TCL 30 V 5G review
TCL is one of the most prominent names in the affordable phone range, but the company’s latest entry, the Verizon-exclusive TCL 30 V 5G ($ 299), does little to excite. The handset offers 5G connectivity at a low cost and charges quickly, but the battery life is poor, the cameras do not impress and the performance is not remarkable. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G remains our Editors’ Choice winner thanks to its capable cameras, long battery life and excellent $ 279.99 software support.
A standard 1080p screen
Nothing about TCL 30 V 5G’s design stands out. It is only available in Midnight Gray and has a glass front, a plastic frame and a plastic back panel. The frame has a semi-gloss finish while the back contrasts with a matte finish which fortunately does not collect too many fingerprints. It’s not a giant phone, although we can not call it small. 30 V 5G measures 6.5 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.1 grams. By comparison, the Motorola G 5G (6.5 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches, 7.5 ounces) and Galaxy A32 5G (6.5 x 3.0 x 0.4 inches, 7.0 grams) have about the same size and weight.
(Photo: Dave LeClair)
The phone’s relatively large 6.67-inch screen has a aspect ratio of 20: 9 with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels (395 pixels per inch, or ppi). This is an area where TCL surpasses the Galaxy A32, which has a 6.5-inch screen of 1600 x 720 pixels (278 ppi).
TCL says that the panel supports more than 16.7 million colors, and it looks sufficiently vivid to our eyes. The screen brightness peaks at 450 nits, which in combination with the phone’s sunlight mode (via the Nxtvision app) makes the screen visible even in sun conditions.
The screen has a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. Most phones in this price range have 60Hz screens, although the OnePlus Nord N200’s 90Hz screen is a remarkable difference. The selfie camera is centered near the top of the screen, punch-hole style.
The screen is protected by older and less durable Gorilla Glass 3. The glass does not provide the absolute best protection against falls, but it should do better than the glass without the name of some competing phones. To get the enhanced protection of the Gorilla Glass 5, you need to choose a more expensive handset like the Galaxy A53 ($ 449.99). The phone does not have IP rating, which means it is not protected from dust or water.
The most notable design elements on the back panel are the triple camera and the fingerprint scanner, the latter I thought was fast and accurate in testing. You get a reliable 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge (a welcome feature at all costs), a volume rocker and power button on the right edge, and a combined SIM card and microSD slot on the left side. A USB-C port and two stereo speakers that produce stereo sound are located at the bottom. Dual speaker setup is a rarity at this price – many phones tend to offer only a single speaker that is subject to accidental interference when using the phone in landscape mode.
We ran a bunch of benchmarks and real tests on TCL 30 V 5G, and it gave below average results in just about every category. This is partly because it has a slower Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 5G processor with only 4GB of RAM. The phone has 128 GB of internal storage, but you can install a microSD card of up to 1 TB if you need more space.
Starting with the PCMark Work 3.0 test, the phone scored 7564, only slightly lower than the Moto G 5Gs 7880. On the GeekBench processor test, it scored 518 on the single-core test and 1705 on the multi-core test. It is on par with the Moto G 5G (543 and 1,678) and Galaxy A32 (501 and 1,678).
Testing graphics performance reveals the phone’s limitations. On the GFXBench Aztec test, it averaged just 10 frames per second (fps) for the screen test and 2.9 fps for the off-screen test. In comparison, the Moto G 5G reached 18 frames per second and 5.2 frames per second for on-screen and off-screen tests, respectively.
(Photo: Dave LeClair)
Of course, benchmarks do not always tell the whole story. I had no problems with the handset in normal use; it handled web browsing and basic image editing without any problems. The gaming experience, on the other hand, was subpar. Simpler games like Altos Odyssey ran smoothly, but graphics-intense titles like Genshin Impact were almost unplayable due to low frame rates.
If you are a music addict, the stereo speakers perform a little above average with our test track, The Knives’ “Silent Shout”. Even at maximum volume, the distortion is minimal, but that’s probably because the speakers do not get too loud. You will hear a modest amount of bass response, but keep your expectations in check.
Full support for Verizon 5G
Verizon subscribers should appreciate the 5G service available on TCL 30 V 5G: It connects to Verizon’s mid-speed (C-band) and high-speed (mmWave) 5G networks, provided there is coverage where you live. The phone is locked to Verizon, and TCL does not sell an unlocked version.
Despite the phone’s good 5G support, it performed slightly worse than the slightly more expensive Moto G 5G on Verizon’s network in our tests. When driving around a medium-sized city, the phone showed a weak signal (below -120dBm) 4.1% of the time and no signal 3.3% of the time. In comparison, the Moto G showed a weak signal 1.7% of the time and no signal 0.1% of the time. Basically, if you want to capture every last bit of the cell signal, the Moto G should perform better. For reference, we performed these tests in varied network environments; sometimes 5G was available, but other times LTE 4G was the only option.
