Oh, the glossy and matte displays of old – a topic that ignites more late-night stage fires than viral tech gossip.
In the glossy world of smartphones, it’s like finding a unicorn when a manufacturer dares to deviate. Enter the rare show: TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G with matte LCD. It’s not just a phone; It’s a ‘what if’ wrapped in a luxurious, pocket-sized package.
The smartphone world seems to be set on glossy displays, so we don’t have a choice now, do we? We don’t even know if it’s cool to have a matte display on your phone, unlike laptops or monitors where you can see both options IRL and decide for yourself.
The TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G is going to lift that veil for us. Let’s dive into this rare gem and see what it’s like to break away from the glossy norm and what we’ve all been missing.
What makes TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G special?
TCL 40 NxtPaper is an experimental device – an attempt to provide a paper-like screen in a smartphone. It’s full color if you want to be; It can also play videos. But switch to the right mode and it looks like the Kindle’s screen (almost OK). Our score is great for both multimedia and book reading. In doing so, however, it is less than stellar in both respects. Before we explain, here’s a refresher on the phone’s specifications.
TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G Specifications at a Glance:
- Body: 164.5×75.4×9.0mm, 192g; Plastic back.
- Demonstration: 6.60 inch LCD, 90Hz, 500 nits, 720x1612px resolution, 20.15:9 aspect ratio, 267ppi.
- Chipset Mediatek Dimensity 6020 (7 nm): Octa-core (2×2.2 GHz Cortex-A76 & 6×2.0 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali-G57 MC2.
- Memory: 256GB 6GB RAM; microSDXC (uses shared SIM slot).
- Operating System/Software: Android 13, TCL UI.
- rear camera; wide (main): 50 MP, f/1.8, 1/2.76”, 0.64µm, PDAF; Macro: 2 MP, f/2.4; Depth: 2 MP, f/2.4.
- Front camera: 8 MP, (wide), 1/4″, 1.12µm
- Video recording: Rear camera: 1080p@30fps; Front camera: 1080p@30fps
- Battery: 5000mAh; 15 W cable
- Communication: 5G; Hybrid Dual SIM: Wi-Fi 5; BT 5.1; NFC; FM radio; 3.5 mm jack.
- Miscellaneous: Fingerprint reader (side mounted).
First things first – What is the display technology used in TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G?? Officially published lists are not very clear as they can easily confuse someone whether they are on purpose or not.
The phone’s official marketing display is a “Full Color Electronic Paper Display”. As seen in e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle line, this immediately brings associations to e-ink display technology.
If you’re not familiar with the technology, it’s incredibly fascinating and involves precise particles moving back and forth through a capsule in different layers to produce an image. Sometimes, even color. Said image is semi-permanent and does not require current to keep it on the display, nor does it technically require backlighting to be displayed properly. To set the record straight, this phone does not have such a display.
To make things even more confusing, TCL previously marketed e-color-based products under the NxtPaper brand, initially as “full-color electronic paper displays.”
Our best guess is that the TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G uses an LCD with some clever extra layers on top, allowing for an excellent monochrome image to go along with the high resolution. This finish feels great under your fingers, although it’s nowhere near as papery.
Reflection and reflection
There are many ways to achieve a matte look, and not all matte finishes are the same. Typically a 24-28% haze value is applied to a traditional matte display. Its purpose is to scatter light from the environment and scatter it instead of reflecting it back to the user. The light still has to go somewhere, so it is scattered instead of reflected. Basically, you’re trading direct reflections for light transmission.
This leads us to reason 1 why you don’t want a matte display on your phone. A matte display like the one on the TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G doesn’t have the same glossy optical clarity.
And perhaps the best alternative approach to combat glare and reflection is to “punch” with high brightness. This is the main reason why modern displays, especially the flagship ones, strive to achieve higher and higher brightness values with each generation. That’s why phones often go out of their way to include an automatic brightness overdrive mode that only wakes up when bright conditions are detected and is so powerful that it often can’t last long. This is all in an effort to improve the display’s readability by making the display the brightest light source around.
As you can see below, adding a modern flagship OLED glossy screen device to the comparison – the Galaxy S23 Ultra with it. 1274 nit In this case, the high brightness makes it clear that even the glossy screen in the upper class is superior. There’s no substitute for having extra brightness to work with when fighting glare and reflections.
This is also true of the TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G. The color palette is generally washed out nicely. None of the color modes are particularly color-accurate. They all seem to target the sRGB color space but fail to achieve accurate reproduction of up to ten delta values and known cool and blue hues.
However, the most interesting color modes are housed in their own NxtPaper mode menu and are TCLs attempt to mimic the look and feel of an e-color display. As the name suggests, Color Paper mode has colors, although these are surprisingly muted, more so than the display’s standard color modes. Contrast is also particularly low.
Next among the NxtPaper modes is the Ink Paper mode, which is completely monochrome and has a beautiful white and neutral backlight color.
You could easily mistake the LCD for an e-color unit, at least at first glance, with that well-crafted monochrome mode with a nice white backlight, and that’s an achievement by TCL itself. TCL says this is all done to make reading easier and easier on the eyes. Although we cannot confirm that the TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G still does not have backlight or excessive blue light display, personally, we feel more comfortable to look at the display and especially to read on it. , compared to the usual reflective LCD.
But as mentioned above, that comes at the expense of color reproduction. You don’t intend to use your phone in monochrome mode all day, do you?
Image clarity is another common issue with matte displays. This is mostly because the matte surface scatters and diffuses both the light from your surroundings and the light from the display itself. This means that due to light reflections, straight lines simply don’t look straight and instead are a bit “blurry”. This is especially noticeable on small text fonts and is not ideal for something marketed as a reading-centric device.
And this leads us to reason 3 why you don’t want a matte display on your phone. It just doesn’t look as sharp as a glossy screen.
Show quality comparison
The grain of the tile is especially annoying on solid colors. It doesn’t really help that the TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G’s resolution is only HD+ (720 x 1612 pixels). That’s stretched across a relatively thin 6.6-inch 20:9 diagonal, resulting in a pixel density of around 267 ppi. Maybe the 4G version of the phone has FHD+ instead so it looks a little nicer.
While certainly a nice curiosity, we don’t see ourselves offering a matte screen phone to the average user, and that includes the TCL 40 NxtPaper 5G. The matte display itself looks impressive, but in our opinion, it does not offer enough benefits to outweigh the various shortcomings of the technology. Also, in general, the phone itself is not particularly impressive.
We don’t see truly matte displays becoming a thing anytime soon, and for good reason. The way we see it, the current approach to combating glare and reflections by pushing higher brightness levels and modern anti-reflective coatings are generally much better. On a glossy display you get much more vibrant colors, better contrast and overall sharpness, all of which are arguably more valuable to consumers.