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Hands-on review: TCL 20 SE smartphone

By Darren Price
Fri 25 Jun 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

First impressions count and unlike many a phone on the cheaper end of the market, the TCL 20 SE, looks very nice. Of course, looks are one thing, it's what’s inside that determines the user experience.

Placing the TCL 20 SE next to my Huawei phone, the first thing I thought was what a chunky brick it was. But in a nice way. At 172.1 x 77.1 x 9.1 mm it is one of the larger smartphones out there. It is, however, perfectly proportioned and it needs a big chassis to fit the whopping 6.82-inch HDR screen.

The display is crisp vivid and clear with a wide 20.5:9 aspect for the 720x1640 resolution. That’s 263 pixels per inch. The screen is great for browsing websites and watching movies is a pleasure, especially when zoomed in to fill the entire screen. The small V-notch for the camera is subtle enough to be virtually unnoticeable.

The phone is powered by a Qualcomm SM4250 Snapdragon 460 system-on-chip featuring an octa-core Kryo 240 with 4 cores running at 1.8GHz and 4 cores running at 1.6GHz. This sits in the lower-to-mid end of the mainstream Android SoC. 

The GPU is a very capable Adreno 610. Whilst it can cope with casual mobile games, but don’t expect to be able to run more sophisticated games. I had no problems with Crazy Taxi, but the 3D Mark tests put the 3D performance at the lower end of the scale. Grand theft Auto Chinatown Wars looked great on the large screen. 

There’s 128 GB of storage expandable via a microSDXC that shares the SIM slot. The phone has 4GB of RAM onboard, which is a bit tight, but fair enough for a phone at this price point.

There are four rear-facing cameras, a 16MP/48MP main camera, a 5MP super wide-angle camera, a 2MP macro camera, and a 2MP depth camera. Video can be captured at a reasonable 1080p @30fps. The camera has all the usual features like night mode, portrait, slo-mo, and panorama.

The front camera is 8MP/13MP capable of video capture at 720p @30 fps. It has portrait mode HDR and is also used for facial recognition unlocking as an alternative to the fingerprint sensor on the rear.

The phone is more than capable of taking decent photos. Low light images are no problem either. Standard photos in normal light accurately reproduce natural colours. Connoisseurs may find the focus a little soft, but the phone is perfect for everyday photos and selfies.

The TCL 20 SE comes with Android 11 pre-installed with a custom TCL user interface. It was a painless exercise to transfer my setting from my existing phone over to the TCL 20 SE. All the apps I installed worked fine.

The 5000mAh battery should be fine for most users. TCL suggests that the phone charge will last 14 days on standby, 17 hours of video playback, 60 hours of music, and 16 hours of 4G Internet use. I found the phone lasted long enough for me to play with it all day with an overnight charge.

The TCL 20 SE is a 4G phone, with Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 5. It has NFC7 functionality and a USB Type-C 2.0 socket for charging and wired data transfer.The phone comes complete with a USB charger, wired earbuds (the phone having a 3.5mm jack), a screen protector, and a gel case. I don’t know if it was me or the screen protector, but I had a devil of a job trying to put it on.

All-in-all, for an AU$300/NZ$350 smartphone, the TCL 20 SE is great value for money. The phone may be a bit on the large size for some, but it does have a nice big display. You are getting a mid-ranged phone for a budget phone price, which isn’t bad at all.

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