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TCL's 40 Series Phone Line Will Make Your Wallet Happy

At CES, the company announces a new range of phones that all cost under $220.

TCL 408 phone, front and back
The TCL 408 starts at $129.
TCL

TCL unveiled a new range of affordable phones Wednesday at CES 2023, with plans to bring them to the US later in the year. 

The TCL 40 series has three phones that cost between $129 and $219. Despite the low prices, all of the phones in the 40 series include a 50-megapixel rear camera and TCL's NxtVision screen mode, which is essentially an HDR mode that turns on when viewing videos or playing games. The 40 series features the TCL 408, 40 S and 40 R 5G. They all run on Android 13.

TCL continues to court price-conscious consumers. During a press briefing, the company noted that 95% of its customers use TCL phones on prepaid plans, which often don't require a credit check. Other phone companies are also eying this section of the market, with Samsung debuting its Galaxy A14 5G at $200 during CES 2023. Samsung's A14 is notable for including a modest spec bump to last year's A13 5G, but also decreasing the price by $50 from the model the A14 is replacing.

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While the lower prices are certainly appealing, it will still be important to see how the phones themselves actually work. Last year I reviewed the TCL Stylus 5G, which had excellent features for its $258 price tag, but repetitive software bugs made the phone difficult to recommend after testing it over four months.

The cheapest phone in the new lineup is the TCL 408, which starts at $129 (roughly £105, AU$190). It has two rear cameras, a macro and the aforementioned 50-megapixel camera, as well as dual stereo speakers. Unlike the other two phones, the TCL 408 will initially launch in Asia along with Europe.

Three TCL 40 SE phones

TCL 40 SE

TCL

Then there's the TCL 40 SE, which is a step up from the 408 and starts at $169 (roughly £140, AU$245). Its 6.75-inch display is a particular highlight because it has a 90Hz refresh rate, despite having just a 720p resolution. The 40 SE comes with either 128GB or 256GB of storage. That's particularly notable, as most sub-$200 phones typically include 64GB or less. There's also a microSD card slot for more storage. The 40 SE has the same cameras as the TCL 408 but also has a 2-megapixel depth camera for features like portrait mode. The 40 SE will first launch in Europe during the first quarter of 2023.

TCL 40 R phone

TCL 40 R 5G

TCL

The higher-end TCL 40 R 5G rounds out the lineup at $219 (roughly £180, AU$320) and is the only 40 series phone with 5G support. The 40 R 5G is currently available in Europe, and TCL plans to launch it in more countries throughout the year.

TCL also announced the Tab 8 LE tablet that will go on sale later in January for $159 (roughly £130, AU$230). It has an 8-inch HD display, a quad-core processor, a 4,080mAh battery and 5-megapixel front as well as rear cameras. Storage-wise it's on the small side with only 32GB of space but does support up to 512GB of expandable storage. TCL also highlighted its $40 MoveAudio Air wireless headphones at CES 2023, which are already on sale.

Its other CES 2023 reveals include a variety of premium experiences and concepts, including its RayNeo X2 AR Glasses. My colleague Scott Stein demoed the glasses, which include a real-time translation tool. TCL is also eyeing the foldable phone market but is still trying to determine whether this niche makes commercial sense. Over on the television side, TCL is debuting a new line of Google TV-powered models with higher refresh rates for gaming.