TCL 30+ – OLED screen and NFC at $399 (review)

The TCL 30+ is one of its new 2022 models that are tangibly better than its previous 10-and-20-series.

TCL Mobile (website and not confused with its TV and home appliances division) handles smartphones, tablets, and AR glasses. TCL also licences the Alcatel brand, although the former seems to have all but disappeared from Australia. In terms of market share, it has only been selling TCL branded phones here for the last three years. As a result, the lack of approved retail distribution (basically Harvey Norman and Officeworks) for the Australian certified models holds this brand back.

It is nice to see a smartphone maker maturing. It is a challenger brand, and our tests on the TCL 30+ and TCL 30SE (TCL 30SE – entry-level mid-range (Review) show generally decent performance and quality. You can compare both TCL gets it right with the value TCL 30+ and TCL 30SE.

5-minute review: TCL 30+ 4/128GB, 4G, Hybrid dual sim/microSD Australian Model T676K-2BIZAU12

WebsiteProduct Page
Price$399
FromHarvey Norman and Officeworks
Warranty2-years ACL
Country of originChina
CompanyTCL Technology (originally an abbreviation for Telephone Communication Limited) is a Chinese electronics company headquartered in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. It designs, develops, manufactures, and sells consumer products, including television sets, mobile phones, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators, and small electrical appliances.
MoreCyberShack TCL news and reviews

Deep-Dive review format

It is now in two parts. As this is a low-cost device, we will do a brief summary and a separate 300+ line database-driven spec, including over 70 tests to back up the findings. It also helps us compare different phones and features.

Most section headings have FAIL (did not meet expected standards), PASS (all you can expect) or EXCEED (better than you can expect).

Don’t buy grey market

Regrettably, there is a substantial grey market (see Don’t buy a grey market phone – guide), and you need to be ultra-careful if you want an Australian Consumer Law warranty.

The ‘K’ model is for Australia and must have the 2BIZAU12 after it and the RCM C-Tick under Settings>System>Regulatory and Safety. Other versions may not have all AU Telco bands and no NFC. Do not buy H or J versions.

First Impressions – another glass slab – Pass

Sorry, but there is nothing exciting about a typical glass slab smartphone as this format is the best way to deliver value, not innovation.

It has a flat glass front, flat PMMA plastic back, tri-camera hump, the important 3.5mm jack on the bottom, and a hybrid dual sim/microSD slot. The power button (with fingerprint sensor) and volume rocker are on the right side.

The most outstanding feature is the bright and colourful OLED screen. However, I am unsure about the light Muse Blue back panel. I like the PMMA (synthetic glass) that resists fingerprints, but it is slippery, so use the supplied bumper cover.

Screen: 6.7” 2400×1080, 8-bit 16.7m colours, 60Hz OLED – Exceed

It is rare to find OLED at this price, but frankly, consider the OLED screen more of a bonus. It is bright, daylight readable, saturated colour and being OLED, has a swipe-out Edge screen and Always-on display.

TCL quotes 650 nits HBM (High brightness mode), but the reality is that it is about 400 nits for everyday use, and it is still an SDR (standard, not high dynamic range) screen.

TCL includes its NXTVISION adjustment App, which basically pushes the OLED to its limits. We are not sure if this negatively affects battery life, but it is nice to be able to play with it to suit your tastes.

Processor – MediaTek Helio G37– Pass (just)

This is the same processor as the Moto g22 (Motorola g22 – the cheap and cheerful smartphone (review), so we have some benchmarks. Overall, it performed within a few percent of these.

Let’s just say this is entry-level, and you must accept that there will be lag under load, especially with 4GB of RAM and slow eMMC flash drive storage. And, as with many MediaTek SoCs, we were unable to run some key GPU performance tests – suffice to say, video speed is too slow for any popular games.

Throttling was minimal at 10% over 15 minutes.

Summary: It is a three-cylinder, no turbo!

Comms – Wi-Fi 4 N (Fail), BT 5.0 and NFC – Pass

If there is one area we are critical of, it is Wi-Fi 4 N single-band 2.4Ghz tops out at 79Mbps. To put this in perspective, a download takes six times as long as Wi-Fi 5 AC. What was TCL thinking by putting this in a $399 handset when everyone has Wi-Fi 5 AC at 433Mbps?

