TCL 20 Pro 5G - key specs
Dimensions: 164.2 x 73 x 8.77mm
Screen: 6.67 inches AMOLED (60Hz, HDR10)
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G 5G
GPU: Adreno 619
Rear cameras: 48MP, 16MP, 5MP, 2MP
Front cameras: 32MP
Battery: 4,500 mAh
OS: Android 11, TCL UI
In this TCL 20 Pro 5G review, I’ll cover everything from its design and display, to its camera, battery life and performance to try and answer three all-important questions: has TCL found a way of standing out against the mid-range smartphone crowd? Is the TCL 20 Pro 5G worth parting with your cash for? And how does this handset compare to the best Android phones you can buy?
Despite first being known for TVs, TCL has very quickly managed to build themselves a solid reputation for their mid-range smartphones in an already over-saturated market. When T3 reviewed the TCL 10 5G, the conclusion was that while ‘it does give you 5G and a good-looking phone for not much money. Perhaps the biggest problem for the phone is that there are so many other excellent handsets available at the same price.’
Earlier this year, the brand unveiled their new TCL 20 5G phone which combined mid-range specs at a budget price. Following on from that, the TCL 20 Pro 5G takes aim at those willing to spend a little more, to get a more impressive handset in return. Read on to find out if the TCL 20 Pro 5G is worth your time and money.
TCL 20 Pro 5G review: what’s new
Its predecessor the TCL 10 Pro wowed us with its attractive price point, excellent OLED screen and decent battery life but it lacked a few features we have come to expect like 5G, wireless charging and water resistance.
This time around, the TCL 20 Pro 5G includes both 5G support and wireless charging, as well as building on what came before it with an improved chipset, upgraded display tech, a new camera system, more storage and a sleek new design. Unfortunately, you still don’t get protection against splashes and spills.
TCL 20 Pro 5G review: price and release date
Unveiled on the 14th April 2021, the TCL 20 Pro 5G is available now. You can pick up a handset for £499 in the UK from sites like Amazon (opens in new tab)or Very (opens in new tab). It will be coming to the US as well in the coming weeks, that pricing hasn’t been confirmed but it’s likely to be around $690. We haven’t heard anything about availability in Australia yet.
TCL 20 Pro 5G review: design and display
One of the most good-looking phones I’ve seen this year, the TCL 20 Pro 5G has a glossy finish on the glass back coating. It comes in blue and grey colourways, of which I saw the blue.
Long and thin is the best way to describe the shape of the TCL 20 Pro 5G. Measuring 164.2 x 73 x 8.77mm and weighing 190g, you won’t have any problems using it with one hand, even if yours are on the smaller side. The glossy design does make it a little slippy to hold, though most people would get a protective case for it anyway. Unlike so many other handsets, the camera module is completely integrated into the back of the phone, it doesn’t stick out at all. With lenses placed in a line down the left-hand side, it’s nice to see something a little different.
On the front, the 6.67-inch AMOLED display is almost bezel-free, it has a 93% screen-to-body ratio with a tiny hole-punch camera in the centre at the top. Curved edges make this phone’s display look really clean, smart and more premium than it is. In use that did mean the edges of the keyboard were curved too, making mistyping quite common. Despite that, with FHD+ 1080 x 2400 pixel resolution, 394ppi and 16.7M colours, the screen is a marvel.
All-new NXTVISION 2.0 is built-in which uses AI visual enhancement to recognise the type of on-screen content or scenes and automatically adjust the colours, contrast and sharpness. Watching videos, in particular, you can really see the difference with it turned on. It gives a much stronger contrast between light and dark areas while colours were enhanced and finer details looked more precise. Plus, it supports HDR10 for streaming TV and movies. Having a 60Hz refresh rate means that although it doesn’t feel quite as smooth to use as other pricier handsets, I still enjoyed scrolling through content on it.
