In the smartphone’s annual release cycle, it’s easy to focus on the latest and greatest from Apple and Samsung, with a bit of Google Pixel for good measure.
I’m as guilty as anyone by looking primarily at consumer phones – the ones that consumers are most interested in buying. But these aren’t the only games in the Tech City.
I’m trying to include smaller manufacturers, and today it’s the TCL 20 Pro 5G Android phone ($ 529.99).
TCL is a Chinese electronics manufacturer best known for its televisions. I have had a TCL TV in my living room for a few years and am extremely happy with its performance and picture quality.
I reviewed the predecessor TCL 10 Pro 5G last year. I called the phone “nice enough, but just one more mid-priced phone in an already crowded area.”
Let’s see if TCL’s new phone can go âpretty coolâ.
The 20 Pro 5G is a beautiful phone. It has a modern design with the screen taking up the entire front of the phone. The sides of the screen curl in a design reminiscent of Samsung Galaxy phones from a few years ago.
The sides and back of the phone are made of glass and the phone has a quality look and feel.
The top of the phone has an infrared emitter so you can control TVs, set-top boxes and other devices using infrared remotes. The top also has a headphone jack.
The lower edge has a speaker, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and the SIM slot.
The right edge has the sleep / wake button and the volume up and down buttons.
The left side has a smart button that you can program to launch Google Assistant, open the camera, or many other functions.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G’s screen is really the best feature of the phone. There is a screen enhancement technology called NXTVISION (shared with TCL TVs) that allows the user to set screen calibrations.
You can choose from three presets – Vivid, Natural, and Standard or Advanced, which allows the user to customize the calibration. There is also a mode to enhance video games and provide HDR (high dynamic range) if the video source supports it.
The 6.67-inch AMOLED display is a winning feature of the 20 Pro 5G. It has a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels. The screen has a refresh rate of 60 Hertz, which feels slow compared to high-end phones, but for the price, compromises have to be made.
The phone runs Android 11, and TCL says it will include the next two Android updates.
There is only one memory configuration: 256 gigabytes of storage and six gigabytes of RAM. The phone has a microSD card slot for up to 1 terabyte of additional storage.
The chipset is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G with an octa-core Kryo 560 processor and an Adreno 619 graphics processor.
Biometrics for unlocking includes an on-screen fingerprint reader and facial recognition.
It has an IP52 degree of protection, which means that it is protected against limited ingress of dust and splashing water up to 15 degrees from the vertical. So you can use it in light rain, but don’t immerse it in the pool.
Connectivity includes Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.1.
The 4,500 milliampere-hour battery has a talk time of up to 28 hours and features Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (18-watt wired) wireless charging and 15-watt Qi wireless charging. The wired charging rate is quite slow compared to other phones.
The 5G in the name of the phone is the slowest sub-6 5G version, but the most available, and not the fastest mm wave version.
There are four cameras on the back of the 20 Pro 5G, but you’ll really only use two.
The main camera is a 48-megapixel wide-angle with optical image stabilization. The second is a 16MP ultra-wide. The other two are a 5MP macro camera (for extreme close-ups) and a 2MP depth sensor used for portrait modes.
The selfie camera has a 32MP sensor.
The front and rear cameras can capture 4K video at 30 frames per second.
I found the cameras a bit soft compared to my iPhone XS Max, but that’s really not a fair comparison. The 20 Pro 5G main cameras are good enough for a mid-range phone, but don’t expect miracles.
I found the selfie camera to be surprisingly good.
Another touch I liked is that the cameras are lined up on the back of the phone. There is no camera bump.
Pricing and availability
The TCL 20 Pro 5G costs $ 529.99 and is available on Amazon. The phone is unlocked and will work with all major carriers. The unique configuration of 6 GB of RAM and 256 GB of internal storage is available in navy blue or moondust gray.
You might notice that the phone is listed for $ 499.99 on TCL’s website, but the buy button on the site takes the buyer to Amazon, where the phone costs $ 529.99.
The TCL 20 Pro 5G is a midrange to midrange phone.
It has a remarkable display, but the rest of the features are a bit ho-hum.
I’m not sure if the screen is enough to make me want to choose TCL over similarly priced phones from Samsung or Google.
Pros: Wonderfully crisp and clear display, good amounts of RAM and storage, microSD card slot.
Cons: Besides the screen, none of the other features stand out.
Bottom Line: Hard to recommend over similarly priced Samsung or Google phones.
Jim Rossman writes for the Dallas Morning News.