Like all cheaper tablets, the TCL Nxtpaper 11 has its pros and cons. The matt screen does what it promises and is good for some things like e-books and documents, as long as you’re in the right light. But performance is often not enough even for comfortable browsing, battery life is lacklustre, and the interface needs work.
Just as most mobiles are often sleepily similar, differing only in performance, quality and price, the same can be said of tablets. Here’s one tablet that tries, the Nxtpaper 11 from TV manufacturer TCL, which also makes mobiles and yes, tablets, and which in recent years has broadened its range outside its home country of China.
The predecessor Nxtpaper 10 has been in stores for just over a year, and now it’s time for the sequel. But 10 and 11 do not stand for the generation of Nxtpaper, they are the first two models. Instead, it indicates the screen size. Nxtpaper 11 was launched last winter but has now finally found its way to retail shelves.
Low price and a mixed impression
If you just look at the specifications, it’s a typical cheap tablet, and it also costs accordingly at just €249 ($270/£215 converted). It’s listed on the TCL UK site but not with a price. Check out our chart of the best budget tablets to see more options including the Samsung Galaxy Tab A8.
An old and half-tired component, a six-year-old Mediatek Helio P60T, with eight cores, none of which are more than half-fast, 4GB of RAM to work with, and 128GB of flash memory of the small seg type for storage, Wi-Fi 5 connection instead of 6 or 6E, and no other features such as protection against water and shock, fingerprint scanner or docking options.
Perhaps the screen has better features than you can ask for at that price, a sharp 2,000 x 1,2000 pixel IPS panel with up to 500 nits in brightness when the full automatic mode is turned on. It also has automatic and AI-controlled colour temperature adjustment. I’m not entirely charmed by it.
If I set the screen to Natural colour mode, I get red spots, and if I set it to Vibrant, the white balance is a bit too cold. It’s not a disaster and colours are perfectly viable for everyday use, but don’t expect perfection.
TCL does a good job of delivering luxury in design and build despite the low price tag. It’s a nicely sleek slab with a solid aluminium chassis and high quality feel to it.
At first glance, it looks like any clearly more expensive Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, except with a small plastic border around the screen instead of a more seamless transition from aluminium. But then I’m very picky. This is stylish and feels lavish to hold.
A bit like paper, but not e-paper
What stands out about Nxtpaper is its matt, paper-like screen surface. It’s not e-paper, it’s a regular IPS screen with a surface treatment to make it more comfortable to look at and give a paper-like feel to your fingers. Most importantly, it prevents unsightly fingerprints on the screen surface from constant use, and eliminates screen reflections.
I also like the feeling of pointing and tapping on the smooth surface, which in no way hinders touch response and precision. However, it’s really a case of taste over substance, and a friend I lent the tablet to commented that it gave him “the same uncomfortable feeling” as the black chalkboard at school. Open purchase is recommended if you decide to go for it, so you can see if you like it.
With “paper” literally in the name, I had hoped that it would be better at imitating paper. Visually and in reasonably bright light, it works well, the feeling with an e-book app and a monochrome mode you can set the screen in is more like a Kindle than an iPad.
But the matt finish only spreads reflections over a larger area, so outdoor sun rays will cover the entire screen. According to the specs, the tablet is supposed to have stylus support but no third-party pens I have available work, and the “T-Pen” it’s supposed to work with is not included.
Slow and difficult to control
Performance is on the lower end, both for the processor and the connection, which together make web browsing an often frustratingly slow experience, with choppy scrolling, slow loading and rendering of pages where page elements jump around while images are loaded, and the entire screen can sometimes freeze randomly for up to half a second. It’s a big minus that browsing on a tablet is supposed to be difficult.
Some other apps such as YouTube, Google Maps and Google Photos are better, where content is handled with better optimisation. I have no problem streaming films from either YouTube or downloaded Prime Video, and the image seems to have both the right sharpness and good dynamics.
Colours are a more ambiguous story, it looks to be sRGB class on the colour gamut. Though not with any great colour accuracy. There are many different menus for making image settings, and each seems to tilt the colour temperature of the screen in its own direction. Getting a neutral white tone is almost impossible.
The Nxtpaper 11 has four speakers, two on each short side, providing powerful stereo sound with well-rounded bass; what’s missing for true top quality is a little more detail in the treble, but it’s hard to complain given the price. There’s no analogue headphone port, so if you want external audio, you’ll have to connect it via Bluetooth or the USB port. I had no problem with either.
Simple cameras don’t surprise
The tablet has two 8Mp cameras, one on the back and one on the long side above the screen. The quality here is middling, in typical budget fashion, with flat and poorly detailed images on both the rear camera and the selfie camera facing you. It generates some noise in darker environments, and some dragging effect if you move around a lot.
An 8,000mAh battery is respectable for an 11-inch tablet, and I get acceptable runtime. It’s enough to stream video at high brightness for over ten hours, and since the screen doesn’t have a frequency higher than 60Hz, browsing and emailing isn’t a heavy energy challenge either, although it does take a bit more.
However, charging an empty battery can be frustratingly slow. The tablet is said to support 18W of charging, and the included USB charger can also deliver that. Does that count as budget fast charging?
Perhaps, but only if the hardware manages to utilise it, and TCL seems to have problems with that. About five hours for a zero to 100% charge, and half an hour with the charger in gives me a 15% battery level. This is going to be a nighttime charge.
A lot of individuality in the interface
With Android 13 at the core, TCL has then added its own interface, TCL UI 5, which adds a large number of its own features, from its extended picture settings to small and large interface customisations and pen control features (which I wasn’t able to test), and a host of extra apps. Some useful, like the handy WPS Office and an app for scanning documents with the camera.
Others are more what I would call bloatware, Booking.com and a note-taking app that insists on a paid subscription are definitely among them. There’s a lot TCL could strip away for a more streamlined experience. TCL doesn’t say when Android updates are planned, but don’t expect more than an extra generation of Android at most. If it’s budget, it’s budget.
But is it a bit too much budget? I think so. With a newer and more powerful system circuit and perhaps a 90 or 120 Hz screen panel, TCL would have lifted this tablet enormously. The idea is right and some things make the unique screen great, but at the expense of others.