Review of the TCL 30 5G phone

I just got back from a trip to the states, first one in like forever it felt like.  I also got to use the ArriveCan app, love it or hate it, it exists, and it was dead simple.  However, there were a few in the band that still find using smartphones a challenge.  

Maybe they eventually want to get a smartphone just for this, who knows, but I think this TCL model might just be the thing for them.

You've seen my unboxing of the TCL 30 5G as well I showed the 30 XE model.   Today I'm going to review the 30 model.  The XE is something that for $100 or so less it's going to be even a 'smaller' package.

Let's get to the review

So before we begin, let's start with the specs.  The TCL 30 5G for $472 will get you:

  • 6.7" 2400x1080  [XE is 6.5" @ 1600x720]
  • MediaTek MT6833 2.2GHz x2 + 2.0GHz x6
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB storage + microSD [XE is 64GB]
  • 50MP (+2MP for depth) + 2MP (macro) [XE is 13MP]
  • 13MP selfie  [XE is 8MP]
  • 5000mAh  [XE is 4500mAh]

So not a lot of high end specs for this one.  At least it has 128GB, as that's a bare bones minimum for me these days.  Going to 64 for the XE would be very hard.

The MediaTek chip isn't too bad but is definitely slower, and pair that with a 4GB memory, and you may find doing more complex items, or swapping between, is going to be a bit of a pain.

Again, keeping in mind that this is probably not for the high end user, that type of use case is going to be a bit of a moot point.

Anyways.  Moving around the device, I do like the structure.  It feels thin without feeling 'frail'.   The power button is below the volume rocker on the right side, and I can't tell you how unused to that configuration I am, that I'm constantly turning the volume up instead of turning it on.

The power button has a built in fingerprint sensor on it which is very good at picking up my finger with just a tap, not even having to press the button to wake it up.

The back has a neat camera module as it has a 50MP sensor overtop of 2 other lenses (one to help with depth, the other specific for macro) as well as sensors and flash.

Now let's turn this thing on and see the screen.  

The little teardrop of a cut out is barely noticeable by these days standards, and not sure if I prefer that to just a hold punch out or not.

Inside the device it looks pretty much like any other Android phone from the past while.  Nothing too exciting about it that will separate it from the pack.

The quick panel is skinned in its own way to make it different, and the "Google" screen can be changed from Google's to TCL's own quick page.

Scrolling through some of the settings, I did like the feature of a scrolling screenshot built in (i.e. if you want to take a screen shot of a full website, you start and then scroll down and it stitches it all together for you).

There was a feature I don't think I've seen on other devices, which wa the 'privacy app' mode.  

What you do is take 2 fingers and swipe up like you're bringing up the app tray, but hold for a second or 2.  This brings up your private apps list. Put an app this folder and it'll take itself out of the normal app tray and off the home screen.  Meaning nobody can access it unless they go into the private app folder, but you'll need to use your fingerprint to get to it.

Neat.  But, not sure it's something I'd use.

Overall, the interface was simple enough, but not a lot of 'oh cool they have this' type of features to it.  Then again, these days we're going to get our own specific apps for those specific uses.

I played a bunch of 'simple' games on it and did some web browsing and YouTube on it and although it wasn't SCREAMING fast in its use, it was more than adequate.  I can't see someone complaining while using it.

I did notice that with the reduced memory that going between apps there would often be a delay in loading a screen that had fallen out of memory.  Just enough to notice for me.

The battery seemed to be holding very well, but remember this is only a FHD screen with a 5000mAh battery, so it's got a long standing battery with equipment that's only sipping on it, so it should easily last someone 2 days of use (depending on use).

The camera, I found it somewhat lacklustre.  The macro mode it has I found to be really REALLY dark (it's only 2MP) and the other lens was also feeling 'dim'.  It says it can do 50MP but only if it's in a HIGH PIXEL mode, whereas it likes to shoot at 13MP (is it one of those pixel binning, where it really is a 13MP shooter, but bins to get 4x the pixels?).

It tries to pack in a bunch of features, but fails to deliver a really good photo for it.  I'd really suggest they simplify the camera app.  Let alone, trying to figure out am I in the macro mode, or is it just this "SUPER MACRO" that I need to use for the lens.

Features like the ONE SHOT mode where it takes a video and several stills are unique, but really, not useful.  I can't think of a moment where I'd want that, but maybe that's just me.

So, overall, I think it does a decent job of being a smartphone and getting folks in the realm of using a smartphone who aren't used to it.  Besides it's $472 all said is an attractive feature to someone who doesn't want to sign up for a full plan and pay for a flagship device.

If you wanted to save even more and go for the XE model, you could, but I think limiting yourself to just 64GB of storage is going to be the real pain (unless you want to muck about with an SD card, but I think at that point, just get the bigger model).