TCL 30+ Phone Review: You gave me a plus, now give me the guts

When you think of mid to low range phones, who do you think of? Oppo, Google’s A series, Samsung, Xiaomi maybe even Huawei. TCL, anyone? Probably not. Best known for their dexterity in the consumer tech world, you may not have realised their venture into the smartphone world. It’s a lucrative market, the most lucrative market, if done well. If you provide a good enough reason for people to purchase your handsets and you set yourself apart, successful will ensue.

About a month ago, I checked out the Oppo Reno 8 Lite 5G (you can find that review here) which I found to be a solid but not necessarily wonderous option for the A$599 you’d drop on it. It was proof to me that Oppo, as the foremost mid-range device manufacturer gets it; they made a phone that was clearly trying to distinguish itself from others, even if it didn’t entirely succeed. Now, having got my hands onto the cheaper TCL 30+, only A$399, I’m beginning to hash out the weird world that is mid-range phones; it’s interesting for me to see a smaller manufacturer take a crack at such a cut-throat market.


One of the phone’s strengths. I was able to get my hands on the Muse Blue model, a beautiful and soft blue colour which looks far more lavish than the price would suggest. It’s a plastic surface which doesn’t feel cheap or tacky in any way, especially considering the price. It barely picks up fingerprints and has a decent grip to it. On the back is the raised camera bump; three sensors and a flash. Pair this with the glossy metal rails and you get a solid looking and feeling phone for the money. On the front you get a 6.7″ with a teardrop cut-out; more on that in a second. The total body measures at 164.5 x 75.2 x 7.7 mm and weighs 184g making it manageable with one hand, although it’s still obviously a large device that will require double-handed usage at times.

Around the outside you’ll find the Dual SIM/MicroSD slot – up to 1TB – on the left and the volume rocker and power button with fingerprint sensor on the right. The fingerprint sensor worked mostly without issue, although it’s lethargic and there were a couple of times where it refused to identify my thumb. Down the bottom you’ll a see set of speakers – which with the earpiece work to get lough enough for a small room – a USB-C charging port and surprise surprise; a headphone jack!

Overall, the build is solid and feels quite nice in the hands, although it doesn’t have any sort of IP rating so be careful with how you use the device. It’s definitely not ‘premium’ but for sure punches above its weight.


As I mentioned before you get a large 6.7″ 1080 x 2400 pixel AMOLED with a 60Hz refresh rate on the front. Another one of the TCL 30+’s strengths, the presence of an AMOLED is at the heart of the offering here. For cheap, the display performs quite nicely and offers great capability.  In this same price point you have to expect LCD’s making the offering on the 30+ even sweeter.

The display does have decently present bezels, as is expected on such a phone. They’re only a couple millimetres thick around the device, and about double that on the chin. At the top there is a teardrop camera cut-out, not the slimmest looking one either, but no real issues here. In my usage, the display performed fairly well, with overall the quality of the image displayed being satisfactory. Colours are punchy, although lean more muted than vivid, although it’s still fairly impressive in terms of accuracy. And of the course, the blacks are deep and substantial. The main downside here is the brightness, while rated to 600nits, it was defeated easily by any sort of sunlight. It’s just one of those things that you’ll have to accept buying a device in this price bracket.

CPU and Performance

Up until now the outside of the phone has looked and felt great. It’s great in the hand, the display is certainly capable and the overall offering is punching above it’s weight. Now we come to a screeching halt. Of all the things that I disliked about this phone, the performance has been the most upsetting. As I said before, I very much like the look and feel of the phone and the display is great, making it such a shame that when you get to actually using the phone, it’s a major let-down.

Inside the TCL 30+ you’ll get a MediaTek Helio G37 a 2020 low-range chipset skimping in power. It barely holds it all together when using the phone. Everything that you will do on this phone is tedious and heavy-footed, dragging along from one task to the next. Everything from clearing notifications to playing games is a challenge. Your experience with the phone will probably be filled with stutters and skips. My expectations for this handset at this price were not high, but I assumed that even a device this cheap would be usable.

