TCL 20 Series review: Three solid smartphones with features to match

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TCL is fairly new to the smartphone game, but they’ve really brought their “A” game in spades. Their first few runs have been outstanding, and now they’re back with the TCL 20 Series of smartphones. The TCL 20 Series is a trio of excellent choices that appeal to a broad swath of users.

Estimated reading time: 27 minutes

I generally do stand-alone reviews for devices, but since TCL sent all three of the TCL 20 Series devices, I decided to combine the reviews into one. The TCL 20 Series share some similarities, and after using them for a few weeks, I think these devices can score them altogether because they’re so similar yet different.

I’m hoping this review doesn’t get too long, so I will try and give the basic snapshot about each of these devices below. The TCL 20 Series is good enough to take an Editor’s Choice award as TCL offers great value for money. No smartphone is perfect, not even the big boys, but for what the 20 Series offers, this is a solid trio of smartphones. Read on for the full TCL 20 Series review.

TCL 20 Series Specifications

The TCL 20 Series smartphones have the following features and specifications:

TCL 20 Pro 5G

TCL 20 Pro 5G TCL 20 Series
The Pro 5G
Carrier Compatibility Compatible with T-Mobile 5G & LTE networks Certified for use on the AT&T LTE network. This device is currently not certified for use on Verizon. Not compatible with CDMA Networks
Design
Size6.47” x 2.87” x 0.35~0.36”
Weight6.7 oz
ColorMoondust Gray Marine Blue
Side KeysVolume
Power Smart Key
Memory
ROM/RAM256GB ROM / 6GB RAM
SD SupportmicroSDXC up to 1TB
End-User Space239GB
Features
Chipset Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 750G (SDM7225)
Processor Speed & TypeQualcomm® Kryo™ 560 octa-core processor (2 x Gold 2.2 GHz, 6 x Silver 1.8 GHz)
GPUQualcomm® Adreno™ 619 at 800MHz
Operating System and Version No. Android™ 11 
Sensors Accelerometer (G sensor)
GPS (A-GPS)
Proximity
Light
E-Compass
Gyro
Hall Switch RGB Sensor
Fingerprint Yes, in-screen
Facial RecognitionYes
TTY/TTD EnabledCompatible
SAR RatingMaximum 0.76 W/kg head; 1.37 W/kg body
IP RatingIP52
Display
Size6.67” Dotch™ Display
TypeAMOLED
Resolution FHD+ (2400 x 1080) 
Aspect Ratio20:9
Refresh Rate60 Hz
Screen to body ratio93%
Glass TypeDual-sided 3D glass
Touch TechnologyIn-cell
Color Reproduction394PPI, 16.7M colors, 700 nits brightness (typical HBM)
Connectivity
Network BandsGSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
UMTS: 1/2/4/5/8
LTE: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12(MFBI)/13/14/17/20/25/26/28/29/
30/38/40/ 41/48/66/71 5G: n2/5/7/41/66/71/78
Data2G: GPRS/EDGE
3G: HSPA+ (42Mbps DL, 5.76Mbps UL)
4G: DL: 1.2Gbps, CAT18   UL:150Mbps, CAT13 5G: DL: 2.737Gbps  UL:625Mbps
VoLTEYes (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon)
Mobile HotspotYes (4G/5G)
VoWiFiYes (T-Mobile only)
Wi-Fi Specs802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Direct Wi-Fi Casting
Bluetooth5.1
NFCYes
FM RadioYes
USB Type Type-C, USB 2.0 USB OTG
SIM TypeNano-SIM 4FF
Card Slot 1 SIM + 1 microSD Card
SIM Capacity Single
Battery
Size4500 mAh
Charging Technology9V2A wired; 15W wireless
Standby TimeUp to 12.79 days (4G); 24.16 days (3G); 22.92 days (2G)  
Talk TimeUp to 28 hrs. (4G); 30 hrs. (3G); 36 hrs. (2G) 
Mixed Usage (DOU)Up to 13 hours 
Charging Time Until FullUp to 2 hrs. 
Fast ChargeUp to 18W Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 Up to 15W Qi Wireless Charging
Rear Camera
Megapixels48MP (Sony OIS)
16MP (ultra-wide)
5MP (macro) 2MP (depth)
Flash TypeDual LED Flash 
FocusAF + FF + AF + FF 
Zoom2X lossless zoom, 10x digital zoom
Lens (Wide angle/ FOV)79° + 123° +  83.2° + 85° 
Sensor Pixel size0.8μm + 1.0μm + 1.12μm + 1.75μm
HDRYes
EISYes
OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)YES
Camera VideoVideo capture: 4K @ 30fps; 720p & 1080p @ 30/60fps Slow motion video capture: 1080p @ 120fps; 720p @ 240fps
Front Camera
Megapixels32MP FF
FlashLCD Flash
Front Camera VideoVideo Capture: 4K @ 30fps; 1080p/720p @ 30/60fps Slow motion video capture: 720p @ 120/240fps
Sound
Audio Design SpecificSpeaker Box
# of Speakers1
Audio ChipsetWDC9370
Audio AmplifierAW88194
HD VoiceYes
MicrophoneDual with noise cancellation
Default Music PlayerMusic
Supported Formats MPEG-4, AAC+, AAC-LC, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, EVRC, FLAC, H.263, H.264, H265/HEVC, MIDI, MP3, OPUS, PCM, QCELP, VORBIS, VP8, VP9, eAAC+. Playback: 3GP, 3G2, AAC, AVI, ADTS, ASF, AWB, FLAC, IMY, MID, MKV, MOV, MP3, MPEG-4, MXMF, OGG, OTA, RTTTL, RTX, WAV, WEBM, XMF
HAC RatingM4/T4
Headset Jack Size3.5 mm
Super BluetoothShare audio with up to 4 Bluetooth devices simultaneously4

