TCL might have made a name for itself because of its affordable TVs, but the brand has long entered the smartphone market, most recently releasing its first Verizon 5G phone, the TCL 10 5G UW. For CES this year, the company is back with a new, even more affordable phone lineup consisting of the sub-$400 TCL 20 5G and the TCL 20 SE.
TCL 20 5G
The TCL 20 5G fits right in with other recent smartphones, sporting a punch-hole selfie cam in the middle of the notification bar of its 6.67-inch Full HD+ (1080x2400) screen. Only the relatively big chin reveals that it might not be as expensive as a flagship. The look is completed with a big camera array on the back, consisting of three lenses: a 48MP main camera joined by an 8MP wide-angle and a 2MP macro. From our experience with other TCL phones, they might pan out to be average at best, but only proper testing will paint the whole picture. The 5G-enabled Snapdragon 690 is joined by 6GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage, which can be expanded via microSD. A 4500mAh battery is powering everything. You can charge it with up to 18W thanks to Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0+.
It's a bummer that the phone ships with Android 10, especially considering that its cheaper cousin, the TCL 20 SE, does get the latest Android version at launch, but a software update is promised. Other than that, it's a fairly ordinary budget phone with the usual wide array of connectivity options. You can expect Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.1, USB-C, NFC, and (thankfully) a headphone jack. The phone can be unlocked via a side-mounted fingerprint reader, a position that appears to become more common.
The TCL 20 5G will first come to Italy for €299 (~$365) and will be available in Mist Gray and Placid Blue. Other countries will follow later in the year. If it makes it to the US, it might be one of the cheapest ways to get into 5G, potentially undercutting or matching the similarly equipped LG K92 in price. It's no match for the €230 Xiaomi Note 9T 5G, though.
TCL 20 SE
The TCL 20 SE is pretty similar to the 20 5G, but as its name implies, it doesn't offer 5G connectivity. That's due to the Snapdragon 460, which only supports 4G. You'll also find a little less RAM and storage with 4GB and 64GB, respectively, but a microSD card can be your friend in this phone, too. The 20 SE also doesn't look as sleek as its cousin. It has a small waterdrop notch and a considerably longer chin. At least its display is a tad bigger at 6.82 inches, though it only has a resolution of 720x1640. The phone's camera game is weaker with a 16MP primary shooter, a 5MP wide-angle lens, and a 2MP macro camera, accompanied by a 2MP depth sensor.
The 20 SE trades the side-mounted fingerprint sensor for one on the rear, but at least it keeps most of the connectivity the 20 5G has: There's Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (no ac), Bluetooth 5.0 (no 5.1), USB-C, and NFC. A headphone jack is nowhere to be seen, unfortunately.
The 20 SE will be available "across multiple countries" for €149/£149 (~$200), coming in Nuit Black and Aurora Green. For the price, the phone offers quite a good compromise when it comes to hardware.
TCL wants to expand the new 20 series with "at least" three more phones, including another 5G phone. We'll hear more about them in the second quarter of 2021. The company has also announced two new tablets during CES, including one with an interesting e-ink like display. Check out our coverage for more details.