To unlock the handset you can use the in-display fingerprint sensor, it’s aligned well with where your thumb naturally sits on the frame. I found it worked quickly and reliably, no problems to note there! The Smart Key on the left of the frame lets you assign a few different actions to it, according to how you want to use it. I had one press set to turn NXTVISION 2.0, double press to launch Google Assistant and a long press to launch the camera and found myself using it quite often. On the right of the frame are the volume controls and power button, with USB-C charging on the bottom and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top.
TCL 20 Pro 5G review: camera
The TCL 20 Pro 5G packs a 48MP Sony OIS camera, 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens, 5MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. On the front is a 32MP selfie camera. It can record video in resolutions up to 4K at 30fps.
Photos came out looking crisp if a little bland at times. Snaps would have looked more satisfying if the colours had been boosted slightly with better contrast. Zooming into the snap, I also noticed that they lacked detail. Having said that, the shots did come out nicely when you pick the right focus point in the right lighting. It did deliver good depth when it came to landscapes and cityscapes in particular. The selfie camera is worth shouting about, especially with the beauty mode switched on, shots came out looking flattering and clear.
Using the Super Night Mode, you can see from the gallery above that it didn't do a great job at illuminating the scene or improving the photo. It doesn't even compare to the Night Modes offered by pricier smartphones. The Macro Mode, however, is great. It managed to show off the fine lines and minuscule details on my cactus, maintaining its lush green colour, and even a little dust.
TCL 20 Pro 5G review: performance and battery life
Under the hood is the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chip, the Adreno 619 GPU, 6GB RAM and 256GB of storage. That’s quite a bit more memory than you usually get, and there’s a MicroSD card slot to expand it further.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G coped well with everything from photo editing to mobile gaming, though was clearly not able to run as fast as handsets that cost twice as much, sometimes suffering from a bit of lag in mobile games. In Geekbench 5, it scored 656 in single-core and 1,985 multi-core, similar scores to other mid-range handsets like the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G and the OnePlus Nord. These scores were also almost identical to the TCL 10 5G.
Naturally using the 750G chip means it has 5G support, fantastic if you live somewhere where you can make use of that. Speaking of connectivity, the TCL 20 Pro 5G only has Wifi 5 which is worth bearing in mind if you have invested in a Wifi 6 router at home, you won’t be able to make the most of it with this handset.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G has a large 4,500mAh battery. I tested it out by playing a video stored on the device for two hours on full brightness, in that time the battery dropped by 10% suggesting it would have lasted 20 hours in total, that’s impressive for a mid-range handset. In the box, it comes with an 18W charger, TCL claim it’ll take two hours to recharge the battery to 100%, hardly the lightning speed I’ve become accustomed to. It does support 15W wireless charging though which is a bonus.
Running Android 11 with the TCL user interface, the TCL 20 Pro 5G comes with loads of apps pre-installed that you may not want, like Booking.com, which is pretty irritating when you power on the phone for the first time. You can delete them so maybe that’s just nitpicking. Any skin that isn’t straight-up Android 11 will undoubtedly have a few annoyances, I personally don’t mind TCL’s - it’s tidy, smooth and intuitive.
TCL 20 Pro 5G review: verdict
Looking for a phone that costs less than $700/£500, you’ll feel absolutely swamped by the choices. Deciding which to go for will come down to what you want your phone to do. Do you need an outstanding camera? Are you a busy person looking for good battery life? Is it a large display you care about? The TCL 20 Pro 5G will be best used by someone looking for a sleek handset with a stunning display for streaming video and a very long-lasting battery.
While the camera is okay, you may be someone who wants fantastic shots to use on social media in which case there are better options out there. Or, if you are big on mobile gaming, you’ll be after faster performance and a higher refresh rate than what you get here.
All-in-all though, despite having a few downsides, the TCL 20 Pro 5G is still one to watch. It may not have significant stand-out features but this is still a very capable smartphone. The large curved display is its crowning glory, yet it's the reasonable price tag that makes this a very convincing option.
TCL 20 Pro 5G review: also consider
If you love the idea of a 5G Android phone with a beautiful display, but need a solid camera as well, consider the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G. It’s a strong entry in T3’s guide to the best cheap phones, only beaten at the time of writing by the OnePlus Nord and the Apple iPhone SE.
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