As it is not a Qualcomm SoC, it does not have aptX sound codecs, which means you are limited to SBC and AAC with 200+ms latency – too high for gamers.

GPS performance is adequate and accurate to <10 metres, but the phone takes a long time to find satellites and recalculate routes limiting its effectiveness for in-car navigation.

Phone – Pass with caveats – for capital city and suburbs only

As seems typical of MediaTek Helio SoCs, it could only find the nearest tower, albeit at a reasonable 1-3pW signal strength. It is a Pass for capital city users only.

Battery – 5010mAh – Exceed with caveats

We have had past issues with MediaTek SoCs with GFX Bench and Geekbench 5 performance testing software. We managed to run the Manhattan and T-Rex battery tests but obtained vastly different results over three runs.

We can confirm that it takes over 3.5 hours to charge (claim 2.1 hours) and will video loop for 18 hours (excellent), but this is at odds with the results of the GFX Bench Tests, which are around 9-10 hours.

We expect it should last two days, but that largely depends on your use.

Sound – stereo Pass (just)

It is stereo – an earpiece and bottom-firing speaker. But the sound is skewed to the bottom speaker, and it fails the white noise generator test by clipping (compressing or cutting out) badly above 4kHz. Add to that lower-than-average volume (72dB), no bass and choppy treble, and it is not satisfying for music. It is OK for voice.

Hands-free has below-average volume. While the dual mics provide some noise-cancellation, you need to hold the bottom mic within 60cm of your mouth if you want to be heard.

SBC and AAC codec means Bluetooth earphones have average volume and stereo sound stage.

Build – Pass

TCL offers a 2-year warranty, so we would typically allocate Exceed here. But the chrome finish plastic frame looks cheap, it is pretty slippery in hand, and the lack of any IP Rating (when the competition has IP54 or X4) puts it behind.

One reader who has purchased one could not buy a wallet style cover and tempered glass protector at Harvey Norman or Officeworks. You will need to go online to Alibaba or eBay to find some.

Android 12 – Pass

While TCL will update its security patches to December 2023, it won’t be offering an Android 13 upgrade – and that is OK as phones at this price are sell and forget.

I am not yet a fan of TCL UI 4.0X. It is a relatively light touch over Android, and there is no learning curve. But it has a set of TCL apps that double up on Google Apps, and the launcher keeps asking to let these have system permissions. Saying ‘no’ does not impede its operation, but you cannot delete these baked-in apps either.

There is a lot of bloatware – remove: Amazon Shopping, Booking.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, an Office suite (not Microsoft), and non-Google apps to clear up storage.

Missing – all good

Apart from Wi-Fi 5 AC, it has everything you need.

Camera – TCL 30+ – Passable. TCL should work on camera firmware

In theory, it should be a decent 50+2+2MP camera setup. We know the 50MP Samsung S5KJN1 sensor and what to expect. It is used in more than 100 smartphones, including TCL 30-series, a few Motorola g-series, Samsung Galaxy A13/23, realme 8/9i, Vivo 21T, OPPO A96 and several other 2022 models coming here.

What we don’t know until we test is the level of AI the MediaTek SoC provides (well, we do, as we just completed the Motorola g22 review with the same SoC and 50MP sensor). In short, lower levels of AI means it needs reasonable light levels to get the best out of it.

And that explains why there is no dedicated night mode – all shots are on an auto setting.

Camera summary

Photos

  • 50MP with no AI and HDR daylight has good colours and details.
  • 12.5MP binned (normal shooting mode) with AI lacks accurate colours and details
  • 2x Zoom is acceptable in the foreground but loses definition in the background
  • 4x Zoom – forget it – poor detail and noisy
  • No UW lens, so it does a 50MP crop
  • Macro – must be at 4cm or blurred. Good shots otherwise
  • Office Light 400 lumens – Colours are off, soft focus and a little noisy
  • Bokeh – depth camera did not focus properly
  • <40 lumens – camera struggles
  • Night mode – No
  • Selfie – ok, in good light but the wide-angle means there is a lot of background showing
  • Video: Poor dynamic range leads to washed-out colours and lack of detail in light and dark areas

CyberShack’s view – TCL 30+ is fine, but better value smartphones will cane it.

There is nothing wrong with the TCL 30+ (let’s be positive – you can’t go wrong with it), but it has one major problem – price.

