TCL 20 Pro 5G review: Displaying the right balance
TCL may not be a big name in the smartphone space and has previously been happy to release phones under the Alcatel and BlackBerry brands. However, a lot has changed over the space of a few years.
In 2020, the company let loose the 10 Pro. We found that smartphone to be ‘cool, controlled and calculated’ and an impressive effort by the tech manufacturer.
But how has TCL improved with the latest upgrade, the 20 Pro 5G? Let’s find out.
How do I get it and what will it cost?
TCL’s 20 Pro 5G is available to purchase outright for $799 and joins three other smartphones recently launched in Australia – the TCL 20 5G, TCL 20L+ and TCL 20 SE.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G can be snapped up from Vodafone and Mobileciti, and Harvey Norman in early August. There are two colour options – Marine Blue (which is our review unit) and Moondust Gray.
Australians who purchase the TCL 20 Pro 5G between July 15 and 29 from Vodafone and Mobileciti will also receive a bonus TCL 43-inch Full HD LED Android Smart TV (model is TCL S625) as a gift with purchase by redemption, with an RRP of $599.
That’s a pretty impressive deal.
Who is it good for?
This is a smartphone that costs under $800. There are some shortcomings when you compare it to the best of the best from Samsung, Apple and even Oppo.
But during my time with the TCL 20 Pro 5G, I found there was a pretty good balance between all those bells and whistles, and what is actually lacking on the device.
It’s a beautifully designed mobile that does everything you need it to do without much of an issue. It comes down to what phone you’re upgrading from, and what you actually use your smartphone for.
If you’re not a power user who must have the very latest features, TCL has you covered with a very capable mid-ranger.
When you hold the TCL 20 5G Pro for the first time it feels right. There’s a really nice weight to the device, and it doesn’t feel cheap either.
The first thing I noticed is the display. It’s bright and clear with good dynamic range. It’s up there with some of the best ones that I’ve seen – which isn’t a huge surprise given TCL is known for its display panels, especially within the TV space.
There’s a single punch hole in the top centre of the screen, with the display wrapping slightly around the edges to create an immersive viewing experience. Speaking of that, I found that viewing angles are really good.
Around the back is a vertical array of four camera lenses positioned to the left of the device’s backside. These are a 48MP primary lens, 16MP ultra-wide, and a 2MP depth sensor and 5MP macro camera. I just wish phone manufacturers would stop throwing in more lenses for that ‘wow’ factor because there isn’t much wow with those last two lenses.
Up the top, we have a headphone jack for those still refusing to jump on board the wireless headphone train. There’s also an IR blaster which can be used to control your smart TV or other infrared remote devices.
The usual power and volume rocker are positioned on the right, and on the left is a programmable button that can be programmed to open up a particular app or complete an action. Quite handy.
At the bottom is the sim tray and a single mono speaker – which does get quite loud.
If I had to sum everything up in a single word, I’d say the TCL 20 Pro 5G is reliable.
To keep that price firmly grounded under the $800 mark there needed to be some compromises and we’re seeing more and more manufacturers pivot to areas where they feel smartphone users are more interested.
With TCL in mind, this is clearly the display. Last year, PCMag spoke to TCL’s General Manager of Global Marketing Stefan Streit about the focus of the 10 Pro being on the one area where its customers are looking at the most.
This is a fantastic 6.67-inch OLED display that has great viewing angles and gets bright enough to use while in direct sunlight. If a high refresh rate is something you absolutely need, then you’ll need to look at another device – but if you don’t even know what that means you’re not going to miss a thing.
The optical fingerprint reader is positioned underneath the screen and is responsive enough. You can also use the usual pin code login, or less secure face unlock.
You’ll get Android 11 which is the latest available version of Google’s operating system with some tweaking on top by TCL. There are some slight changes and additions which are nice to see. TCL is also promising two years of updates so you should see up to Android 13 along with the usual security updates.
While I appreciate the stock Android look and feel, there are still some very odd design elements added into TCL’s version. I found that Fingerprint Quick Launch is still a little bit buggy to use daily, and the Edge Bar had moments where it would freeze the whole phone for a couple of seconds. Future updates will hopefully fix both those issues since I’m on pre-release software.
When it comes to photography, TCL appears to have given a little bit more thought to the cameras and how most people will use them. However, putting it bluntly – you’re not going to get the same quality in your snaps as those from an iPhone 12 or Samsung S21, but they are perfectly usable for social media and sharing with your friends.
More often than not the photos taken with the main 48MP lens are true to life compared to some other manufacturers. There is also some really good depth of field voodoo happening. Low-light photos can be a little hit and miss though with some small details lost in most cases and some noise introduced.
The same can be said for the ultra-wide camera, which does a good job overall but can struggle when it comes to not having enough light. But interestingly, the TCL 20 Pro 5G did take some better shots compared to the Galaxy S20 FE in some cases. These were mostly while using the primary camera – which is probably what most will use for a point and shoot.
When it comes to macro photography, it’s not going to take amazingly detailed photos – but it’s still fun to use. But I feel that TCL could have given the ultra-wide some more love and just left the macro off the to-do list.
What’s to like?
- Premium design
- Gorgeous display
- Clean user interface with Android 11
- Good camera quality from both primary and ultra-wide lenses
- Clear call quality
What’s not to like?
- Battery can struggle to get through the day
- Odd software quirks
- Lacking waterproofing and stereo speakers
What we think
TCL 20 Pro 5G comes in at $50 more expensive than last year’s 10 Pro, but is it worth it?
I think the answer to that for most people is a resounding yes. You can tell that there has been thought along every part of the planning for this device to balance the features and to keep that price as low as possible.
The design of the phone tops the 10 Pro, I love the way that the camera array sits flush with the back of the photo (no bumps or lumps here) and the camera quality is great for everyday use. The screen is up there with the best that you can get on a smartphone, and that is to TCL’s absolute credit.
I’d like to see some improvements in the battery life, and this can most likely be done through future software updates and there are a couple of weird ways that some features of the software are implemented.
But overall, the TCL 20 Pro 5G is a tidy package that is well worth your cash.
TCL provided this publisher with a loan device for testing purposes. This did not affect our views on the device, and our review remains independent of the manufacturer.