TCL 20 S

TCL 20 Series TCL 20 S
The 20 S
Carrier CompatibilityCompatible with the T-Mobile and AT&T LTE networks.  Certified for use on the Verizon LTE network, if your device is not receiving messages or experiences an error when making phone calls on Verizon, your account may need to be provisioned to support “CDMA-less” devices. To do this, please contact Verizon’s technical support team or your account’s business representative for assistance.  This device is not compatible with CDMA networks.
Design
Size6.54” x 3.03” x 0.36”
Weight7.02 oz
ColorMilky Way Gray, North Star Blue
Side KeysVolume, 2-in-1 Power Key & Fingerprint Sensor, and Google Assistant button 
Memory
ROM/RAM128GB ROM / 4GB RAM
SD SupportmicroSD™ up to 1TB
Features
Processor Qualcomm® Snapdragon 665
Speed & TypeQualcomm® Kryo™ 260 Octa-core processor  (4 x Gold 2.0 GHz, 4 x Silver 1.8 GHz)
GPUQualcomm® Adreno™ 610  
Operating System and Version No. Android™ 11 
Sensors Accelerometer (G sensor)
GPS (A-GPS)
Proximity
Light
E-Compass Gyro
Fingerprint Yes (located on power key)
Facial RecognitionYes
TTY/TTD EnabledYes
SAR Rating Maximum 0.76 W/kg head; 1.37 W/kg body
Display
Size6.67” Dotch™ display
TypeLCD
Resolution FHD+ (1080 x 2400) 
Aspect Ratio20:9
Screen to body ratio91%
Glass Type2.5D (front)
Color Reproduction395 PPI, 16.7M colors, 450 nits brightness (typical)
Touch TechnologyCapacitive
Connectivity
Network/3G/4G/LTEGSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHzUMTS: 1/2/4/5/8LTE: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/29/ 38/40/41/66/71
Data2G: GPRS/EDGE Class 123G: HSPA+ (42M bit/s DL, 5.76Mbit/s UL) 4G: UE Cat 11 (DL Cat 11/ UL Cat 5)
VoLTEYes (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon)
Mobile HotspotYes
VoWiFiYes (T-Mobile only)
Wi-Fi Specs802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth5.0
NFCYes
FM RadioYes
USB Type Type-C, USB 2.0 USB OTG
SIM TypeNano-SIM 4FF
Card Slot 1 SIM + 1 microSD Card
SIM CapacitySingle 
Battery
Size5000 mAh
Charging Technology9V2A 
Standby TimeUp to 21.96 days (4G/3G)
Talk TimeUp to 35 hrs. (4G/3G) 
Mixed Usage (DOU)Up to 16 hours 
Charging Time Until FullUp to 2.5hrs
Fast ChargeUp to 18W Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0
Rear Camera
Megapixels64MP (super high-res)
8MP (wide-angle)
2MP (macro) 2MP (depth)
Flash TypeLED Flash 
FocusAF + FF + FF + FF 
Zoom2x lossless zoom, 10x hybrid digital zoom
Lens (Wide angle/ FOV)80.3° + 118° + 83° + 83°
Sensor Pixel size0.7μm + 1.12μm + 1.75μm + 1.75μm
HDRYes
Camera VideoVideo Capture: 1080p@120fps /4k @30fps Slow motion video capture: 1080p @ 120fps; 720p @ 240fps
Front Camera
Megapixels16MP FF
FlashLCD Flash 
Front Camera VideoVideo Capture: 1080p@ 30fps 
Sound
# of Speakers2
HD VoiceYes 
MicrophoneDual with noise cancellation
Default Music PlayerMusic 
Supported Formats SBC, AAC, apt-X, LDAC, apt-X, apt-X HD, apt-X LL Bluetooth audio codec.Playback: AAC LC, AAC+, enhanced AAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, FLAC, MP3, MIDI, Vorbis, PCM/WAVE
HAC RatingM3/T3 
Headset Jack Size3.5mm 

