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Meet TCL 20 SE Austin - Appealing design, long battery life, and Hi-Res audio for less

OPPO
Huawei
TCL 20 SE Austin arrived in the Philippines in March, a budget-friendly phone with a stylish design, Hi-Res Audio, and more.
Meet TCL 20 SE - Merging stunning screen and mighty battery in onend mighty battery
Meet TCL 20 SE

Most likely, you know the TCL from its televisions and soundbars. But, this brand is slowly making moves into the mobile market as it introduces the TCL 20 smartphone lineup. One of them is the relatively affordable TCL 20 SE, a sub 10K device. 

With its large 6.82-inch display, quad cameras, and 5,000mAh battery, this TCL mobile phone appears decent and capable. Since this is equipped with the brand's NXTVISION display engine, the company must be gearing this as a multimedia device.

Will this meet or exceed our expectations?

Let's find out!

Meet TCL 20 SE

The whole package inside the box
The whole package inside the box

The smartphone is stored inside a minimalist white box, with the print showing the brand name showing the design. At the back of the box, you can see the key specs of the device. 

By looking inside, you will find the paper documents, warranty, SIM ejector pin, wired earphones in white color, USB-C cord, and 10W fast charging brick. It's also nice that it comes with a free silicone case to protect the device.

TCL 20 SE is available in two colorways: Nuit Black and Aurora Green. Both colors look pleasing to the eyes, but we can say that the Aurora Green is mesmerizing in person.
Glossy teal back panel
The glossy teal back panel

The build of this device is a combination of polycarbonate and glass so there's still a premium appeal and feel to it. Although its huge size makes it a little bit tricky to grip, its rounded sides somehow improve the ergonomics. It's also a good thing that it's light to hold and use at 206 grams.

Premium look, mostly polycarbonate body

Meanwhile, the phone's glossy back panel is surely a fingerprint smudge and dirt magnet. So if you're not comfortable wiping the back panel every now and then, better use the jelly case. There's no water resistance, but we wouldn't expect that at this price. 

At the back of the device, there's the fingerprint sensor as well as four reasonably subtly placed camera lenses. Each lens is labeled up so you know exactly what it's for.  Looking closely, you can also see the two-tone design with ray-like patterns that shimmer depending on the angle.
Top
Top

It's nice to see that there's still a 3.5mm headphone jack included. It's located at the top portion along with the secondary microphone.
Bottom
Bottom

At the bottom, you'll see the USB-C port, primary microphone, and speaker grille.
Left
Left

The left side contains the textured smart key button that enables the Google Assistant. There's also a SIM tray and microSD slot.
Right
Right

Meanwhile, the power button and volume rocker are placed on the right side as usual.

The display panel itself is simply superb for the price. It is a 6.82-inch 2.5D curved LCD screen w/ HD+ 1640 x 720 resolution at 263 ppi. Using the phone outdoors, it appears that the brightness level is not that strong. But for indoor use, it's pretty much acceptable.
A massive 6.82 HD display
 A massive 6.82 HD display

Moreover, we also noticed that it can produce above-average contrast and saturation. This is possibly due to the company's NXTVISION advanced visual technology. 

This enables the device to provide users with optimum video and image display with improved SDR to HDR conversion, enhanced color calibration, and more eye safety features.

Using it daily for work tasks, web research, and social media browsing, the TCL 20 SE gives a quite satisfying performance. The colors look lively and deep, giving pleasure and enjoyment to the eyes.

Impressive display despite its lower HD+ resoution

Aside from that, this budget device has great viewing angles. The same thing can be observed when we tested this a lot for watching movies and series and Netflix. In terms of audio, the dual speakers are cleverly positioned so the sounds coming from them are loud and crystal-clear.

It is a good display, but do note that there are other phones found at this price point with better and sharper 1080p screens.
Camera modes
Camera modes

Here, the device offers a quad-camera at the rear. The 16MP will be the main snapper alongside an ultra-wide 5MP with 2MP macro and dual 2MP depth and 2MP macro lens. Since this is an entry-level device, you must manage your expectations that the results wouldn't be at par with those in the midrange segment.

