TCL 40 R 5G hands-on: Here's what you get for just $220

TCL 40 R 5G
(Image credit: Future)

The TCL 40 R 5G is the kind of phone that's designed to give you all the features you need for a very aggressive price, without cutting too many corners. And at first glance you'd be hard pressed to notice what those corners are.

Starting at just $219, the TCL 40 R 5G features a large 6.6-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate, a big 5,000 mAh battery and triple cameras headed up by a main 50MP shooter. Not bad at all for under $250.

I had a chance to go hands on with the TCL 40 R 5G briefly at CES 2023, and it seems like a very solid phone for the money. It could even have what it takes to make our best cheap phone list. Here's my impressions so far on the TCL 40 R 5G. 

TCL 40 R 5G Specs

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Price $219
Display6.6-inch LCD (HD+, 90Hz)
ProcessorMediaTeck Dimensity 700
Rear cameras50MP main (f/1.8), 2MP macro camera (f/2.4), 2MP depth camera (f/2.4)
Front cameras8MP (f/2.0)
Video1080p 30 fps
Battery5,000 mAh
Size 6.47 x 2.96 x 0.35 inches
Weight6.7 ounces

TCL 40 R 5G price and release date 

The TCL 40 R 5G is available now in Europe and is coming to other regions this year. It starts at $219 for 64GB of storage. A 128GB version will also be available but the pricing is not yet know yet for that model. 

TCL 40 R 5G design and display

TCL 40 R 5G

(Image credit: Future)

I was pleasantly surprised with the build quality on the TCL 40 R 5G. The textured plastic back feels solid, and I like the diagonal striations in the case. I played around with the Stardust Purple model, but you can also get this handset in Stardust Black.

The cameras are arranged in a vertical patch on the rear, which doesn't take up too much room, and the power and volume keys are on the right side of the device. One perk is that there's a microSD card slot under the cover, so you can upgrade the storage if you want to. There's even a 3.5mm headphone jack on board for those who prefer wired headphones. 

You have two options for security: Face Unlock and a side fingerprint sensor. I'd opt for the latter, as that will likely be more secure. 

The 6.6-inch V-notch display has a decent refresh rate of 90Hz, which is good for this price, though the resolution isn't full HD. It's HD+ (or 1612 x 720 pixels) and the brightness is on the low side but okay for this price at 400 nits. 

TCL 40 R 5G cameras

TCL 40 R 5G

(Image credit: Future)

I wouldn't get too excited about the TCL 40 R 5G's triple camera setup. Yes, the 50MP main sensor is pretty sharp, and it produced clear photos when I snapped a couple of shots at the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

But you don't get an ultrawide camera or telephoto lens on this phone. Instead, the 40 R 5G packs a 2MP depth camera and a separate 2MP macro camera for close-ups. Don't expect a powerful zoom here.

The front camera is a 8MP sensor with an 80.6-degree field of view. The TCL 40 R 5G captures video up to 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second, so you'll miss out on 4K clips if that matters to you. 

There's a couple of handy AI camera features on board, including Steady Snap for taking sharp, non-blurry images with fast focus and enhanced stabilization and low-light HDR photography. 

TCL 40 R 5G specs and performance

TCL 40 R 5G

(Image credit: Future)

I'll have to test the TCL 40 R 5G more to see how well its MediaTek Dimensity 700 chip holds up to everyday use, but that same silicon didn't perform that well in our Moto G 5G review. We noticed some hiccups when gaming and lag at time when opening apps, though I didn't notice any slowdowns during my brief hands-on time.

The Dimensity 700 chip gets backed up here by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. And, as noted earlier, you can opt for 128GB if you're willing to pay more. A microSD card slot lets you upgrade to as high as 1TB. 

TCL 40 R 5G battery life and charging

With a 5,000 mAh battery, the TCL 40 R 5G should last you most of the day on a charge. But we'll have to put this phone through our Tom's Guide Battery Life test to see just how long this Android phone endures and if it can make our best phone battery life list. 

The TCL 40 R 5G supports 15W charging via USB-C Type 2.0, which is typical for a budget phone. 

TCL 40 R 5G outlook

TCL 40 R 5G

(Image credit: Future)

The TCL 40 R 5G isn't going to challenge the likes of the Google Pixel 6a, as this is in a lower price bracket. But it could very well give other cheap phones like the $349 Moto G 5G a run for their money. It's also a potential alternative to the low-cost OnePlus Nord models, like the OnePlus Nord N300, which costs about as much as TCL's budget phone. 

It's also worth keeping an eye on the new Samsung Galaxy A14, which was also announced during CES 2023 and shares many of the same specs as the TCL, including a 6.6-inch 90Hz display, same chip and similar cameras but a sharper 13MP front camera. It's even cheaper at $199, but Samsung didn't have this phone on display to go hands on. 

Stay tuned for our full TCL 40 R 5G review. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.