TCL 20 SE

TCL 20 Series
The TCL 20 SE
Carrier CompatibilityCompatible with the T-Mobile and AT&T LTE networks. This device is currently not certified for use on Verizon.  Not compatible with any CDMA networks
Design
Size6.77” x 3.03” x 0.36”
Weight7.27 oz
ColorNuit Black Aurora Green
Side KeysVolume, Power Key, and Google Assistant button 
Memory
ROM/RAM128GB ROM / 4GB RAM
SD SupportmicroSD™ up to 256GB
Features
Processor Qualcomm® Snapdragon 460 (SM4250)
Speed & TypeQualcomm® Kryo™ 260 Octa-core processor  (4 x Gold 1.6 GHz, 4 x Silver 1.8 GHz)
GPUQualcomm® Adreno™ 610  
Operating System and Version No. Android™ 11 
(will include 18-24 months of security patches)
Sensors Accelerometer (G sensor)
GPS (A-GPS)
Proximity
Light E-Compass
Fingerprint Yes (rear-mounted)
Facial RecognitionYes
TTY/TTD EnabledYes
SAR Rating Maximum 0.90W/kg head; 0.63 W/kg body 
Display
Size6.82” U-notch display
TypeLCD
Resolution HD+ (720 x 1640) 
Aspect Ratio20.5:9
Screen to body ratio90%
Glass Type2.5D (front)
Color Reproduction263 PPI, 16.7M colors, 450 nits brightness (typical)
Touch TechnologyCapacitive
Connectivity
Network/3G/4G/LTEGSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHzUMTS: 1/2/4/5/8LTE: B1/2/3/4/5/7/8/ 12/13/17/28/66
Data2G: GPRS/EDGE3G: HSPA+ (42M bit/s DL, 5.76Mbit/s UL) 4G: Cat 4 (150Mbit/s DL, 50Mbit/s UL)
VoLTECompatible
Mobile HotspotYes
VoWiFiCompatible
Wi-Fi Specs802.11 b/g/nWi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display
Bluetooth5.0
NFCNo
FM RadioYes
USB Type Type-C, USB 2.0 USB OTG
SIM TypeNano-SIM 4FF
Card Slot 1 SIM + 1 microSD Card
SIM CapacitySingle 
Battery
Size5000 mAh
Charging Technology5V2A 
Standby TimeUp to 30 days (4G); 35.7 days (3G)
Talk TimeUp to 31 hrs. (4G); 39 hrs. (3G) 
Mixed Usage (DOU)Up to 17.5 hours 
Charging Time Until FullUp to 3 hrs. 20 mins.
Fast ChargeNo
Rear Camera
Megapixels48MP (high-res)
5MP (wide-angle)
2MP (macro) 2MP (depth)
Flash TypeDual LED Flash 
FocusAF + FF + FF + FF 
Zoom4x digital zoom
Lens (Wide angle/ FOV)80.3° + 115° + 83° + 83°
Sensor Pixel size0.8μm + 1.12μm + 1.75μm + 1.75μm
HDRYes
Camera VideoVideo Capture: 1080p @ 30fps
Front Camera
Megapixels13MP FF
FlashLCD Flash 
Front Camera VideoVideo Capture: 1080p @ 30fps 
Sound
# of Speakers2
HD VoiceYes 
MicrophoneDual with noise cancellation
Audio ChipsetWCD9370
Audio AmplifierSmart PA
3D SurroundYes
Default Music PlayerMusic 
Supported Formats AAC, AMR, AWB, MP3, AAC+, Vorbis, FLAC, APE, eAAC+, PCM playback
HAC RatingM4/T3 
Headset Jack Size3.5mm 

