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Hands on: TCL 10 5G review

A cheap 5G smartphone that comes at a cost

What is a hands on review?
TCL 10 5G
(Image: © TechRadar)

Early Verdict

A smart, low-cost phone - but it's clear that 5G is the main thing, with compromises made to get the price point so low

For

  • 5G on a budget phone
  • Smart key to allow for Google Assistant

Against

  • Fairly average spec list
  • Camera software not ready to test

The TCL 10 5G is a curious phone – bringing 5G for under $500, but without adding a huge array of features to the mix at CES 2020.

The price point, combined with the 5G technology on board, thanks to partnering with Qualcomm and using the Snapdragon 700-series chip inside, has led to one of the cheapest 5G phones that will appear on the market in the first half of 2020.

When picking up the glossy phone, you’ll notice that the TCL 10 5G is a little chunkier than the TCL 10 Pro, a phone that feels like it’s packing more power despite having a slightly inferior spec list in some ways.

TCL 10 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The 10 5G has a chunkier bezel, and places the fingerprint sensor on the back rather than under the screen, and while the ‘split light’ design on the rear of the handset is eye-catching, the glossy feel isn’t as pleasing in the hand as the matte feel of the Pro.

There’s a single speaker on the bottom of the phone, and combined with the (presumably) LCD screen on the front of the device, it doesn’t suggest this is the strongest device when it comes to media performance.

TCL 10 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The overall appearance is fine, and things like the USB-C connection on the bottom along with the still-loved headphone jack on the top, are welcome additions – but like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, it feels like many compromises were needed to get 5G in this phone without drastically increasing the price.

As we couldn’t test the 5G in real time, the overall performance of the TCL 10 5G is hard to truly assess – the power comes from the speed and reliability of the connection, and that’s something we couldn’t really look at from afar.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The overall feel of the TCL 10 5G was one of an unfinished phone – that’s something that was impressed on us when starting our briefing, and it’s clear that during MWC 2020 we’ll be getting more of a feel of how well these devices are going to cope with the rigors of daily life. 

(The camera software wasn’t even present on the TCL 10 5G, so it would be unfair to really assess it in real time compared to the best phones on the market right now).

Early verdict

TCL 10 5G

(Image credit: TechRadar)

What did impress us about the TCL 10 5G was the price point – yes, the spec list wasn’t stellar, but to bring 5G to the masses in 2020 for this cost will impress.

There’s a lot we don’t know about this phone, and if you remove the 5G element it’s not that impressive as a day to day device – so if you’re thinking of jumping to TCL with this device you’ll need to be a real fan of next-gen connectivity (if it performs well in our tests, that is).

This is a flash hands-on review to give you the chance to see what the TCL 10 5G is bringing. Stay tuned as we'll be expanding and upgrading this hands on review very shortly with more info.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.