TCL 10 5G UW hands-on: Verizon’s most affordable 5G phone is available for just $400

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Motorola and Samsung offer 5G phones on Verizon for less than $600, but TCL’s new 10 5G UW stands out from the crowd at just $399.99. You would think there would be a ton of compromises at this low sub-$400 price, but you would be wrong.

I’ve been using the new TCL 10 5G UW on Verizon for the past week and it gets the job done while also providing a gorgeous design and some very handy functions not seen in other phones. ZDNet’s Charles McLellan posted a review of the international model, but the Verizon US model has some design differences.

Also: TCL 10 5G review: Excellent specs, build and performance for the price

The TCL 10 5G UW supports both the mmWave Ultra Wideband (UW designation) network and the low-band sub-6 network (designated Verizon 5G Nationwide) so you can take advantage of both the breadth and speed of 5G with the TCL 10 5G UW handset.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
  • Display: 6.53 inch 2340 x 1080 pixels resolution LCD
  • Operating system: Android 10 with TCL UI
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB internal with microSD card support
  • Cameras: 48MP main camera, 8MP ultra-wide lens, and 5MP macro lens. 16MP front facing camera with 4-in-1 pixel binning.
  • Wireless technology: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS
  • Battery: 4,500 mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0 support and charger
  • Dimensions: 163.6 x 76.5 x 9.4 mm and 209.8 grams
  • Colors: Diamond Gray

Compared to the TCL 10 Pro we see lower resolution cameras, one less rear camera, rear fingerprint sensor, flat display vs curved edge display, and a move from AMOLED to LCD. The TCL 10 5G UW also has a 3.5mm headset jack.

Hardware

The front of the TCL 10 5G UW is dominated by the 6.53-inch display with minimal bezels on all four edges. The front-facing camera is positioned in the top left corner as a hole-punch camera. It’s tucked in pretty far to the left so it really just replaces one status bar notification icon. The handset speaker is centered just above the display in the narrow bezel area.

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The power and volume buttons are on the right side with just the SIM/microSD card tray on the left side. A microphone and a 3.5mm audio port is on the top of the handset. A USB-C port and the single speaker are found on the bottom.

Flipping the phone over reveals the reason the color is designated Diamond Gray. A cool geometric diamond pattern is embedded in the back cover of the phone with various colors appearing at different angles and lighting conditions. It looks both professional and elegant, as you can see in my image gallery.

A traditional, and reliable, rear centered fingerprint sensor is positioned on the back below the camera array.

Three rear cameras and two LED flash lights are arranged on the back of the phone. From left to right we have the 5MP macro, 8MP ultrawide, and the 48MP main camera.

Also: TCL 10 Pro review: Stunning $450 Android phone rivals Apple’s iPhone SE

Plenty of RAM and internal storage are provided as well as a large capacity 4500 mAh battery to help you get through a full day of 5G network usage.

Speck Presidio Exotech case

TCL included a Speck Presidio Exotech case with the reviewer kit. The case will likely be sold at Verizon, along with the phone. Pricing and availability has not yet been provided.

The Presidio Exotech is a completely clear case so you can view the full colorful diamond design of the TCL 10 5G UW through the case. It meets MIL-SPEC 810G drop/shock resistance and also has Microban antimicrobial treatment.

The TPU material provides improved grip on the phone and solid side and corner protection. Raised buttons on the right side make it easy to activate the volume and power button.

The opening on the back for the fingerprint sensor helps you quickly target the sensor and quickly unlock the phone with ease. There is also a long opening for all of the rear cameras.

Software

TCL UI is a fairly stock Android experience and the version in the TCL 10 5G UW based on Android 10. TCL stated that the device will get Android 11 as a minimum and then be subjected to two years of quarterly Android security updates. The August 1, 2020 Android security update is present on this evaluation unit.

If you organize your home screen panels with folders of app shortcuts, then there is a handy feature of TCL UI where you can quickly swipe between these folders after opening up one of them. Other than that there are very few differences between stock Android and TCL UI.

This is a Verizon carrier-exclusive phone so it comes with a few Verizon utilities to help you manage your account. The Verizon Message+ app is also present, but you can easily switch to Google Messages for text messages too.

TCL has a few apps installed on the device, including the phone dialer, camera app, contacts, downloads, gallery, and some areas of the settings.

TCL makes the display of the device and there are some settings for its NXTVISION technology. These include visual enhancement, SDR to HDR, reading mode, sunlight display, and more.

One cool feature I have been using daily is the ability to enhance the use of the rear fingerprint sensor. Toggles are available for clearing notifications, capturing photos or video, picking up a phone call, showing the notification panel, and even designating specific fingers to launch specific apps. I have one index finger setup to launch Gmail and it has performed flawlessly.

Daily usage experiences

Over the past week since I’ve been testing this new TCL 10 5G UW, I haven’t had the chance to be in a mmWave area to run speed tests. I have seen sub-6 5G coverage though and download speeds were acceptable, but less than what I saw on T-Mobile 5G devices. I’ll be traveling soon so am planning to find and test out mmWave as I have yet to experience this ultra-fast network.

The TCL 10 5G UW is a bit heavier and thicker than some other recent phones I have tested, but it is well built and the unique 3D back glass design is attractive. It definitely seems to be a phone that would cost more than $400, especially with full 5G support, so TCL did a great job building this for Verizon.

The TCL 10 5G UW is a solid option for those looking to experience 5G on Verizon, but don’t want to spend double or triple this price for a new phone. The big screen, big battery, and broad 5G support means you can get serious work done with this phone and for $400 it is tough to beat.

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