TCL 20 Pro 5G review: beauty is not everything

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The TCL 20 Pro 5G is a nice budget phone that fixes some of the first-gen issues we encountered in the 10 Pro, but it’s not quite ready to take on the heavyweights in the category.

Much like its predecessor, the 20 Pro 5G combines a premium look with an affordable price – $ 499 for 6GB of RAM and 256GB of storage in this case. That’s $ 50 more than the starting price of the 10 Pro, but this time you also get more storage and 5G.

It bears repeating: it’s a really good looking phone for just $ 500. Its huge screen with curved edges has super slim bezels and the build quality is top notch with an aluminum frame and glass on the front and back. The rear-facing cameras are neatly arranged under a vertical strip that is flush with the rear panel. It’s tidy and pretty retro cool.

Beauty aside, I wouldn’t recommend the 20 Pro 5G to most people. There are a few usage quirks that make it look like the second-gen device that it is. But more importantly, the 20 Pro 5G’s policy of network compatibility and security support is just not as strong as the Pixels and Galaxy A phones in the class. It’s slated for two OS upgrades (decent for a mid-range phone) but only two years of (not so good) security patches.

It also lacks compatibility with AT & T’s 5G network and is not certified to use C-band frequencies that will likely enhance Verizon and AT&T 5G networks over the next two years. This is yet another device that may be best suited for T-Mobile customers who will get full 4G and 5G connectivity and not have to worry so much about C-band.

There’s a lot to like about the 20 Pro 5G, and TCL has taken a few steps in the right direction with this device, but it’s still short.

Rather than offering a faster refresh rate, TCL opted to include its second-generation Nxtvision display technology.

TCL 20 Pro 5G display, performance and battery

Much of the credit for the 20 Pro 5G’s premium look goes to its 6.67-inch 1080p curved OLED display with slim bezels – you simply won’t find another display like this in this class. It offers a standard 60Hz refresh rate, going against the trend towards faster screens at 90Hz and 120Hz, so you won’t get that smooth scrolling quality here. I noticed a little bug in the screen color temperature that jumped between hot and cold, especially after exiting the camera app, but overall it’s a pleasure to watch. And thankfully, it seems a lot less prone to accidentally taping accidentally on the curved sides than in the previous generation.

TCL has included its second-generation Nxtvision 2 technology here, which aims to make standard images and videos look more like high dynamic range content, with deeper blacks and brighter whites. You can choose from a few different profiles, with “alive” by default, or turn it off completely.

We thought the first generation of this tech was a bit heavy, and I also can’t say I’m impressed this time around. The effect is often so subtle that I’m sure I wouldn’t notice it if I didn’t know it was there. When I was able to see a noticeable difference with on and off, the images looked too unnaturally processed for my liking. That said, I don’t think it’ll negatively impact anyone’s experience using this phone, it’s just not the awesome feature that TCL claims to be.

The company seems to be doubling down on this SDR to HDR conversion technology rather than joining the rest of the industry by embracing faster refresh rates, and it’s starting to sound like an odd choice. A faster refresh rate screen is a clear benefit that many more users will see and appreciate. The benefits of viewing HDR content on an HDR display are real, but the effect is hard to emulate.

TCL equipped the 20 Pro 5G with a Snapdragon 750G 5G processor and 6GB of RAM. These are certainly everyday tasks and only occasionally stutters with heavier tasks. The customizable smart key from last year’s model makes an appearance again here, and there are a ton of functions you can map it to, from opening a particular app to launching the camera in a mode. specific, such as night or portrait.

It’s really useful, but unfortunately it’s still easy to accidentally bump into. It’s placed out of the way so I don’t hit it while I’m using the phone; it’s just as I pick up the device or my hand brushes it that I accidentally push it down. This is how you end up with several photos of your sofa cushions in your wrap that no one needs.

Going towards the top edge of the device, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack which is great! The phone’s mono speaker isn’t that good, but I wouldn’t expect it to be at this price point, and anyway: headphone jack! The in-display optical fingerprint sensor is also good – one of the fastest and most accurate I’ve encountered in the mid-range class. I can’t stress enough how much I appreciate this after struggling with tricky fingerprint sensors in low-end devices.