What’s In The Box

TCL 20 Pro 5G

Quick Reference Guide (QRG) Yes
Charger 9V2A Charger
Data CableUSB-C Cable
Others Product Safety Information SIM Tool

TCL 20 S

Quick Reference Guide (QRG) Yes
Charger 9V2A Charger
Data CableUSB-C Cable
Others Product Safety InformationSIM Tool

TCL 20 SE

Quick Reference Guide (QRG) Yes
Charger 5V2A Charger
Data CableUSB-C Cable
Others Product Safety InformationSIM ToolTransparent TPU Case

Design

TCL 20 Pro 5G

TCL 20 Series

The Pro 5G is the TCL 20 Series flagship device, and it really shows. The metal frame holds together two brilliant pieces of “3D” glass, with the back glass having a really cool two-tone finish. The Moondust Gray color is accented by a black glossy stripe that runs down the side and up through the camera array. You can also get the 20 Pro 5G in Marine Blue.

The four cameras on the rear are flush to the body and covered in the same glass, so there is no camera bump; I love this. The four-camera array is made up of a 48MP (Sony OIS), 16MP (ultra-wide), 5MP (macro), and 2MP (depth) sensor. Flanking the camera array is the flash and sensors. Underneath the glass is the wireless charging coil which facilitates the wireless charging technology.

The front of the 20 Pro 5G is “3D glass,” and the “Dotch Display” measures in at 6.67”, which is a good amount of real estate. The entire TCL 20 Series comes in a 20:9 aspect ratio, which I’ve come to really love, and many Android phones use this design.

Along the right side of the phone, you’ll find your volume rocker and power button; both have excellent tactile feedback. There is a “Smart Key” on the left side that the user can program to launch various apps, including Google Assistant.

The USB-C port is on the bottom along with the speaker, and at the top, you’ll find the headphone jack, microphone, and other sensors. The fingerprint sensor is under the display, and it has a fast response, one of the quickest I’ve used. There is a speaker at the top of the phone, so you get stereo sound here.

Overall, the TCL 20 Pro 5G is the best-looking device from the TCL 20 Series, but that is expected since it is the flagship.

TCL 20 S

TCL 20 S

The 20 S is the TCL 20 Series mid-range device, but for some companies, we would usually consider this a budget device at US$249.99. But, the TCL 20 S really is more than a budget device and puts some US$350 Android mid-range phones to shame.

Our unit came in Milky Way Gray, but you can also get Northstar Blue. The phone’s back has a metal flake look to it, but it is made of polycarbonate. But you still get a metal frame holding the polycarbonate back and a “2.5D glass” front in place.

Unlike the Pro 5G, the 20 S camera array is not flush, so you get a camera bump here. It’s not awful though, it’s manageable, and the phone doesn’t wobble much at all when placed on its back. If you use the included TPU case with it, you have no issue with the camera bump. The four-camera array is made up of a 64MP (super high-res), 8MP (wide-angle), 2MP (macro), and, 2MP (depth) sensor.

The front of the 20 S is made of 2.5D glass; the entire TCL 20 Series carries these interesting naming schemes for the glass. The 20 S also comes with a “Dotch Display” that measures 6.67″ which I’ve said before is an ample display.

Along the right side of the phone, you’ll find the volume rocker and power/fingerprint sensor button. The volume rocker has a great tactile feel, and so does the power button. The integration of the fingerprint sensor into the power button isn’t new, but I found the sensor to be sensitive and buzzed anytime my hand touched it. That being said, the fingerprint sensor is ultra-fast and accurate.

