Last year TCL entered the mobile phone space with their very own branded smartphone the 10 Pro and 10L and we remarked at their simplicity, eye-catching aesthetic, and the fact that the company somehow managed to offer users premium features with little to no cut corners at a fraction of the price of their competitors. In 2021, TCL has returned with their successor the 20 Pro 5G which again manages to improve the overall performance of the device with necessary iterative updates to keep it competitive in the smartphone space.
Design-wise, TCL has managed to create a handset that is not only immersive but feels excellent in the hand for day to day use with a vivid bezel-less 6.67-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen which is slightly larger and brighter than last year and again is enhanced by TCL’s NXTVISION technology, real-time HDR processing and AI Picture Quality (AIPQ) technology designed to distinguish between various types of scenes to adaptively adjust the color, contrast, and sharpness of the image. The sides of the phone have a grippy aluminum finish with your typical power and volume buttons and the return of a fully programmable side button which we appreciate. The back of the phone also has a trending matte finish to reduce fingerprints and a quad-camera design completely flush with the back in a horizontal strip that eliminates any camera bump to be thought of. One year after the 10 Pro, we still believe TCL has managed the impossible with the best-designed camera setup for eliminating annoying bumps on the back of a smartphone.
Internally, the device has been upgraded with the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 750G which is an octa-core processor that also brings 5G connectivity for the first time. This is paired with 6GB Ram which sadly stays the same as last year, but you do get a generous micro-SD expandable 256GB of internal storage on top of the latest Android 11 operating system with at least two guaranteed major updates in the device’s lifetime as well as a slew of common security updates. TCL has also included a similar 4500Mah battery with 18-watt 3.0 quick charging and new this year is 15-watt wireless charging which is an unfortunate omission last year. Lastly, you get the latest in Bluetooth 5.1, dual-band Wi-Fi and USB-C powered connectivity options which are par for the course. Call quality too was solid with VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling available on every Canadian carrier that sells the phone.
We won’t focus on benchmarks as a measure of performance here because we value telling our readers about our real hands-on experience and again here TCL continues to impress with a very fluid near-stock experience which is helped along nicely by upper-mid range Qualcomm processor. Apps launch quickly, web browsing is a treat and media consumption has been brilliant on this larger more vibrant screen helped by HDR certification and a high-res audio experience. Battery life has been serviceable maybe even a little disappointing, but it will get you a day to a day and a half with mixed-use which again is just good, not great in 2021.
Lastly, there is the camera and yes, there have been significant improvements to both the camera hardware and image processing on the 20 Pro 5G. The phone now features a 48-megapixel quad-camera system with an optically stabilized main camera, 16MP (ultra-wide) 5MP (macro) 2MP (depth) lens array. Let’s first start with video, the TCL 20 Pro 5G can capture 4K video featuring up to 30fps and OIS + EIS stabilization while on the move, and video HDR capturing the brightest and darkest parts of a scene and this is a notable improvement over last years offering. Video quality is crisp, with very little digital noise and excellent detail even in low light. Photo-wise, the main lens produces some very commendable results with a natural depth of field and just enough color pop to make photos Instagram-ready. The ultra-wide yielded satisfactory results but lacked detail especially in less-than-ideal lighting conditions which is likely the result of a lower megapixel count. However, both the primary and ultra-wide performance is significantly improved using low light mode which resulted in some very nice night shots. The macro lens is good in a pinch for a close-up, but you probably won’t use it all that much and the 2x zoom is sadly just a crop in on the main 48-megapixel sensor and not a dedicated zoom lens. Selfie fans though can rejoice with a decent 32-megapixel front camera which delivers some nice detail.
So, do we recommend the TCL 20 Pro 5G? TCL has managed to deliver up a notable offering in the mid-range category with a device that does a lot right. Performance is smooth, the display is beautiful, and the camera is as good as it gets at the price point, however, we do feel that more strides need to be taken forward with the next release. TCL know how to make a beautiful smartphone aesthetically but if you want to move units, you must compete and bring something different to the table, the 20 Pro 5G is iterative and a good buy but TCL needs to push the envelop here if you want to be recognized and that can be done. Take note readers, they are coming!
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