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HomeAndroid UpdateTCL Stylus 5G Review: How 4 Months Went With This $258 Phone

TCL Stylus 5G Review: How 4 Months Went With This $258 Phone

On paper, the TCL Stylus 5G is a incredible worth: It has a big 6.81-inch display with 1080p decision, 5G compatibility, a clear model of Android 12 and 4 rear cameras anchored by a 50-megapixel most important digicam sensor. There’s additionally a devoted slot for its included magnetic stylus. It’s priced at $258 (roughly £215 or AU$385), which ought to make it an ideal productiveness decide for cost-conscious spenders.

But over the 4 months I spent testing this cellphone, a sequence of software program points made the TCL Stylus 5G difficult to make use of. I skilled random resets, Bluetooth issues and a deadly crash that required a manufacturing facility reset.

TCL replicated the problems I found and mentioned that patches are within the works. That’s good to know, however my time with the cellphone has positively established what I’m prepared to compromise (and what I’m not) when searching for a sub-$300 cellphone.


  • Big display with good HDR mode
  • Clean model of Android 12
  • Magnetic stylus

Don’t Like

  • Software bugs steadily impression usability
  • T-Mobile bloatware
  • Fuzzy video high quality

When all of it works, the cellphone is likely one of the higher under-$300 telephones I’ve examined, notably due to its giant colourful display, lengthy battery life and bundled productiveness apps that work with its stylus. But then I’d run right into a software program downside, making the cellphone tough — or generally inconceivable — to proceed utilizing.

The Stylus 5G is hard to suggest in its present kind. Its exclusivity to T-Mobile at $258 (or the marginally larger $270 once you get it from Metro by T-Mobile) severely limits its availability. TCL says the cellphone will finally be accessible unlocked, nevertheless it wants to repair its efficiency points first. 

TCL Stylus 5G

The TCL Stylus 5G runs Android 12.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

TCL Stylus 5G efficiency

The TCL Stylus 5G is all over with regards to efficiency, with software program issues grinding each vivid spot to a halt. The MediaTek Dimensity 700 5G chip powering the system is not very highly effective, nevertheless it dealt with most of my power-consuming duties. At first I had no bother listening to music whereas searching the net, enjoying video games comparable to Mario Kart Tour and video calling whereas concurrently utilizing media-heavy apps like Instagram. But when doing these duties for an extended interval — comparable to whereas commuting — the cellphone unexpectedly reset itself a number of instances per week. At the time of publishing, this downside nonetheless wasn’t resolved even after putting in a November software program replace. 

Thankfully, that software program replace did deal with the Bluetooth connectivity points I additionally skilled throughout my time with the TCL Stylus 5G. My wi-fi headphones disconnected and reconnected repeatedly on a number of events earlier than this replace. This occurred most steadily once I used Apple Music on Android, nevertheless it additionally affected different third-party apps. This did not occur when streaming music on Spotify or YouTube Music, nevertheless. While there is a wired headphone jack that would alleviate this concern, it is unusual to have the identical challenge with a number of Bluetooth headphones.

TCL mentioned it is nonetheless engaged on software program patches to those points, which I skilled on two assessment items earlier than the November software program patch. Resolving the Bluetooth error does make the cellphone extra usable, however the extra troubling challenge was when the cellphone’s storage turned corrupted and wanted a full manufacturing facility reset with a view to proceed functioning. I’m happy to say that did not occur with my second assessment unit. 

The cellphone’s 5G connectivity was good. The mannequin I used was locked to T-Mobile and appropriate with the service’s “5G Ultra Capacity” community — which is a elaborate title for its millimeter wave and C-band spectrum. I used to be capable of rapidly stream video and cargo web sites on the TCL Stylus 5G, no matter which community the cellphone was related to. While I’m not thrilled that the Stylus 5G is at the moment locked to T-Mobile, it is important that even lower-end telephones like this are seeing sooner speeds because the service’s 5G community continues to enhance. 

TCL Stylus 5G

The 4 cameras on the again of the TCL Stylus 5G.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

TCL Stylus 5G cameras

The TCL Stylus 5G takes respectable pictures for a cellphone on this value vary. There are 4 cameras: a 50-megapixel most important digicam, a 5-megapixel ultrawide, a 2-megapixel macro digicam and a 2-megapixel depth sensor digicam.