The TCL 30 V 5G’s Wi-Fi experience is slightly better, and the phone delivered acceptable results in side-by-side testing with an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. With both phones in the same room as the router, the iPhone achieved download speeds of 312 Mbps and upload speeds of 21.4 Mbps, while the TCL phone reached 238 Mbps down and 33.9 Mbps up. The reason for these close results is that we tested with a Wi-Fi 5 router. If we had used a Wi-Fi 6 router, which the iPhone supports, but the TCL phone does not, the iPhone would have performed much better.
When we moved the phones to the edge of the reception area (several walls were between the devices and the router), TCL performed slightly better than the iPhone, going down 0.9 Mbps compared to the iPhone’s 0.7 Mbps.
(Photo: Dave LeClair)
The phone sounds good enough on calls. The earphone volume reached a peak of 75dB and the speakerphone peaked at 86dB, which is about average. The OnePlus Nord N20 is a leader in this area, pushing 97.1dB from the earphone and 87.2dB from the speaker. Still, TCL’s phone was more than loud enough for us to hear people in a conversation without any problems. The phone offers dual noise-canceling microphones, and in our tests, people on the line had no trouble hearing us.
Additional radios include Bluetooth 5.1 and NFC. Bluetooth 5.1 is not the latest standard, but in testing we had no problems pairing devices, including Apple’s AirPods Pro. The NFC radio worked as expected when it was used to make mobile payments.
Shockingly short battery life
One place where TCL 30 V 5G does not live up to expectations is battery life. In our test streaming of YouTube via Wi-Fi over wired headphones, the phone’s 4,500 mAh cell lasted just six hours and 15 minutes. The Moto G 5G (13 hours and 8 minutes) and the Samsung Galaxy A32 (13 hours and 1 minute), both of which have 5000 mAh batteries, managed to hang on for more than twice as long.
(Photo: Dave LeClair)
Battery size is not the only culprit here. Although TCL’s battery was 500mAh larger to match the competition, it would almost certainly not double the battery life. TCL Stylus 5G also suffered from poor battery performance in testing, so it seems that the company is not able to optimize battery life as well as its peers.
On the back, the 18W charger pushes the handset fairly quickly. In 15 minutes the phone charged to 21% from 0%. It took an hour and 56 minutes to reach full charge, which is fine for this price range.
TCL includes three 30V 5G cameras, but none of them impress. The phone has a 50 MP primary camera that collects images down to 12.5 MP, a 5 MP ultra-wide angle camera and a 2 MP macro shooter.
(Photo: Dave LeClair)
In head-to-head comparisons, the Moto G 5G performed better. One problem is that the TCL phone blows out the highlights in mixed light scenarios. More noise is also visible in TCL’s low light images, which is partly due to the lack of a dedicated low light mode. The Motorola phone is also better at focusing on the right subject faster; I often had to press the TCL screen several times to make it lock focus.
The wide-angle and macro cameras are not particularly useful due to the low resolution, but they are nice to have in a clamp.
A photo taken with TCL 30 V 5G (left) and Moto G 5G (right) (Photo: Dave LeClair)
If you are a video fan, do not get too excited about 30V 5G; it tops at 1080p at 30fps. This is standard for budget-friendly phones, although more and more people are upgrading to 4K at 60 frames per second.
A photo taken with TCL 30 V 5G (Photo: Dave LeClair)
The selfie camera performs about as well as the main camera on the back. It takes proper selfies and is mostly only useful for video chats.
Android 11 is a bad start
The latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android 13, will be available for select phones later this summer. Most phones shipped now rely on Android 12 (which in itself is almost a year old) as the base platform. It is therefore disappointing that TCL sells 30 V 5G with the outdated Android 11 at the core. The phone is already behind the competition when it leaves the gate.
Worse, the update and support situation could have been better. TCL promises only one major Android upgrade – to Android 12 – and two years of security updates for 30V 5G. In comparison, Samsung offers two major Android updates and four years of security updates for its Galaxy A-branded phones. Samsung is still the gold standard for software support (for Android devices), and TCL hangs poorly.
The phone runs version 3 of the TCL user interface. The shell contains some additional apps and pieces of software that you can not delete. TCL’s Nxtvision app allows you to enhance several critical aspects of your phone such as screen brightness in the sun. It also has various viewing modes that make videos and games look more colorful and detailed. And if you do not like the improvements, you can turn off each of them and never think about them again. There is also a floating window to help with multitasking and an object delete feature to enhance your photos.
You can do better
Although the TCL 30V 5G supports Verizon’s latest 5G network, it does not work well in most aspects beyond mobile connectivity. When you first consider the poor battery life, mediocre cameras and outdated software, there is little else with the handset that remains convincing. You’re better off with the Samsung Galaxy A32 in the $ 300 range, or the Motorola Moto G 5G if you can stretch your budget. Both offer demonstrably superior battery life, better cameras and better software support, for phones that cost a little more in advance but are likely to save you money in the long run.
The bottom line
The TCL 30V 5G for Verizon looks promising on paper, but other $ 300 series phones offer better battery life, cameras and performance.
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