review

TCL10L Arctic White In-Depth Review: Video Photo Quality

Thursday, May 14, 2020

In a time when most phone manufactures are removing the beloved headphone jack, TCL is bringing it back to their TCL 10 series line-up, which includes the 10 5G, 10 Pro and 10L (T770H model pictured). The TCL 10L is a stunning looking phone with a refreshing camera formation and unbelievable spec sheet for a mid range phone.
The TCL 10L has a quadruple camera setup that includes a 48 megapixel 6P lens (main shooter), an 8 megapixel 5P ultrawide lens, a 2 megapixel telephoto/depth sensor 3P lens and a 2 megapixel macro 3P lens. The camera housing measures 53mm long and 5mm wide with a slightly raised bump (3mm).
The aperture of the lenses are f1.8 (main shooter), f2.2 (ultra-wide), f2.4 (telephoto) and f2.4 (macro lens). With camera apertures, the lower the value the wider the opening for letting more light into the sensor, which is ideal for low light photography or shooting in the night.
taken in pitch black
The TCL 10L main shooter has a f1.8 aperture and 79 degrees field-of-view (FOV). The ultrawide, telephoto and macro lenses have a respective field of view of 118 degrees, 79 degrees and 86.6 degrees.
The sensor size of most smartphone is about 1cm across. Sensor size is a key factor in aperture and their sizes typically correlate; hence a large aperture camera would ideally need a large sensor size to pack in the extra light and make the megapixels effective. The sensor size in the TCL 10L main shooter lens is about 1cm, which is on the small size to make 48 effective megapixels unless the pixel size is high.
48MP photo (8000 x 6000)
In the case of the TCL 10L though, the size of each pixel in the 48MP sensor is 0.8 microns (μm), which is pretty remarkable since this is usually found in larger 1.7cm sensors. The micron pixel size for the other three TCL 10L cameras is 1.12μm (ultra-wide), 1.65μm (telephoto) and 1.65μm (macro) respectively.
The 48MP resolution of the main shooter camera can be downgraded to 12MP(4:3), 9MP (1:1) and 8 (16:9) and 7MP (full screen).
The maximum resolution you can shoot video at with the TCL 10L is 4K at 30FPS, which is good when shooting "calm" videos on a tripod. For shooting videos while you are moving, 4K at 30FPS will not be as smooth as 4K at 60FPS or 60FPS in FHD 1080p, which are not supported.
Strangely enough, the TCL 10L doesn't support 60FPS at all, not even in HD (720p). You can downgrade 30FPS down to 24FPS and 12FPS.
There is support though, for recording screenshots and slow motion video capture in 1080p at 120FPS and 720p at 240FPS.
There is Google lens integration too, which means you can automatically recognize and search within the content that appears in the lens, which is nice, although you have to be logged in with a Google account and connected to a network for it to work.

