Budget Android phones usually seem like a dime a dozen, but there are certain instances when they can prove to be delightfully surprising. As such, the TCL 30 SE tries to appeal to budget-conscious buyers with its design, internal hardware, and of course, a wallet-friendly price tag. The company’s push towards establishing itself in the US market seems to be going steadily, building on the reputation that it’s made for itself with its TV range.
With that said, is the TCL 30 SE worth getting? Let’s take a look.
TCL 30 SE Specs
- Display: 6.52-inch LCD, 720 × 1600 pixels
- Processor: MediaTek Helio G25 Chipset
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 64/128GB Storage
- Battery: 5000 mAh with 15W Charging Support
- Cameras: 50MP main sensor, 2MP macro, 2MP depth, 8MP front
- Software: Android 12 with TCL UI
Display and Design
The 6.52-inch LCD display in front of the phone features a notch-and-chin combo, which features noticeable bezels all around. The low 720×1600 resolution is pretty basic, which is unsurprising given the phone’s price tag. However, if all you want is something to binge media on, without particular preferences about factors like 4K resolution, then the large display should be enough.
There’s nothing awfully impressive about the TCL 30 SE’s design, although that’s surprisingly a good thing – the phone doesn’t try anything overly fancy at the risk of coming off as tacky. There’s none of the bold, ridiculously-enormous branding that we seem to be seeing on a lot of budget phones, or even the annoying faux-chrome accents that admittedly don’t hold up well.
Instead, the 30 SE incorporates a more subtle design of sorts, with a slick matte coating on the edges of the handset, while the rear panel is made with a glossy coating that ends at the camera module and rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. The left-hand side features the SIM/micro-SD tray, while the right-hand side houses the volume and power buttons. There’s a pair of speakers alongside the USB-C port on the bottom, while the top of the phone features a 3.5mm headphone jack. In addition to the fingerprint reader, there’s also face unlock which is a much welcome feature, especially at this price range.
Internal Specs, Software
In terms of performance, the TCL SE 30 isn’t going to be winning any benchmark wars, especially given the MediaTek Helio G25 chipset and 4GB of RAM onboard. It’s designed to be more of a handset that would fit most budgets of users who are instead looking for something for the basics – sending messages, making calls, as well as social media and web browsing, for example. While it isn’t blazing fast, it’s not terribly slow either, allowing you to get essential smartphone tasks done – this also means adhering to more basic games instead of graphically-intensive titles.
As for software, the phone runs on Android 12, albeit layered with TCL UI, a proprietary Android skin which gives it a bit of its own “identity.” Users looking for a “clean” version of Android comparable to what one would get on a Pixel or Motorola phone for example won’t find it here.
There’s a bunch of additional software features which would either make or break your user experience, depending on how useful you find them. There’s “NXTVISION” for one, which TCL says enhances user experience with image and video enhancement. This does come with a bunch of other pre-installed apps, however, including Facebook, Booking.com, and LinkedIn, to name a few, which can be a bit of annoyance if you’d prefer a more minimalist selection of software. Fortunately, most of these can be uninstalled.
Camera, Battery Performance
Camera performance is pretty much what you’d expect on a budget smartphone. It’s certainly not on Google Pixel-levels of photo quality, but the camera is nonetheless there should you want to use it to document life events and such. On one hand, it is understandable that the low price does come with some compromises including imaging performance, but on the other hand this isn’t a phone that you’ll be buying for the camera.
With that said, photos are mostly serviceable, and the camera app does come with some additional features such as “light trace,” “super macro,” and even “high pixel” photo modes. There’s even a Pro mode that lets you fine-tune aspects of your camera set-up, but there’s only so much you can do with software. Video meanwhile maxes out at 1080p resolution at 30 fps, and there’s a visible lack of video stabilization, so footage does appear jittery especially with excessive movement during filming.
One definite strength of the phone however is battery life – there’s a 5000 mAh unit onboard the TCL 30 SE, and coupled with the relatively modest-performing processor, low-resolution display, and limited performance, the battery should last moderate users a while, especially if they delegate the phone strictly for communication uses, with a bit of media streaming every now and then. Charging isn’t particularly fast though, as the phone is limited to 15W charging speeds.
By this point we’ve already established that the TCL 30 SE is a budget device meant for buyers looking for an easily-accessible Android phone, that purely focuses on getting users through a day of the essentials. While elements like display resolution, camera, and overall performance speeds are lacking, tried-and-tested features such as expandable storage, a large battery, and even perks like face unlock are undoubtedly welcome at this price point.
Of course, the TCL 30 SE doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and there are other phones that offer similar prices with a slight advantage in performance, but on its own it is a no-nonsense budget phone.
TCL 30 SE Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_50star_empty (3.5 / 5)
- Large battery
- Expandable storage and headphone jack
- Face unlock
- Low display resolution
- Camera is so-so
- Processor isn’t impressive