The entire TCL 20 Series comes with the Smart Key on the left side that the user can program to launch various apps, including Google Assistant. The USB-C port is on the bottom along with the speaker, and at the top, you’ll find the headphone jack and microphone. There is another speaker at the top on the 20 S as well, giving you stereo sound.

Overall, the TCL 20 S is a sharp-looking mid-range phone with the great build quality and mid-range materials. Some would consider this a budget phone due to its price, but it feels much nicer than a budget phone.

TCL 20 SE

TCL 20 SE

The SE is the TCL 20 Series budget device coming in at an affordable US$189.99. While some may consider this a mid-range smartphone based on price, we still consider this a budget phone on the higher end. But don’t be fooled; this guy puts on the look of a pricer phone with convincing ease.

Our unit came in Nuit Black, but you can also order it in Aurora Green; the Green is slick looking. The phone’s back is ultra-glossy and surprisingly does not pick up fingerprints as bad as I thought it would. The back is made from polycarbonate, and you have a metal frame holding the back and front “2D glass” together.

Like the 20 S, the SE also has a raised camera bump, but it’s not bad at all like the S. The included clear TPU case does a good job of keeping the rear from being wobbly. The four-camera array is made up of a 48MP (high-res), 5MP (wide-angle), 2MP (macro), and, 2MP (depth) sensor. The fingerprint sensor is located on the back of this phone and works really well.

The front of the 20 SE is made of 2D glass. We’re assuming this 2D, 2.5D, and 3D designations are Gorilla Glass, but I’m not sure why TCL has chosen not to use the actual Gorilla Glass moniker. Either way, the TCL 20 Series glass goes from highest grade to lowest as you move down the series.

Interestingly, the TCL 20 Series budget model comes with a slightly bigger U-notch display at 6.82″. I actually prefer the Dotch over the U-notch, and the extra real estate here isn’t hugely noticeable.

Along the right side of the phone, you’ll find the volume rocker and power button, both of them have a great feel and feedback. The entire TCL 20 Series comes with the Smart Key on the left side that the user can program to launch various apps, including Google Assistant. The USB-C port is on the bottom along with the speaker, and at the top, you’ll find the headphone jack and microphone.

Shockingly, the SE also has a top speaker giving you stereo sound just like the other two TCL 20 Series phones. That’s pretty impressive for a budget phone.

Overall, the TCL 20 SE and the entire TCL 20 Series design was well thought out, and they all feel more premium than their price tags let on. These are all very nice-looking and feeling phones.

Display

TCL 20 Pro 5G

TCL 20 Pro 5G display

The 6.67″ AMOLED FHD+ display on the Pro 5G is outstanding. The first thing I noticed was the brightness; I love bright screens. This display’s brightness is an impressive 700 nits making it fantastic to use outdoors in bright sunlight and bright lighting conditions.

The resolution is 2400 x 1080, which is a notch better than full HD, but you’ll only get a 60Hz refresh rate. Many flagship phones are moving to 120Hz refresh rates, but seriously, this is a US$499.99 phone, and I wouldn’t expect it at this price point. The rest of the TCL 20 Series is in the same boat.

The display is AMOLED, though, and with that, you get some amazing colors that really punch off the screen. Blacks are deep and inky, whites are clear and crisp, and text is easily readable. This is also helped by TCL’s NXTVISION display technology which tweaks the HDR on display for you.

Of the three displays on the TCL 20 Series, this one is the only one that is nearly on edge. It reminds me of some of Samsung’s phones, but the display doesn’t drop that far off. Samsung phones had a terrible time reacting to your palm. This display doesn’t do that, thankfully.

Two of the TCL 20 Series devices are referred to as “Dotch Displays” due to the front-facing camera at the top of the display. This is pretty normal for many Android devices, and the dotch doesn’t bug me in the least.

Overall, of the three displays on the TCL 20 Series, the Pro 5G has the best one, and that was to be expected. Great colors, deep blacks, and a really bright screen are just a few reasons this display is in the TCL 20 Series flagship Pro 5G.

