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Meet TCL 10 SE - A chic handset under PHP 8K

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Will this new TCL budget handset can surpass our expectation for a device below PHP 8K? Let's find out!
Meet TCL 10 SE

Last July, The TCL 10 SE arrived here in the Philippines, along with Tab 10S and other appliances from the brand. This smartphone offers a curved back design, a  6.52-inch V-notch display, a 12nm Helio P22 SoC, and a 4,000mAh battery.

Here's our experience with this online exclusive handset from a Chinese tech manufacturer after a few weeks of use...

Meet TCL 10 SE

Unboxed
Unboxed

The device is stored in a clean white box with a photo of the smartphone from front and back. The highlights are written on the left side of the box.

Inside, you will find the phone itself, some paper manuals, warranty, SIM ejector tool, USB-C cord, and 15W fast charging plug. It's a good thing, it comes free silicone case to protect the device.
A polycarbonate build with a slim form
A polycarbonate build with a slim form

Although the TCL 10 SE has a plastic build, it has a premium appeal because of the semi-metallic finish. The back of this device is not flat-out matte but it's not also shiny like the glossy ones so it's somewhere in between.

Old flagship-like design!

The good news is, it's not that prone to fingerprint smudges and dirt. You can put the clear jelly case if you prefer an added protection. 

The back design neatly features a triple camera system along with a flash in a horizontal position. and fingerprint scanner. The TCL branding is discreetly placed on the lower part of the fingerprint scanner. It reminds us of the Samsung Galaxy S10 in 2019.
Top
Top

A 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone are placed on the top. Even there's a lot of wireless earbuds nowadays, it's still great to have this option.
Bottom
Bottom

At the bottom, you find a speaker grille on each side then a USB-C port for charging in the middle.
Left side
Left side

Meanwhile, the memory card slot drawer lies on the left side. There's also a Google Assistant button in a silver accent.
Right side
Right side

The volume rocker and power buttons are both located on the right side of the device.

The smartphone comes in two colors namely Polar Night and Icy Silver. As you can see, the unit we have in our hand is in classy Polar Night. It's a stunning color that reeks of elegance, with just a little bit of sheen to add some flair. Overall, this feels slim, lightweight, and nice to hold.
TCL 10 SE's 6.52 display with HD+ resolution
TCL 10 SE's 6.52 display with HD+ resolution

Upfront, TCL features a 6.52-inch IPS LCD with HD+ resolution and a 20:9 aspect ratio. Admittedly, the display is not at par with AMOLED screens of higher-end devices. Also, the bezel on the chin area is a bit thick for our liking. However, it has a lot of good points.
Good display
Good display

TCL 10 SE fairly balanced screen that offers great contrast. The company also has incorporated its NXTVISION technology into this phone. Allegedly, it improves the contrast, as well as the saturation and sharpness of the contents and we think they are correct.

Moreover, it has a brightness of 450 nits. Upon testing, it has respectable performance in an outdoor scenario. But as expected, we have struggled using it under direct sunlight. Also, this phone has nice viewing angles and the saturation is just right, leaning a bit on the warmer tone.

We can say that its screen is more than enough to navigate and watch some videos on a day-to-day basis.

Not 1080p, but still a solid choice for reading emails, internet browsing, and binging Netflix shows.

The loudness of the speakers is on the average side but it's clear and audible. If you like to be more immersed in whatever you're listening to, the FREE earphones can be a great help.
Triple cameras lined horizontally at the back
Triple cameras lined horizontally at the back

For cameras, the TCL 10 SE sports a triple camera on its rear consisting of the following: 48MP main cam, 5MP ultra-wide secondary cam, and a 2MP depth sensor. The company managed to sidestep the industry’s recent trend toward massive camera bumps with an almost entirely flat back. As a result, it's much sleeker and premium-looking.

The phone's camera UI is pretty straightforward. It only has four modes: Auto, Portrait, Wide-angle, and Pro. When you click "more", there are extra features such as High Pixel, Panorama, and Light trace. 

We also found out that the night mode is automatically detected by the AI camera when you're capturing a photo in a dark location. The same thing applies to the super macro mode. It's only activated when the AI camera identifies the subject being photographed.

Rear Camera Samples

Outdoor normal shot
Outdoor shot using an ultra-wide mode
Outdoor shot using an ultra-wide mode

The TCL 10 SE's primary camera gave a nice outcome, especially in outdoor and well-lit scenarios. For example, the photos above appear to have good contrast and realistic colors even without enabling the HDR feature. The ultra-wide shot might seem a bit overstretched but most of the details are clear and sharp.
Indoor normal shot
Indoor normal shot
Indoor ultra-wide
Indoor ultra-wide

Indoor shots were also of good quality in terms of color reproduction and details. However, there is minor distortions in our test shots, especially when using the ultra-wide-angle mode.
Macro mode on an object
Macro mode on an object

You can see that the TCL 10 SE's macro mode works well in this daylight scenario as it was able to highlight the details of the flower. It's just a bit slow on focusing on the subject and the blur is a bit strong.
Portrait mode on a person as a subject
Portrait mode on a person as a subject

This handset also has a pretty good portrait mode with respectable edge detection, high color accuracy, and sharpness. 
Without night mode
Without night mode
With night mode
With night mode

The capability of TCL 10 SE's camera was challenged under low-lit environments since the noise and blur are pretty obvious. As you can see, the night mode is great brightening up a scene when it's too dark. However, the difference between the two photos is not quite noticeable as we expected.