It has basic camera modes such as Auto, Portrait, Panorama, Ultra-wide, and Super Macro. In addition to these, this phone got extra modes like AI Color, Pro, Stop Motion, Slo-Mo, and Light Trace. Sad to say, it lacks Night Mode.

The good thing here is, it was able to give pleasant results, especially in well-lit environments. Check out the photos below:

Rear Camera Samples

Normal daylight shot
Normal daylight shot

Starting off with the daylight shot, the 16MP main camera captures photos in good detail. The contrast and punch might not be that striking, but acceptable enough.
Wide daylight shot
Wide daylight shot

Meanwhile, the device was able to produce a nice wide-angle photo, with great color reproduction and minimal distortion.
Normal shot of a signage
Normal shot of a signage
2x zoom of the signage
2x zoom of the signage

Also, the zoom function works fine for this price range. Note that it just has 2x zoom and 4x zoom but image quality is still respectable.
Super macro shot in daylight

Trying the super macro mode of this budget phone can be somewhat tricky. It's difficult to aim or focus the lens on the subject but we were able to get a good photo, after a few practice shots.
Normal indoor shot
Normal indoor shot
Wide indoor shot
Wide indoor shot

In terms of indoor shots, the TCL 20 SE did an amazing job for an entry-level phone. The results are a bit grainy but the colors are vivid and accurate.
A photo of vintage bags inside the coffee shop
A photo of vintage bags inside the coffee shop

We also tried testing the capability of TCL 20 SE in a slightly dim coffee shop. It still gave the right amount of details so we're happy about it.
Using the portrait mode in taking a photo of our dog
Using the portrait mode in taking a photo of our dog

With the portrait mode, the TCL 20 SE has an option for bokeh shots. We observed that its camera produces a strong and unnatural blur in the background. Even so, you can adjust the coverage of the blur manually. Apparently, the edge detection is not that good because the shot reveals a lot of blurred hairs of the subject.
Using AI mode on a person

The next mode for testing is the AI mode, and this camera feature highlights the subject by making the background monochromatic black and white. Even though there are a lot of apps that accomplish this effect, still a nice-to-have add-on.
Capturing the silhouette of a tree during sunset

Because the TCL SE 20 lacks a night mode, we cannot expect fine image quality if we use it in a poorly lit environment. Even so, it seems the AI feature can help in enhancing the photo taken in dark surroundings.

In front, there's also an 8MP camera for selfies, equipped with a beauty filter that can be adjusted according to one's preference.

Selfie Camera Samples

Selfie without filter

In a daylight outdoor setting, TCL 20 SE can capture nice selfies with great contrast and details. Photos can be a bit oversaturated and grainy but the result is not too shabby.
Selfie with filter
Selfie with filter

The filter works well as it refines the texture of the subject's skin without changing the skin tone.
Indoor selfie in a well-lit environment without filter
Indoor selfie with a beauty filter
Indoor selfie with a beauty filter

On the other hand, the indoor shot tends to overexpose the image, making my complexion look paler than the actual. But, the outcome is still acceptable for this price range.
Normal night selfie

Taking a selfie in dim surroundings can be difficult because your selfies will be blurry just like the low light shots of its main camera. However, this is okay considering it has only an 8MP front camera.

This TCL device's video footage is limited to 1080p at 30fps at most, for both rear and front cameras. It might not have a stabilization feature, so the videos are pretty much on the average side.

Moving on, TCL equipped this entry-level smartphone with a 2.0GHz 11nm Snapdragon 460 octa-core processor coupled with 4GB RAM. Performance-wise, the TCL 20 SE is a little sluggish.
AnTuTu and Geekbench scores of TCL SE 20

In terms of benchmark scores, this budget phone got 140,733 on AnTuTu. Its single-core score in Geekbench is 222 while the multi-core score is 973.

We just wish the brand was able to increase the RAM up to 6GB just like its rivals in the same price category. You can still do a bit of multitasking with the device, but some apps took some time to load.

