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Forget iPhone 12 mini — TCL just dropped the cheapest 5G phone yet

TCL 10 5G UW
(Image credit: TCL / Tom's Guide)

5G phones are getting cheaper all the time, and TCL and Verizon can now claim the cheapest 5G phone on sale in the U.S. Today (Oct. 27), both companies announced the TCL 10 5G UW — a Verizon-exclusive version of the midrange TCL 10 handset released earlier in the year, featuring 5G connectivity across both Big Red's millimeter-wave and recently-launched nationwide networks. 

What makes the TCL 10 5G UW particularly enticing, however, is value. For $399, the TCL 10 5G packs Qualcomm's Snapdragon 765G processor — the exact same chip you'll find in the $499 Pixel 4a 5G as well as the OnePlus Nord, which isn't sold stateside. It has a large 4,500-mAh battery, 128GB of storage out of the box with 6GB of RAM and a triple-lens camera that pairs a 48MP primary lens with ultrawide and macro optics.

That's almost universally better across the board than the AT&T-exclusive Motorola One 5G, which held the title for the cheapest 5G phone in America up until this moment, at $449. However, the Motorola One 5G incorporated a slightly slower processor and less RAM.

Additionally, it has to be said the $399 TCL 10 5G UW is almost half the price of the cheapest 5G-capable iPhone, the $699 iPhone 12 mini.

TCL's phone endeavors may still be young, but they've been encouraging at the outset. I really enjoyed using the TCL 10 Pro earlier this year, which could only connect to 4G networks, but featured a stunning glass-and-metal design as well as a curved OLED display.

The 6.5-inch screen in the TCL 10 5G UW incorporates LCD tech rather than OLED, however it is at least HDR10 certified for rich contrast, which is more than can be said about most LCD panels in phones.

TCL has also baked some proprietary features into the TCL 10 5G UW, including its Nxtvision engine which can upscale SDR content to an HDR appearance, as well as Super Bluetooth, which allows you to stream audio to up to four different Bluetooth devices at once. Admittedly, I wasn't a massive fan of either when they turned up in the TCL 10 Pro, though they're here if you want them.

Ultimately, the price is the main draw with this one, which isn't surprising considering TCL made a name for itself selling respectable TVs for less than the competition. The TCL 10 5G UW may be a Verizon exclusive, which will limit its appeal, though at least it offsets that with truly compelling hardware for the money.

You can pick up the TCL 10 5G UW from Verizon beginning October 29, and look forward to our review in the coming days.