Let’s face it. Samsung makes the king of stylus phones, and the price for that king is high. But what if I told you that you could have a near kingly experience for around 1/4 of the cost? The TCL STYLUS 5G is one stylus-equipped smartphone made for a budget.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Sure, you also have the option of the Motorola Moto G Stylus 5G, but even that will cost you more than the TCL STYLUS 5G. However, there is one slight caveat and this phone’s most significant flaw; it is carrier-locked to T-Mobile/Metro PCS. Good news for T-Mobile users, bad news for anyone else. Read on for our full review of the TCL STYLUS 5G.
Table of contents
The TCL STYLUS 5G has the following features and specifications:
- Dimensions: 6.67” x 3.01” x 0.35” (169.6 x 76.5 x 8.98 mm)
- Weight: 7.51 oz (213 g)
- Color: Lunar Black
- Storage: 128GB (Approx 110GB end-user space)
- RAM: 4GB
- SD Support: microSD up to 2TB
- Processor: MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G (Octa-Core 2.2 GHz)
- GPU: ARM Mali-G57 MC2
- OS: Android 12
- Accelerometer (G sensor)
- GPS (A-GPS)
- Fingerprint Sensor: Side-Mounted on the power button
- Facial Recognition: Supported
- Display: 6.81″ LCD Dotch Display FHD+ (1080 x 2460)
- Aspect Ratio: 20:5:9
- Screen to body ratio: 90.2%
- Glass Type: 2.5D NEG
- Color Reproduction: 395 PPI, 16.7M colors, 500 nits brightness
- Wi-Fi Support: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display
- Bluetooth: 5.2
- NFC: Supported
- Battery: 4,000mAh
- Charging: 9V2A
- Rear Camera: 50MP (main camera) + 5MP (superwide angle) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)
- Front Camera: 13MP
- Speakers: Stereo (two speakers)
What’s In The Box
- TCL STYLUS 5G
- 9V2A 18W Charger
- USB-C Charging Cable
- Manuals and Documentation
TCL has a very concise design language for its mobile devices. They’ve managed to solidify it in a short amount of time. Of course, the design isn’t that far off from every other slab-type smartphone; it’s just that TCL has found a way to make it distinctly TCL.
The build quality is excellent. Most of the materials used are plastics, except for the display. But even with a plastic build, it doesn’t feel cheap. It doesn’t feel premium, but it doesn’t feel like a toy. One advantage of the plastic body is that you’re less likely to shatter the back if you drop it.
The frame has an interesting rigged texture to it that feels nice. I’m not sure that it adds much grip to the phone, but it has a nice feel. Along the phone’s left side are the SIM card tray and a microphone along the top.
The power button and volume rocker are on the phone’s right side, and both have excellent tactile feedback. Although I will say that the power button is almost too sensitive, I turned the phone on when I wanted to pick it up. The fingerprint sensor is integrated into the power button and works very fast; it’s one of the best power button fingerprint sensors I’ve used on a phone of this price.
Along the bottom of the phone, you will find one of the stereo speakers, the USB-C port, another microphone, the stylus silo, and a 3.5mm headphone jack: Yup, a headphone jack for all you headphone jack fans out there. I do have to admit that I like that TCL put the stylus silo on the right-hand side of the phone. Samsung’s placement on the left-hand side doesn’t feel natural for me.
The back of the TCL STYLUS 5G is basic, but the plastic has an interesting coloring that makes it aesthetically pleasing. The camera array is the same setup as previous TCL phones, and the bump is minimal. TCL branding on the bottom right corner is minimal and clean.
The front is glass, the bezels are minimal and slim, and a hole punch is at the top for the front-facing camera. Overall, this is undoubtedly a TCL design and has all the hallmarks the company is known for. I like the design; it’s comfortable to hold, good build, and attractive.
The TCL STYLUS 5G has an expansive 6.81″ LCD Dotch Display that is 1080 x 2460 (FHD+). FHD+ is a typical resolution for a phone in this price range, and it’s plenty suitable for most users. I like that the panel has a 500 nit brightness level, giving it a decent outdoor performance. It doesn’t get as bright as the S22 Ultra, and it does struggle in direct sunlight, but at this price point, it’s pretty decent in bright situations.
The TCL STYLUS 5G also benefits from TCL NXTVISION. This software feature helps tune your display for a better experience. NXTVISION has the following features:
- Image Enhancement: Automatically enhance image contrast, sharpness, and details.
- Video Enhancement: Enhance the video’s color, contrast, and depth of details to bring a cinema-grade visual experience.
- Game Enhancement: Improve the shadow details and enhance the overall gaming graphics.
- Reading Mode: Optimize the screen display to make the reading experience as comfortable as physical books.
- Eye comfort mode: Filter out blue light and adjust your display’s color temperature to reduce eye strain.
- Darker display mode: In dark light environment, turn on darker display mode to achieve lower screen brightness.
- Sunlight display mode: Increases readability under sunlight.
- Color Mode: Choose between Vivid, Natural, and Advanced.
Some of these features work well, and others are difficult to gauge their effectiveness, but it is nice to have these options. This is an LCD panel, so it’s not as vibrant as an OLED panel, but it does a decent job of producing good color for its price point.
Blacks are good, not great, but good enough, and the whites rate about the same. Text is crisp and clear, and gestures work smoothly. I occasionally experienced a stutter when scrolling through long web pages, but nothing unbearable.
I was impressed that TCL managed to give us such a large display at 6.81″. That is slightly larger, ever so slightly than the S22 Ultra’s 6.8″ display. Of course, the S22’s display is much nicer, but the phone is also hundreds of dollars more than the TCL STYLUS 5G. Viewing angles was another area this phone had issues; straight on, it looks great, but at some angles, it looks washed out.
