Do you really need to spend over $1000 for a good phone? The big brands would certainly prefer you did but after spending a couple of weeks with the new TCL 30+ Android smartphone, I’m convinced that for most people, the answer is a big no.
Consider this; the TCL 30+ retails for just $349.99 which is literally a third the cost of an iPhone 12. For that budget sum, you get a beautiful 6.7-inch FHD+ AMOLED display, a 50MP AI camera, 128GB of storage and a 5010mAH battery that will easily last you two days of moderate use.
To be clear, there are some compromises that you’ll have to deal with such as performance issues, hit-or-miss cameras and not-so-great gaming. Overall, though, the TCL 30+ is a perfectly acceptable phone for the money and for most people.
Design and features
The TCL 30+ is your standard Android phone meaning, a big 6.7-inch, flat glass display with a tear-shaped notch for the front facing camera and plastic housing to hold it all together. Possibly the only distinctive thing about its design is the triple camera array on the back with a neon-ring around the main lens.
The back of the TCL 30+ is a soft-touch plastic shell that feels sturdy and looks good in the Muse blue finish on the unit I got. It seems fairly resistant to dirt and scratches and TCL includes a clear silicon case in the box to keep your investment safe.
Despite the massive display, the TCL 30+ doesn’t feel large in the hand which is probably due to it’s light 184g weight and impressively thin 7.74mm thickness. It’s a far cry from my similarly sized iPhone 13 Pro Max which feels like a lead brick in comparison. The TCL 30+ is just so much easier to hold especially for one-handed tasks.
On the side rail is the power button that sits flush with the body and doubles as a fingerprint scanner. It’s fast and accurate and I often found myself unlocking the phone by accident just by brushing my finger against it. Above it are tactile volume buttons that are clicky and stand out above the flush power button.
At the bottom of the TCL 30+ is a single USB Type-C connector for charging and peripherals and the speaker grill. That’s really par for the course as most phones have long since dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The display on the TCL 30+ is its standout feature especially considering the low price. It’s a 6.7-inch, AMOLED, Full HD+ display with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels which is comparable to flagship phones from other brands. It’s big, beautiful with excellent contrast and vibrant colors. TCL cites a 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut which is more than I’ve seen on most gaming monitors we’ve reviewed on this site.
The spec sheet claims it has a peak brightness of 900 nits but I struggled to see my content while out and about in the brilliant Australian sun. However, indoors, the brightness was more than enough. In darker situations, the display can drop to 1nit of brightness to protect your eyes from screen glare which works in tandem with a blue light filter.
The phone also has NXTVISION which is TCL’s AI-optimized tech that enhances picture sharpness, color and brightness depending on what’s on screen. As a TV manufacturer, its not surprising to see some crossover display features. Without side by side comparison, it’s difficult to say how effective it is but I really enjoyed viewing content from Instagram to Obi-Wan on Disney+ and that’s what matters.
Speaking of which, don’t expect too much from the speakers on the TCL 30+. It uses two speakers top and bottom to create stereo sound which is a little tinny and lacking bass. But they are loud enough for most environments so you can enjoy some quick TikToks or YouTube on the commute to work. Notifications and ringtones however sound rich and loud so that’s good.
The biggest downside to this display is the now, paltry 60Hz refresh rate. To be fair though, this is only a concern if you’ve been used to more expensive phones with 90, 120 or even 144Hz displays like the Asus ROG Phone. What this actually means in real life is that animations, transitions and scrolling appear jittery and not smooth. It’s also problematic for fast paced mobile games like Call of Duty Mobile or Asphalt 9 where you need the smoothness and responsiveness to maximize your gameplay. But at this price point, you can’t expect too much.
Performance and battery
Now speaking of things being jittery, it’s not entirely the displays fault. The TCL 30+ uses a Mediatek MT6765V CPU which has 8-core and a PowerVR GE8320 GPU. It’s paired with 4GB RAM and 128GB eMMC 5.1 flash storage running Android 12 with some light TCL theme on top. Point is, while the specs look good, the performance isn’t as good.
It often stutters when opening apps, even hanging for several seconds before they load. In some apps like Instagram, scrolling would be sticky, often jumping to catch up with your swipes and video playback on the timeline would stutter. You also notice slight delays when taking photos or using the Android task switcher to move between your previous apps.
Similarly, while I didn’t expect the TCL 30+ to run games like an ROG Phone 5, playing heavier games like Apex Legends Mobile or Call of Duty Mobile was a sub-optimal experience. Graphics settings have to be turned way down and even then you’d be averaging around 20-30fps. Additionally, I couldn’t even get some big name games like Diablo Immortal to install due to the processor being unsupported.
That said, doing most daily tasks like messaging, checking notifications, taking photos or making phone calls was fine. The Android 12 experience is polished and pleasant and TCL’s customisations didn’t bog the phone down either. On the plus side, the TCL 30+ is surprisingly power efficient — it easily lasted me the whole day and into the next before needing a charge.
Mind you, I was doing all sorts of testing and prodding during that time. It’s quite unlikely that you will ever get this phone to die on you before the end of the day unless of course you are doing a ton of streaming or gaming. And even then, thanks to its support for 18W fast charging, you can quickly top up from 0-50% in about half an hour. And if you like to charge overnight, the phone intelligently knows how to manage the charging process to keep your battery health optimum.
Camera’s and photos
The camera experience on the TCL 30+ is in line with what I expected of a sub-$1000 phone – average. Photos are fine in good light with very saturated colors and look great on the phones display. Look at in on a PC and you quickly notice the blurriness and general lack of sharpness. The phone does struggle when in really bright and poor light conditions where photos will either come out with color fringing or a ton of blurriness and grain in low light. The portrait mode is not great with aggressive background blur and poor subject cutouts which is a shame considering it has a dedicated depth camera.
In terms of hardware, you get a 50MP main camera with a 2MP depth camera and a 2MP macro camera. That’s odd since most phones usually come with a wide, ultrawide and telephoto lense. I missed having those in a lot of situations. The selfie camera is a 13MP wide angle lens, ideally suited for group shots and can also recognise faces and take shots automatically.
Lastly, video on the TCL 30+ is again, fine for social media sharing but nothing really professional. Video is also jittery and there isn’t much in the way of stabilisation which makes it look even worse. Thanks to that weaker CPU, the phone maxes out at 1080p 30fps which is fine except for content creators who need at least 4K 30fps video. At this budget, its a fools errand to expect camera parity with the likes of Apple or Samsung but it’s perfectly fine for sharing over social media and messaging.
Should you buy it?
To answer my question from the start of this review, no, you don’t have to spend a $1000 for a good phone. The TCL 30+ is a good budget alternative that will meet the needs of most people. Too many people get stuck in the loop of expensive phone contracts to afford iPhones or Galaxy phones and never use even a quarter of their features and capabilities.
This significantly cheaper phone would serve those same needs perfectly without the cost. Sure, you will have to live with some compromises like the sometimes sluggish performance, okay-ish cameras and unimpressive mobile gaming. In exchange you save a ton of money on a stylish looking phone with a brilliant display and great battery. And, I can’t think of an alternative that won’t cost you at least $100 more so yes, you should buy this phone.