TCL 20S review: the best $ 250 Android smartphone available today

After reading TCL’s plan to release three new 20-series smartphones, I wondered how the TCL 20S stuck between the under $ 200 TCL 20SE and the mid-range TCL 20 Pro 5G. After using the TCL 20S for a few weeks, I would personally spend the extra $ 60 on the 20S instead of the 20SE.

Unlike the TCL 20SE, the TCL 20S is compatible with T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon LTE networks, so adding Verizon here is a significant improvement. The 20S has a higher-level processor, an NFC chip, better cameras, better speakers, and support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0.

TCL 20S Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 665
  • Display: 6.67-inch LCD, 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution (395 ppi)
  • Operating system: Android 11
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128 GB of internal storage with microSD card
  • Cameras: 64MP main, 8MP ultra-wide with 118 field of view, 2MP macro and 2MP depth sensor. 16MP front camera.
  • Connectivity: 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, FM radio, NFC
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, side fingerprint sensor, electronic compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
  • Battery: 5000 mAh non-removable with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support
  • LTE bands: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 38, 40, 41, 66, 71
  • Dimensions: 166 x 77 x 9.14 mm and 199 grams
  • Colors: Milky Way Gray and North Star Blue

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Equipment

TCL sent in the color Milky Way Gray for testing, but this North Star Blue also looks slick. The back panel is plastic with a textured matte finish that looks great in bright light conditions. The array of four cameras sits on the far left in a vertical arrangement, typical of TCL 20 series smartphones.

The screen takes up a generous portion of the front, with a reported 91% screen-to-body ratio. A central perforated front camera is present with a visible display appearing around the opening. You can toggle the software to customize the way the “Dotch” appears on the phone. The screen is LCD, but incorporates TCL’s NXTVISION technology and I really enjoyed watching several movies on it during my evaluation period.

There’s no high refresh rate display here, which is expected for a phone priced at $ 250. It’s a typical 60Hz screen, but it has excellent resolution and is perfect for movies and text.

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In addition to the large vibrant screen, there are two speakers so you can enjoy movies in landscape orientation. The speakers are much better than the TCL 20SE and I could watch movies all day without headphones. There is also still a standard 3.5mm audio port on the top of the phone.

tcl-20s-3.jpg

A Google Assistant activation button is on the left side, along with the SIM / microSD card tray, while the volume and power buttons are on the right. The fingerprint sensor is built into the power button so that you can easily pick up and unlock your phone with your finger or thumb when you turn on the device.

A USB-C port sits at the bottom to charge the 5,000mAh battery. The battery will allow you to easily get through at least a day of use.

Software

The TCL 20S is launched with Android 11 and TCL UI version 3.x. The May 5, 2021 Android security update is present on the test device.

TCL’s user interface offers a fairly stocked Android experience with most of the TCL customizations found in the launcher and settings focused on TCL’s display technologies. I’m not a big fan of the default app launcher setting which organizes your apps by category, but you can just switch to the most common option by name by double-tapping.

There are a few apps provided, such as Gallery, FM radio, and the NXTVISION utility, which make it easier to use the features found on the phone. Some unique settings / utilities include an Edge Bar for quickly launching apps, accessing a handy ruler, and connecting with your contacts. There is also a quick fingerprint launch option so that a long press on the scanner below the screen will take you directly to the selected app.

The Google feed is available as a home screen panel on the far left. All other functions expected from Google Android are also present on the phone.

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Daily use experiences and conclusion

The TCL 20S is available now for $ 249.99 from the TCL Store on Amazon. That’s a great price for a phone with these specs and performance.

The two main rear cameras and the front camera have a higher resolution and are better than those same three cameras on the TCL 20SE. I was able to achieve good results when shooting with the TCL 20S and appreciated the versatility of the camera software.

The TCL 20S is not a gaming phone, and trying out racing games and other games with demanding graphics shows blocking performance. Puzzle games and other static games were good. I’m so used to high refresh rate displays now that going back to a 60Hz display is a bit of a pain for quickly scrolling through web pages and long lists.

TCL is known for its display technology and brings its expertise to the phone. The TCL 20S has auto brightness, reading mode, and eye comfort mode that reduces blue light to help your eyes reduce fatigue. The visual and audio experiences on this phone exceed the low price of $ 250.

The TCL 20S is one of the best $ 250 phones you can find today and if I was looking for a phone in this price range I would pay the extra $ 60 to buy this one compared to the TCL 20SE. The 20SE has several tradeoffs that are resolved in the 20S and I think over the life of the phone people will be happier with the 20S. The screen is gorgeous, the speakers are loud, the user interface is almost Android-sourced, the battery life is solid, and there’s a lot to like about the TCL 20S.

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About Dianne Stinson

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