It was at the IFA 2019 that TCL, a Chinese manufacturer famous for its TVs, decided to launch its first smartphone. While the company used to use its Alcatel and BlackBerry subsidiaries, it is now entering the smartphone market under its own brand name. The TCL Plex is, therefore, the first smartphone in its history. We quickly got to grips with the Plex and here are our first impressions.
A mid-range smartphone
For its first smartphone, TCL does not target the high-end market. The Plex will be available for sale at a price of €329 from October 2019. Two colors will be available: white and black.
The camera is the focus
Aesthetically, TCL's first smartphone has no special features, at least at first glance. Its design, which combines metal and glass, is quite classic and features a 6.5-inch Full-HD LCD screen at the front (19.5:9 ratio), and like the old Alcatel models, the Plex has a special button that you can configure to start an application or activate a smartphone feature of your choice.
For the rest, the handling is rather comfortable. However, you will need to use both hands to operate the smartphone for ease of use, due to its size.
Like the latest Galaxy S10s, there is a hole punch in the screen, this time at the top left. The rear part, which plays on light reflections (and attracts fingerprints), houses a triple camera, a classic fingerprint reader and above all the TCL logo. As the brand is renowned for the quality of its displays (like Samsung and LG, TCL manufactures its own panels), the Plex benefits from "NXT VISION" technology for its display.
As a result, colors are improved, contrast is better, and the smartphone is able to convert SDH videos to HDR. When I got started, I was able to see the differences and possibilities of this technology. The result could be even more stunning on an AMOLED screen.
A triple camera approach
On the camera side, TCL wanted the Plex wanted to stand out from the other smartphones going for around 300 bucks by offering a triple camera. The setup is as follows:
- A 48 MP Sony IMX582 main sensor (f/1.8 aperture)
- A 16 MP Samsung S5K3P9 ultra-wide-angle sensor (123-degree field of view)
- A 2 MP sensor dedicated to night videos
Of course, a first hands-on experience does not allow you to assess the photo potential of the Plex. However, the Sony IMX582 sensor should give good results, as the first shots I took told me. The wide-angle lens is classic and will suit most users. Finally, there's a night video mode thanks to the third sensor which allows you to capture videos in extremely low light conditions. The various demonstrations on the manufacturer's stand convinced us of the potential of this sensor, but only a complete test will allow us to know for sure.
New TCL UI interface
Under the hood, this TCL Plex features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor coupled with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage (memory can be expanded by microSD card to 256GB). The smartphone houses a 3,820 mAh battery that is compatible with fast charging (30 minutes for 50 percent of battery).
Once again, do not expect performance equivalent to that of a flagship, this is clearly not the purpose of this device, but its technical characteristics are not ridiculous and rather interesting given the price of the phone.
Above all, we can expect very good optimization with the manufacturer's new TCL UI interface. The version is very similar to stock Android with round icons but differs in its menus and application drawer. Some of this is very original, in particular, the arrangement by floors and the automatic organization of applications by function.
While at first glance the TCL Plex does not seem to stand out from the competition, with the possible exception of shooting videos in low-lighting conditions, this smartphone shows the strong ambitions of the Chinese manufacturer. After the television market, where the brand is increasingly popular, TCL has now set its sights on the smartphone market. Finally, we will mainly remember that the Plex was the brand's first smartphone and we are eagerly awaiting the future of brand's smartphones, which could be full of screen innovations. Did I hear somebody say 'foldable'?