection Not stated – likely a toughened glass (Mohs scale 6)
Under screen fingerprint Goodix Ultrasonic – widely used and usually excellent.
Claim: .3 second unlock
Test: It is very slow – three to five seconds so use a PIN.
I suspect NXTVISION colour is the cause and with it off the speed was almost instant
Test:
NXTVISION on – 6/10 test activations – FAIL
NXTVISION OFF – 9/10 activations – PASS

AMOLED or OLED

AMOLED, Super AMOLED, Dynamic AMOLED and AMOLED 2X (120Hz) are Samsung’s Generation 8 to 11 panels. As far as we are aware, Samsung owns the AMOLED name/licence (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode). Most other panel manufacturers have stopped using the term. You will note that LG now uses the words P-OLED or G-OLED (plastic or glass substrate).

This is an LTPS RGB AMOLED screen made by TCL’s CSOT (China Star Optoelectronics). According to Wikipedia, it is a generation 6 panel.

NXTVISION V1.1 is TCLs’ visual enhancement’

TCL claims NXTWISION is a ‘separate display engine’. If there is a hardware one, it does not show up in any test suite software – only the Qualcomm GPU. I suspect it is software-based.

  • It works in what it calls ‘Vivid’ mode and adjusts brightness, contrast and colours in real-time. The effect is quite over-saturated colours and variable brightness
  • Enables HBM mode that drains the battery quicker
  • The SDR-to-HDR option adds ‘faux’ HDR – this setting did not make much difference.
  • Reading mode moves the screen to eBook mode – a warm paper colour.

TCL claim very high brightness (600/986 HBM nits) at APL=1% (Average Picture level of 1% of the screen lit up).

Try as we may we could not get halfway near that. At best it is a 350, maybe a 400nit screen on the DisplayRite calibration scale. There is nothing wrong with that except HBM figures may be taken at face value. We are not aware of other brands quoting HBM APL 1%.

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