When LG was still in the smartphone market, buyers could pick up a Stylo model at cheap prices. Motorola offers a Moto G Stylus device, and now we have the new TCL Stylus 5G to fill the void left by LG. That Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is the new Galaxy Note with a starting price of $1,075, but you might not want to pay more than four times the cost of a TCL Stylus 5G for that ultimate experience.
TCL has some good affordable options in the sub-$450 range and has had good success in the US market with its own branded smartphones. The TCL Stylus 5G is currently available from Metro by T-Mobile for $269.99 and from T Mobile for $258. Unlike previous phones at this price point, the TCL Stylus 5G is a solid option with good support from TCL.
At this low price point, there are obviously some compromises in specs and performance. TCL offers a fairly standard Android experience with a well-integrated stylus to help you take notes, navigate the phone, and convert the handwritten script to text.
|processor||MediaTek Dimension 700 5G|
|advertisement||6.81-inch LCD with a resolution of 2460 x 1080 pixels (395 ppi)|
|operating system||Android 12|
|storage||128GB internal memory with microSD card|
|cameras||50 MP main camera, 5 MP super wide angle with 114.9 field of view, 2 MP macro and 2 MP depth sensor. 13 MP front camera.|
|connectivity||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, NFC, FM radio|
|sensors||Accelerometer, side fingerprint sensor, electronic compass, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, gyro barometer|
|battery||4000 mAh non-removable with 18W fast charge|
|LTE bands||2, 4, 5, 12, 25, 26, 41, 66, 71|
|5G bands||N66, N25, N41, N77 Sub6|
|Dimensions||169.6 x 76.7 x 8.98mm and 213g|
- Large display, solid speakers
- Skilled Pen
- Four rear cameras
Known for its display technology, TCL continues to incorporate NXTVISION technology into its smartphones. The TCL Stylus 5G features a large 6.81-inch display with a 90.2% screen-to-body ratio. A central, front-facing pinhole camera is present, with a viewable display appearing around the aperture. There is no opening for the camera in the front bezel, so a full surface is available for interaction. The display is an LCD panel but it looks great and I enjoyed a few movies playing on the large panel.
Speaking of movies, there are two speakers so you can enjoy movies in landscape mode, with a bottom speaker and headphone speaker playing audio. I could comfortably watch movies without headphones, but there’s also a standard 3.5mm audio jack on the bottom of the phone.
A USB-C port, microphone and bottom speaker are also found on the bottom edge. The stylus silo is also located in the bottom right corner of the phone. There is a microphone on the top of the phone. The SIM card/microSD card tray is on the top left, with the power and volume buttons on the right. The power button doubles as a fingerprint sensor, allowing you to quickly and easily unlock the phone with your thumb when holding it in your right hand. Personally, I prefer side fingerprint sensors to under-display ones.
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The pen is well designed with good length, weight and feel in hand. However, it works best when no other part of your hand or fingers are touching the display. Nothing is displayed under the stylus when your hand is resting on the display. You can use your finger in the same way as the stylus, so it’s more of a finger with a finer tip at the end. Most of the time my hand wasn’t touching the display, so I enjoyed the stylus experience. However, I have larger hands and longer fingers than many people, and when using a stylus on a phone, I rarely touch the phone with any other part of my hand.
The edges of the phone all have a textured finish to give you a better grip on the phone. The back is also matte black. The four cameras are in a vertical line along the upper left portion of the back with an LED flash near the bottom camera lens. The cameras help you snap decent photos that are good for sharing on social media or with friends, but they don’t beat the flagship phone cameras, which are four times the price.
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However, you can capture photos, videos, portraits, panoramas, slow motion videos, light trails, super macro, high pixels, and photos in manual mode, so your results will depend heavily on lighting conditions and your ability to take good photos. There’s no night mode, so shooting in low light is clearly a challenge.
The phone packs a 4,000mAh battery that lasts for a full day of standard use. As a productivity-oriented phone, I was expecting 4,500mAh or more given what we see in other TCL smartphones. The TCL Stylus 5G also has 4GB of RAM, which was sufficient for most standard tasks, but the phone can struggle a bit when playing games or pushing the limits with multiple applications open and in use.
- Android 12 out of the box
- Few custom TCL utilities
- Stylus software
The TCL Stylus 5G is one of the first TCL phones to launch with Android 12 and TCL UI version 4.x. The Android security update from March 5, 2022 is available on the test device. TCL stated that this phone will be updated to Android 13 and will receive security updates for two years.
TCL’s UI offers a fairly standard Android experience, with most of TCL’s customizations found in the app launcher, pull-down shadow, and settings on TCL’s display technologies. The app launcher supports sorting by name, usage, install and icon color (this is new). The drop-down screen can be customized with your favorite controls, while you can also choose from a selection of small and large tiles. In the settings we find specific options for the NXTVISION display technology, stylus options and more.
There are only a few apps installed on the phone, such as B. the Gallery, FM Radio, Nebo for TCL, MyScript Calculator 2, Messaging and the NXTVISION utility that make using the phone’s features easier. The two pen-centric apps are powerful, and the handwriting recognition in Nebo is pretty impressive. My poor handwriting was quickly recognized with a high percentage of accuracy.
When you remove the stylus from the silo, an overlay display appears with options for Nebo for TCL, MyScript Calculator 2, Write Note, Screenshot Doodle, E-Signature, Magnify Window, GIF Maker, and Split Screen. These are all fairly self-explanatory features, and there’s no way to customize or rearrange the appearance of these utilities. I like sending custom GIF messages to my wife, having a window to view text so I don’t need my reading glasses, and jotting down notes.
If you remove the stylus when the screen is off, a notes app appears, allowing you to write notes without turning on the phone.
The Google feed is available on the far left of the home screen. All the other expected Google Android features are also present on the phone.
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Daily usage experiences
- Stylus notes are good
- Blocked for T-Mobile
- Cheap phone, decent performance
I’ve been a Galaxy Note user since the Note 3 and like to use a stylus for quick notes and to navigate the phone so I don’t have to use my finger to scroll or type. The TCL Stylus 5G surprised me with its ability to support note-taking when the display is off. Just pull out the pen and start jotting down your latest thoughts easily. By the way, the magnet in the silo is quite strong, and when you move the pen into the silo, the magnet will suck it to fix it in the phone.
That Nebo for TCL The software is more powerful than I expected and has excellent handwritten text conversion technology. It’s nice to see cloud backup options, but I’d prefer to see support for existing note-taking apps like OneNote, Evernote, or others. That MyScript calculator 2 app is pretty nifty too, but it has a fairly limited set of supported operators, so it won’t help me to solve differential equations or technical calculations that are too advanced.
The TCL Stylus 5G is currently tied to T-Mobile but supports Sub6 5G networks and has proven itself in connecting to the local 5G towers. Phone calls sounded good and wireless performance was solid. It’s not clear if the phone will launch with other carriers in the future, or as an unlocked model.
TCL stated that the Stylus 5G will be updated to Android 13 and will also receive Android security updates for two years. This is a good level of support for a phone that costs under $300. The fingerprint sensor on the side worked reliably, Face Unlock can also be used for less secure processes.
Overall, the TCL Stylus 5G is a phone worth considering if you’re looking for an affordable phone with stylus support, as long as you can operate it without putting your hand on the display. It wasn’t really a problem for me as I tend to use the stylus on all my phones without putting my hand on the display. The TCL Stylus 5G offers a solid experience at a fairly reasonable price.