TCL 30 XE 5G review: not bad for $200

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The TCL 30 XE has a atrocious screen, skimpy storage, lackluster camera, and runs a mentation of Android that’s astir 2 years down everyone else. It’s fundamentally a somewhat cheaper, somewhat worse mentation of the Samsung Galaxy A13 5G that lone works connected T-Mobile. But it’s $200, and astatine that price, it’s astir the champion telephone you tin get.

For a $200 phone, the 30 XE 5G’s day-to-day show is snappier than I expected. That’s besides a debased terms to wage for 5G work connected T-Mobile’s precise bully network. These things marque it easier to forgive the 30 XE’s anemic points due to the fact that it does what a bully fund telephone should: it conscionable works. If you truly privation 5G, are paying afloat price, and request to support costs down, it’s the champion you’re going to get connected T-Mobile. But if you’re eligible for 1 of your carrier’s “free” telephone offers, there’s surely a amended enactment among them.

The TCL 30 XE uses a MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor and 4GB of RAM, which is connected the debased broadside adjacent by fund telephone standards. Even so, jumping from app to app is quick. It’s not cleanable — determination are infrequent but noticeable hesitations present and there. As I spell astir my scrolling and typing, I mostly conscionable don’t announcement the 30 XE getting successful my way. The phone’s 64GB of built-in retention is definitely connected the debased side, truthful fund an other $15–25 for a microSD card.

Battery beingness is different agleam spot. The 30 XE’s 4,500mAh artillery isn’t the biggest by immoderate means, but overall, the instrumentality is reasonably power-efficient. Light users who walk the bulk of their clip connected Wi-Fi volition get precise bully show — good into a 2nd time connected 1 charge. It should besides basal up to heavier use, but I’d lone expect to get done a azygous day.

Unfortunately, that steadfast artillery stamina is apt acknowledgment to the comparatively dim low-resolution screen. The 30 XE offers a 6.52-inch LCD screen, which would beryllium good — LCDs person mediocre opposition compared to their pricier OLED counterparts, but you’re not going to find an OLED surface connected a $200 telephone — but it happens to beryllium a bad LCD. For starters, it’s conscionable 720p resolution, which is truly not capable for a surface this big. Icons and images look a small unsmooth astir the edges. It’s besides conscionable not precise bright. Using it adjacent to a model connected a mostly overcast time sent the automatic brightness to 100 percent conscionable to support the surface comfortably visible.

TCL 30 XE telephone  lying face-up connected  a woody  table The TCL 30 XE’s 6.5-inch surface offers a creaseless 90Hz refresh rate, but it’s dim and lone 720p.

That said, the screen’s 90Hz refresh complaint is noticeably smoother than the modular 60Hz. It contributes to the phone’s wide feeling of responsiveness, truthful it’s nice. But, personally, I’d alternatively person a surface with capable solution and a modular refresh complaint than a smoother-scrolling but low-res panel.

For a carrier-locked device, the 30 XE includes mercifully fewer pre-downloaded T-Mobile apps, astir of which tin beryllium uninstalled (or skipped altogether during setup). That was not the lawsuit with Verizon’s TCL 30 V 5G, which I reviewed earlier this year. The 30 XE besides supports T-Mobile’s precise bully mid-band Ultra Capacity 5G network, which is included connected each of T-Mobile’s 5G plans — besides not the lawsuit astatine Verizon, wherever you request a pricier unlimited program to entree the champion 5G bands.

The 30 XE ships with Android 11 installed, which is good down the times fixed that Android 13 is just astir the corner. TCL spokesperson Isabelle Braun says the telephone volition get an update to Android 12 but didn’t accidental when. The institution is besides promising conscionable 2 years of information updates for the 30 XE. That’s not long, but it’s not wholly unexpected for a $200 phone, unfortunately.

TCL claims the 30 XE 5G has a “triple rear camera system,” but that’s being a small generous. There’s a 13-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel extent camera, and a 2-megapixel macro camera. The extent camera’s lone intent is to supply much accusation for representation mode (which isn’t precise good), and the macro camera’s images are (predictably) debased res and mediocre.

That leaves the main rear camera and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera, some of which bash capable to get a passing grade. In agleam light, they nutrient precise saturated, astir fluorescent colors. None of the filters disposable successful the autochthonal camera app code this down precise much, truthful that’s thing you’ll person to either similar oregon marque bid with. This contributes to immoderate weird-looking results successful mixed lighting, too.

Dim indoor lighting and precise debased airy are challenging for the camera. Shots are often blurred owed to debased shutter speeds, autofocus hunting, sound reduction, oregon a operation of the above. You tin get usable shots of static subjects, but hide astir pets and kids — moving subjects successful debased airy are a situation for adjacent the champion smartphone cameras. Video signaling is disposable astatine up to 1080 / 30p, and clip prime is unremarkable.

Rear changeable  of the TCL 30 XE 5G, showing an elongated camera bump and rear fingerprint reader. One main camera and 2 low-res sensors bash not a triple-camera strategy make.

The TCL 30 XE 5G does conscionable what a fund telephone should do: for the astir part, it gets retired of your way. For a telephone astatine this price, its show is snappy, and that’s a large payment if you’re looking to conscionable unrecorded your beingness with arsenic small vexation arsenic imaginable from your mobile device. But if you privation a small much from your phone, you person immoderate different options to consider.

The Samsung Galaxy A13 5G has precise akin specs to the 30 XE 5G: the aforesaid processor and RAM, aforesaid 64 GB retention with a microSD slot, and a likewise sized 720p screen. It costs a spot much outright, but it offers a bigger artillery and a amended camera. Samsung’s bundle is simply a small further from banal Android than TCL’s, which means a small much clutter and pre-downloads. At the clip of this writing, it’s besides different $0 / period enactment from T-Mobile if you bargain it connected contract. If my escaped upgrade were astatine stake, I’d opt for the Samsung.

Speaking of escaped phones, if T-Mobile is offering the OnePlus Nord N20 5G, past that’s an adjacent amended option. It has a amended camera, an fantabulous OLED screen, and accelerated charging. Though astatine $282, it’s fundamentally successful different terms bracket if you’re paying for it outright.

Finally, if you tin instrumentality oregon permission 5G and buying an unlocked telephone outright is an option, past the unlocked Motorola Moto G Stylus (2022) is worthy considering. You’ll get amended artillery beingness and an further twelvemonth of information updates. It’s inactive rather a spot pricier with a $299 MSRP, but it’s astir ever marked down good beneath that; it’s $250 astatine the clip of this writing.

The TCL 30 XE 5G is simply a fund telephone that volition get you done your time with arsenic small hassle arsenic imaginable fixed the price. It’s a bully fuss-free enactment if you’re paying afloat terms up beforehand and privation to support costs arsenic debased arsenic possible. But, if you’re subsidizing your acquisition by signing a wireless contract, past you tin bash better.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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