The $300-399 bracket is the most hotly contested, and apart from its OLED screen, its specs are not class-leading. Read Best Android phones under $500 – some are real gems! (May 2022) to see where it sits.

Unfortunately, its closest competition is the Motorola g22 (same processor and camera) Motorola g22 – the cheap and cheerful smartphone (review). The problem is that this is $100 cheaper at $299 (on special at JB Hi-Fi at $239). We don’t usually comment on price, but the TCL 30+ needs to sit around that mark to be competitive.

And the $399 OPPO A96 – an absolutely perfect $399 smartphone (review) is the class-leader with a way more powerful Qualcomm SD680 processor; 8GB RAM; fast UFS storage; Wi-Fi 5 AC dual-band; a very powerful phone signal strength for use anywhere in Australia; excellent stereo sound; better OS and security patch policy; and the same 50MP lens/sensor that produces far better images.

It is not TCL’s fault that prices are askew – the volatile dollar, COVID supply, factory shutdowns and more all affect costs. But I do suspect we will see a price adjustment soon.

CyberShack Smartphone comparison v 1.1 (E&OE)

TCL 30+

BrandTCL
Model30+
Model NumberT676K-2BIZAU12
Price Base4/128
   Price base$399
Warranty months24-months ACL
 TierMid-range
Website Product Page
FromHarvey Norman, Officeworks
Country of OriginChina
CompanyTCL Technology (originally an abbreviation for Telephone Communication Limited) is a Chinese electronics company headquartered in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. It designs, develops, manufactures, and sells consumer products including television sets, mobile phones, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators, and small electrical appliances.
MoreCyberShack TCL news and reviews
Test date5/5 to 2/6/22
Ambient temp15-18°
ReleaseApril 2022
Other models not for Australia (Don’t buy)The ‘K’ model is for Australia and must have the 2BIZAU12 after it. Other versions may not have full AU Telco bands and no NFC. Do not buy H or J versions

Screen

Size6.7″ centre U notch
TypeOLED (from CSOT owned by TCL)
Flat, Curve, 2D, 3DFlat with slightly curved edges
Resolution2400 x 1080
PPI393
Ratio20:9
Screen to Body %91.75
Colours bits8-bit 16.7m colours
Refresh Hz, adaptive60Hz
Response 120HzN/A
Nits typical, testClaim 650 HBM (This is an excellent marketing figure, but in everyday terms, it is about 400nits maximum)
Nits max, testClaim 900 (This would indicate some level of HDR, but our test software only shows SDR)
Contrast100,000:1 (OLED is infinite)
sRGB100+%
DCI-P3Claim 100% of 16.7M colours
Rec.2020 or otherClaim 100% NTSC
Delta E (<4 is excellent)Around 4
HDR LevelSDR
SDR UpscaleNo
Blue light controlYes
PWM if knownYes, 365Hz
Daylight readableYes
Always on DisplayYes
Edge displayYes
AccessibilityAndroid features
DRML3 (lowest) – 480p at best but Netflix will not play
GamingNot for gaming
Screen protectionClaim ‘Scratch resistant’
CommentThe brightness figure uses HBM (high brightness mode), which is not achievable, let alone peak brightness.

Processor

Brand, ModelMediaTek Helio G37
nm12
Cores4 x 2.3GHz and 4 x 1.8GHz
Modem4G Cat-4, Cat-7 DL / Cat-13 UL
AI TOPSEstimate <4
Geekbench 5 Single-core174
Geekbench 5 multi-core1019
LikeToo slow to make a comparison – well below a Snapdragon SD460.
GPUPowerVR GE8320 680MHz
GPU Test
Open CLWould not run
LikeToo slow to compare
Vulcan88
RAM, type4GB LPDDR4x
Storage, free, type128GB (93GB free) eMMC
micro-SDUp to 1TB
CPDT internal seq. Read MBps212
CPDT internal seq. write MBps130
CPDT microSD read, write MBps82/37
CPDT external (mountable?) MBpsNot recognised
CommentStorage speeds are commensurate with the lower cost eMMC, but that is all you need as 1080p video hardly taxes that.
Throttle test
Max GIPS101500
Average GIPS98049
Minimum GIPS76937
% Throttle10
CPU Temp50
CommentGood thermal management for a 5W TPD SoC

