Retailing at $349, the TCL 20 R 5G is a very affordable 5G phone, especially for mobile gamers with expandable storage up to 1TB and a 90Hz refresh rate, but the sound output was of lesser quality.
I’ve been using nothing but an iPhone since the first iteration in 2007 as they have been provided as part of my employment over the years. I’ve often wondered what an android phone is like and I have many friends that use them, but I haven’t had the need to investigate pricing for myself. I have seen how much the latest iPhones are worth through work, but when I was approached to review the TCL 20 R 5G android phone, I was staggered at the advertised price of $349. How can a 5G phone be that cheap compared to other brands on the market and does its performance stand up? Read on to find out.
The TCL 20 R 5G comes packaged with a clear silicone protective case, which is one of the first things I always need to buy when I receive the latest iPhone upgrade from work. Already I’m saving money with TCL! In addition, there’s a USB-C charging cable, power adaptor and headphones with a 3.5mm jack connector. I already have a couple of USB-C cables with my gaming equipment but the average mobile user may not. It was great to have the power adaptor included considering the iPhone 12 Pro doesn’t ship with one anymore.
This TCL 20 R 5G came in Granite Grey and is a larger unit than my iPhone at 164.3*75*8.99mm. It weighs a similar weight at 186G, and you can also get the unit in Lazurite Blue. It’s nice to hold, fits in my hand and the silicone case means it doesn’t slip in my hand. There is no silent mode on/off button, but it does feature a 3.5mm headphone jack for those that haven’t made the jump to Bluetooth earbuds/headphones yet. There are just two side keys on the right-hand side as I’m looking at it – power and volume up/down. Being right-handed, the buttons are situated where my thumb rests which is great positioning.
While the unit utilises a 90% screen-to-body ratio, I did find I noticed my fingerprints more on the screen using this phone and was wiping it down almost after each use. On the front top is an 8MP selfie camera and on the back of the phone is a vertical line of three lenses plus flash. Security-wise, you can utilise face unlock with the selfie camera or there is a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone which is placed really well when holding the unit. The main camera is 13MP with a 76.7” field of view, a 2MP macro camera for close-ups and a 2MP depth camera for portraits.
In the camera app you can take photos, video, portraits, or pano, and in the camera settings you can adjust the picture size, video quality (max is 1080p at 30fps), ai scene detection and other options. There’s also a pro mode which allows you to adjust the ISO, shutter speed, white balance, light tracing, and plenty other options that are way above my photography skills. I just like to point and shoot, and the TCL 20 R 5G takes some great photos with minimal effort.
Display-wise, the TCL 20 R 5G looks fantastic with the 6.52” HD+ display, 720×1600 resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. You can drop the refresh rate manually to 60Hz to save battery power and the phone also features a self-adjusting screen refresh rate which varies from 30 to 90Hz depending on gaming, streaming, or just browsing. For playing games though, I kept it at 90Hz and games like Need For Speed No Limits and Call of Duty Mobile looked great on screen with the 20:9 aspect ratio. I took a couple of game screenshots as the games looked and ran well, however viewing the images on the PC showed the lower resolution of the images.
A look under the hood shows the TCL 20 R has 2x A76 2.2GHz and 6x A55 2.0GHz CPU, an ARM G57 MC GPU and 4GB RAM. The 180Hz touch sampling rate meant there was no input lag when I was steering a car in NFS or moving my character in COD Mobile. Storage wise, this model only has 64gb however what was really interesting is that it can support a micro SD card of sizes up to 1TB which is awesome for us gamers and movie watchers. The speaker sound quality however was the only real disappointment for me, sounding quite low and tinny. When holding the phone in landscape mode to play the games, you had sound concentrated coming from only one side. Initially it was quite immersion-breaking and took some adjustment, but after several minutes of gameplay it becomes less noticeable, until you switch games.
The battery is 4500mAH capacity which equates to 34 hours of talk time, 10 hours of video playback and 210 hours of audio playback. I would leave the phone home but on standby while I worked, then played a few games on it in the evenings after my girls had gone to bed and the phone lasted me several days before needing to charge it. This unit does not support wireless charging, which isn’t an issue for me but is something to consider for your situation, but it does support fast charging. The unit is also not water resistant which again isn’t an issue for me, and frankly these are things I tend to keep away from water situations anyway, but worth noting.
At the top of the phone’s home screen are the usual battery percentage indicator, network and wifi symbols, but the TCL 20 R also shows the current download speed which is an interesting addition. It’s not something I ordinarily worry about on my phone, but it’s interesting to see the speeds it can pull when downloading a game. As an example, downloading Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes on my home wifi connection correctly showed 7.6M/s which is the limit of my NBN connection.
Swiping down from the top gives you various options, of which I particularly liked the eye comfort mode which takes away some of the blue light in the evening. There’s also reading modes and specific low blue light modes which are great options to have. Swiping up from the bottom allows you to search for something on Google as well as clear the active apps with one button click instead of swiping each one individually.
Retailing at $349, the TCL 20 R 5G is a very affordable 5G phone, especially for mobile gamers with expandable storage up to 1TB and a 90Hz refresh rate, but the sound output was of lesser quality. I was blown away at the price comparison to my iPhone and for the average mobile user, this is a perfectly good mobile to talk, video call, watch movies and play the latest mobile games. If this was your only camera option, it produces photos of an acceptable quality, but not as good quality and resolution as other phones on the market.
This review utilised a unit provided by Closer Communications and the TCL 20 R 5G is available at Harvey Norman, Vodafone, Officeworks & Mobileciti.