The TCL 20 Pro 5G is a good-looking budget phone that works on some first-generation nails 10 in Pro, but it is not quite ready to accept the class of heavyweights.
Just like its predecessor, the 20 Pro 5G combines a high-end look with a budget price tag – $ 499 with 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage in this case. It’s $ 50 higher than the starting price of 10 Pro, but this time you get more storage and also 5G.
It’s worth saying again: this is a very good looking phone for only $ 500. Its huge curved edge display has very thin frames, and the quality of the building is top notch with aluminum frame and glass at the front and rear. The rear-facing cameras are neatly arranged under a vertical strip that sits evenly with the back panel. It’s neat and kind of retro cool.
Good looks aside, I wouldn’t recommend the 20 Pro 5G to most people. There are a few downsides that make it feel like the second generation device it is. But most importantly, the 20 Pro 5G’s network compatibility and security support policies aren’t as strong as the Pixels and Galaxy A-series phones. It is designed for two operating system updates (a decent mid-range phone), but only two years of security fixes (less good ones).
It also has no compatibility with AT & T’s 5G network, and is not certified to use the C bands, which are likely to make Verizon and AT & T’s 5G networks much better in the coming years. It’s yet another device best suited for T-Mobile customers who get a full 4G and 5G connection and don’t have to worry so much about C-bandwidth.
The 20 Pro 5G has a lot to keep in mind, and TCL has taken some steps in the right direction with this device, but it’s still short.
TCL 20 Pro 5G display, performance and battery
Much praise for the 20 Pro 5G’s premium look goes to its curved 6.67-inch 1080p OLED display with slim frames – you won’t just find another similar display in this category. It offers a standard 60 Hz refresh rate, which speeds up 90 Hz and 120 Hz displays, so you don’t get that smooth scrolling here. I noticed that the color temperature of the screen jumps a little dirty between warm and cool, especially when you exit the camera app, but overall it’s a pleasure to watch. And fortunately, it seems that accidentally registering touches on curved pages seems to be much less prone than in the previous generation.
TCL has incorporated second-generation Nxtvision 2 technology into this, which aims to make standard image and video look more like dynamic content, with deeper blacks and brighter whites. You can choose from a few different profiles, “live” by default, or turn it off altogether.
We thought the first generation of this technology was a little heavy, and I can’t say I’m impressed this time too. The effect is often so subtle that I’m sure I wouldn’t notice it unless you knew it was there. When I saw a significant difference when it was turned on and off, it made the images look too unnatural for my taste. Nonetheless, I don’t think it would negatively affect anyone’s experience using this phone, it’s just not an impressive feature that TCL makes of it.
The company seems to be doubling this SDR-HDR conversion technology instead of joining the rest of the industry at faster refresh rates, and it’s starting to feel like a weird choice. A faster refresh rate display is an obvious benefit that many other users will see and appreciate. The benefits of viewing HDR content on an HDR screen are real, but the effect is difficult to emulate.
TCL has equipped the 20 Pro 5G with a Snapdragon 750G 5G processor and 6GB of RAM. It’s definitely a daily task, and only stutters with sometimes heavier tasks. The customizable smart key from last year’s model reappears here, and there are many functions you can map to, from opening a specific app to launching the camera in a specific mode, such as night or portrait.
It’s really useful, but unfortunately it’s still easy to bump unintentionally. It’s positioned out of the way so I don’t hit it when I use the phone; I accidentally press it when I lift the device or brush my hands against it. This allows you to get multiple photos of your couches on your camera roll that no one needs.
Moving to the top of the device has a 3.5mm headphone jack, which is great! The phone’s mono speaker isn’t very good, but I wouldn’t think it’s at this price, and anyway: a headphone jack! The optical screen fingerprint sensor is also good – one of the fastest and most accurate I’ve met in the mid-range class. I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate this after I’m struggling with some great fingerprint sensors on lower device devices.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G is equipped with a 4500 mAh battery. It will take you through a reasonable day, but the overall battery life doesn’t seem to be as durable as it could be. If you are a heavy user, you may push your luck by the end of a long day of use. The ship also has another premium feature: wireless charging up to 15 W. It’s something that’s still hard to achieve in the $ 500 and under-class class, and it’s just a little slower than the phone’s 18W wired charge.
On the software side, 20 Pro 5G devices with Android 11 and TCL have promised it two operating system updates. One (or god not, no one) is common in this class, so it’s great to see. However, it only receives two-year security updates, which lags behind Samsung and Google’s four- and three-year policies. You should get more than a couple of years of support for your $ 500 phone.
Otherwise, the Android taken by TCL is good. It’s highly customizable, but doesn’t feel too busy, and has handy features like a tray for frequently used apps placed on the right side of the screen, and the ability to arrange the system’s navigation buttons during installation. It’s a lot, but it feels useful rather than customization.
TCL 20 Pro 5G camera
The 20 Pro 5G includes a 48-megapixel f / 1.8 main camera with optical image stabilization that cannot be guaranteed at this price and is a real advantage in low light. The front also features a 16-megapixel ultra-wide, 2-megapixel macro and 2-megapixel depth sensor, as well as a 32-megapixel self-camera.
The camera hardware is clearly capable of doing good things. I was pleasantly surprised by the details of the photos taken outdoors in a good light – aggressive sharpening happens, but it’s not too disturbing. However, there is still room for improvement. The colors green and blue look a bit unnatural and bright. The photos can look smooth and washed out, and I noticed more lens reflections in my photos than I expected to see. It’s possible that this is due to the recessed location of the cameras rather than the protruding bump, which would be a real shame – I’d love to take a uglier camera bump in my photos than flare up.
Portrait mode makes a sufficiently convincing distinction to distinguish subjects from blurred backgrounds, although a disappointing number of my photographs showed a small inaccuracy of the subject, even with OIS assistance. The “Super Night” mode is a bit of a longing. It appears to retain detail in very low light images compared to normal auto mode, but it also uses strong noise reduction. The images have unnatural alignment and can skew a little too warmly – personally, I would stick to the auto mode for images taken in low light.
Overall, the features of the 20 Pro 5G camera are confusing. There are some real positives – OIS helps you get more stable images and detail retention is good – but overall it’s not quite similar to the Pixel 4A 5G and Galaxy A52 5G.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G has a lot to keep in mind, but it still feels like a device that still shakes up some of the quirks of the early generation. While it offers some features and hardware that you’d find hard to find on other $ 500 phones, it’s not quite the whole package it should be at that price.
There have been some important improvements during the first generation. The curved sides of the screen are less prone to accidental touches, and some nice additions have been made, such as the inclusion of wireless charging. Still, TCL is still relying on some things with this second-generation device: the Smart Key is still easy to accidentally press, the camera is the default setting, and Nxtvision is weaker.
And then there’s network compatibility – in the US, it’s a kind of puzzle where only established players have all the pieces. Thanks to some missing songs, Verizon and AT&T customers won’t get the most out of the device and its 5G features. And when only two years of security updates are promised, it lags behind competitors in terms of longevity.
If you’re on a T-Mobile and really want a budget device with a flagship look, the 20 Pro 5G is a good option with a strong warning that you’ll encounter some of your competitors ’things already figured out. Most others would do best to consider one of these $ 500 medium weights. Samsung Galaxy A52 5G offers a fast refresh rate display, better network compatibility, and a robust four-year security support policy. Google Pixel 4A 5G is also a good option with a better camera – if you can still find it in stock. You won’t get great curved display or top-notch construction quality with either of these options, but depending on your priorities, they can serve you better in the long run.
Photographer: Allison Johnson / The Verge