Overall, TCL has made a reasonable effort on its display for a low midrange smartphone. It’s not perfect, but it reflects the price point.
You will get Android 12 on the TCL STYLUS 5G with TCL UI v4 over the top. There’s not much to say about Android 12; it works great. TCL UI v4 is fine, it’s not stock, but it looks fine. I’m not too fond of TCL’s icons and never have, but a custom launcher would fix everything.
The TCL STYLUS 5G is carrier-locked to T-Mobile/MetroPCS, so I am stunned that there was no carrier bloatware anywhere to be found. The TCL software is all here but no carrier bloat, so kudos for that TCL!
As for stylus software, well, there is none. The stylus is not connected to the phone like Samsung’s S-Pen, so it’s basically a dumb stick. When you remove the pen from its silo, you get a shortcut menu that gives you several apps you can use, similar to Samsung. None of these apps are “optimized” for this pen; they just work with it. These apps include:
- Nebo for TCL: Nebo is a paid note-taking app that is offered for free on the TCL STYLUS 5G.
- MyScript Calculator 2: MyScript is another paid app provided for free on the TCL STYLUS 5G. This app allows you to handwrite calculations, and it will give you the answer.
- Write a Note: A basic note-taking app.
- Screenshot doodle: This app allows you to take a screenshot and write on it.
- E-signature: This app will enable you to create a PNG signature to use on documents.
- Magnifying Window: This opens a magnifier on the app you’re in.
- GIF maker: This allows you to create a GIF from your doodles or signature.
- Split screen: This opens a split screen where you can choose two different apps to work from.
- Note on lockscreen: Pop the stylus out of the silo when the phone is locked, and you will get a notepad to take quick notes on the lockscreen.
The stylus itself is relatively plain, but it is comfortable. The latency is good; there is a small noticeable amount of latency, it’s not as good as the S-Pen, but it’s also not connected to the phone like the S-Pen. I love that TCL put a magnet in the silo, so when you put the stylus in, it grabs it at a point, and then you just push it in to click it securely.
Overall, Android is great, it was fantastic to see no bloatware, and there is no dedicated stylus software. Understandably, a phone priced this low would not have an active stylus, so there is some grace to be given there.
The TCL STYLUS 5G has a MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G CPU and ARM Mali-G57 MC2 GPU pushed by 4GB of RAM. This isn’t precisely screaming performance and doesn’t hold a candle to flagship phones. But like a broken record, the price you pay for this means you aren’t getting top-of-the-line components.
Essential functions work perfectly fine. Scrolling is smooth, and gestures are clean. Email, web browsing, social media, documents, and music apps work great. Simple games run smoothly with no issues, but more intensive games like Call of Duty will have some dropped frames and a bit of lag here and there. I don’t think the average user will notice or care, but this isn’t for you if you’re a hardcore mobile gamer.
Overall, performance is what you would expect from a phone at this price point.
TCL STYLUS 5G Gallery
The TCL STYLUS 5G has two stereo speakers that are good for the price. They’re a little tinny and slightly weak but again, expecting anything more than what TCL gives at this price, you’re getting greedy.
There’s not much to say about this midrange camera array. The quad cameras on the back are a 50MP (main camera) + 5MP (superwide angle) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth) and a 13MP front shooter.
If we have learned anything from the past few years of mobile cameras, it’s that pixels aren’t everything. The pixel count is high here, but the sensor quality is what you would expect from a mid-range device.
Again, the results will not be anywhere near a flagship camera, but they are decent and, I think, good enough for most users.
Low light results are not great, good enough for most, but certainly not fantastic. Pictures that are taken in excellent lighting turn out awesome; there may be some blown-out highlights from time to time and some areas where color isn’t quite right, but overall, for a mid-range device, the photos turn out very good.
Overall. No. This camera system won’t win awards, but it’s excellent for the US$258 price point.
TCL STYLUS 5G Camera Samples
*NOTE: These images have been reduced due to file size limitations on our server.
Both reception and call quality are good; not much to say here.
The TCL STYLUS 5G has a 4,000 mAh battery which lasted me all day using essential everyday apps. There was some light gaming and video watching, so this phone should last normal users all day. If you’re a heavy gamer or watch many videos, the battery will drain faster, which is expected.
Overall, battery life is subjective, depending on how you use the phone and what settings you have checked. For the price point, a 4,000 mAh battery is excellent!
The TCL STYLUS 5G is priced at around $258, but you can get it for less with contracts on T-Mobile or MetroPCS. This is where we talk about this phone’s biggest con; it is carrier-locked. So this is an excellent value for those on T-Mobile or MetroPCS, but it’s a bummer for those who aren’t that would have liked it.
The TCL STYLUS 5G is an excellent alternative to the S22 Ultra if you’re looking to save money and are okay with many features the S22 has that this will not. It’s not a direct competitor to the S22 Ultra, but it gets you a stylus, a decent big display, a big battery, and decent midrange specs.
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TCL STYLUS 5GStarting at US$258
- Good looking but typical TCL design
- Stylus is sturdy and robust
- Vibrant LCD display with NXT Vision
- Android 12 and TCL skin are good
- Performs well, but would have liked a faster refresh rate display
- Speakers sound decent and are stereo
- Decent cameras for this price point
- Decent battery life 4,000mAh battery
- Great price point
- Carrier locked to T-Mobile Metro PCS
- Stylus is basic, no connection to smartphone
- Plastic build and no weatherproofing
- No wireless charging
- No 120Hz refresh rate