TCL is not a huge name in Australia when it comes to smartphones but the name itself is not new to Australia with TCL TVs making splashes in our market for quite a while now. Around the world though TCL have a decent share of the smartphone market (TCL is the number four smartphone in the US) so it’s no surprise that their smartphones are high quality and at a decent price — just like their TVs.
We were sent the newest TCL smartphone to check out, the TCL 20 Pro 5G, and after checking out their previous Australian releases, we were really looking forward to seeing what their latest award-winning smartphone was like.
Those who read EFTM regularly will not be surprised that the review is starting with the display. The TCL 20 Pro 5G was rated the best colour reproduction for a smartphone by testing site DxOMark. The display itself is a 6.67-inch 1080P display which has a refresh rate of just 60Hz. While the refresh rate is lower than many decent smartphones these days, and while refresh rate does make a big difference to the user experience, so does colour reproduction.
The colours in the display are amazing and using TCL’s NXTVision 2.0 image enhancement software produces an amazing image contrast, sharpness and colours. If you want to tweak the colours for what you prefer you can easily edit that yourself to either AMOLED wide gamut, sRGB, Display P3 or a user edited preset.
The display is a curved display and this curve is a decent curve, like other curved phones and although usability of curved displays often isn’t great as the curved area is difficult to use, TCL has a great solution. They basically make that curved section of the display non-responsive to touch — and you can edit the size of this non-responsive area if you want more or less than the default from TCL.
While I would have preferred a higher refresh rate and possibly a higher resolution display, the colours more than made up for that — and the lower refresh rate and resolution resulted in a lot less battery usage, more on that later.
There are very few phones, no matter the price, where the camera quality is unacceptable. The TCL 20 Pro 5G is definitely not one of these. Even at its entry-mid level pricing the imaging is excellent. While the photos are not ultra-premium quality they are definitely up to scratch in nearly all lighting situations.
The specs of the camera lenses are:
- 48 MP, f/1.8, 26mm (wide), 1/2.0″, 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
- 16 MP, f/2.4, 16mm, 123˚ (ultrawide), 1/3.0″, 1.12µm
- 2 MP, f/2.2, (macro)
- 2 MP, f/2.4, (depth)
As you can see in the images below I was able to get some great images in decent light and by themself they look great. Low light imaging did struggle, as mid-range devices usually do but given some halfway decent light the images are pretty good with decent contrast and colour reproduction.
Software-wise TCL has done some decent work here including basic AI scene predictions. TCL has also included the standard double tap of the power button to launch the camera that so many Android manufacturers we see in Australia refuse to implement. This means that no matter where you are in the phone’s software, or if the display is even off, a simple double tap of the power button launches the camera app.
The hardware in smartphones these days, after a certain level, is fairly superfluous with the higher end mid-range processors easily able to compete with the flagship chipsets in most everyday situations. TCL has included a decent mid-range chipset, the Snapdragon 750G 5G chipset, alongside 6GB of RAM and 256GB storage with support for microSD card to 1TB.
As such its performance on a day to day basis is at a high level — just as most mid-range smartphones are. For most users this is all they will need with the hardware capable of pushing the device with even the most intensive of multitasking at a level that is well above an acceptable level. Only if you use it alongside a premium smartphone will you notice a difference because by itself it works perfectly.
One of the best additions to the hardware is the multifunction button (Smart Key) on the left hand side of the phone. This can be programmed to do whatever you want with. You can have it open an app of your choice or to do any number of other things such as call up Google Assistant and much more. This is a great idea and allows you to have that extra shortcut handy for apps you access all the time.
The in-display fingerprint scanner is a nice addition to a mid-range device which most are doing now. It works as advertised and is fast and accurate enough that it won’t have you tearing your hair out through any continuously failing on you. TCL has also included extremely fast and accurate face unlock which is also extremely handy — of course the face unlock isn’t as secure as a fingerprint but is handy for those who don’t mind that drop in security.
Charging and battery life
The battery in the TCL 20 Pro 5G is a very decent 4,500mAh which, combined with the 1080P 60Hz display delivers such amazing battery life that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything on this level from a phone this good.
With a single charge I was able to get close to nine, yes N-I-N-E, hours of screen on time with first downloading the USA v France basketball game, then watching the entire thing, followed by streaming the first Australian Boomer Olympic game followed by ever more streaming of Olympics over the day. Add in Bluetooth/Wi-Fi direct for wireless Android for an hour or so and yet to still get this battery life is crazy talk.
TCL has also included USB-C charging with support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (18W) which is good but not great — It charged to close to 100% in just under one hour and to around 60% in 30 minutes. Of course, we all prefer the 65W seen in some OPPO and realme smartphones but if you charge it overnight you won’t have any issues given the battery life of this phone.
For those who prefer wireless charging TCL has included 15W wireless charging which worked fine although there are very few wireless chargers around that support this level of charging but it worked fine on my 10W Belkin wireless charger and my OPPO 45W wireless charger. The phone did get a bit hot charging using the OPPO charger, so I suspect that the wireless charging was being pushed to its limits — maybe don’t use one of those overnight — but there were no heat issues with the 10W Belkin wireless charger.
Gone are the days when manufacturers subject us to overly intrusive skin that do little to enhance the user experience instead causing a slow treacle-like experience which was an assault on the eyes. TCL has done a great job with the skin on Android with the TCL 20 Pro 5G with it offering some great additions while at the same time looking very similar to stock Android — subtle and classy.
The additions I felt added to my experience were:
- NXTVision — This is TCL’s display software which enhances the colour reproduction.
- Smart Key — the extra hardware button on the left of the display allowing you to “Open an app” or “Open a feature” such as any number of camera quick options, screenshot, flashlight, split screen, open a timer, and more.
- Edge Bar — helps you to quickly access your favourite apps or features.
- Smart App Recommend — after connecting a headset or speakers (Bluetooth) suitable apps are recommended for you to launch. For example, when connecting to my headphone it suggests the Pocket Casts app as that is the media app I use the most.
- Fingerprint Quick Launch — similar to the Smart Key actions you can add up to four different apps or features that will pop up to quick launch when you press and hold on the fingerprint sensor when unlocking the phone.
Should you buy it?
This phone is stunning. TCL has done a great job styling the TCL 20 Pro 5G with a colour that really pops and stands out, a large camera array that sits flush on the back of the phone. Inside the phone they have not missed either with some decent specs including an in-display fingerprint sensor.
The phone launched a few weeks ago with a free TV and while the TV is no longer included in the purchase, the price of $799 is still extremely attractive for what you get. It is every bit as complete a smartphone as any other mid-range device I have used. The software is fantastic without an inhibitive skin with all Android functions working as advertised and with a battery life that is just difficult to believe.
The mid-range smartphone market is become more and more crowded with each release with so many great phones in this price range. The TCL 20 Pro 5G sits comfortably at or near the top of all of the smartphones in the $600 — $900 range. I can highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great value phone that does not break the bank but still offers a great user experience. Get it now at Vodafone and Mobileciti in Marine Blue and Moondust Gray, and in Harvey Norman this month.