For storage, it has 64GB of internal memory which is barely enough if you download a lot of applications. Thankfully, it is expandable via a microSD card slot up to 256GB.
Call on Duty still playable in this budget phone
Call on Duty still playable in this budget phone

The TCL 20 SE can still handle crowd favorite games like Call of Duty and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang at the lowest to default settings. The phone performs well in heat management since it doesn't get too hot while charging, playing, and even with high brightness.
TCL 20 SE battery test
TCL 20 SE battery test

As mentioned, TCL equipped this device with a 5,000mAh battery. Testing this on the PCMark app, lasted for 19 hours and 12 minutes so that's a great performance.

Impressive battery performance!

On actual use, the phone's battery can endure a two-day of light to medium usage like casual gaming, browsing, and sending SMS. Note that we set the brightness and volume to 70 percent during our test. Charging this can take much longer since it only has a 10W capacity.

The rest of the features

One of the key features of the TCL 20 SE Austin is the inclusion of Hi-Res Audio certification. This simply means that when you use your high-quality and easy-to-drive (play) headphones or earphones you will enjoy an "improved" audio experience. Sony describes this as high-resolution sound the way artists truly intended. This is rare at this price point.

As a result, we were able to enjoy pretty solid and impressive audio for our music listening sessions. Not bad for a budget phone.

The device also is packed with two security features such as fingerprint sensor and face unlock. Both of them responded quickly so no problem whichever you want to use for unlocking your device.

The TCL SE 20 connects to WiFi and 4G LTE. It also has Bluetooth 5.0, FM Radio, OTG, GPS, GLONASS, and dual SIM with a dedicated microSD slot as mentioned earlier.

It has the following sensors: accelerometer, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, and magnetic.

The device runs on TCL UI based on Android 11. Overall, the user interface looks clean and pretty much similar to Stock Android with a few pre-installed TCL applications. 
UI of TCL 20 SE
UI of TCL 20 SE

The OS also includes some pretty nice and useful features for users. One is them is the "Remote lock phone" feature. By sending a text message, you can put your phone into lost mode.

If you activate the lost mode, you can remotely set the alarm on your phone, take photos and them back via MMS, and clear cellular phone data. This is a practical tool against thieves and pickpockets, might even help to track your phone if ever you misplaced it or someone took it.

TCL 20 SE Austin Specs

Display: 6.82-inch 2.5D curved LCD NXTVISION screen w/ dedicated display engine, HD+ 1640 x 720 resolution at 263 ppi 
CPU: 2.0GHz 11nm Snapdragon 460 octa-core processor
GPU: Adreno 610
RAM: 4GB
ROM: 64GB expandable via microSD card slot up to 256GB  
Back Camera: 16MP f/1.8 w/ PDAF + 5MP f/2.2 115-degree ultra-wide-angle + 2MP f/2.4 macro + 2MP f/2.4 depth + dual-tone LED flash
Selfie Camera: 8MP f/2.0  
Battery: 5,000mAh w/ 10W charging 
OS: Android 11 w/ TCL UI 
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, OTG, FM Radio, GPS, GLONASS, dual SIM
Sensors: Accelerometer, light, orientation, proximity, gyroscope, sound, magnetic
Others: Fingerprint sensor, face unlock, Google Assistant key, Hi-Res Audio, dual-mic, USB-C, Colors: Nuit Black, Aurora Green
Dimensions: 163.65 x 76.56 x 9.05 mm
Weight: 206 
Price: PHP 8,990

Quick thoughts

Vibrant screen with an affordable price tag
Vibrant screen with an affordable price tag

The TCL 20 SE Austin is a stylish and feature-rich phone at an affordable price tag of PHP 8,900.

It highlights a sleek and premium feel for its build that is nice to touch and hold, just avoid getting smudges.

The handset may not have a sharper 1080p resolution, but it is using a good type of 720p panel with a dedicated display engine that showed nice colors and contrast with eye comfort. It is also one of the very few with Hi-Res Audio certification which allowed us to enjoy good quality music playback on our wired earphones.

Lastly, the battery performance is impressive, thanks to its use of a large 5,000mAh battery.

Overall, if you are looking for a gaming or camera-focused handset on a budget, look elsewhere. But, if you want a handset boasting a sleek design, Hi-Res Audio, and strong battery performance for day-to-day social media, web browsing, and basic communication usage, this handset can still get the job done.

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