TCL 20 S

TCL 20 S display

The 6.67″ LCD FHD+ display on the 20 S is also great and impressive for an LCD panel. You’re still getting a 2400 x 1800 resolution here and the same 60Hz refresh rate. However, the brightness is lower at 450 nits, which is significant compared to the Pro 5G.

Still, it is bright enough to use under most lighting conditions, but you will notice direct sunlight may wash out the display.

The colors on this LCD are noticeably less punchy than the Pro 5G, and the contrast and detail in photos and video aren’t as clear. The blacks are less black and slightly darker gray. This doesn’t make it a bad panel; it’s just the difference between AMOLED and LCD panels; it’s normal.

All three of the phones in the TCL 20 Series come with NXTVISION, and while it does a great job overall, it does its best on the Pro 5G to tweak colors, enhance images and video.

The two lower-priced TCL 20 series phone displays aren’t pushed out to the edge like the Pro 5G, but the bezels are slim. The 20 S has a 91% screen-to-body ratio, while the Pro 5G has 93%.

Overall, if I had to pick an AMOLED or LCD, I’m going with AMOLED every time. But if the 20 S price is where you’re comfortable in terms of cost, this LCD will do you just fine.

TCL 20 SE

TCL 20 SE display

Finally, the SE display clocks in at 6.82″ and comes with a U-notch, also known as a teardrop display. There are some things you will sacrifice here, mostly resolution. While this is an HD+ display, its resolution is a low 720 x 1640.

That’s not horrible, but it is significantly less than the 20 S or Pro 5G. Again, price plays a factor here. For US$189.99, this display is right on the money. Other budget phones only give you an HD screen for the same price. So you are getting a bit more for your buck in the 20 SE compared to the competition.

The colors are about the same as the 20 S, clarity and detail aren’t as good simply because the resolution is lower. You can use NXTVISION to enhance it some, but it really comes down to getting what you pay for.

This panel is also 60Hz and clocks in at 450 nits of brightness. It performs about the same as the 20 S in bright conditions, maybe slightly worse due to the lower resolution.

Overall, this is a basic LCD that works well enough, it’s not going to be a top performer, but for the price, it’s better than the competition.

Software

The entire TCL 20 Series comes with Android 11 installed with TCL’s own UI over the top. For the most part, you’re getting a good Android experience here. There are a few TCL-centric apps like NXTVISION and a few things like a music app, podcast app, and game box app, but nothing obnoxious like 3rd party games or apps installed here.

Most TCL-centric apps installed are there to help the user have a better experience, like GameBox, which organizes your games and adjusts settings for better performance. TCL also added a pull bar on the right side of the screen where you can put more apps, contacts, add remotes, and use a ruler. It’s similar to what Samsung does with their phones.

Overall, I love that TCL didn’t go the route of many other phone makers in their niche. Most of their competitors bog their phones down with 3rd party apps that no one wants and software that bloats the whole system. Kudos to TCL for scaling back and making a great software experience. I don’t know what TCL’s upgrade map looks like, so we can’t say if these phones will see Android 12. I will reach out to TCL and ask and update this review with an answer.

Performance

TCL 20 Pro 5G

TCL 20 Series Pro 5G buttons

The TCL 20 Series all have different chipsets, and therefore performance will change from one device to the other. The Pro 5G has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G CPU, Adreno 619 GPU, and 6GB RAM. Storage clocks in at 256GB and is expandable up to 1TB using a microSDXC card.

The Pro 5G will give you the best performance of the TCL 20 Series, with gaming doing the best on this phone in particular. Of course, the lack of a 120Hz refresh rate might bug some users, but the Pro 5G handles gaming really well for the price.

Scrolling and gestures all work perfectly on the Pro 5G, with no lag that I could see and no stutter. Opening and closing apps is quick and painless. Everything seems to work seamlessly without issue from our testing of the Pro 5G.

TCL 20 S

TCL 20 S buttons TCL 20 Series

The 20 S sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 CPU, Adreno 610 GPU, and 4GB RAM. Storage is 128GB and can be expanded up to 1TB with a microSD card.

Again, there is no 120Hz refresh rate, which may turn some techie users, but normies will be fine with the 60Hz refresh rate. Most users looking at the TCL 20 Series are trying to save money over the outrageous prices Samsung, Apple, and Google charge.