In front, the TCL 10 SE sports an  8MP snapper for selfies with a portrait mode and a beauty filter to boot.

Selfie Camera Samples

Normal daylight selfie
Normal daylight selfie

For selfies in broad daylight, it was able to capture nice details. Although the complexion seems pale and lackluster, the photo still has fine contrast and sharpness.
Indoor selfie in a well-lit environment
Normal indoor selfie in a well-lit environment

Indoor selfies are great too as long as the area is well-lit. Even though there's a bit of grain, the photos got more than enough details. It even managed to capture some blemishes and facial marks on the subject's face. We also like that color reproduction appears natural. 
Indoor selfie with a beauty filter

However, the beauty filter can be too strong if you set it to the maximum. We highly suggest that you only use 50 percent so your face won't be blurred out like the sample photo above.
Lowlight selfie without flash
Lowlight selfie without flash
Lowlight selfie with flash

Using the front camera in dark surroundings can be difficult since your selfies will be blurry just like the low light shots of its main camera. However, this is acceptable considering it has only an 8MP front camera, without a night mode.

The dual-LED flash can help a bit to make your night selfies acceptable, but clearly, the device struggles in this scenario.

For videos, this device can record or shoot with 1080p at 30fps. There's nothing special about the quality, but it does the job. Since it does not have a stabilization technology, you will need steady hands.

Performance

Benchmark scores from PCMark and Geekbench
Benchmark scores from PCMark and Geekbench

Inside, the TCL 10 SE is using a 12nm Helio P22 SoC coupled with 4GB RAM and 128GB storage. We run it on a PCMark and its work performance score of 4806 while receiving a single-core score of 153 and a multi-core score of 872.

In reality, TCL 10 SE can handle the basic tasks a smartphone user needs and a bit of multi-tasking. It's quite handy in texts, calls, surfing the web, and social media posting.

Texting, calling, surfing the web, playing music, and casual gaming can be a day's worth of usage in this device. What surprises me is that it only has occasional hiccups.

Helio P22 is decent for light tasks, but it is not that strong for the price. It would have been better if it has at least Helio G80 or SD662 like most similarly priced devices.

So for gaming, the handset can smoothly handle casual arcade games like Zombie Tsunami. However, for the crowd favorite Call of Duty Mobile, the graphic must be set to the lowest as default settings. The experience was not the smoothest as there are some lags along with the gameplay but still acceptable.

In terms of heat management, this TCL device doesn't get too hot while charging or playing. The same thing happens even with high brightness so we can say that it has an efficient heat management or device optimization.
PCMark's battery score
PCMark's battery score

The TCL 10 SE is packed with 4,000mAh of battery only. During the PCMark battery testing, it lasted for 12 hours and 30 minutes. 

On a rough estimate takes about 1 and a half hours to charge it to the fullest from an almost drained state.
The user interface of  TCL 10 SE
The user interface of  TCL 10 SE

This smartphone runs on Android OS 10 with TCL UI out of the box. It has a lot of features, primarily for customization. One good example is the NXTVISION app that automatically lets you tweak parameters like screen and video enhancement. It also allows you to activate the reading mode and sunlight display to adjust readability in different lighting conditions.

Moreover, it's nice for TCL to include an application organization so you can easily see the app you want to access. By default, the interface adds each of them to a category, such as Communication, Media, and Utilities. If you don’t like this style, that’s fine, just tap the button in the upper right corner and choose another arrangement method.

Meanwhile, the advanced feature in the settings enables the user to select the layout of the navigation buttons or activate gesture navigation. There's even a flip to mute function that is pretty handy so you can flip it to mute sounds or stop vibration from incoming calls or snooze your alarm.

For security, this TCL model comes with a fingerprint sensor, face unlock, and pattern or pin code lock. The fingerprint pattern is easy to set up and quite responsive. The same thing for face unlock since it was able to scan the face during testing, even in dim surroundings.

Overall, the user interface of this device is clean, organized, and contains well-thought features and applications.

TCL 10 SE Specs

Display:  6.52-inch LCD with HD+ resolution 720 x 1600 pixels at 269 ppi
CPU:  12nm Mediatek MT6762 Helio P22 
GPU:  PowerVR GE8320
RAM: 4GB LPDDR4X
ROM: 128GB UFS 2.1 expandable via microSD card up to 512GB
Back Camera: 48 MP, f/1.8, PDAF, 5 MP f/2.2, 115 degrees ultrawide,
2 MP depth, f/2.4, dual-LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8 MP f/2.0
Battery: 4,000mAh w/ 15W fast charging
OS: Android 10, TCL UI
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11b/g/n, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, FM Radio, OTG, GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Fingerprint sensor, face unlock, USB-C, Colors: Polar Night, Icy Silver
Dimensions: 164.9 x 74.7 x 8.39 mm
Weight: 166 g
Price: PHP 7,990

Quick thoughts

A device with a great style and a nice display
A device with a great style and a nice display

At PHP 7,990, we think that the TCL 10 SE is a respectable budget phone for everyday use. 

The device's build appears to be sturdy enough to last for quite a while. It's also a great thing that it has a premium look even if it is an older type of flagship design.

Another edge of this phone is the display. It's not comparable with the FHD of high-end devices but we enjoyed using it for watching YouTube clips and a few episodes on Netflix. The colors are stunning and it got enough brightness even outdoors.

In terms of performance, it's not mind-blowingly fast but it can handle most of the day-to-day tasks and some light gaming.

While it isn't the fastest for the price, TCL made a budget offering suited design-centric device with vivid display and respectable cameras.

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