Intro TCL 20 Pro 5G
When you look at the specs, it might seem like the TCL 20 Pro 5G is a reasonable deal. But the most crucial thing about smartphones is not what they can do; It's how it makes you feel. The first thing that people notice about a phone is its aesthetics. The decision of which smartphone to buy usually happens within the first 15 seconds. The TCL 20's software experience is inconsistent, and the cameras are decent enough. TCL is making progress, but did they make enough progress for you and me?
Most major Canadian smartphone businesses list the TCL 20 Pro 5G anywhere from $750 to $900. You could and can get it cheaper from the United States. In the US the price found is $499.99 with $79.05 import fees on Amazon.com, which is still cheaper than buying it in Canada directly. With the US to CAD conversion that's about $735 CAD. Here's the link: https://amzn.to/3xWZqI3
TCL 20 Pro 5G Specification
|Processor||Snapdragon 750G 5G|
|Display||6.67-inch 1080 x 2400 OLED, 60Hz|
|Battery||4500mAh; 18W wired charging, 15W wireless|
|Camera||48MP, 16MP ultrawide, 2MP depth, 5MP macro; 32MP selfie|
|Software||Android 11 (2 OS updates & 2-years of security updates)|
|Size||164.2 x 73 x 8.8 mm, 190g|
Design, Display, Hardware
The TCL 20 Pro 5G's nicest-looking phone yet, based solely on its aesthetics. The backside has a slick, two-tone glass panel that makes the phone look and feel like a premium piece. Other similarly priced phones have glass backs, but TCL has given their version an extra coat of polish. The glossy side has the camera sensors, and the other side is matte; This is great because it means fingerprints stay to a minimum. The four camera sensors line up underneath the glass panel, which is really cool. You also won't see any camera bump on this phone. They managed to keep everything underneath.
The display on the TCL 20 Pro 5G has curves on the left and right edges. These make the phone less comfortable to hold, and it is not always easy to ensure that you aren't registering touches. That said, the curves fit with the design and do look intentional.
The back of the phone is curved – like the front; This allows the two halves to meet up and touch, with the metal strip in between them. The aluminum frame, while thin, provides a decent amount of area to hold. I wouldn't call this phone comfortable to have in my hands, but I wouldn't call it uncomfortable.
The OLED panel (Display) TCL went for is a 6.67-inch 1080 x 2400 – with HDR support. The colours are excellent, the viewing angles are solid, and it's decent to use outside. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this OLED panel. TCL's “Sunlight display” feature boosts brightness at the expense of lower contrast, which is kind of silly. The TCL 20 Pro 5G display's refresh rate is only 60Hz, which is why you might feel like your smartphone is slow and not snappy. I'm sure this is because they cut some corners to keep costs low. It wouldn't be complete without mentioning the hole-punch camera at the top of the display.
There's an optical fingerprint scanner under the display, and I've found it to be slightly too low. If you had to split the phone screen into four, it would have to be between the lower third and fourth to be at the right spot. It is not the fastest responding fingerprint scanner, but it's not the slowest.
The headphone jack is on the top (surprise), where it belongs, and the USB-C port, SIM tray, and mono speaker are on the bottom. An IR blaster, which is surprisingly uncommon in phones these days. It wouldn't be complete without the power button and volume rocker set on the right side and a dedicated programable button on the right. Think of all the possibilities!
Now for the what's in the box part, user manual, SIM ejector, clear plastic tpu case, an 18W charger, and finally USB-A-to-C cable.
Performance, Battery, Software
I've been happy with the performance of the TCL 20 Pro 5G. It has a Snapdragon 750G chip, which is snappy and quick. You get two high-performance cores and six power-saving cores in this octa-core chip. Apps open quickly, and switching between them is a breeze. Notice earlier I mention the 60Hz refresh rate; This is where things get dicey. Some might notice it, and others won't.
You get Android 11, called TCL UI, out of the box; This is a UI that changes many things and its TCL approach to the Samsung One UI. I find there's a lot of un-needed apps or toolset installed. The TCL 20 Pro 5G is great for adjusting the glow of the screen to your surroundings. But you'll likely notice the intensity of the change can be quick and distracting. In general use, it's been pretty consistent.
For the price, TCL will deliver two OS updates to the TCL 20 Pro 5G, which is reassuring. On the other hand, we only get two years' worth of security updates, and it annoys me. For seven-hundred-and-fifty dollars, there should be at least a third year of security updates. It boggles my mind at times. I get it, overhead.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G is an impressively equipped phone with some great cameras. The 48MP primary camera, 16MP ultrawide, and 2MP depth camera and 5MP macro camera are good to have in addition to the 13MP selfie camera. I would have chosen a different set of cameras, but they are not bad at all. That's my opinion on the matter, and I'll include camera test shots.
If you're one of the lucky ones, the camera will give you a great shot. The primary 48MP camera takes binned 12 MP shots, but more often than not, the results are a hit or miss. If you are in a brightly lit environment majority of your shots will look good. However, if you're in a dark environment or low-light setting, the camera will struggle and give you blurry photos. Despite having optical image stabilization, the images will still be shaky indoors at night.
What's my final take on this?
I like it. I used it as my daily driver for a month. It's not going to be unanimous, and I get it. I liked the look, the feel, and it worked well for the use I made.
If you're going to make a phone that offers a great design, you need to make sure it also has excellent software. This phone misses the mark, and that's where TCL cut corners; This is also true when it comes to the cameras. As much as I had great pictures, it was a hit or miss consistently.
If you consider that you can get the TCL 20 Pro 5G for as low as $750, you may as well look at the Pixel 4a, which offers better photo quality and overall performance for just about the same price. In the US the price found is $499.99 with $79.05 import fees on Amazon.com, which is still cheaper than buying it in Canada directly. With the US to CAD conversion that's about $735 CAD. Here's the link: https://amzn.to/3xWZqI3