Review: TCL 20 Pro 5G – Is it Better Than Premium Phones?

TCL isn’t new to the smartphone world, having released multiple mid-range devices over the past year. The TCL 20 Pro 5G is its most ambitious (and most expensive) addition to date. It features a premium design that’ll make you do a double-take and ask yourself, “Does this phone really cost $500?”

We’ve heard a lot of great things about the TCL 20 Pro 5G, and at first glance, its specs seem great. However, as we’ve seen before, specs can lie, so we decided to put the phone to the test. Keep reading for our full review of TCL’s newest smartphone.

Design and Hardware

What’s in the box: The TCL 20 Pro 5G retails for $499.99. It comes with an ejector pin, power adapter, USB-A-to-C cable, and a clear phone case. It doesn’t come with headphones, but who still uses them anyway? 

Looking at the TCL 20 Pro 5G, it’s impossible not to mistake it for a high-end smartphone. Its centerpiece is a 6.67-inch AMOLED screen that spreads across the entire surface — like an infinity pool in your hand. It definitely doesn’t look mid-range despite its $499.99 price tag. It is possibly the prettiest phone that TCL has ever released.

Although it has similarities with last year’s TCL 10 Pro, the TCL 20 Pro 5G looks more “refined” due to its redesigned backside. The TCL 10 Pro was known for its horizontally lined cameras — we’re relieved that TCL decided to go for the classic vertical arrangement with the 20 Pro 5G.

Just like other premium phones, the TCL 20 Pro 5G has a rear glass panel, but TCL upped their game by giving this phone a two-tone finish. Most of the back is matte except for a glossy stripe along the left side, bearing a striking resemblance to the Realme 7 5G. The matte glass significantly reduces fingerprint build-up while improving grip.

The 1080p AMOLED display has curved edges and is 0.2-inches wider than the TCL 10 Pro. The screen dips slightly to the sides, and while we aren’t fans of the waterfall display, it perfectly suits the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s aesthetic. The phone itself has squared corners similar to the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Underneath the display is the optical fingerprint scanner. It’s positioned slightly lower than most models (kind of like the OnePlus 9), making it a bit uncomfortable. It’s also slower than the sensors on a similarly priced phone, but it’s not a dealbreaker.

You can find the volume rocker and power button on the right, and a programmable smart key on the left. The mono speaker, USB Type-C port, and the nano-SIM/microSD tray are along the bottom. If you’re wondering where the headphone jack is, it’s at the top of the phone — not the best position in our opinion.

Overall, the TCL 20 Pro 5G offers a sleek design that’s surprisingly sophisticated for a mid-range phone. It looks and feels like a high-end phone, plus, it’s IP52 splash resistant.

Software and Performance

The TCL 20 Pro 5G is powered by the Snapdragon 750G chip, with 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Performance-wise, we can’t really complain. As a mid-range model, it handled multitasking with ease. Switching from one app to another was smooth, and we didn’t notice any significant stutters. We tested it out by playing Genshin Impact, a game that can be very demanding, processor-wise. We didn’t notice any lag during gameplay and the graphics looked gorgeous on its AMOLED display.

Out of the box, the TCL 20 Pro 5G runs on Android 11 with TCL’s user interface named TCL UI. While TCL’s interface isn’t the worst, it is filled with unnecessary clutter. It comes with apps for music, videos, weather, etc. that users won’t likely use. It splits the pre-installed apps according to their category, but unfortunately, it tends to put apps that the user installs in a folder named “Other”.

The TCL 20 Pro 5G is equipped with a 4500mAh battery. It’s enough to last a day of moderate use, but it won’t last more than six hours of heavy use (e.g. gaming and watching videos). The upside, however, is that it is compatible with wireless charging. That’s hard to come by with mid-range phones (or ones in the $500 range in general), so we’re impressed.

Camera and Image Quality

At the rear, the 20 Pro’s quad-camera includes a 48-megapixel f/1.8 camera with optical image stabilization, 16-megapixel ultrawide, 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor. There’s also a 32-megapixel selfie camera in front. 

On paper, its specs seem impressive. Forty-eight megapixels should get you crystal-clear images, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The level of detail of photos taken in outdoor light was intense — too intense. Colors also appeared unnaturally vivid and bright (imagine bumping up the saturation to 30%). 

Portrait mode did a decent job of making the subject stand out from a blurred background. “Super Night” mode, on the other hand, was a miss. Noise reduction was too heavy, making objects appear strangely smooth.

Overall, the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s camera is anti-climactic. It’s not on par with other mid-range phones such as the Galaxy A52 and the Pixel 4A.

The Verdict

The TCL 20 Pro 5G is an affordable phone that looks premium. Unfortunately, that’s all it is. For a mid-range phone, it is appropriately priced. However, there are several phones in the same price range that have noticeable better features, especially when it comes to the camera.

Though it is a step above the TCL 10 Pro, there isn’t anything truly special about it. There’s also the issue of compatibility — if you’re an AT&T or Verizon customer, keep in mind that the TCL 20 Pro 5G does not offer C-band support. The 20 Pro 5G currently works only for T-Mobile customers.

Ultimately, the TCL 20 Pro 5G is for users who are interested in functionality. That is, if you’re looking for a mid-range phone that can do the basics. However, you may want to consider its competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy A52 and the Google Pixel 4A, as they offer better network compatibility and better image quality.

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