TCL 30V 5G review: Verizon 5G and not much else

If you come face-to-face with the TCL 30V 5G, chances are you’re considering the prospect as a “free” phone at a Verizon store or on Verizon’s website. Free is fun! But free might even be too steep for the 30V 5G.

The full retail price of the 30V 5G, which few people will pay upfront, is $299. That gets you a nice, large Full HD display, a healthy 128GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, and a 4,500mAh battery that can easily be used. lasts more than a day. Those specs are fine – even good for a budget phone where lower-resolution 720p displays and a paltry 64GB of storage aren’t uncommon.

But I have one big problem with the 30V 5G: slow performance in almost every aspect of using this phone, from scrolling through menu screens to streaming video. On paper, the phone has the components to perform well enough, but everyday use tells a different story. Life doesn’t have to be like this, even if the phone is free.

The 30V 5G’s NXTVISION technology aims to optimize images and video for better color and contrast.

One of TCL’s main selling points for the 30V 5G is the screen and the NXTVISION image processing behind it. TCL says this AI-powered feature improves color and contrast in the media you watch on your phone, and it can convert standard definition content to “HDR quality.” In reality, the difference in picture quality with NXTVISION on or off can be difficult to spot. Stream Chernobyl on the HBO Max app, I was way too distracted by the frequent framerate drops to worry about whether what I was seeing was SDR or HDR.

The screen itself is fine; it’s a 6.6-inch 1080p LCD that gets bright enough to be comfortable to use in sunny conditions. It’s a big screen with enough resolution to make everything look sharp, which is great in a $300 phone. But even at this price, other manufacturers are adding features like higher refresh rates or high-contrast OLEDs instead of LCD panels. These aren’t must-haves per se, but they are more attractive than NXTVISION.

The Snapdragon 480 5G used by the 30 V 5G is paired with 4 GB of RAM. This is certainly not the worst processor/memory combination in the budget class, but for some reason it makes for remarkably slow performance in this device. Apps close often enough in the background to annoy me, and there’s noticeable stuttering when scrolling through app screens, pulling down the notification shade, and even playing video.

There is a fingerprint sensor on the back panel of the device.

Battery life is a bright spot on the TCL 30V 5G report card. I managed to get two days of light to moderate use on a single charge. With more consistent moderate or heavy use, that kind of longevity would be challenging, but it would probably endure a full day of even heavy use. There is also a wall charger in the box, which is becoming rarer these days. There’s no wireless charging, which isn’t too common in the budget category, although not unheard of.

The fingerprint sensor on the back panel of the TCL 30 V 5G is fast and reliable, and facial recognition works well too. I’m less happy with the weak haptics. I often hear the phone buzzing without actually feeling it vibrate in my pocket. There is also no possibility to adjust the strength of the vibrations.

On the plus side, you get all flavors of Verizon 5G, including C-band, which is significantly faster than 4G with a wide signal. You also get millimeter wave (mmWave), which is very fast but scarce. Verizon puts these two faster variants of 5G together and calls it Ultra Wideband, and you’ll want to check if your phone plan includes this – some only offer access to the C-bandless Nationwide 5G, which isn’t really faster than 4G. If your plan doesn’t include Ultra Wideband and you’d rather not upgrade to one that does, then you might be fine with a 4G phone for now.

One of my least favorite things about this phone really isn’t TCL’s fault – it’s Verizon’s. Being a carrier locked phone, Verizon took the opportunity to load it with all sorts of proprietary cloud storage and call filtering apps, in addition to some pre-downloaded games like Game of Thrones Slots Casino (Why?). Some of them like word journey and CrossWord Jam can be uninstalled which means that setting up the phone will take a little more time, but the Verizon apps cannot be uninstalled, which is very annoying.

None of this is surprising or unusual on a carrier-specific device, but Verizon goes as far as setting its own Message Plus as the default texting app. Google Messages isn’t even pre-downloaded on the phone, but Apple Music is because Verizon wants you to sign up for a six-month free trial through your phone plan and then keep paying for the service if you forget about it after that. Apple music! On this Android phone!

