When you hear TCL, you probably think of TVs, but the company is no stranger to making smartphones. TCL is behind some of the latest BlackBerry releases, as well as
hundreds of other white-label phones for carriers across the globe. If the $449.99 TCL 10 Pro ($449.99) is anything to go by, however, the company should put its name in the smartphone spotlight more often. With solid performance, good battery life, a sleek design, and a lovely display, the 10 Pro offers a nearly flagship-level experience for significantly less than handsets from other manufacturers, and earns our Editors’ Choice for midrange Android phones.
Design, Display, and Durability
No matter its price, the TCL 10 Pro is one of the most attractive devices on the market, from its minimalist camera stack to its smoky gray ombre color. The phone measures 6.24 by 2.85 by 0.36 inches (HWD) and comes in
at 6.60 ounces, which feels perfectly balanced in the hand. It has a nice heft without being heavy, and a good grip thanks to its matte finish.
On the front of the phone you’ll find a 6.47-inch
curved AMOLED display with a teardrop notch for the front-facing camera. Resolution
comes in at 2,340 by 1,080, for a pixel density of 398ppi.
As the world’s second largest television manufacturer, TCL
knows how to make a good display, and you can really see that here. Colors are lush, highlights pop, and shadows are rich and inky, thanks
to the custom Nxtvision display engine. Next to the 5.6-inch Google Pixel 3a, which has a higher pixel density (441ppi), the 10 Pro looks more vivid (yet accurate), while the Pixel comes off as cool.
Nxtvision also automatically upconverts SDR to HDR, earning the phone Netflix HDR10 certification. Really, our only complaint is that the display can
be a little difficult to see in direct sunlight.
There’s also an in-display optical fingerprint sensor. It’s better than the one in the Samsung Galaxy A51, but it’s still finicky—it only worked about 65 percent of the time in testing. The Face
Unlock feature is much better if you’re willing to give up a little security for
The back of the phone has a minimalist aesthetic. The horizontal camera
stack sits flush with the body and creates a monochromatic stripe across
the top quarter of the phone, for a handsome alternative to the bulky, unbalanced cameras we’re seeing on many new phones these days.
The top edge holds a 3.5mm headphone jack, while a USB-C charging port, speaker, and hybrid SIM slot sit on the bottom. The left edge is home to a button that can be mapped to respond to different taps, while the volume rocker and power buttons can be found on the right. All of the buttons are easy to reach.
Durability is our only real concern with the design. Like just
about every other midrange phone (aside from the new iPhone SE), the 10 Pro lacks an IP rating, meaning it isn’t officially protected against dust or water. The display and body are constructed of Gorilla Glass 5. While
not as durable as Gorilla Glass 6, it doesn’t
scratch quite as easily. As always, your best bet is to put the phone in a sturdy case.
Audio, Call, and Network Quality
The TCL 10 Pro is available unlocked. It supports LTE bands
1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/25/26/28/48/40/41/66 and should work on all major US
carriers. It doesn’t have band 71, however, so rural T-Mobile customers might experience
Speeds were solid on Verizon’s network in testing, with averages of 66.4Mbps down and 13.2Mbps up. That’s not quite as fast as we’ve seen
with other phones, but is likely due to network conditions since the 10 Pro’s Snapdragon
X12 modem has LTE Advanced carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, and 256-QAM encoding for
Call quality is good. Maximum earpiece volume comes in at 83dB, which is loud enough to hear outside on a busy street. Noise cancellation works well, though we noticed the sounds of some background construction make its way into a few test
The phone’s single bottom-firing speaker has a peak volume of 91dB.
It’s loud and works well for conference calls and Instagram videos, but it’s
not something you’ll want to use for long Netflix binges or to listen to music.
Spatially, the speaker lacks a significant soundstage and sounds boxy. Fortunately, you can use your choice of wired or Bluetooth headphones.
The 10 Pro has Bluetooth 5.0 and supports dual-band Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, the phone lacks NFC.
