IT’S easy, when looking at mobile phones, to focus on the expensive flagship models with the sort of power that could be used to operate a small aircraft’s onboard systems.
Not everyone can afford that or needs that power. A huge number of people just need A Phone, and would like something that lets them connect to the internet, use Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/WhatsApp/SnapChat etc, play games, and take decent photos for uploading to aforementioned apps.
Enter the TCL 20L+, a mid-range 4G Android smartphone with an RRP of AUD$399.
Specs-wise, the phone has a 6.67in FHD+ screen, 6GB RAM, 256GB storage and a 5000mAh battery, with a Qualomm SnapDragon 662 chipset featuring a Qualcomm Kyro 260 Octacore processor.
What’s particularly interesting is the presence of a 3.5mm headset jack – you don’t see a lot of those in phones anymore – and the dual SIM capabilities (depending on the version), which is helpful for people who wear more than one hat but don’t want to carry multiple phones around.
What really piqued my interest with the 20L+ was its 64MP quad-camera array – more on that a bit later.
I don’t review a lot of the mid-range phones anymore because I generally find them to be pretty much of a muchness, but this one has proven just different enough for me to make an exception.
The phone comes with both a clear jelly protective case for the rear, as well as a USB plug charger and USB-C cable. Sure, most of us have USB plugs and cables coming out of our ears, but lots of people aren’t in the same position so the fact it’s all in the box for them is a welcome feature.
The rear of the phone I reviewed was in a sort of sparkly grey finish that had a fascinating optical effect of appearing curved in the light, even though it’s as flat as the ironing board my cat is currently sleeping on.
The build quality of the phone is very good it felt solid (particularly with the included case) and the screen was bright, clear and responsive to touch inputs as well. While it’s running Android 11, the OS has a few useful additions including a data speed display, telling you what download speed the device is currently using.
Performance-wise, it was absolutely acceptable and more than suitable for everyday use – be it general internetting, streaming TV, or scrolling through social media. There were no issues at all when I used the phone for those purposes.
For gaming, I tested it with my standby mobile games – World of Tanks and Call of Duty Mobile – along with the Microsoft Project XCloud (Preview) game streaming service.
I had some performance issues with Project XCloud streaming – notably screen refresh issues – but the service is in beta so it is entirely possible the problem wasn’t in the phone, especially as I didn’t experience those issues with the on-device games I played. Certainly, Netflix and YouTube (also streaming content services) worked perfectly in HD streaming mode with no refresh issues, buffering or artefacting either.
The performance in World of Tanks and Call of Duty Mobile was totally fine and serviceable – although I did encounter some minor lag issues in multiplayer but I believe they were network related rather than device related.
One of the main selling points of the TCL 20L+ is its camera, and I have been really impressed with its capabilities. Technically there are five cameras in the phone: a 64MP main camera, an 8MP wide-angle camera, a 2MP macro camera, a 2MP depth camera, and a 15MP selfie camera.
The picture quality from the TCL’s photographic array was excellent – clear, detailed, and it worked really well in low-light conditions too. As well as the usual photo modes, the phone also includes a slo-mo mode and a light-tracing mode for capturing moving lights (like when you take a photo of a busy road at night and half the road is lines of white light and the other half is lines of red light).
The camera performed surprisingly well in a variety of conditions, ranging from a bright sunny day to night-time with ambient light and flash.
I thought the camera pushed the TCL 20L+ from a perfectly cromulent mid-range phone into a viable entry-level tool for a beginning content creator or influencer, especially given the 5000mAh battery which lasted a long time between charges both on standby and under use; I easily got a full day of regular use out of it.
The phone might not be a top end marquee product from a premium brand, but it’s well-priced, well made, performs well in real-world conditions, and has a lot to offer people looking for a respectable all-purpose and affordable phone.