The "1-Minute" Review
VerdictUnless 5G access is essential, the TCL 20S, with its crisp screen and the long battery life, might be just the budget-friendly phone you need.
- Extremely long battery life
- Beautiful display
- Good performance
- Mediocre speakers
- Disappointing low-light photography
- Not a good choice for high-end gaming or 4K
Finding a phone that does a little bit of everything well is rare when it comes to budget phones. They almost always have one or two significant weaknesses. But the TCL 20S claims to have struck the perfect balance. What’s there and what’s missing? Let’s find out.
The TCL 20S is on the larger side of mid-range phones. It’s hefty, but not overly so. The power button is extra wide and further down on the side of the phone as it doubles as the fingerprint scanner.
Reviewers said the fingerprint sensor was wicked fast during testing. The phone’s rear cameras are arranged in a vertical line down the upper left side. A dedicated Google Assistant button on the opposite side of the phone that reviewers wished was re-programmable worked well nonetheless.
Screens are a strong point on most TCL phones. The TCL 20S’ 6.67-inch Full HD LCD panel is no exception. Reviewers stated it was as clear and detailed as some of the top phones out there. While there’s a notch for the selfie camera, it’s not distracting or intrusive, a problem that reviewers argued TCL faced on previous phones.
The refresh rate was the only shortcoming. As more phones shift to 90Hz (or higher) displays, the phone’s 60Hz panel is unfortunate.
This phone has the same specs one might expect from a mid-range budget phone with a slightly lesser chipset than those in the higher tier options. However, reviewers said that performance was still perfect for anything the average user might need. Netflix, social media and even some gaming worked just fine.
Software & Storage
The TCL 20S ships with Android 11. TCL has added a few screen adjustment features but leaves Android mostly stock. There’s a 128GB model with 4GB of RAM and a 256GB version with 6GB of RAM. Both have expandable storage with MicroSD card slots.
Reviewers stated that the cameras were adequate but not exceptional. In particular, the night mode for photography was really disappointing. Blotchy, pixelated and unclear images took what could’ve been considered a really decent set of cameras down to just being mediocre.
Battery life is where the TCL 20S comes out on top. Having a larger battery isn’t that big of a deal for higher-priced phones but is relatively rare still for budget-minded models.
Reviewers stated the phone would easily get a good solid full day out of a single charge before needing to hunt down a power source. The included charger isn’t the fastest, though.
While phone speakers only get so good, reviewers found audio quality on the TCL 20 particularly disappointing. Along with non-existent bass and odd default equalization, many reviewers complained about a constant faint buzz. Thankfully, the phone comes with a headphone jack.
Specs at a Glance
- Plastic chassis
- 6.67-inch FHD LCD panel
- Qualcomm SM6125 Snapdragon 665 processor
- 4 or 6GB of RAM
- Android 11
- 128 or 256GB of storage with expandable MicroSD slot
- 64MP camera
- 5,000mAh battery
The TCL 20S does a pretty good job of ticking all of the boxes for the average phone. There are some instances where it falls short, like the buzzing speakers and the less-than-stellar performance with heavy games.
However, when it comes to watching Netflix, using social media, and all the little tasks you probably bounce between on your phone throughout the day, it does well enough to be a compelling reason to consider budget-friendly phones over their pricier competition.
Tech Radar says, “The TCL 20S is an impressive budget phone for its price, with a crisp Full HD Plus display, decent camera suite, big 5,000mAh battery, and other features that are more in line with a mid-range handset. While nothing particularly stands out about the phone (besides the display), it isn’t lacking in any category either, making it a strong all-rounder.”
PC Magazine states, “As long as you don’t need 5G, the TCL 20S is a powerful budget phone with an immersive display, excellent speakers, and a long-lasting battery.”
What the Critics Are Saying...
- Richard Goodwin, Know Your Mobile
If you’re on a tight budget but you need a phone that can run apps, take decent looking pictures, has great battery life, and runs things like a headphone jack, the TCL 20S is a great option – for less than $300, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better phone on the US market right now.
- Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla, Canadian Reviewer
The TCL 20S is a good midrange Android phone with excellent battery life and a decent feature set. It’s only drawback is that it is only guaranteed to receive one major Android update, for anyone seeking a solid and reliable midrange Android phone, the TCL 20S will not disappoint.
- Gloria Sin, The Verge
I can’t really think of a higher quality budget phone in the $250 range that can beat the TCL 20S. It’s got all the hallmarks of a more expensive device but with a more affordable price tag. Its vibrant 6.67-inch 1080p display doesn’t look out of place next to other flagship phones, and it feels lux...
- David Lumb, TechRadar
The TCL 20S is an impressive budget phone for its price, with a crisp Full HD Plus display, decent camera suite, big 5,000mAh battery, and other features that are more in line with a mid-range handset. While nothing particularly stands out about the phone (besides the display), it isn’t lacking in a...
- Andrew, Phandroid
Aside from the display, design, and battery life, there’s really not too much else to write home about. The TCL 20S is a solid performer and is a pretty solid competitor for under $250.
Prices (Where to Buy)
TCL 20S prices will vary depending on retailer, age, special offers and whether or not it's purchased with a service plan. If purchased with a 2 year service contract for example, you would likely pay much less for the phone itself up front. TCL's suggested retail price is $249.99. You can compare 20S prices from around the web here on The Informr.
TCL backs up the 20S with a 1 Year parts & labour warranty.
If your 20S has problems and is still within its warranty period, you could contact TCL support or the retailer you purchased the phone from. You'll find TCL's contact information here. If your phone is off warranty and needs repair for a physical problem such as a broken screen or bad battery, you should visit an authorized service centre or a local phone repair shop. You can also connect with others in The Informr Community Forum to find and share answers to questions.
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