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TCL 40 XE 5G display in hand
Adam Birney / Android Authority

TCL 40 XE 5G review: All bang, few bucks

Who says frugal can't be flashy?
By

Published onMay 24, 2023

TCL 40 XE 5G

Delivering a premium aesthetic, robust performance, plenty of storage, a near-stock Android experience, and all-day battery life, the TCL 40 XE 5G is a zero-fuss budget-friendly smartphone.

What we like

Super affordable 5G phone
Long battery life
Decent main camera
Strong construction with style
Lots of storage

What we don't like

Weak mono speaker
Underwhelming peripheral cameras
Low-res display
Poor update policy

TCL 40 XE 5G

Delivering a premium aesthetic, robust performance, plenty of storage, a near-stock Android experience, and all-day battery life, the TCL 40 XE 5G is a zero-fuss budget-friendly smartphone.

TCL 40 XE 5G review: At a glance

  • What is it? The TCL 40 XE 5G is a budget-friendly smartphone with a 6.6-inch HD+ display with a 90Hz refresh rate. It's powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G processor and packs a 5,000mAh battery with 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage. It replaces last year's TCL 30 XE 5G and aims to meet everyday needs without the steep price tag.
  • What is the price? The TCL 40 XE is priced at $169.99 in the US and CAD$320 in Canada.
  • Where can you buy it? The TCL 40 XE 5G will launch exclusively in North America in June 2023.
  • How did we test it? I tested the TCL 40 XE for a week and a half. TCL supplied the phone for review.
  • Is it worth it? If you're just looking for a barebones smartphone experience for an affordable price, the TCL 40 XE 5G is one of the best value options in 2023. The update policy is poor and the speakers aren't the best, but the phone has a sturdy construction, a premium look, a solid main camera, and long-lasting battery life to make it through the day.

Should you buy the TCL 40 XE 5G?

TCL 40 XE 5G in box
Adam Birney / Android Authority

TCL aims to deliver a feature-packed smartphone for an affordable price tag with the 40 XE 5G, and for the most part, they’ve knocked it out of the park. The phone features a few improvements over the TCL 30 XE 5G, such as a bigger battery (5,000mAh vs 4,500mAh) and twice the internal storage (128GB vs 64GB). It’s also $30 less at $169.99 MSRP, making it the most affordable 5G smartphone from TCL to date.

In terms of design, the TCL 40 XE 5G feels solid and sturdy, unlike the cheap, flimsy plastic on many budget devices. The stylish black brush metal pattern on the backside goes a long way toward the more premium look of the phone. The left side has a slot for the SIM card and a microSD card to expand the phone’s storage up to 1TB. There’s also a headphone jack at the bottom and a side-mounted fingerprint reader. While the fingerprint scanner is speedy and accurate, I wish it was placed higher, as it sits smack dab in the middle of the side, which can be cramped to reach.

The TCL 40 XE 5G is an enticing alternative to rivals like the Galaxy A14 5G.

The TCL 40 XE 5G runs Android 13 out of the box with a near-stock experience, aside from TCL’s suite of pre-installed productivity and security apps. There will be two years of security patches for the 40 XE, but unfortunately, no OS updates, meaning you won’t get to enjoy Android 14.

The screen is tall at 6.56 inches but has a low-resolution display maxing out at 720p. I would have liked to see 1080p for a Full HD+ display with higher brightness levels, but fortunately, the 90Hz refresh rate is fast enough for smooth scrolling. The TCL 40 XE houses the MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor, as found in the Samsung Galaxy A14 5G. It performs best for casual use but reasonably well for light gaming and consumes power efficiently without burning through the battery. Graphically demanding games like latest Honkai: Star Rail won’t run well above low graphical settings, being prone to pixelation and stuttering, and the phone will get warm.

As for the cameras, the 13MP primary shooter delivers fairly vibrant and color-rich photos when given a healthy amount of light, which I admit I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes colors are a little too saturated, but in terms of quality vs price, the TCL 40XE 5G stands among some of the best budget camera phones in bright conditions. The 2MP depth sensor helps to focus on the subject with clarity, but the macro isn’t nearly as useful. 2MP simply isn’t a big enough sensor to get sharp details indoors or in low light. You can view a gallery of sample images here.