Comms

Wi-Fi Type, modelWi-Fi 4 N 2.4GHz only (below average)
Test 2m -dBm, Mbps-23/78 (2.4GHz band only)
Test 5m-34/78
Test 10m-45/78
BT Type5
GPS single, dualSingle
USB typeUSB-C 2.0 480Mbps
Alt DP, DeX, Ready ForNo
NFCAustralian K version only
Ultra-widebandNo
Sensors
   AccelerometerYes -combo with Gyro is very sensitive
   GyroYes
   e-CompassYes
   BarometerNo
   GravityNo
   PedometerNo
   Ambient lightYes
   Hall sensorNo
   ProximityYes
   OtherFingerprint side mount
CommentSome of the usual sensors are emulated in the MediaTek SoC. We cannot forgive Wi-Fi 4 N single band offering less than 79Mbps half-duplex.

4G LTE

SIMHybrid dual sim and microSD
   ActiveOnly one active at a time
Ring tone single, dualSingle
VoLTECarrier dependent
Wi-Fi callingCarrier dependent
4G Bands1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40, 41
CommentAll Australian 4G bands
5G sub-6GhzN/A
Test Boost Mobile, Telstra
   UL, DL, ms25/12/40ms below average
   Tower 1 -dBm, fW or pW-89/1-3pW (reasonable for major city use)
   Tower 2No
   Tower 3No
   Tower 4No
CommentTypical of low-cost MediaTek and strictly for areas with lots of towers – city and suburbs.

Battery

mAh5010
Charger, type, supplied5V/2A/10W, 9V/2A/18W, 12V/1.5A/18W with 2A USB-A to USB-C cable
 PD, QC levelNo PD but can use PD chargers
Test (60Hz)
   Charge % 30mins22%
   Charge 0-100%Claim 2.1 hours (Test 3 hours 38 minutes)
   Charge 5V, 2A5V/2A 5 hours 12 minutes
   Video loop 50%, aeroplane18 hours
Unable to test with Wi-Fi and streaming video due to L3 DRM
   PC Mark 3 battery14 hours 40 minutes
   GFX Bench Manhattan battery591.8 min (9.86 hours) 480 frames
   GFX Bench T-Rex525.7 min (8.76 hours) 1191 frames
   Drain 100-0% full load screen on6 hours 12 minutes
   Watt idle Screen on700-1000mA
   Estimate loss at max refreshN/A
   Estimate typical useWhile the video loop time is good, the PC Mark Test is lower than expected, meaning that you can expect two days under typical use.
CommentWe also use the Accubattery test, and it is usually similar to PC Mark results. But in this case, it shows 18 hours (versus 14 hours 40 minutes) and 5 hours under 100% load (we achieved 6 hours 12 minutes).
Accubattery did show that battery life is very much more dependent on how you use it – a power user may only get 6-10 hours between charges.

Sound

SpeakersStereo earpiece and bottom-firing speaker.
TuningNo
AMP2 x AW87 stereo
Dolby Atmos decodeNo
Hi-ResNo
3.5mmYes
BT CodecsSBC and AAC only
MultipointUnknown – likely not
Dolby Atmos (DA)No
EQNo
MicsDual with noise-cancelling
Test dB – all on EQ flat DA off<80dB
   Volume max77
   Media (music)72
   Ring77
   Alarm67
   Notifications74
   Earpiece50
   Hands-freeRelatively low volume, but dual mics do offer a small level of noise-cancelling
   BT headphonesGood volume and channel separation

Sound quality

Deep Bass 20-40HzNo
Middle Bass 40-100HzNo
High Bass 100-200HzSteep build to 200Hz but not enough to introduce bass characteristics
Low Mid 200-400HzFlat-ish with a slight upwards incline
Mid 4000-1000HzFlat-ish with a slight upwards incline
High-Mid 1-2kHzFlat but very choppy and starts clipping sound
Low Treble 2-4kHzFlat but very choppy and starts clipping sound
Mid Treble 4-6kHzFlat but very choppy and starts clipping sound
High Treble 6-10kHzDecline
Dog Whistle 10-20kHzSteep decline
Sound Signature typeIn theory, it is mid (bass recessed, mid boosted, treble recessed), but the choppy treble and lack of any bass make it hard to listen to.
 SoundstageStereo but somewhat skewed to the bottom speaker and not very wide. 2D only – no depth or height
CommentA strong imbalance to the bottom speaker makes the sound stage skewed. Very little high-bass and extremely choppy and harsh treble. During the white noise test, it frequently cut out or clipped the sound.

