TCL isn’t yet a mainstay in the phone market — the company debuted with two solid options last year and is back with the TCL 20 Pro 5G. And we’ve spent several weeks with the flagship midrange handset.
This $499 smartphone has a sleek design (miraculously with no camera bump), 5G network connectivity, a solid processor and a nearly great display. Here’s what we think.
A mid-range smartphone with a great display
The TCL 20 Pro 5G is a solid all-around smartphone with some nice features. If you value a strong display it’s is a strong contender, but it’s not necessarily class-leading or the best option for everyone.
Who this is for: The TCL 20 Pro 5G is a good option for someone who values design and the display above all other features and doesn’t want to pay more than $500 for a smartphone.
What you need to know: While the 6.7-inch AMOLED display is a star here (alongside the design), the 20 Pro 5G doesn’t lead the charge in other core features. Its processor is strong enough for most tasks but isn’t the most efficient with battery life. And the four cameras on the back will leave you wanting more if you’re looking for an excellent shooter.
How this compares: Ultimately, the TCL 20 Pro 5G is another option to consider when looking for a midrange handset in 2021. It has a terrific 6.7-inch display, a sleek design and a slew of features — some of which you’ll use and some of which won’t be touched. The cameras are behind that of the iPhone SE, Pixel 4a, 4a 5G and much of the Galaxy A Series. However, the front-facing lens is particularly strong here. Battery life can be a struggle under intense tasks or longer days as well. For $499, it’s not a perfect phone, but if you value the display above all else, it deserves a look.
While the TCL 20 Pro 5G resides in the upper midrange phone space, it doesn’t feel like a budget device. It’s a $499 phone that’s sleek and will get some looks. Your eyes will lock on to the 6.7-inch AMOLED display. It’s the star of the experience here, and we think it’s nearly perfect.
The display takes up nearly the entire front of the phone, with the left and right sides sloping down. It’s the same screen tech we’ve seen on the Motorola Edge and Edge+, along with previous Galaxy phones. This can sometimes be a design gimmick that gets in the way, but TCL at least builds in some functionality for the edge that we’ll touch on later.
The big win here, though, is that the display covers the front of the phone and looks stunning in use. Colors pop and, for the most part, are accurate, and since this is an AMOLED panel, we were able to see strong contrast points that ultimately create an immersive viewing experience for videos or photos. It’s a delightful viewing experience, but it’s more comparable to the iPhone 12 family than the myriad of Android phones with high refresh rates.
This 6.7-inch display on the TCL 20 Pro 5G features a 60 Hz refresh rate — the higher the rate, the more natural and smooth the screen will appear. As we switch back and forth between devices with 90 Hz or 120 Hz displays, going back to 60 Hz can be jarring at times. We would have really liked to see TCL kick it up a notch to at least 90 Hz, especially when you remember the OnePlus Nord N200 5G features exactly that for much less.
It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it would have been a nice touch. TCL seemed to focus more on the NXTVISION feature set, which is found on its TVs. They’re pretty great in that department, as the TCL 8-Series is our pick for best TV. This feature set will automatically upscale content (use AI and software tricks to increase the base resolution) on the device and gives you a few viewing modes to cycle through. For instance, Vivid makes the colors pop and skews the temperature to a warmer preset. There is even an advanced option that lets you get specific across color settings.
If you value a phone’s display more than anything else, the 20 Pro 5G is compelling. Just know that it’s not buttery smooth at 60 Hz, but that shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re coming from a device with a higher refresh rate.
The rest of the design is modern and sleek. There’s no camera bump on the rear, as the four lenses sit flush with the rest of the back. You will find a slight, super-minimal bump for the LED flash, but it doesn’t cause much rocking when placed with the back down on a surface. The majority of the back feels like the Galaxy S20 FE, as it’s a soft plastic with a matte finish. We’ve been testing the Moondust Gray unit, a subdued color that moves along the gray scale depending on how the sunlight hits it. The real eye-catcher will be the Marine Blue color option. The extreme left portion of the backside is a black glossy finish, which spotlights the four-camera vertical array. It’s a nice design touch, but it showcases way too many fingerprints.
The top of the device features an IR blaster, which gives the 20 Pro 5G the unique ability to control TVs and other devices with ease. There’s even a built-in “IR Remote” app to set it all up. The real surprise is the headphone jack located alongside it at the top, a feature that almost every flagship phone has ditched over the last few years. Is there an incoming wave of midrange phones with headphone jacks? The TCL 20 Series, along with the OnePlus Nord N200, have us thinking that way.
You’ll charge the 20 Pro 5G through the USB-C port on the bottom. Please note that the 20 Pro 5G only supports up to a maximum of 18 watts of fast charging when wired, which is slow. Not a deal breaker by any means, but know that it can take about two hours to refuel fully. You can also place the device onto a Qi-wireless charging pad for up to 15 watts of charge.
Last but not least, let’s talk buttons — the left side features a single button that you can set to do anything. From the Google Assistant to opening the camera, that button’s fate is yours to decide. A volume rocker and the power/sleep button live on the right.
The actual day-to-day performance of the TCL 20 Pro 5G is solid across the board. With things like emails, web browsing, calls or texts, you’ll move along without any speed bumps or hicc
TCL’s new smartphone gets you 5G and a nearly perfect display
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