Prior to 2020, TCL's smartphone efforts were limited to making displays for other companies' phones and producing devices under other other brand names. That's changed in recent years, especially in the last 12 months when TCL-branded phones brought some low-priced value to the U.S. smartphone market.
TCL hopes to keep that momentum going in the new year with five more phones under its own name. At CES 2021, the company's focusing on two devices, the TCL 20 5G and the TCL 20 SE, that will be available later this month.
- How the TCL 20 5G compares to the best 5G phones
- Best cheap phones under $400
- Plus: OnePlus Nord N10 5G vs. OnePlus Nord N100 — what's the difference
We're still waiting to see if either phone will reach the U.S. But based on what we've heard about TCL's phone plans so far, we're hoping both the TCL 20 5G and the TCL 20 SE — not to mention other devices in the TCL 20 series — show up on this side of the Atlantic in the coming months.
TCL 20 5G and TCL 20 SE specs
|TCL 20 5G||TCL 20 SE|
|Screen size||6.67 inches (2400 x 1080)||6.82 inches (1640 x 720)|
|CPU||Snapdragon 690||Snapdragon 460|
|Storage/Expandable?||128GB, 256GB/Yes||64GB, 128GB/Yes|
|Rear cameras||48MP (f/1.8); 8MP (f/2.2) wide angle; 2MP (f/2.4) macro||48MP (f/2.0) main; 5MP (f/2.2) wide angle; 2MP (f/2.4) macro; 2MP (f/2.4) depth|
|Front cameras||8MP (f/2.0)||13MP (f/2.2)|
|Battery size||4,500 mAh||5,000 mAh|
|Size||6.5 x 3 x 0.35 inches||6.8 x 3 x 0.36 inches|
|Weight||7.27 ounces||7.27 ounces|
TCL 20 5G: An even cheaper 5G phone
The 5G version of the TCL 10 delivered 5G connectivity for much less than most other budget smartphones. The U.S. version — a Verizon exclusive called the TCL 10 5G UW — dropped the price of 5G phones below $400. That was the low-water mark until the OnePlus Nord N10 5G came along earlier this month.
The TCL 20 5G will could match the Nord N10 5G's low price. TCL plans to sell the phone for €299. It's already available in Italy at that price and will soon expand to other countries.
A straight currency conversion at current rates puts the U.S. price at around $364. It's worth noting that phone makers often adjust their prices for particular markets, but it's clear that the TCL 20 5G will certainly cost less than its 5G-ready predecessor.
One of the ways TCL is bringing the cost down is by opting for a less powerful — and less expensive processor than the chipset that powered the TCL 10 5G. That phone featured a Snapdragon 765G. For the TCL 20 5G, TCL is turning to a Snapdragon 690, the first system-on-chip in Qualcomm's 6 Series to offer a built-in 5G modem.
TCL will continue to emphasize its display expertise with phones like the TCL 20 5G, which features a 6.67-inch LCD panel with FHD+ resolution. The display continues to support TCL's Nxtvision technology, which promises capabilities like SDR-to-HDR upconversion, automatic color temperature adjustments and more accurate colors.
You'll get a triple camera array on the back of the TCL 20 5G, highlighted by a 48MP main shooter, 8MP wide-angle lens and 2MP macro sensor. Up front, an 8MP camera is housed in a punch-hole cutout in the center of the display.
Other TCL 20 5G specs include a 4,500 mAh battery along with Mist Blue and Placid Blue colors. On a down note, the phone ships with Android 10 preinstalled, though there's an upgrade path to Android 11.
TCL 20 SE: A big display at a bargain price
TCL's other new phone, the TCL 20 SE, is a handset that emphasizes both value and content consumption. On that first front, TCL charges €149 for its new phone. Again, it's unclear what that means for the U.S. price — if the TCL 20 SE actually makes it to the U.S. — but we'd assume the phone would cost less than $200 here.
As for content consumption, the TCL 20 SE looks to draw you in with a 6.82-inch display with HD+ resolution. Bezels are a little more prominent around the TCL 20 SE's screen, as the company has opted for a teardrop-shaped notch to house the front camera.
The Snapdragon 460 system-on-chip power the TCL 20 SE isn't going to set any performance records, but the phone's 5,000 mAh battery should keep your device powered up through the day. Don't expect 5G connectivity with this phone — the TCL 20 SE is strictly an LTE device.
Like the TCL 20 5G, the SE model has a 48MP main camera, with quad pixel binning producing 16MP shots. Other lenses in the quad-camera setup include a 5MP wide angle camera along with dedicated macro and depth lenses. Unlike the TCL 20 5G, this phone ships with Android 11.
TCL 20 outlook
The TCL 20 5G and SE appearing at CES are only the start for TCL, which says it's producing at least three other phones this year, including another 5G device. The company is also promising multi-screen collaboration features that will let you pass information from your TCL Series 20 phone to tablets, TVs, and PCs. More information on that feature will drop later this year.