TCL NXTPAPER 40 review

TCL NXTPAPER 40 review

One of the earliest reviews I wrote when I launched BTTR was the TCL NXTPAPER 10s tablet. Despite its weak processor and lack of memory, the screen was definitely worth taking a second glance at.

TCL has brought the same LCD technology to smartphones with the NXTPAPER 40. 

In a market where pretty much every phone’s screen looks identical, having a clear, visual point of difference isn’t a bad thing for TCL here. 

Despite the screen being traditional LCD technology, TCL has added multiple layers on top, plus a bit of software to make the screen look more like a vibrant, colourful e-ink screen.

It mostly works, too. The phone’s specs aren’t spectacular outside the screen, which holds it back in the performance department. But if you like reading on your phone, this screen is potentially enough to sway you to the device.

The TCL NXTPAPER 40 on NXTPAPER ink mode on a table

Design

The biggest selling point of this phone — by far — is the display. So let’s talk about everything else first.

The phone is rather striking, with a metallic shimmery “midnight blue” colour on the back. The blue is a really nice shade, one of the nicest colours I’ve seen in a while on a smartphone.

That said, the back of the phone doesn’t quite sit flush with the edges. You can feel an extremely slight rim around the back of the phone, and it’s not overly comfortable.

There’s a triple camera array in two camera circles on the back, with a 50MP main camera, a 5MP ultra-wide lens and a 2MP Macros snapper. The front camera is a 32MP pinhole design.

Around the sides you have the power and volume on the right, the dual SIM-card slots on the left, and a USB-C and 3.5 mm headphone jack on the bottom.

On the specs front, the phone measures in a 168.16 × 75.53 × 7.89 mm and weighs 195 grams.

You get a 5010 mAh battery with 33W Ultra-fast charging, plus a fingerprint sensor and facial unlocking.

It’s all powered by a Mediatek Hello G88 processor with 8 GB RAM + another 8 GB of virtual RAM from the 256 GB ROM if it’s available.

Also worth mentioning — this is only a 4G phone. There’s no 5G compatibility, and with the 3G network switch off coming soon for Telstra and Optus, it’s worth taking your coverage into account.

Close up of the phone

The Display

So, let’s talk about this screen. 

6.87-inches on the diagonal, with a 1080 × 2460 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. This is on par with similarly priced phones like the Moto G84

But TCL’s ace is the NXTPAPER technology. Effectively, the screen features multiple layers, which work together to create a unique texture and appearance.

Visually, the phone has a nice matte finish that resists fingerprints. It’s hard to say definitively without testing side by side, but it doesn’t feel as “soft” as I described the tablet, but it’s not as harsh as the glass on my iPhone 15 Pro.

All those layers are designed to reduce blue light, as well as stop glare in bright light.

Despite this, the colour reproduction is ridiculously vivid. It’s a bit over the top, to be honest, but it looks pretty.

If you prefer your phone to look more like a colour e-ink screen, then there’s a software toggle for that. It mutes the colours dramatically, and appears to add a paper-like appearance to the background of the screen.

Regarding the anti-glare functionality, I found it worked a little too well. In full sun, the screen effectively looked like it was off.

The screen in full sun. It's on, but you can't see it

Performance

The Mediatek chip inside the TCL NXTPAPER 40 is not a powerful processor. That’s one of the ways TCL has managed to keep its price down.

That said, the RRP is $349, which places it in a higher tier of budget phones. And compared to other smartphones we’ve tested in the $300 — $600 price bracket, its Geekbench 6 benchmark scores are disappointingly low.

Single-core:

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Multi-core

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Vulkan Compute

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Admittedly, the TCL is at the lowest end of the price scale here, and occasionally drops into the sub-$300 range when it’s discounted.

But the benchmarks don’t reflect well on the phone.

Using the phone doesn’t counter that score either. It’s fine for general usage like email, social media and web browsing, but it doesn’t shine when gaming. 

Also disappointing is the preloaded bloatware that comes installed on the phone when you first switch it on. 

While I get that most people use Facebook, so it makes sense to have it pre-installed, there’s a whole collection of junk that is easy enough to download if you want it. So why make the majority who don’t have to delete it?

Battery life is solid. There appears to be a slight improvement as well with the NXTPAPER viewing mode switched on as well, though it’s not hugely substantial.

I managed to get through a full day. And even if you don’t, the fast charging is a welcome inclusion, especially as there’s no wireless charging on board.

Close up of the cameras

Camera performance

I found images from the TCL’s camera array to be surprisingly decent. They aren’t going to blow you away like a premium smartphone, but comparatively images appear to have a decent amount of colour and detail.

That said, you probably won’t print any of these shots out. Detail is lost in high contrast photos in particular, and even on well-lit subjects there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of finer detail once you start zooming in.

It’s not really a surprise though, and so long as your expectations aren’t too high, I found the image quality to be reasonable for the price.

However, it’s important when viewing them on your phone to make sure you’re looking at them with the NXTPAPER mode switched off. With that mode switched on, everything is muted and flat, by design.

Verdict

With poor benchmark scores and less than stellar photos, the TCL NXTPAPER 40 runs the risk of being another missable budget smartphone.

But its unique screen makes it worth consideration.

If you enjoy reading a lot on your phone, and you’re after a budget smartphone, I’d definitely consider this. The NXTPAPER screen technology is actually quite good, and makes reading an e-ink like experience.

If you prefer watching videos, then you’re probably going to be better served by a phone like the Moto G84. While the TCL’s screen is great for reading, it’s only okay for watching video or viewing photos, and Moto’s superior camera and performance make it a better option.

Buy the TCL NXTPAPER 40 online

AU $345.00
+ Delivery *
Thegoodguys.com.au
* Delivery cost shown at checkout.

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TCL supplied the product for this review.

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