TCL has a brand new Android handset called the TCL PLEX that's turning heads now at IFA 2019. No longer content with a reputation for brilliant televisions and making devices for third parties, TCL's new device is also a stark contrast to what might be expected. That's particularly true since the company is arguably better known for manufacturing Alcatel's budget offerings.
The TCL PLEX doesn't leave the OEM's heritage behind, either. It not only looks great but brings a lot of top-tier features to the table. That includes some of the great display adjusting features more commonly found in televisions. TCL also says it will offer one of the best camera, interface, and designs available in its segment.
The TCL PLEX display doesn't just adapt brightness
The TCL PLEX's 6.53-inch FHD+ TCL Dotch Display doesn't just endow the handset with a 90-percent screen-to-body ratio. It comes loaded with enhancements that are all but entirely unexpected in a device in the mid-range category.
Among listed features in TCL's announcement, the screen has been optimized with TCL NXTVISION. That includes "6-axis color enhancement" for better color intensity and accuracy. That also means crisper edges, SDR to HDR real-time conversion features, and HDR-like video enhancements. But the biggest feature here might be "Adaptive Tone."
Adaptive Tone is a screen color mode included by TCL that not only automates brightness of the panel. It alters color temperature automatically to better suit the viewing environment too. That's a feature more typically found in high-end television sets, which adjust tone and hue based on the content being played and room brightness.
Reading Mode is another creative new feature TCL is including with its PLEX handset. The company describes Reading Mode as a "paper-like" viewing experience that can be automatically applied at startup to select applications. That's all included on top of the more standard blue-reduction mode called "Eye Comfort Mode."
TLC PLEX wants a word with Pixel 3a about photography
Photography is the other area TCL hopes its PLEX will outshine the competition in its segment.
The company has started on that front by including a triple camera array on the rear of the device. That's been positioned horizontally at the middle-top portion. It's comprised of a 48-megapixel Sony-built sensor capable of 4K recording but also a dedicated video camera with a 2.9μm pixel size for low-light shooting.
The third camera sensor at the back is a 16-megapixel 123-degree super wide-angle lens.
To either side of the sensors, TCL is including no fewer than two LED flash mechanisms for those circumstances where the oversized pixels just aren't enough. The company hasn't clarified whether or not those are dual-LED flashes or if it's just effectively split the dual-LED flash between two separate LEDs.
Brought together, TCL says that equates to three-times brighter video capture in low-light environments but that it also functions in photo mode via "Super Night Mode." 960fps super slow-motion HD video can be captured day or night too, the company claims. Meanwhile, its in-house AI model has been designed to handle auto-brightness, denoising, "super resolution," HDR, and more in a single algorithm.
Summarily, this should — at least on paper — be a real contender for a position as the best smartphone cameras around.
At the front of the device, tucked in a punch-hole in the display, TCL is including a 24-megapixel camera with "4-in-1 big pixel technology" for brighter, more detailed selfies too.
Specs, features, and design aren't too far out of the box but are still very good
The remaining specifications and the design for the TCL PLEX don't stray too far from the current industry standards. That doesn't necessarily mean they aren't near the top for those standards.
To begin with, a Snapdragon 675 is in use here. That's among Qualcomm's more powerful offerings and is backed by a healthy 6GB RAM. Users will have plenty of room for photos, media, and apps with 128GB of expandable storage up to 256GB. TCL has chosen to use a 3,820mAh capacity battery behind that, driving those components, Bluetooth 5.0, and more. TCL says that can be charged up by half in around 32 minutes.
Bluetooth 5.0 goes a bit further with the TCL PLEX as well. TCL says it can be linked via "Super Bluetooth" to stream out to up to four devices simultaneously. That means it can stream to multiple true wireless Bluetooth headsets, speakers, televisions, or any number of other receiving devices all at the same time.
In terms of design, TCL is using a sweeping curve design that's going to be familiar for those who have explored the premium mid-range bracket. The corners and edges are all rounded for a smooth in-hand feel. Glass is used for both the front and rear panels, with a fingerprint scanner centered above the company's branding.
That's coated for a holographic effect, adding a sunset-like sheen to the Obsidian Black version of the device and a crisp light play on colors to match the Opal White color on that variant.
A specialized "smart key" physical button is part of the package too, with short, double, and long-press actions assignable to custom apps and features. That's in addition to the more traditional physical keys and TCL isn't abandoning the 3.5mm audio jack on its first outing either.
This is priced to compete …but with limited availability
TCL's first major foray into the mid-range Android market without another brand is shaping up to be a strong one. At least that's going to be the case in regions where it actually lands. Specifics for sales regions aren't provided but TCL says PLEX will be available in select markets in Europe.
The company has ensured this isn't going to be hurting wallets either, with a suggested retail cost of just €329. Based on this IFA 2019 reveal, TCL PLEX is going to be an extremely high-value mobile device, if TCL does everything just right.
More details about the gadget, its availability, and launch will undoubtedly be revealed in the leadup to an official launch date, which TCL says will fall sometime in Q4 2019.