Video recording tops out at 1080p at 30fps on both the front and back, which is in line with most budget phones, but the quality can be a little shaky. There’s only one down-firing speaker on the phone, which doesn’t sound great for music or videos. Like many other phones in this price range, it’s just a mono speaker, no stereo speakers, meaning the sound isn’t very balanced, and you get a bit of an echo.

To end on a positive, the battery life of the TCL 40 XE 5G is impressive. I could easily coast through two days of light use: social media, listening to music, and web browsing. When I used the phone more, watching videos for extended periods or playing games, I could still manage a day and a half of use (around 18 hours). There’s also support for 18W wired charging, which is slightly faster than the 10W-15W we typically see at this price. There’s a 9V2A wall charger included in the box, which takes roughly an hour and forty-five minutes to charge the phone from zero to full.

TCL 40 XE 5GTCL 40 XE 5G
TCL 40 XE 5G
MSRP: $169.99
An affordable 5G smartphone from TCL.
Delivering a premium aesthetic that belies its price tag, the TCL 40 XE 5G offers robust performance, twice the internal storage of its predecessor, a near-stock Android experience, and all-day battery life. If you're looking for an everyday phone on the cheap, this delivers a good bang for the buck.

What are the best TCL 40 XE 5G alternatives?

TCL 40 XE 5G standing infront of plant
Adam Birney / Android Authority

The TCL 40 XE 5G may be cheap, but it isn’t the only new smartphone for $200. Here are some alternatives worth considering:

  • Samsung Galaxy A14 5G ($199.99 at Samsung): Samsung’s latest budget-friendly phone shares the same processor and battery size. It costs $30 more, which gets you a Full HD+ display, a 50MP wide camera, and a generous update commitment. However, it has half the internal storage and is limited to slightly slower wired charging at 15W. There’s also an LTE-only version if you want to save more cash.
  • TCL 40 X 5G: If you like the look of the TCL XE 5G but aren’t entirely sold, perhaps its bigger brother will convince you. The TCL 40 X 5G is virtually the same phone but adds a sharper 50MP primary shooter and dual stereo speakers for $50 more.
  • OnePlus Nord N300 ($228 at OnePlus): This one is exclusive to T-Mobile, which might limit potential buyers. It costs $228 but has faster 33W wired charging, a solid 48MP primary camera, and the newer MediaTek 810 chipset outshines the 700 processor.
  • Motorola Moto G Play ($169.99 at Amazon): If you’re a Motorola fan, the Moto G Play is the same price of $169.99. It has the same resolution display, battery size, and near-equivalent rear cameras. However, there’s no 5G, the processor isn’t as powerful, and it has less RAM and far less storage at 32GB. The charging is also snail slow at 10W.

TCL 40 XE 5G specs

TCL 40 XE 5G
Display
6.56-inch LCD
720 x 1612 resolution (HD+)
~269 ppi
90Hz refresh rate
180Hz touch sampling rate

Processor
MediaTek Dimensity 700
RAM
4GB
Storage
128GB
Expandable to 1TB via microSD slot
Power
5,000mAh battery
18W wired charging
No wireless charging
Cameras
Rear:
- 13MP wide, f/2.2, PDFA
- 2MP macro, f/2.4
- 2MP depth, f/2.4

Front:
- 8MP wide, f/2.0
Audio
Single speaker
3.5mm headphone jack
Video
1080p at 30fps
Durability
Glass front
Plastic frame and back
Connectivity
Wi-Fi 802.11
Bluetooth 5.1
NFC

Biometrics
Side-mounted fingerprint reader
Software
Android 13
Dimensions and weight
164.46 x 75.4 x 8.99mm
195g
Colors
Starlight Black
In the box
TCL 40 XE 5G
USB-C cable
9V2A wall charger
SIM tool
LCD Sticker

TCL 40 XE 5G review: Q&A

No, the TCL 40 XE 5G is not waterproof and does not have an IP rating.

No, the TCL 40 XE 5G does not support wireless charging.

Yes, the TCL 40 XE 5G has a 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom of the phone.

The TCL 40 XE 5G has a single SIM (nano-SIM) or dual-SIM (nano-SIM, dual stand-by) depending on the region and carrier.

Yes, the TCL 40 XE 5G has a microSD card slot that supports up to 1TB in expandable storage.

No, the TCL 40 XE 5G does not support eSIM.[/f”q]

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