Who are TCL? I can hear you ask, Well, don’t worry too much. TCL were behind the BlackBerry rebirth and you may have seen some of their Alcatel phones in the past, it is a fast-growing consumer electronics company and leading player in the global TV industry. Founded in 1981, it now operates in over 160 markets globally. According to Sigmaintell, TCL ranked 2nd in the global TV market in terms of sales volume in 2019.
So they know their stuff, and recently the company got in touch with us and asked if we would like to review the latest handset the R20 5G, well before its general release.
- Gorgeous 90hz screen.
- Good Build Quality.
- 5G connectivity.
- Good Battery Life.
- 3.5mm Audio Jack.
- Fast Face Unlock.
- SD Card Support.
- Slippery when not in a case.
- Camera Quality.
- Auto brightness can be a bit too aggressive.
- No Wireless charging.
- Mediatek Chipset.
- 6GB ram with either 128/256GB Storage.
- 4500mAh battery, up to 18W Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0
- USB-C charging data port.
- 6.67 inch FHD Display 1080X2400 resolution with 395 PPI, 0:9 aspect ratio.
- 48MP main camera, 8MP wide-angle, 2MP macro camera.
- Video Capture 4K@30FPS, 1080p@60/30FPS.
- 8MP front camera, 1080p@30FPS.
- 3.5mm Audio Jack.
- SC Card Support.
- Rear capacitive fingerprint reader.
The TCL has a 6.67 Screen a metal frame and plastic back, where there is the camera hump and fingerprint reader, upon first picking the device up it reminded me so much of a Pixel 3, The left side of the device is plain apart from the SIM card/SD card tray located at the bottom. On the right side volume up/down and power button below, I found that these were a little low down on the frame for my large hands. Up at the top is the 3.5mm Audio Jack, and microphone, and at the bottom is the single speaker and USB-C port. There is a very slight rib to the metal chassis, almost invisible to the eye, but gives a tactical feedback and extra grip when used without a case.
In Use :-
Upon booting up the TCL the first thing I noticed is the screen, it’s really bright and clear, and comes with a 90hz refresh rate, at the top is a tear drop notch, but I found the chin a little on the large side although, it’s clear that TCL have put their TV expertise into this screen, which the company have billed as NXTVision. This AMOLED screen digitally upscales content, making games and videos look HDR, and tweaking images viewed, to make them better-looking, the device comes with a 90% screen to body ratio, a reading mode, eye comfort mode and low blue light. With this all told, this screen clearly punches well above it weight and I’ve to say in some circumstances it was nicer to look at than my S21 Ultra, and I found it too bright when the brightness was ramped up to 100%, that said I found that the auto brightness setting was to aggressive when it came to adjusting the screen output, no gradual lowering/raising of brightness.
Set up is the usual Android affair but with the inclusion of choice of search provider, loads more than I have seen previously.
The R20 5G comes with TCL UI version 3 which is very close to stock Android and comes with the Google Feed off to the left of the launcher. The App drawer has lots of customisation and the apps can be arranged in a multitube of ways. There is some bloat apps are installed Facebook, booking com, Open Office, Microsoft news etc, but these can be fully uninstalled.
As with every review that I do I decided to use the TCL as my only device, putting my S21 Ultra in the drawer for the duration. Did I miss my Samsung flagship ? well for 95% of the time no I didn’t and for the retail price of this device that was pretty amazing. The face unlock, although not as secure as other iterations, unlocked the device really quick, and the capacitive fingerprint reader on the back worked flawlessly on every asking.
The UI is very close to stock Android (once I had removed the bloatware) and swipes were fluid and smooth, I only noticed the occasional stutter opening certain apps Youtube and OneNote being the main culprits, (this may improve as software updates arrive.)
The device shipped with RCS messaging service working straight out of the box, and it was showing as having the July 21 Security Patch, but again I imagine this will be updated in due course. Everyone I spoke to said the call quality was really clear, with no dropped calls.
I connected the TCL to my Galaxy Watch, and all the notification’s came through fine, and I was able to make/receive calls with no issues, sometimes the Bluetooth connection would drop, but that may be down to the two manufactures not playing nice together. The single speaker on the bottom of the unit, it loud and clear, it does lack bass, but it is more than adequate for podcasts, news etc.
Battery life was on par with my S21 Ultra, which was a surprise as it was driving that fantastic screen, I know people measure screen on time etc etc, I just used the device as I would on any normal day, I took the device off charge at approx 6am and used it during my normal working day returning home 7:30 that evening with 45% battery remining, so the R20 should easily last the whole day.
The R20 is a 5G device and I was able to get some decent data speeds on the device, although as with any 5G speeds this down to numerous factors.
Unfortunately, I think I may have found the R20’s Achilles heel, or where the company have lowered spec’s to get the device at low price point. The camera set up does have some interesting modes including Super macro, Light trace, Stop motion, and Portrait mode. In good bright light the camera is able to produce some good acceptable images.
The problems start to appear in low light, here the camera really struggles and the images produced were blurry with poor edge detection.
The R20 5G is a cracking phone that is well worth the money, and will be available through EE from October 29th Priced at £21 per month at £0 upfront with 4GB data, and available for general sale in the UK from November for £179.
I really liked the form factor, and the screen is just a joy to look at, at times I thought it looked better than my £1200 S21 Ultra ( and lets be honest that’s where we spend most of our day).
It does it have some faults, yes of course but these are mainly in the camera department, but I have a very early version of the device and I can see that these short comings can be addressed in further updates, it won’t be the phone for the absolute top end spec hunters. It is not intended to be for that market.
Look back in the Coolsmartphone archives where Leigh reviewed the TCL 10 5G a midrange handset priced at over double the R20’s price, and this lower tier device scores higher.
Would I recommend this phone to people yes I would, I know the lower tiers of the market is flooded with devices from all over the globe but the R20 5G is a handset worthy of a look if your in that market.