The TCL 20R 5G is a good, honest 5G phone that meets or exceeds our test paradigms. It is all you need – support for all Australian 4G, 5G sub-6Ghz and 5G Low bands; 13MP tri-camera; 4/64GB/microSD; hybrid dual sim; 4500mAh battery; 6.52″ screen; NFC; Wi-Fi AC/BT 5.1; and 3.5mm jack. Whew!
TCL is the latest player in the Australian smartphone market. It owns the Alcatel brand, and the product ranges have merged under the TCL banner. The 20-series (2021) ranges from (low-to-high) 20 SE 4G ($297), 20 5G ($499), 20L+ 4G ($398), 20 Pro 5G ($799) and 20R 5G ($349 – this review) and the specifications cover a broad range. So when you are reading reviews, make sure it is for the right one.
As TCL is a recent entrant to the smartphone market, retail outlets are scarce – generally Harvey Norman and Officeworks. We have noticed a small amount of grey market parallel imports. As it is a 5G device, it is critical to ensure it has the RCM C-Tick mark in Settings, System, Regulatory and Safety, or it won’t work here.
TCL 20R 5G Model T767H-2AIZAU12, 4/64GB, Dual Hybrid sim
TCL Technology (Wiki here – originally an abbreviation for Today China Lion) is a Chinese multinational electronics company headquartered in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. Founded as a state-owned enterprise, it is now on the Hong Kong Stock exchange. It designs and manufactures television sets, mobile phones, air conditioners, washing machines, refrigerators and small electrical appliances. TCL now means ‘The Creative Life’. It also owns the Alcatel brand.
First impression – The TCL 20R 5G is chunky
And that is not a bad thing. It is solid at 164.3 x 75 x 8.99mm x 186 – but not overly heavy. It has a reasonably big chin, a teardrop selfie notch, flat-screen, fingerprint reader (back), 3.5mm port and a tri-camera bump.
Solid and reassuring in hand, the front glass is a fingerprint magnet, and the rear panel is a matte finish.
Screen – perfect for the price
6.52”, 1600 x 720, 20:9, 268ppi, 60/90Hz, 16.7m colours IPS with a top teardrop selfie
It is a visually pleasing, saturated colour screen with adjustment handled by TCL’s NXTVISION app. This offers automatic (depends on ambient light) image and video enhancement and a choice of vivid (default), Natural and Advanced (custom).
TCL claims 500 nits and 1200:1 contrast (theoretical peak) with no claim to sRGB or DCI-P3 gamut coverage. Real-life tests are <300 nits and 1000:1 – still, it is quite a good screen for the price.
The screen refresh is automatic or fixed at 60 or 90Hz (180Hz touch sample rate for gamers). All tests were on auto, which generally defaults to 60Hz except in TCL apps and the UI.
Mali-G57 MC2 955Mhz Test: Compute Open CL: 1321 and Vulkan 1351
Limited by the processor and GPU. No games accelerator app
64GB UFS 2.1 (29GB free – low so remove bloatware) Mbps sequential read/write 132/141MBps (slow) Hybrid slot microSD card 41/22 (write speeds vary from 5-25MBps) Its USB-C 2.0, so expect external speeds or <30MBps
Geek Bench 5
Single/Multi-core 548/1763 Overall it performs slightly above a Qualcomm SD720 or 732G
Throttle 15-min test
Max: 167,173 GIPS, Average: 159,483 – 11% loss over 15 minutes CPU temp reached 50° Throttling is a given in any lower-cost device, and this is within a typical range. The raw power is 7% faster than an SD732G, but its overall AI power is about 20% lower. Overall, a suitable chip for the price.
The MediaTek Dimensity 700 is a 7nm chip, so it runs quite cool and is energy efficient. It is a very popular chip used in Motorola g50, realme 8/V3, vivo V21/Y72, Samsung A22, OPPO A53s/55 and dozens of other phones.
USB-C 2.0 480Mbps/65MBps half-duplex, achieving a maximum of about 30MBps. It does not support ALT DP (audio/video) over USB-C.
Combo accelerometer/gyro, e-Compass, Proximity, ambient light. This is about the minimum sensor array and will not detect steps (pedometer) or have games sensitivity.
It is similar to most phones in this bracket.