light paint
Other cool camera features you get with the TCL 10L are Light Trace Mode, Panorama Mode, Portrait Mode, Pro Mode, real-time bokeh, scene detection and Stop-Motion Video Mode.
As far as photo quality, the TCL 10L integrates regular Auto focus, Contrast detection auto focus (CDAF) for still photos and phase-detection auto focus (PDAF) for tracking moving subjects when video recording.
The TCL 10L lens system is equipped with 2X optical zoom and 10X digital zoom, meaning the TCL 10L has the power to magnify the image 2 times optically and the power to enlarge the image 10 times digitally via AI software algorithm.
The image quality is very good (both the display and video image) but you can make the colors of the screen and video stream punchier and brighter by enabling "visual enhancement" and HDR from the NXTVISION settings. SDR to HDR switches the viewing from Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) to High Dynamic Range (HDR) real-time.
The TCL 10L camera setup has dual tone led flash on both sides that emits twice as much light as a single tone led flash, which means you can light up subjects 1.4 times further away. Compared to a regular led flash, like the one on the OneTouch PopStar, dual tone led flash makes images look more natural with better color balance, which is a plus when shooting indoors.
The TCL 10L comes with rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, which is located 12cm high, just beneath the camera housing. With the fingerprint sensor, you can choose to unlock the TCL 10L with your finger other than using a password, PIN or Pattern.
Fingerprint sensors are typically integrated physically on the back, front of the phone or side of the phone, as well as under the screen. Having the fingerprint sensor located on the rear feels more convenient because your fingers naturally rest on the back of the phone, making it easy to unlock it when pulling the phone out of a trouser pocket.
The TCL 10L integrates an action/function key button on the left side of the phone that allows you to activate three actions via a single press, double press and long press. You can customize the actions to launch any app, including Google Assistant.
The SIM card tray is located above the action button and can accommodate a 4FF Nano SIM card as well as a micro SD card for expanding the 64GB internal storage capacity of the TCL 10L phone up to 256GB, although FAT32 is the only disk format supported.
This means, you cannot use a micro SD card with any other disk format like NTFS, which has the advantage of no file limit. With FAT32, each file is limited to 4GB; hence you will have to split up a movie over 4GB in size in multiple files if you want to watch it from the TCL 10L.
The TCL 10L is a 6GB RAM phone with the same RAM space you get on the Samsung Galaxy Note9 and S10e, Huawei P30 Pro, OnePlus 7 Pro and LG G8X ThinQ.
Three way calling is supported but, it requires that your network SIM card support it. It's also worth pointing out that only 4FF Nano SIMs will fit in the sim tray because the TCL 10L uses a 4th Form Factor Nano slot which is physically smaller than a traditional (2FF) SIM card or Micro-SIM (3FF) card.
With more RAM available, you can play mobile games and have a lot of mobile apps open in the background, all at the same time without affecting performance. That said, even with multiple apps opened, including social media apps, a health tracking app and the camera app, you will be hard pressed to use more than 3GB of RAM.
While more RAM is better for future-proofing, there are currently no mobile apps that much RAM RAM to make a difference between a 4GB RAM phone and a 6GB RAM phone.
Another thing to keep in mind with RAM is that higher RAM phones consume more battery. That said, the snapdragon 665 SoC (Kryo 260 Octa-Core CPU) inside the TCL 10L does a good job of managing battery life. The snapdragon 665 performs well, although the CPU power is weaker than the snapdragon 660, which the snapdragon 665 is supposed to replace.
The snapdragon 665 does have a better GPU - the Adreno 610 - which makes the gaming experience all that much better with super fast frame rates and more realistic graphics when enabling "Game Turbo" from the TCL 10L's Game Mode setting.
That said, for games like PUBG, the maximum resolution you will able to get is high and smooth. The snapdragon 665 is also an AI-ready chip so, it integrates an AI engine designed to manage the Hexagon 686 DSP (Digital-Signal-Processor), sensor hub core processor, image signal processor (ISP), and the GPU.
In a nutshell, the AI (artificial intelligence) engine helps processing tasks more efficiently, manage power consumption better and improve the overall user experience of the camera app. AI can be turned on and off when using the camera app but, it remains permanently active for machine learning where the AI learns from your habits.
The TCL 10L phone comes with Dark Mode and Eye Comfort Mode, both of which can be enabled from the Display settings. Dark mode makes it easier to look at the screen in low light and conserves battery life; while Eye comfort mode filters out blue light and adjust the colour temperature of the display to reduce eye strain.
Split-screen gesture mode is supported by swiping up with 3 fingers on the screen. Swiping from the top, opens the notification shade, while swiping from the bottom takes you directly to the app draw, which is categorized.
The TCL 10L supports NFC, dual Wifi radio (2.4GHz and 5Ghz) and Bluetooth 5.0. Thanks to Android 10, it allows the TCL 10L to support multi-pairing up to four bluetooth devices paired (via bluetooth 5) at the same time and, the ability to switch between paired devices seamlessly.
When multiple bluetooth devices are connected and you receive an incoming call, the TCL 10L will automatically switch to whichever bluetooth device can handle the call. Also, the 10L is able to memorize the specific volume setting for each paired bluetooth device, which is convenient.
portrait mode
Another useful feature that comes with Android 10 is native, real-time support for live captions even for videos that don't support captions. Live Caption will work even if the TCL 10L is in Airplane Mode, or doesn't have an internet connection 
The TCL 10L has a 6.53-inch, 1080p LCD panel running at 60Ghz and covered with a 2.5D front glass so, the glass display has a slight curvature, although it's mainly flat compared to a curved display phone, which does make the multimedia experience and Android 10 gesture-based navigation system more enjoyable. Curved displays are more prone though, to breaking when dropped and being more expensive to replace than a flat screen.
With a curved display, you can also experience accidental touches and reflections at the edges that can be distracting. That said, if you like the futuristic and full body screen of a curved screen, you should look into the TCL 10 Pro version.
The TCL 10L has a FHD+ resolution display (1080 x 2340 pixels) with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio, making the TCL 10L a tall phone with very thin bezels at the bottom and a screen-to-body ratio of 91%.
The back panel of the TCL 10L is made of 3D PMMA, which is clear plastic acrylic material with a slippery white holographic shimmering coating that makes it as slippery as a glass back phone; hence why you would want to keep the TCL 10L in the included protective case as soon as you take it out of the box.
The included protective case is extremely grippy and made of clear plastic with the words "Display Greatness" etched on the front of the case.
The front-facing 5P lens camera has 76.3 degrees field-of-view, fixed focus, no led flash and f2.2 aperture; hence a small aperture. While the aperture isn't large enough to let a lot of light in, the quality of the sensor makes a difference.
The front camera uses the Samsung S5K3P9SP04 16-megapixel image sensor with a high pixel size - 1.0 microns (μm) - which takes good quality pictures. The maximum video capture resolution is 1080p and 720p at 30FPS. The front camera supports face beautification for photos and Portrait Mode.
The front camera is located on the top left corner and has a hole punch design so, the camera is contained within a small circle cutout in the screen. The advantage of the punch hole is no black-out area (notch) at the top of the phone so, you get an uninterrupted full-screen experience and the ability to run mobile apps in full-screen mode for a more immersive experience.
As mentioned earlier, the TCL 10L integrates a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is located at the top and supports both OMTP (LRMG) and CTIA (LRGM). On the right side, you find the volume rocker and power button which launches the camera when double pressing it. Having dual microphones (on top and bottom of the phone) and noise cancellation makes the TCL 10L work great as a speakerphone. The microphones deliver good amplification and natural sound quality.
On the bottom of the TCL 10L, you find the second microphone, a mono speaker and the multi-purpose USB-C port for charging, doing data transfer or connecting a pair of USB-C earphones. The mono speaker delivers loud volume with more emphasis on the mid/treble range, making the TCL 10L more suited for voice-focused content like podcasts. There is no support for aptX or LDAC, although the Bluetooth 5.0 chip does support AAC+, enhanced AAC+, AAC LC, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, FLAC, MP3, MIDI, Vorbis and PCM/WAVE.
Being such a tall phone, you may expect a large battery but the TCL 10L only has a 4000mAh non-removable battery. That said, the battery supports Quick Charge 3.0 (18 watts), which can charge 50% of the battery in just 35 minutes, as long as an 18W charger is used. The box includes only a 10 watt power adapter.
Full charge takes 2 hours and 20 minutes. The battery has a standby time of 28 days and you also get a fast charging power adapter inside the box, along with a sim removal tool and a USB-A to USB-C cable.

