The TCL 30 5G Is a Budget All-Rounder Phone to Beat

The TCL 30 5G Is a Budget All-Rounder Phone to Beat

TCL has created another cheap and capable smartphone with the 30 5G, a budget handset that’s priced well below many of its competitors.

The last time we played with a TCL phone, it was the TCL 20 R 5G, a very affordable phone with some neat specs. Before then, we reviewed the TCL 20 Pro 5G, a more powerful version of the R, which we called “underappreciated for the money”.

The things we praised those phones for ring true for the TCL 30 5G, the stock-standard device in the current ’30’ range of devices from the global tech company mostly known for its TVs.

Let’s get stuck in.

tcl 30 5g
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Stock standard is good, actually

TCL adds suffixes to the ends of its phone names a lot to signify the diverse range of phones available (and there are a lot available at once). Last year, when the TCL 30 5G launched, it was announced alongside the TCL 30E, the TCL 30SE, the TCL 30+, the TCL 30V 5G (only available in the U.S.) and the TCL 30 (no 5G).

With all of this in mind, we can appreciate the TCL 30 5G for what it is – the stock standard TCL phone at the moment with 5G added into the mix (which is becoming more and more commonplace as the technology is rolled out).

And you know what? If this is the standard, then the standard is pretty darn good.

Running through the specs, as according to phone specs website GSMArena, the TCL 30 5G comes packed with a 6.7-inch AMOLED display, with an 87.9 per cent screen-to-body ratio and a 60hz refresh rate. Powering the device is a Mediatek MT6833 Dimensity 700, aMali-G57 MC2 GPU, 128GB storage space and 4GB RAM. The battery is 5,010mAh and there’s also space for a MicroSD card, along with a headphone jack.

Probably the most disappointing thing about TCL’s range at the moment is that it still looks and feels cheap. Compared to the chassis of the 20 series, the 30 series has come a long way, taking design queues from Oppo’s cheaper devices, but it still doesn’t feel terrific in hand.

tcl 30 5g
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The joint between the sides and the back feels quite sharp (not enough to hurt, but squared stronger than other phone designs) and the material used down the sides does feel quite flimsy. Additionally, while the standby button also functions as the fingerprint reader, it feels as if it doesn’t protrude from the device far enough, often making me second-guess if I clicked it or not.

So that’s what you can expect from the TCL 30 5G technically, but how does it perform?

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Keeping up with Samsung and Oppo

I’ll say it for as long as I need to – TCL’s phone range may suffer when compared to Apple or Samsung’s premium range, but when compared to cheaper devices from Samsung and Oppo’s A series devices, TCL holds its own, with performance to match and prices to beat.

Let’s start with the battery test, where the phone performed exceptionally well. In this test, where we run the phone on full brightness and full volume, streaming Avengers: Endgame at maximum quality from Disney+, the TCL 30 5G dropped down to 98 per cent in the first hour, 90 per cent in the second and 83 per cent in the third.

This was quite a surprising result, just outperforming the latest Pixel devices and substantially winning over the iPhone 14 Pro Max. We’ll give these phones a pass though, because they’re phenomenal in ways that the TCL 30 5G isn’t (and isn’t trying to be).

Battery performance shined while gaming as well. Playing Call of Duty Mobile and League of Legends Wild Rift on the device for an hour, the phone only dropped 10 per cent, while playing on the settings the games defaulted to (COD Mobile played at 60fps, while Wild Rift played at 30fps).

Speaking generally, most of my time with the TCL 30 5G was spent on social media, using a web browser or playing games, and provided that the phone didn’t have too many apps open in the background, there was very little lag.

It should be said, though, that if you’re coming from a more expensive device, its lower refresh rate might take some getting used to. Personally, I use the Google Pixel 7 Pro as my day-to-day phone, with a variable refresh rate that goes up to 120hz, and because of this smoother screen framerate, the TCL 30 5G looks a bit slower. It’s fine, it’s functioning as normal, it’s just a cheaper display that makes things appear more jittery.

But I don’t think the display is bad in any way. Its 1080 x 2400 pixel screen gave off some beautiful colouring throughout Avengers: Endgame, with nice and loud sound quality to match.

The TCL 30 5G is an all-rounder that doesn’t have any obvious performance drawbacks. It might not look as slick as some of the more expensive devices, but it can keep up with them from app to app, but perhaps not when there’s more to process (such as in high graphics games or when multiple apps are open).

It has cameras, but they’re nothing special

While TCL’s camera tech isn’t particularly bad, it is probably the thing that would keep most people away from its phones.

If you’re interested in the specs, the main camera is 50MP, the macro lens is 2MP, the depth lens is 2MP and the selfie camera is 13MP. If you’re not sure what this means, we’ve got you covered over here, but I believe the TCL’s performance indicates why camera software matters so much more at the moment than megapixels.

In the below images, we’ve put the TCL 30 5G against the Google Pixel 6a, which Gizmodo Australia considers to be one of the best budget phones you can buy at the moment (with easily the best camera you can get on a budget device). The Google Pixel 6a, for context, starts at $749, though you can purchase it now for as low as $529.

tcl 30 5g
Left: Google Pixel 6a. Right: TCL 30 5G. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The colours produced by the TCL phone are very nice, but parts of the image (such as the clearing in the trees) appear more washed out. The colouring of the Pixel 6a is more true-to-life.

This close-up shot shows similar results. Less detail in favour of artificial colours, all while being less appreciative of natural light. They’re not bad photos, they’ll do, but the Pixel 6a knocks it out of the park.

tcl 30 5g
Left: Google Pixel 6a. Right: TCL 30 5G. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Here’s an up-close macro shot, where the Pixel 6a definitely picks up on more detail while the TCL 30 5G injects more artificial colour.

tcl 30 5g
Left: Google Pixel 6a. Right: TCL 30 5G. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Here’s another one.

Left: Google Pixel 6a. Right: TCL 30 5G. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Here’s how both phones perform when zoomed out to the maximum. The Google Pixel 6a can zoom back more, but it’s not a huge problem for the TCL.

tcl 30 5g
Left: Google Pixel 6a. Right: TCL 30 5G. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Finally, here’s a cute little selfie test. The upped brightness at the cost of lower image fidelity is very obvious here.

Left: Google Pixel 6a. Right: TCL 30 5G. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

So who wins here? Yeah, Google’s 6a isn’t going to be undercut on photos this time, however, if you like the bright, more colour-appreciative photos the TCL snaps, you might not mind.

Should I buy the TCL 30 5G?

TCL has done it again with the 30 5G – a capable device for a low price tag, that might not produce the best photos or give you the best performance, but definitely lets you keep up with more expensive devices where it matters.

I can easily recommend the phone for its performance, nice screen, speaker sound and price.

Where to buy the TCL 30 5G?

Note that some offers include TCL’s MOVEAUDIO S600 wireless earbuds.

JB Hi-Fi $496 | Mobileciti $499 | Kogan $499 | Catch $511

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