The kids might want a tablet, but your budget mightn’t allow. Yet that might be precisely where the 2022 TCL Tab 10S is pitched, packing in extras for $399. Is it worth the price, or can you do better?
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It won’t win any awards for design ingenuity, but TCL’s Tab 10S is sure a tablet, adopting the 10 inch size with an obvious bezel around the screen and some grey plastic on the edges.
This isn’t a fancy tablet by a long shot, but it’s definitely one built to look modern and friendly, enough.
Inside, you’ll find an eight-core chip from MediaTek, the MT8768, which in our model was paired with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, though TCL makes a version with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. There’s also a microSD slot to expand that with up to 256GB more if you need to.
You’ll find the same assortment of connection options you’d expect on a phone on this tablet, including GPS, WiFi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 5, plus USB Type C. There was no 4G on the version we reviewed, but you might find one available at some retailers.
An 8 megapixel camera sits on the back while a 5 megapixel is up front, with the display being a 10.1 inch Full HD 1920×1200 touchscreen, sitting atop an 8000mAh battery found underneath.
All of it arrives in a tablet measuring 8.3mm thick and weighing 490 grams, with buttons for power and volume, and even managing both a fitted case and stylus in the box.
The first thing you’ll pick up on is quite clearly the screen, and for the price, it’s actually surprising to see TCL using a Full HD panel.
Yes, while budget tablets typically deliver budget panels, TCL is leveraging its expertise in screens — it makes TVs, you know? — and bringing a 1920×1200 IPS display to a $399 price point. Not too shabby.
You won’t get all the amazeballs features of other tablets, such as a fast screen or a variant of OLED, but you do get a bigger resolution than we’d typically expect a budget tablet to focus on, so that’s something.
Just a note about that screen: the glass covering the tablet is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, so make sure to keep it clean.
Keeping fingerprint marks away from the screen is one thing, but you won’t be using those marks to log into the tablet, as there is no fingerprint sensor here. Rather, TCL is sticking to a facial security to log you in, which is something, and then just letting you use Android as you normally would.
Android 11 arrives on the 2022 TCL Tab 10S, a surprise given Android 12 has been out for nearly a year and Android 13 is already in development for release later this year, but one could argue it’s recent enough for most.
Plus you’re getting the TCL skinned version of Android, which means you get a version of Android similar to what Google envisions, but with a little more control: do you want the iOS-inspired home screen with apps only found there, or something more deliberately Droid-like with an app drawer? It’s dealer’s choice, and not difficult to use either.
One area worth talking about is the performance, though not in a positive way. The price probably gives it away, but the TCL Tab 10S is not a speedy tablet at all.
In fact, the very idea of trying to run a benchmark on this model ends up with one of the longest tests we’ve ever encountered. We’ve never had our Geekbench 5 benchmark take more than a couple of minutes before, but here we were waiting closer to ten. This tablet is just not fast.
Compare the Tab 10S to Apple’s entry-level iPad and you’ll see a system that is woefully underpowered, but also manages to beat the Apple model on price and what it comes with.
The unimpressive guts aren’t great for games or even lag-free tablet operation. You’ll likely see a slowdown here and there jumping between apps, and even opening the tablet from standby.
You can feel it when you swipe down from the menu and the dropdown stutters into existence, and when the standby screen gradually replaces the empty desktop with your actual home screen. You’ll feel the lag in almost everything you do, with the MediaTek MT8768 chip just not bringing the performance love to this tablet one bit. It’s an entry-level chip, and boy, does it perform like one.
In short, you’re not buying the TCL Tab 10S for performance. It’ll handle the basics, but this isn’t a powerful tablet by a long shot.
But it will go the distance in battery life, sporting an 8000mAh battery, which when paired with the a system spec that almost seems deliberately underpowered should see hours and hours of life.
A good 10 hours seems easily doable here, meaning if you’re handing this to your kids, expect to keep them busy for a little bit.
The price is the other important point for the 2022 TCL Tab 10S. One might even say that it’s the important point for the tablet, sporting a $399 price in Australia, and arriving with 64GB storage, plus a case with flip cover and a stylus in the box.
That’s easily a good $50 to $100 worth of accessories included with the tablet, giving TCL’s Tab 10S something extra to work with, though strangely, it’s not a keyboard case.
The reason why that’s strange is TCL clearly supports a keyboard case of some kind — there’s a set of pins on the edge of the tablet not unlike what you can find on a Surface or iPad — but that appears to be an optional extra, though one that might be a little difficult to find locally.
At least you get a case in the box, pushing up the value just that little bit more, but we’d love it if it was a keyboard case, too.
What needs work?
Without the keyboard case, TCL’s 2022 Tab 10S is just another tablet, albeit one with power issues. Severe power issues.
If all you do is the basics, such as browsing the web, watching videos on YouTube and other services, and maybe playing some low level games, the Tab 10S will be just fine. Scribble some drawings, because you can do that, too. But heaven forbid you want to do anything else, because this tablet is not really for you.
Well past the ten minute mark in one of our benchmarks, we were getting more than a little frustrated, and could see pretty clearly who the TCL Tab 10S was built for: parents buying for kids who only want to watch videos and such. It comes with a case and pen and storage, which may as well be all kids need for a long road trip, provided you download and cache movies from streaming services before you leave.
A performer it is clearly not… even budget phones don’t struggle with benchmarks the way this thing does. We’ve never seen a device fail a Geekbench 5 benchmark. I guess there’s a first for everything.
So basic or even middling performance isn’t the focus for this tablet, but then what is?
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Simply put: budgets. When all is said and done, the TCL Tab 10S is focused on value plain and simple.
If you’re not someone who wants to fork out extra for a case and pen — like you might if you bought the obvious competitor — TCL is gunning for you. There’s a case in the box, much like there would be if you look at one of TCL’s phones. Hey, there’s even a pen.
You get stuff with this tablet, almost to make up for the unimpressive performance it arrives with. The TCL Tab 10S is built for budgets and budgets alone, delivering for a price point.
We’d caution buyers to consider other options, as the performance of the Tab 10S can be at times so frustrating, buying for a budget mightn’t be the best choice around. But if you’re buying to keep prices low, TCL has something, we’re just not entirely surely it will deliver for all budgets.