The TCL 20 R 5G Is a Powerful Smartphone Without the Mega Price Tag

The TCL 20 R 5G Is a Powerful Smartphone Without the Mega Price Tag
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Phone markets are shrinking internationally. Huawei is winding things down, LG is gone and we’re seeing supply constraints. A saving grace of all of this is that powerful phones, oddly enough, have become cheaper, through companies like OPPO, Vivo and TCL.

TCL’s relatively new to the phone market, with its first phone released back in 2019. Over that time, TCL has followed the same philosophy with phones as it has with its TVs (which is where you might recognise the name), providing a cheap option for a premium product. With TVs, you’d be hard-pressed finding a cheaper Android TV than with TCL.

With phones, TCL is definitely on the much cheaper side of things, competing with Samsung’s A series phones and OPPO’s budget line of devices in particular — and boy, has TCL been on a roll.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the original TCL 20 5G, which was a very solid phone. Throughout this year, TCL has kept up the ‘20’ range with phones like the TCL 20 Pro and the TCL 20 L+, providing phones at a range of price points. The TCL 20 R 5G is the latest phone to follow suite and is the cheapest of the 20 5G series — it’s also a very impressive phone. Here’s our review of the TCL 20 R 5G.

TCL 20 R 5G

WHAT IS IT?

The latest budget handset from TCL

PRICE

$349

LIKE

Device speed, nice display and capable performance for its price

NO LIKE

Slow charging, fidgety fingerprint recognition and lacking camera technology

TCL is on a roll with the 20 R 5G

The TCL 20 R is the cheapest TCL 20 series phone you can purchase in Australia, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s the least powerful of the TCL range. While it doesn’t keep up with the TCL 20 5G or much less the TCL 20 Pro, the TCL 20 R is very solid and easily stands up to Samsung and OPPO phones within both the budget and mid-range price points.

TCL’s impressive NXTVision display technology has returned with the TCL 20 R 5G, but here are the rest of the screen specs:

  • 6.52-inch, IPS LCD display
  • 269 PPI
  • HDR
  • 90Hz adaptive refresh rate
  • 500 nits max brightness

Much like with the original TCL 20 5G, there’s a lot to love about the TCL 20 R, especially the price. $349 is a very generous price point for a smartphone, especially one with a 90hz screen and the speed of the TCL 20 R. The screen itself is huge and colours look great on it. The responsiveness of the phone is fast and ultimately I haven’t had any problems with the operating system.

It’s a very nice-looking phone too. My review unit of the TCL 20 R 5G has a nice matte grey colour (it’s also available in blue), looking very professional and in no way cheap. It’s a very uniform phone, with its backside fingerprint reader and its three cameras, along with the TCL logo and product information at the bottom of the phone. The phone also comes with either 64GB or 128GB storage and 4GB RAM. Its dimensions are 164.3 x 75 x 9mm.

I barely noticed any system lag across any application I used. I was mostly using Chrome, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and playing the odd game of League of Legends: Wild Rift while using it and I was pretty impressed with the experience I got. It’s great seeing a phone this cheap and not have much system lag, considering I’ve used phones as expensive as $749 with laggy operating systems.

What’s not so good about the TCL 20 R 5G?

A lot of what I’ve already said applies across the entire TCL 20 5G family, so what separates the TCL 20 R from the rest of the pack? Well, the cost… Aaaand some of the features are a bit worse for wear. Charging took a lot longer than I wish it did (about two and a half hours from flat when fast charging), the fingerprint reader is a bit slow (sometimes unresponsive) and the cameras are a bit disappointing.

TCL 20 R 5G review
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

I’m very happy to report, though, that none of these problems ruin the experience. The cameras are still very capable of producing a good snap across every lens, but nothing above average. In my mind that’s fine – TCL isn’t trying to do what Huawei, Google or Apple are doing with camera technology. Considering the features you do get for that low price, the TCL 20 R 5G justifies toning its camera performance down.

TCL 20 R 5G review
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

TCL 20 R 5G cameras:

  • Wide: 13 MP, f/2.2 aperture, 27mm 1/3.0″, 1.12µm, PDAF
  • Depth: 2 MP, f/2.4 aperture
  • Macro: 2 MP, f/2.4 aperture
  • Selfie: 8 MP, f/2.0 aperture, 26mm (wide) 1/4.0″, 1.12µm
  • Extra camera technology: HDR, panorama, LED Flash, [email protected] video

As for the charging and fingerprint reader on the back, these issues felt like problems that simply come with a cheaper smartphone. I’m not totally against these things lacking, but it would be nice to see these issues resolved.

TCL 20 R 5G: The verdict

I can’t find that much to be disappointed in by the TCL 20 R 5G. Every phone TCL has released this year has been impressive, so the TCL 20 R 5G ends the year with a bang and the cheapest handset of the lot.

To anybody on a budget, I can recommend the TCL 20 R 5G if you want a phone that’ll perform above its price point, however, be aware of its charging speed and its lacking camera technology. Apart from these points, the TCL 20 R 5G is a solid phone.

Looking to the future, I’m excited to see what else TCL does in the phone market. They’ve had an impressive year and it looks like they’ll be around for a while.