The four cameras on the back of the phone consist of a 64MP
primary sensor, a 16MP super-wide sensor, a 5MP macro sensor, and a 2MP super-low-light sensor. The front-facing selfie camera clocks in at 24MP.
For the most part, the rear cameras work well. All of our test shots with the 64MP and 16MP sensors show excellent color
accuracy and depth of field. There’s some loss of fine detail with both lenses,
and most of the shots with the super-wide lens have minor edge
distortion. That said, all of these issues are only visible when viewing the images at
full size—a bit smaller and they look great for social media sharing.
We also tested all of the cameras except the macro sensor late at night to pretty good results. Distortion was a little more apparent with the super-wide lens and
there was some edge noise in many photos, but again, they’re still fine for social sharing.
Test shots with the 5MP macro lens, however, are a disappointment, looking flat and mushy across the board. You might get a better shot with a tripod, but it doesn’t work well handheld.
In good light, the front-facing camera takes crisp selfies with excellent color accuracy. Portrait mode
photos, on the other hand, show some unnatural blurring around hair and ears, and low-light shots are a bit flat, with a lack of detail. For the best photo quality at this price, you’ll want to look to the Pixel 3a.
Specs and Performance
The TCL 10 Pro is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 chipset with a healthy 6GB of RAM. There’s 128GB of storage, of which 113GB is available
out of the box, along with a microSD slot.
While the 10 Pro’s Snapdragon 675 processor isn’t as powerful
as what you find on flagships, it’s no slouch in the performance department. We were able to open a dozen apps and 30 Chrome pages before we noticed a hint of slowdown.
See How We Test Phones
For gaming, we tested the phone with Asphalt 8 and PUBG: Mobile. Load times take a
little longer than they do on the Samsung Galaxy S20, but considering that phone costs more than double the 10 Pro, it’s easy to get past. Once loaded, we played for a few hours and never experienced any crashes
or skipped frames.
Benchmark testing shows the 10 Pro can handle a heavy load without issue. On PCMark Work 2.0, a series of tests that emulate everyday
smartphone tasks, the phone scored 7,311, about the same as you’ll find
on the Google
Pixel 3a (7,378) and much better than the Samsung Galaxy
The 10 Pro has a 4,500mAh battery that should easily get you
through a full day. In our battery drain test, which streams HD video over Wi-Fi
at full brightness, the phone lasted 11 hours and 29 minutes. With
more conservative use, you should be able to get a few more hours of screen time.
When it’s time to charge, the 10 Pro supports
Quick Charge 3.0 and has a 9V adapter in the box. You can use the phone’s battery to charge other devices at 5W via the USB-C port and cable. Unfortunately, wireless charging isn’t supported.
The 10 Pro ships with Android 10 along with a TCL UI overlay. For the
most part, TCL’s custom skin adds some thoughtful changes to Android. There’s
an Edge Bar (pictured below) that allows you to quickly add shortcuts to your most frequently
used apps, as well as a Software Key app that allows you to easily map the button
on the left side of the phone. Super Bluetooth lets you connect the phone to up
to four Bluetooth speakers at once.
In addition to the standard array of Google Apps, you’ll
also find a handful of TCL’s own productivity apps, which are fine, but unnecessary. Facebook and Netflix are also preloaded
but can easily be uninstalled.
Although Google has yet to announce Android 11, TCL promises the 10 Pro will receive an update to the new OS in the future.
The TCL 10 Pro hits the sweet spot for midrange Android phones. It has plenty of horsepower for most users, along with good battery life, a lovely design, and a terrific display. The Pixel 3a remains a strong option for shutterbugs, but the TCL 10 Pro has better build quality, longer battery life, and a more vibrant display, earning our Editors’ Choice. That said, if you’re not tied to Android, we also highly recommend the iPhone SE, which has a more powerful processor, NFC, wireless charging, and multi-year OS updates.