LTE and 5G
Hybrid Dual sim either 5G or 4G or both (if using 5G, it is always active) or use one as microSD to 1TB
VoLTE – carrier dependent – generally yes Wi-Fi calling – same
14.34/20Mbps 37ms (below average)
B1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 28, 32, 38, 40, 41 It supports all Australian 4G bands – not a world phone
n1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 28, 40, 78 Supports all Australian 5G sub-6GHz and low-band
Using a Boost Mobile (Telstra retail network) sim at 1km line-of-sight from Telstra tower. Expressed as -dBm (lower is better) and Femtowatts (fW) or picowatts (pW) where higher is better. Tower (nearest to furthest) 1: -85dBm/ varies from 2.5-6.3pW – quite strong 2: No 3: No 4: No
MediaTek Dimenmsity 700 5G chips don’t have the signal strength for use outside the city or suburbs. If you need a phone for regional or rural use, it will cost more.
Battery – one day
5V/2A/10W inbox 0-100% – just under 3 hours Supports up to 5V/3A/15W that reduces the charge to just over 2 hours.
Tests (auto refresh)
100% load Battery drain screen on – 5 hours 30 minutes Video Loop 50% brightness local storage: 11 hours YouTube 50% brightness, Wi-Fi: 8 hours and 3 minutes PC Mark 3 Battery Test: 8 hours and 8 minutes GFX Bench Manhattan 3.1: 439.2 minutes, 7.32 hours, 2867 frames GFX Bench T-Rex: 399.5 min 6.658 hours 4327 frames
Battery life is shorter than expected compared to other MediaTek Dimensity 700 smartphones. So we ran the tests three times with the same results. By comparison, the vivo Y52 and Moto g50 with the same processor get over double the PC Mark and GFX Bench battery life.
And it would not have killed TCL to supply a 15W charger either as 3 hours to charge is too long to wait.
Sound – mono
Mono earpiece and down-firing speaker. It is not fair to measure the sound signature of a mono speaker system. The primary use is for clear voice. It is not for music or movies with no bass or mid before 1000Hz and no treble after 10kHz. There is no sound stage.
Bumper cover 10W W charger USB-A to USB-C cable Earbuds/mic
Android 11 – but don’t expect OS updates at this price
Google Android 11 Security patch date 5/10/2021 (review 5/11)
TCL UI v3.0.2B2A supplies alternatives to Google apps. It’s a relatively light touch over Android 11 bit does install some custom apps like browser, calculator, camera, files and more. If you are concerned about privacy, you can uninstall these and use Google Alternative. Given the limited storage space, we recommend you uninstall all unnecessary apps.
All standard Google apps, Lens and Assistant.
Amazon Shopping, Booking.com, generic office suite, and Facebook that you can uninstall. You can’t uninstall Netflix.
No OS upgrade but ‘regular’ security patches to August 2023
Fingerprint sensor on the power button – reliable Face ID – 5/10 because reliability depends on ambient light TCL doesn’t appear to ask for any PII unless you opt to allow it at install time.
Nothing for the price. There is no point wishing for Qi charging, stereo speakers, AMOLED etc., as that is about double the price.
TCL 20R 5G – camera
The MediaTek Dimensity 700 supplies just enough AI for reasonable computational photography -certainly better than social media quality. But given that, you need to be a little more careful with low light. It only has one photo setting – auto and 1-4X zoom.
It is a tri-camera, but the 13MP does all the work with Macro for Macro only and depth for bokeh calculations. So you don’t have wide-angle or telephoto.
The camera is fine on day and office light-producing quality images. It cannot handle low light.
SK Hynix HI1336
Pixel size um
FOV° and (cropped)
Indoors Office Light (400 lumens)
Low light (room with less than 100 lumens)
The Samsung sensor is suitable and has contrast autofocus, which is better than the generic sensors of this size.
The rear video takes 1080p@30fps. That is not a strain for any modern smartphone. In day and office light, the results are pleasing. But it struggles with lower light. The front video struggles with too much noise – drop back to 720p, and it is fine.
TCL is a latecomer to the Australian smartphone scene. It is hard to get shelf space, let alone visibility at the major retailers. This is a shame as the TCL 20R 5G at $349 exceeds all reasonable expectations.
My only two concerns are battery life and 4/5G signal strength. On the battery life issue, it is about half that of similar MediaTek Dimensity 700 phones. A firmware update is needed to address that. On the signal strength – while it is typical of Dimensity 700 – it is strictly a city and suburbs phone with good transmission tower density.