There’s not much in terms of RAM either, with only 4GB. It’s hard to say how much improvement more RAM would have made when paired with this chipset. In addition you get 128GB eMMC ROM. In other words, you get 128GB of the slowest type of storage. These two specs are more forgivable though compared to the lacking chipset. It feels as if TCL made a fairly good phone then just shoved in the cheapest chipset they could find in order to lower the price some amount. It doesn’t feel good at all.


As you’d expect, the TCL 30+ comes with Android 12 and TCL’s android skin, TCL UI 4.0. Overall, the software experience is fairly tame. TCL UI, unlike other Android skins, hasn’t meddled with stock Android too much, which is very much welcome. Overall I’m content with the software experience, and the design of TCL UI is enough to give the phone some identity without completely ruining the Android experience. However there were definitely bugs in my usage. Screens freezing or lagging; the whole device powering off unexpectedly and apps crashing. They were frequent enough for me expect them in my daily usage, but never enough where I had to give up using the device.

In recent time one of the biggest attractions in terms of software has been the update guarantees. Well not here. Security updates have only been guaranteed until December of 2023. This is hardly sufficient. That’s not even one and a half years before you’d probably need to look into getting a new device. It’s ignorant as well considering the reason people buy mid-range phones; having to buy two cheaper phones to last only three years is far inferior than buying one premium device for the same time and combined price.

The other thing that you’re going to have to deal with is the pre-installed apps. This includes Facebook, LinkedIn, NXTVISION,, State of Survival and a couple more. Pretty run-of-the-mill for cheap Android handsets, but still a bit of a punch in the gut. At least there aren’t baked-in ads in the software.


Now, another of the device’s better qualities. Overall the cameras are sufficient, although definitely lacking in some areas. On the back you’ll find three sensors: 50MP wide, 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensor. I was fairly impressed with the performance of the main 50MP. Overall, images come out looking clean and crisp. The AI is obviously a little aggressive in its application, opting for overly saturated results at times. Portrait mode was okay on the TCL 30+, but struggled with edge detection. Often it would have trouble establishing a clear and crisp edge, especially when it came to finer details such as hair. The 2MP macro was pretty useless in line with my expectations whenever I see ‘2MP macro’. As is expected, all modes performed best in natural light.

Here are some images I was able to take on the TCL 30+:

The selfie camera is sufficient at 13MP and with the help of a smattering of beauty modes it will take usable photos, nothing special though. Both front and back cameras are able to capture video at 1080p at 30fps. There’s no stabilisation on the rear cameras so prepare to hold your breath and steady yourself.


Packed inside you get a substantial 5010mAh battery. Typically the lower-end chipsets of mid-range phones drastically lowers the battery consumption and so is the case for the TCL 30+. A day for me with about 4hrs screen on time would end with around 20% battery remaining. This should be plenty for most people, especially the kinds if people who would buy this phone. It’s nothing special but it’s not disappointing either.

Pair this with the the included 18W fast charger, and you can get the first ~40% in about 30 minutes. A full charge from zero to full will take you about 1hr 45mins; dead-on average. It’s plenty capable for the average consumer and the included brick and cable is another big plus.

Verdict & Value

Overall, the TCL 30+ is underwhelming. Getting my hands onto a ‘+’ phone I was expecting capable performance and a comfortable using experience. On the TCL 30+ everything looks and feels good, the display is great for the money and the build/design is the best feature, but the actual usability of the device is poor. Constant stuttering and lagging, even in the most basic of tasks. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and never did I look forward to using the phone.

For the money, you probably wont be getting an AMOLED display like you find here, and the phone will probably feel cheaper. But you also probably wont get a chip from 2020 that can barely pull through daily tasks, and perhaps that’s the most important thing at this price range. TCL got this one backwards. They started with the lowest priorities for a cheap phone and worked backwards. If you want a cheap handset, do yourself a favour and look elsewhere.


Higlights: Design, AMOLED Display and Solid Camera

Lowlights: Slow and stuttering performance; Android 11 with limited updates and occasionally buggy software.

Manufacturer: TCL

Price: A$399

Available: Now

Review based on unit supplied by TCL.