Build

Size (H x W x D)164.5 x 75.2 x 7.7 mm
Weight grams184
Front glassNot specified
Rear materialPMMA matte – fingerprint resistant
FramePlastic
IP ratingNot specified
ColoursMuse Blue
Tech Black
Pen, Stylus supportNo
In the box
   Charger5V/3A/15W, 9V/2AS/18W, 12V/1.5A/18W
   USB cableUSB-A to USB-C 3W rated
   BudsYes
   Bumper coverYes

OS

Android12 – Android Enterprise recommended
Security patch date5/03/2022
UITCL UI V4.0.2 BAZ
It is a reasonably light touch over Android. It enables an Edge screen.
OS upgrade policyNo OS upgrade
Security patch policyTo December 2023
Bloatware There is a lot of bloatware in terms of its substitutes for Google Apps, and these want more permissions than necessary. Remove: Amazon Shopping, Booking.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, an Office suite (not Microsoft), and non-Google apps to clear up storage.
Security
Fingerprint sensor location, typeOn power button – test 8/10
Face ID2D face ID

Camera – TCL 30+

Rear PrimaryWide
  MP50 bins to 12.5
   SensorSamsung S5KJN1
   FocusPDAF
   f-stop1.85
   um.64 bins to 1.28
  FOV° (stated, actual)74.4 (65.6-77.8)
   StabilisationEIS only
   Zoom4X digital
Rear 2Macro
   MP2
   SensorGalaxy Core GC02M1b
   FocusFixed
   f-stop2.4
   um1.75
  FOV (stated, actual)88.8
   StabilisationNo
   ZoomNo
Rear 3Depth
  MP2
   SensorGalaxy Core GC02M1
   FocusFF
   f-stop2.4
   um1.75
  FOV (stated, actual)85
   StabilisationNo
   ZoomNo
Special
   Video max1080p@30fps no EIS
   FlashYes
   Auto-HDRManual
Steady Snap, High Pixel, Portrait Mode, Movie Mode, Stop Motion, Art effects, AI scene detection 2.0, Filter, HDR, Face detection, Gesture control, Quick Snap, Touch to Capture, Light Trace, Panorama
   QR code readerVia Google Lens
   Night modeYes

 Selfie

Front
  MP13
   SensorHynix HI1336 or Samsung S5K3I6
   FocusFF
   f-stop2.3
   um1.44
  FOV (stated, actual)96
   StabilisationNo
   FlashScreen fill
   Zoom4x digital
   Video max1080p@30fps
    FeaturesFace Beautification, Auto Capture, Touch To Capture
CommentIn reality, it’s a single lens/sensor camera with the 50MP doing all the work. It then relies on the MediaTek SoC for AI post-processing, but the G37 at <4TOPS cannot do much. You will see quite good images at 50MP but variable when binned and AI applied.

Ratings

Features7.5
Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz and MediaTek SoC are not class-leading
Value7
There are better value phones in this category, and the Motorola g22 is essentially the same device at $299/239!
Performance6
It is an entry-level value SoC, and you get fit for purpose performance. It is not for gamers.
Ease of Use8
TCL UI is improving, but it is still a little clunky, and its Apps duplicate Google Apps and are uninstallable.
Design8
All plastic is fine – it looks like a more expensive smartphone
Rating out of 107.3
CommentWhile there is nothing fundamentally wrong, the TCL30+ is simply not competitive in the current market.

TCL 30+, TCL 30+, TCL 30+

TCL 30+

$399
7.3

Features

7.5/10

Value

7.0/10

Performance

6.0/10

Ease of use

8.0/10

Design

8.0/10

Pros

  • Lovely OLED 2400 x 1080p screen
  • Decent battery life (depends on use)
  • Camera is fine for daylight shots
  • Good 24-month warranty

Cons

  • Wi-Fi N 2.4Ghz is way too slow
  • Phone reception is limited to good tower coverage areas
  • Camera struggles in office and lower light shots
  • MediaTek G37 processor coupled with 4GB RAM and 128GB eMMC is slow and laggy
  • Sound could be improved


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