The TCL 10L - being an android phone - integrates an FRP (Factory Reset Protection) function, which requires to enter the original Google account that was used on the phone after resetting the phone to factory settings. The original Google email account is important because without it, you will not be able to access the phone.
If you forget the email, you can always complete the Google account recovery procedure or perform a "wipe data/ factory reset". To do this, you have to power off and on the phone. Hold volume down button and power button. Use the volume rocker to navigate to and enter recovery mode and select wipe data/ factory reset.
As far as being able to install a new custom ROM on the TCL 10L phone, it doesn't look to be possible since the device bootloader state is locked. It appears TCL have chosen to go the same route as may other OEMs (i.e. Nokia and Huawei) who permanently lock the bootloader with no way to unlock it.
The TCL 10L is a huge step up from the really early TCL phones. The specs on offer by the TCL 10L are sure to pique the interest of a lot of phone users, including devoted Samsung and Apple fans. The only real obstacle facing TCL is brand recognition, although being the parent company of Alcatel OneTouch brand will likely help TCL in establishing buyer confidence since many will be wondering about software, security patches and timely OS updates. Software updates are always useful because they can bring a lot of new and useful features or fix some bugs.
TCL is no strangers to phones though, since they are the brains behind the BlackBerry-branded Android phones. The TCL 10L has already been released in places like Hong Kong but not globally. In the UK, Ireland and US, the TCL 10L will be available to buy in June, July and May 19th 2020 respectively.

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