How Good Can a $160 TCL 50 XL 5G Really Be?

I typically prefer flagship smartphones for my personal use, largely because I take a lot of photos and want the best possible camera at all times. But I know that I’m not the average user, and for some people, they simply want a phone that delivers the basics without costing too much. With that in mind, I decided to test the It, a budget-friendly phone that costs just $160. Available exclusively through Metro by T-Mobile in the U.S., the TCL 50 XL 5G aims to deliver essential features without breaking the bank. So, how good can a $160 Android phone really be? Let’s find out.

TCL 50 XL 5G: Design

TCL 50 XL 5G

The design of the TCL 50 XL 5G is relatively unremarkable on the front. It features a plastic frame surrounding the display, which is pretty standard for a phone in this price range. However, the back of the phone is more interesting, covered in a textured material that feels similar to leather grain. This material has a metallic sheen, giving it a cool shine that varies with the angle of the light. Not only does this add a bit of visual flair, but it also provides some grip, which is a practical touch.

One downside is that the TCL 50 XL 5G has no IP rating, meaning it’s not resistant to dust or water. This is not unusual for budget phones, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re prone to spills or outdoor adventures.

The phone features a flat-edge frame design with the volume and power button/fingerprint sensor on the right edge. At the bottom, you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C charging port, and speakers. On the top-left edge is the combination SIM card and microSD card slot, supporting cards up to 2TB.

The back of the TCL 50 XL 5G houses a large circular camera module with an LED flash. While the module suggests a triple-lens camera system, it’s a bit misleading. It includes a 50MP main camera, a 2MP depth sensor, and a 5MP ultrawide camera. The camera module’s size seems disproportionate given the modest specs and can be awkward when holding the phone in landscape orientation.

Color options are limited to Slate Gray, which isn’t surprising for budget phones, but it would be nice to have more choices.

TCL 50 XL 5G: Display

TCL 50 XL 5G

The TCL 50 XL 5G sports a 6.5-inch HD+ display. The resolution is adequate for everyday use, such as browsing the web, watching videos, and using social media. Colors are fairly vibrant, and the screen gets bright enough for indoor use. However, in direct sunlight, visibility can be challenging.

The display is not AMOLED, so you won’t get the deep blacks and vibrant colors of more expensive phones. But for a $160 device, it performs well enough. Viewing angles are decent, and there is no noticeable color shift when tilting the phone.

TCL 50 XL 5G: Software and Performance

TCL 50 XL 5G

Running on Android 13 with TCL’s custom UI, the software experience is smooth and user-friendly. TCL’s additions are minimal and generally useful, providing a near-stock Android experience. However, like many budget phones, it does come with some pre-installed apps that you might not need.

Under the hood, the TCL 50 XL 5G is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 700 processor paired with 4GB of RAM. This combination delivers adequate performance for basic tasks such as web browsing, social media, and casual gaming. Multitasking is manageable, but you may notice some lag with more demanding applications or when switching between multiple apps quickly.

Storage-wise, the phone comes with 64GB of internal memory, which can be expanded via the microSD slot. This is a great feature for those who need more space for photos, videos, and apps without spending much more.

TCL 50 XL 5G: Cameras

TCL 50 XL 5G

The camera system on the TCL 50 XL 5G is straightforward. The primary 50MP camera captures decent photos in good lighting conditions, with sufficient detail and reasonably accurate colors. However, in low-light situations, the quality diminishes, with noticeable noise and less sharpness.

The 5MP ultrawide camera offers a wider field of view, but the image quality is significantly lower than the main sensor. The 2MP depth sensor is used for portrait shots, adding a slight bokeh effect to the background, but it doesn’t always accurately differentiate between the subject and background.

Selfie enthusiasts will find the front-facing 8MP camera adequate for video calls and casual selfies, but it struggles in low-light environments as well.

TCL 50 XL 5G: Battery Life and Charging

One of the strongest points of the TCL 50 XL 5G is its battery life. The phone packs a 5,000mAh battery, which easily lasts a full day of moderate use. This includes activities like browsing the internet, checking social media, and watching videos. Even with more intensive use, you’re likely to get through most of the day without needing to recharge.

Charging the device is done via the USB-C port, and while it supports 18W fast charging, it’s not the fastest on the market. However, considering the price, the charging speed is reasonable.


So, how good can a $160 Android phone really be? The TCL 50 XL 5G proves that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a capable smartphone. While it may lack some of the premium features and high-end performance of flagship devices, it offers a solid design, decent display, satisfactory performance, and impressive battery life. The camera system is basic but serviceable, especially in well-lit conditions.

For those who need a reliable phone for everyday tasks without the hefty price tag, the TCL 50 XL 5G is a compelling option. It provides great value for its price, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious consumers or as a secondary device.


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