Intense games that take a lot of CPU and GPU may not run as well here, the phone may get warmer than normal under heavy load, but that’s all to be expected.

Normal usage is actually amazing. Scrolling, gestures, opening and closing apps all work nice and smooth with no lag and maybe an occasional stutter here and there.

As expected, the 20 S really sits on mid-ground level in performance. It does really well with basic tasks but feels the burn when you throw heavy stuff at it.

TCL 20 SE

TCL 20 SE buttons

The 20 SE sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 CPU, Adreno 610 GPU, and 4GB RAM. Storage is 128GB and can be expanded up to 256GB with a microSD card.

Given that this is the lowest priced TCL 20 Series phone, users should expect performance to be a bit slower. Of course, no 120Hz refresh rate and gaming can be done on this phone but be careful of anything too intensive.

That’s not to say you can’t game on this phone; you can. But performance is going to be spotty depending on what game you decide to play. You can fire up Call of Duty, but you’re not going to experience the same performance as you would on the Pro 5G.

Still, normal things are perfectly fine. Scrolling and gestures all work great, as do the opening and closing apps. Like the 20 S, there may be an occasional stutter or glitch, but I didn’t experience them very often. The only performance hits are when gaming.

Speakers/Sound

I’ll be honest here, smartphone speakers in any of these price ranges aren’t the greatest. The results, to my ears, of the TCL 20 Series actually surprised me.

First off, they all have stereo speakers, so that’s a huge plus. But I was expecting the Pro 5G to be the best of the bunch, and it wasn’t.

The Pro 5G speakers aren’t horrible at all, they’re very good, but I felt they were a little thin with not enough bottom end. They sound fine, and I don’t think anyone will complain, but I felt the 20 S had better speakers for some reason.

The 20 SE speakers were just okay, and they really broke up at max volume, making it hard to distinguish instruments and some vocals.

The 20 S is the big winner of the TCL 20 Series phones when it comes to speakers. These speakers were much more balanced with good mids, highs, and balanced lows. Max volume didn’t give a lot of break-up, but there was some. The Pro 5G also did well at max volume.

Still, speakers on smartphones aren’t going to be as good as a pair of headphones. But the speakers on the TCL 20 Series will do just fine for most users.

Camera

TCL 20 Pro 5G

The TCL 20 Series all have a four-camera array; they’re just all very different sensors. Of course, the Pro 5G has the best sensors sporting a 48MP Sony sensor with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), a 16MP Ultra-Wide, a 5MP macro, and a 2MP depth sensor.

The Pro 5G also has 10x digital zoom, which works okay. Camera apps these days are a labyrinth of menus and buttons. The TCL 20 Series is no different in that regard. You can choose from many options, most of which have been on smartphone cameras for a few years now.

I tend only to use the main camera, portrait mode, and the selfie camera. I rarely do anything more, and I don’t think most users do either. Camera apps are literally confusing for the average user, and most point and shoot.

That being said, the photos coming out of the Pro 5G are pretty good and having that OIS really helps when you don’t have a steady hand. The colors are punchy, and the contrast is good. Details are great, and portrait mode works really well. The selfie camera also snaps excellent photos, especially in good lighting.

There is also a super night mode which works well in shallow light conditions; like other night modes, it doesn’t work all that great in pitch darkness, but most people won’t be snapping pics in the dead of night.

Overall, the photos coming out of the Pro 5G are excellent for the price point of this device. There are certainly much more expensive devices that do better, but you’re also going to pay double or more.

TCL 20 S

The 20 S comes with a 64MP, 8MP wide-angle, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth sensor. The main camera has more megapixels than the Pro 5G but is also unbranded and does not have OIS or EIS. So you’ll need to have a steady hand when shooting.

The 20 S does not have 10x digital zoom but does have 2x zoom, but frankly, digital zooms do not always provide great photos, and with no OIS, zooming is ill advisable.

Photos are fine on the 20 S, they feel a little washed out with weak colors, but that could also be the LCD display. There is less contrast than the Pro 5G, and the detail isn’t as clear. The selfie camera does a decent job but also lacks the punch of the Pro 5G.

