TCL 40 XE 5G Smartphone Review

TCL 30 XE 5G Smartphone Review 8
TCL 40 XE 5G
Editors Choice

In today’s fast-paced world, smartphones have become an indispensable tool for most people, and the TCL 40 XE 5G is an affordable yet feature-packed option that aims to cater to the budget-conscious user. Whether for simple tasks such as calling or texting friends and family or for more intensive tasks such as gaming or video editing, it’s safe to say that most people have these pocket computers with them at most times during the day.

Like a lot of technology on the market, prices continue to rise with each passing year, making flagship phones increasingly out of reach for the average user. So what do you do if you can’t afford the next flashy flagship? TCL is hoping to turn some more heads with its latest model, the TCL 40 XE 5G, a budget-oriented phone with a price tag of just $169.99.


You find the typical stuff when you unbox the TCL 40 XE 5G. Starting with the main attraction, the phone itself, with a SIM removal tool, charging cable and, surprisingly, a charging block. While some companies include a soft silicone case in their boxes, TCL did not include one with the TCL 40 XE 5G. While not the end of the world, finding extra “goodies” in the box is always a nice little bonus.

Looking around the phone itself, I was initially surprised at how sturdy and well-built the phone felt. Given the price tag, budget phones often have a tendency to feel cheap or creaky compared to much more expensive devices. In addition to the feel, TCL has given the TCL 40 XE 5G a brushed metal look on the back, giving the impression of a much more premium phone.

“Users can definitely rest easy in this regard, as TCL has thankfully included a large 5000mAh in their 40 XE 5G.”

All the buttons for the phone are located on the right side of the phone, which as someone who primarily holds and controls my phone with my right hand, made day-to-day operation much more manageable. This was especially useful for someone who has smaller hands while holding a large phone. On the bottom, you’ll find one of the first surprises, a headphone jack that’s still there, along with the USB-C charging port and speaker. The left side only has the slot for the SIM card and, thankfully, a MicroSD card to expand the phone’s storage.


Everyday use of the phone is pretty much the same as most Android phones on the market. The TCL runs an almost stock Android 13 with the latest security patch. This is certainly nice to see on a budget phone, although we will see how many updates TCL gives the TCL 40 XE 5G in the future. Scrolling through menus, social media pages, the web browser, etc. was a very pleasant and smooth experience, helped further by TCL’s inclusion of a 90hz screen, a feature not always found on phones in this price range.

“In many cases, the TCL 40 XE 5G delivered rich and vibrant photos when given adequate lighting.”

While I would have liked to see a 1080p panel, especially on a screen as large as the TCL 40 XE 5G’s 6.54″ screen, the 720p still looked surprisingly sharp, all things considered. One area where many companies, including TCL, have often made a mistake is cutting the stereo speakers out of their devices. While that’s understandable, the audio quality was still clear and sounded very respectable for a budget device.

One aspect that always shocked me was the quality of the cameras TCL has built into the 40 XE 5G. While a 13MP primary camera with the addition of a 2MP depth and 2MP macro lens may not sound mind-boggling to most people used to high-end phones, the quality of the TCL 40 XE 5G was able to capture some photos that punched well above its class.

In some photos, I could barely tell the difference between well-lit photos taken by my iPhone 13 Mini, Google Pixel 6a, and the TCL 40 XE 5G in side-by-side comparisons. It wasn’t until I zoomed into the photos to pixel peep that I was able to get a better idea of which phone took which photo. In many cases, the TCL 40 XE 5G delivered rich and vibrant photos when given adequate lighting.

Sharpness and clarity were also quite impressive. Macro photos were also reasonably sharp and accurate, but with only a 2MP sensor, there was room for more detail in indoor lighting conditions. However, photos were often softer in low light and at night, resulting in blurred and out-of-focus images. That said, the camera was able to capture a surprising amount of light compared to many other lower-end competitors. Compared to last year’s TCL 30 XE 5G, TCL has made a massive leap in terms of camera quality, and I am delighted to see how much improvement they have made, but there is still room for further improvement in future revisions.

Video, however, left room for improvement. While being able to shoot 1080p30 video was acceptable, I would have liked to have seen at least 1080p60 as an option or even 720p60; instead, all video was limited to a maximum frame rate of 30fps. The video stabilization also left me wishing for something better. That said, it’s not often that I find myself wanting to record video, and I often find myself taking more photos anyway, so this isn’t that big of a dealbreaker for me personally.


Battery life is another crucial aspect to consider when choosing a phone, and whether it’s a budget or flagship phone, no one likes having to live next to a charger with a phone that doesn’t last long. Users can definitely rest easy in this regard, as TCL has thankfully included a large 5000mAh in their TCL 40 XE 5G.

In my experience, with light usage, I could easily get a full two days of use out of the battery, lasting from 7 am to around 10 pm the next day. On days when I used the phone more, I could still get a solid day-to-day and a half of use, which was a relief after having phones that sometimes needed to be charged twice a day just to get through the day.

“The camera quality can rival phones that cost at least a few times its price and often shocked me with how well they turned out.”

While gaming on a budget phone isn’t an area you’d expect a budget phone to excel in, the TCL 40 XE 5G was once again able to impress me thoroughly in this regard. While it may not be able to play higher-end games like Fortnite due to a lower-end GPU, games like Asphalt 9 or Disney Mirrorverse played perfectly without much, if any, stuttering or lag.


In my many emulations of old game systems like Sega Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, etc., the TCL again managed to play most of the games I threw at it without breaking a sweat or even getting warm. While some PS2 games certainly pushed the phone to its limits, I have found that some games can prove too hard even for some top-end Android devices to play, so to see this budget phone play them as well as it did was very impressive.

TCL has done a truly incredible job with their latest budget device, the 40 XE 5G. I was truly shocked at how well-rounded and how well it handled every task I threw at it. The camera quality can rival phones that cost at least a few times its price and often shocked me with how well they turned out.

This is a budget phone that I would have no hesitation in recommending, and it goes to show that you don’t always have to break the bank to get a great device. If TCL could manage to squeeze a 1080p screen into their budget line while keeping prices around the same $169.99 mark, it could prove to be one of the best cheap phones on the market. Well done, TCL; two thumbs up for an exceptional phone.

Final Thoughts

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