Another software note: the 30V 5G comes preloaded with Android 11. There is currently no update to Android 12 available and TCL has not confirmed if it will even get one. The company has also not confirmed how long it will support this device with security updates, but two years has been the standard for the company in recent history.

I also noticed a weird quirk with Google Maps: when navigating with the screen off and the phone locked, the GPS signal drops out. Most reasonable people probably use Google Maps with their screen on and their phone in a holder or with their car’s touchscreen. Me, I like to play it fast and loose – enter my destination, start navigation, lock my phone and leave it on the seat next to me with only good vibes and the voice of my virtual copilot to guide me. This is the first phone I’ve come across that doesn’t work like that, and it’s a bit odd. Strava is doing keeping a GPS signal while the phone is locked so this seems to be a Google Maps issue.

You’ll find three cameras and a flash on the back panel of the 30V 5G.

There are three rear cameras on the 30V 5G: a 50 megapixel f/1.9 wide angle, a 5 megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide and a 2 megapixel macro. On the front is a 16 megapixel selfie camera. Photos in good light from all these cameras look fine, albeit a little too sharp.

The main camera is a bit squirtly (that’s the technical term) about choosing exposure. Often I would move the camera just a little bit between shots and get a noticeably darker or lighter image, even though the subject hadn’t changed significantly. I generally like the choices the phone makes for lighting and color, but sometimes it takes a few photos to get to the right answer.

The 30V 5G struggles in low light, but no more than any other budget phone. It’s not really suitable for shooting moving subjects in low light. Shutter speeds are often too slow, making subjects appear blurry and smoothed out by noise reduction, which isn’t pretty. In very dim conditions, a night mode kicks in, and it does a great job with subjects that aren’t moving.

The video resolution is limited to 1080/30p, so there’s no 4K, which is becoming more common in phones in all price ranges. The video quality is fine, but the lack of any electronic image stabilization is very noticeable, and there’s a lot of annoying camera shake in my video clips.

The TCL 30V 5G is no match for its competitors at the price of $300.

The TCL 30V 5G is not a bad phone. It does just about everything I need: make calls, run apps, take pictures, and wake me up in the morning. It’s just not very good, and there are enough better options at this price point that it’s very hard to recommend it to anyone. TCL is known for its good quality TVs at competitive prices. Perhaps the company is still figuring out what that value for money looks like for phones.

As it stands, things are not right. The screen is good, but it’s hard to enjoy it when it’s hampered by choppy performance. It supports the 5G bands that matter, but your phone plan may not even include them. The interface is full of pre-downloads and Verizon services, and NXTVISION is disappointing.

So the TCL 30V 5G really only makes sense for someone who doesn’t want a Samsung phone, but wants all the flavors of Verizon 5G, a healthy amount of built-in storage, and a large, high-resolution screen. And they don’t want to pay for it out of pocket for it either.

Otherwise, at the time of writing, Verizon is also offering the Samsung Galaxy A42 5G for free, and I think that’s a better choice. And, at least now, that offer is good for a new line on each unlimited subscription, not “select” (read: more expensive) unlimited subscriptions needed to get the TCL promotion. The performance and camera quality of the A42 5G is slightly better and the Android 12 update is already available. Buying an unlocked Galaxy A32 5G for $279 is another good option. The screen is not that nice and you have to expand the 64 GB of storage with a microSD card, but the camera system is better, C-band Ultra Wideband is supported and it is currently being updated to Android 12.

And let’s be clear, there’s no such thing as a free phone. There’s a lot of value in securing your business for the next 36 months – Verizon knows that all too well. If that’s the currency you spend, I think you should use it on a different device.

Photography by Allison Johnson / Media Today Chronicle

Frank Broholm had acquired considerable experience in writing and editing publications before recruited by The Media Today Chronicle News portal as Editorial Manager. His key task is to conduct effective business reviews based on the most recent business…