Overall, the 20 S takes good enough photos for most people. There is certainly a difference between the Pro 5G and the 20 S, but if you only own the 20 S, you’ll never know.

TCL 20 SE

Finally, we have come to the most budget-friendly of the three TCL 20 Series devices. The TCL 20 SE sports a 48MP main, 5MP wide-angle, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth sensor. Like the S, the SE also has no stabilization.

Photos look similar to the 20 S with just a slight bit more loss of detail and clarity. It’s not noticeable if you don’t have the two phones side by side. Color is about the same as that of the 20 S. Contrast is also about the same.

While the SE camera doesn’t perform as well as the other two, it’s understandable, given that it is a sub-US$200 smartphone. However, I will say that I think TCL should have included at least EIS (electronic image stabilization) on the 20 S and SE.

Ultimately, I don’t think users buying this phone are particularly too concerned about image quality. Most buyers in this range are seeking savings. It’s just a fact that the less you pay, the less you’ll get. I think most users will be fine with the photos taken on this device for the price point.

Reception/Call Quality

Not much to say in this regard; the entire TCL 20 Series performed as expected in both reception and call quality. If a smartphone can’t do well in these two areas, it’s not a very good smartphone.

We have no 5G coverage in our area, so I could not test 5G speeds or connectivity.

Battery Life

The TCL 20 Series all did excellent on battery. They all got me through a full day with plenty left in the tank. Of course, battery life is subjective, and it depends on how you use your device.

Gaming will drain the batteries very fast, and streaming video will also impact the battery heavily. But normal day-to-day usage like streaming music, emails, social media, light gaming, texting, and browsing the web shouldn’t drain you down too fast.

It’s also important to check your battery usage from time to time to see if there’s an app that may negatively impact battery life.

The Pro 5G has the smallest battery at 4,500mAh, but it also has Qualcomm Quick Charge and Qi Charging, two great assets. The 20 S and SE both have 5,000mAh batteries, but the S only has Qualcomm Quick Charge, and neither of them has Qi charging.

Overall, battery life should be solid for most users. The Pro 5G has a smaller battery but makes up for it with Quick Charge and Qi wireless charging.

Price/Value

The TCL 20 Series starts at US$499.99 for the Pro 5G, US$249.99 for the S, and US$189.99 for the SE. The top of the line Pro 5G is more affordable than some mid-range phones from other major brands and offers a lot of bang for the buck.

The S and the SE also offer many features for the asking price and are well worth considering. If I were suggesting the two best phones out of the TCL 20 Series, they would be the Pro 5G and the S. If you have enough to spring for the S, get it over the SE, and the same goes for the Pro 5G over the S.

Any way you cut it, you can’t go wrong with the TCL 20 Series; there is a price point for just about everyone.

Wrap Up

The TCL 20 Series isn’t for everyone; thank God for choices, right? While the TCL 20 Series isn’t going to appeal to everyone, I think the series is worth looking at. Particularly for those who are looking to save some money.

While none of the TCL 20 Series phones are packing the same super-high-end specifications of phones that cost US$1,200, the specifications and features they are wielding are solid enough for most users to get through their normal days.

The TCL 20 Series is a solid trio of smartphones worth looking at, and the price points make them attainable for almost everyone.

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Last Updated on August 13, 2021.

TCL 20 Series

Starting at US$189.99

Design

9.5/10

Display

9.0/10

Software

9.5/10

Performance

9.0/10

Speakers/Sound

8.5/10

Camera

8.5/10

Reception/Call Quality

9.5/10

Battery Life

9.5/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Great looking design from all 3 phones
  • Great build quality and materials
  • All 3 phones include a clear TPU case
  • No 3rd party apps or bloatware
  • Solid performance for their price ranges
  • I was impressed with the 20 S speakers, the speakers all around aren't the best but the S had the best of the bunch
  • Photos are what you would expect from this price range. They're acceptable and most users will be happy
  • Solid battery life
  • Solid price and value
  • The displays are very good with the Pro 5G being the standout with its very bright AMOLED panel

Needs work

  • I don't like the 20 S fingerprint scanner placement
  • Some lag in intensive gaming, expected for the S and SE given their CPU and GPU
  • Speakers could be better
  • TCL should have included EIS on the S and SE
TCL 20 Series feature image techaeris
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