TCL's first real flagship phones look nice for the price

Four cameras and 5G for less than $500.

Chris Velazco / Engadget

Months after teasing us with a preview of its flagship series at CES, TCL is finally ready to officially launch its first full-fledged smartphone line under its own brand. This isn’t the company’s debut phone, of course — it showed off the TCL Plex last September. But the TCL 10 series is a proper, concerted effort at a flagship range, and includes three phones: the TCL 10 5G, 10L and 10 Pro. The most noteworthy thing about these devices is that they cost less than $500 while offering similar features to far more expensive flagships.

We saw early units of these phones at CES, as well as at a recent hands-on, but TCL is now ready to unveil the full specs of each device.

Let’s kick things off with the TCL 10 5G. As its name suggests, it is a 5G-ready phone, sporting a Snapdragon 765 processor with integrated 5G modem. With that, it should support a variety of technologies for the new standard, including sub-6 and mmWave, so you would only be limited by your carrier’s network. At €399, the 10 5G is also significantly cheaper than other 5G-ready flagships. You’ll also get a 6.53-inch full HD+ display, a quad-camera array with a 64-megapixel main sensor and a 118-degree wide-angle lens. There’s also a macro camera for clear close ups from 2 centimeters away. The front camera is 16-MP sharp and uses 4-in-1 binning to create larger pixels for brighter photos.

TCL 10 flagship
Chris Velazco / Engadget

It’s not clear yet whether the 10 5G will be available in America, but the other two in the new flagship series are headed stateside. The TCL 10 Pro is a 6.47-inch phone with a full HD+ curved AMOLED screen that contains an in-display fingerprint sensor. The phone supports HDR10 and is Netflix-certified to display videos compliant with that standard. Like the 5G flagship, the 10 Pro has a quad-camera array on its back, featuring a 64-MP main sensor, a 123-degree wide angle lens as well as a macro option. On the front is a 24-MP selfie camera, which is higher-res than most flagships today.

Compared to Samsung and Google’s flagships, the TCL 10 Pro has a lower-end Snapdragon 675 processor, which is understandable for the price. It does come with a generous 4,500mAh battery, though. All this is wrapped in a premium, attractive frame that looked and felt good based on a recent hands-on with early units. The 10 Pro will be available in the second quarter of the year for $449.

If you want to save even more money, the TCL 10L might be worth at least a look. It’ll cost $249 when it’s available in Q2, and offers a 6.53-inch full HD+ display and less-advanced quad-camera setup on its rear. The front sensor is slightly lower-res than the Pro at 16-MP, but that’s still plenty of megapixels. The 10L is powered by a Snapdragon 665 processor and a 4,000mAh battery. For less than $300, that’s a pretty decent list of specs.

It’s nice to see more affordable smartphones with modern specs head to the US, though I’d wait till we’re able to put TCL’s latest phones through a full review before I can recommend buying one. There’s still plenty of time till they go on sale, though, so for now it’s good to keep them in mind before you spend money on a too-expensive flagship that might be overkill.