The TCL 20 Pro 5G is equipped with a 4,500 mAh battery. It’ll get you through a day of moderate use, but the overall battery life doesn’t feel as rugged as it could be. If you are a heavy user, you can try your luck at the end of a long day of use. There’s also another premium feature on board here: wireless charging up to 15W. It’s something that’s still hard to find in the $ 500 and under category, and it’s only a little slower than the phone’s 18W wired charging.

On the software side, the 20 Pro 5G comes with Android 11 and TCL has promised it two operating system upgrades. One (or God forbid, none) is common in this class, so it’s great to see. However, it will only get two years of security updates, which is behind the four- and three-year policies of Samsung and Google, respectively. You should get over a few years of support with a $ 500 phone.

Otherwise, TCL’s take on Android is good. It’s highly customizable but doesn’t seem too busy, with handy features like a tray for frequently used apps tucked away on the right side of the screen, and the ability to rearrange the order of the system’s navigation buttons during setup. . That’s a lot, but it feels like useful stuff rather than over-personalization.

There are four camera sensors on the back of the device, including a stabilized 48-megapixel main camera.

TCL 20 Pro 5G Camera

The 20 Pro 5G includes a 48-megapixel f / 1.8 main camera with optical image stabilization, which is not guaranteed at this price point and is a real advantage in low-light conditions. There’s also a 16-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, a 2-megapixel macro and a 2-megapixel depth sensor as well as a 32-megapixel selfie camera on the front.

The camera hardware is clearly capable of good things. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of detail in the photos I took outside in good lighting – there’s aggressive sharpening going on, but it’s not too intrusive. However, there is still room for improvement. Colors like greens and blues look a bit artificial and bright. Photos can appear flat and washed out, and I spotted more highlights in my images than I would expect to see. It is possible that this was an effect of the back position of the cameras rather than a protruding bump, which would be a real shame – I would happily take an uglier camera bump than flare in my Pictures.

The portrait mode does a convincing enough job of separating subjects from a blurry background, although a disappointing number of my photos showed some subject blur even with OIS assistance. The “Super Night” mode is a bit missed. It seems to retain more detail in very low light images compared to standard auto mode, but it also uses strong noise reduction. Pictures show unnatural smoothness and can be a bit too warm – personally I would stick with auto mode for low light shots.

Overall, the 20 Pro 5G’s camera capabilities are disappointing. There are some real positives – OIS helps you get more stable shots and detail retention is good – but overall it’s not quite on par with the Pixel 4A 5G and Galaxy. A52 5G.

While it offers premium features for its price, the 20 Pro 5G is hard to recommend to anyone.

There’s a lot to love about the TCL 20 Pro 5G, but it still looks like a device that’s still getting rid of some of the first-gen quirks. While it does offer features and hardware that you’d be hard-pressed to find on another $ 500 phone, it’s not quite the total package it should be for this price.

There have been some significant improvements over the first generation. The curved sides of the screen are less prone to accidental touching, and there have been some cool additions like the inclusion of wireless charging. Still, some issues remain where TCL still finds its place with this second-gen device: the Smart Key is still easy to accidentally press, the camera is basic, and Nxtvision is disappointing.

And then there’s network compatibility – in the US it’s kind of a puzzle that only established gamers have all the pieces of. Thanks to some of these missing parts, Verizon and AT&T customers will not be getting the most out of this device and its 5G capabilities. And with just two years of promised security updates, it lags the competition in longevity.

If you’re on T-Mobile and would really like a budget device with a flagship look and feel, then the 20 Pro 5G is a good option, with a strong caveat that you’re going to endure some issues that competitors already have. including. Most others would be better off considering one of those midrange $ 500 heavyweights. The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G offers a fast refresh rate display, better network compatibility, and a strong four-year security support policy. The Google Pixel 4A 5G is also a good option, with a better camera – if you can find it still in stock. You won’t get a fancy curved screen or premium build quality with either of these alternatives, but depending on your priorities, they may serve you better in the long run.

Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge


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