Outdoors throughout a day journey to the Hamptons, I took pictures of boats and seashores all of which got here out good. The cameras do not seize a ton of particulars, nevertheless. 

Beach photo taken on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Beach picture taken on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Boat photo taken on the TCL Stylus 5G

Boat picture taken on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

During a nighttime Mets recreation, I used to be capable of digitally zoom in on gamers, however you possibly can barely make out particulars on their uniforms. 

Baseball game photo on the TCL Stylus 5G

New York Mets recreation picture taken on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Darker settings had been extra of a problem, as you’d anticipate for a cellphone on this value vary. I took pictures of a darkish stretch of freeway and of my pal’s cat, Kai. Both pictures suffered from mushy particulars and movement blur.

Highway photo take on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Nighttime freeway picture taken on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Cat photo taken by TCL Stylus 5G

Kai the cat inside a field. Photo taken on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

The 13-megapixel selfie digicam delivers blended efficiency. When the lighting was good and the digicam nailed the main target, I appeared good. But more often than not selfies and video chats appeared muddy and blurry.

Outdoor selfie photo on TCL Stylus 5G.

An out of doors selfie picture taken on the TCL Stylus 5G taken at an occasion.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Indoor selfie photo on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Indoor selfie picture on the TCL Stylus 5G.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

Video footage I recorded with the rear digicam was outright dangerous. I really feel it will solely be good for sending a fast video to a pal.

These outcomes are in line with most sub-$300 telephones, just like the OnePlus N20 5G, which additionally has a Night mode. The Stylus 5G would not have an evening mode however does embody a Portrait mode, which can be fairly uncommon on this value vary. In use it was inconsistent. During the Mets recreation, for example, the digicam centered on me but in addition unblurred a couple of random individuals sitting behind me.

TCL Stylus 5G

The NXTVision setting provides a noticeable shade bump for video games and movies.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

TCL Stylus 5G display, battery life and software program

The 6.8-inch, 1080p display is the Stylus 5G’s finest function, even when at first it seems bland. Most of the time the display runs in an SDR mode, which could be to save lots of battery life. However TCL’s NXTVision setting switches the display into an HDR mode routinely when enjoying movies and video games, permitting the cellphone to indicate a noticeable bump in shade saturation. I particularly appreciated it when enjoying Mario Kart Tour, the place the enhance in shade helps the racetracks pop. It’s a wise concept that I’d prefer to see in additional telephones on this value vary. In some methods it is akin to dearer telephones, just like the iPhone 14 Pro, that may dynamically regulate their refresh charge. 

The cellphone’s 4,000-mAh battery is large nevertheless it’s smaller than you get with different low cost telephones, which frequently have a 5,000-mAh battery. (That’s what you get with the $250 Samsung Galaxy A13 5G, for instance.) I by no means had a problem getting via a day of use with the Stylus 5G. Most days would finish with about 30% battery, however the cellphone does include an 18-watt quick charger. The charging velocity is not ridiculously quick in comparison with different telephones on this value vary, however I discovered it able to charging from 8% to 50% in about 34 minutes. It received to 89% in roughly 90 minutes.

Despite my qualms concerning the numerous software program bugs I encountered, the Stylus 5G ships with Android 12 and several other TCL-specific options like NXTVision and shortcuts to your most up-to-date music or podcast app headphones are related. After including my T-Mobile SIM card, the cellphone did add a heavy quantity of service customizations, which included a devoted T-Mobile feed (alongside Google’s information feed) in addition to a number of T-Mobile apps.

The TCL Stylus 5G will solely obtain one further Android software program replace, and two years of safety updates. This is on the quick aspect for this value vary, as Samsung guarantees as a lot as 4 years of safety updates for its cheaper A-series telephones. But it is also on par with Motorola’s Moto G sequence, which solely will get one software program replace however three years of safety updates. If somebody buys a Stylus 5G they’re going to must get a brand new cellphone after two years with a view to keep away from having private information on a tool that would expertise a safety vulnerability.

For each day cellphone safety nevertheless, the Stylus 5G features a fingerprint sensor as a part of the ability button. There’s additionally NFC included for cell funds, which is especially uncommon to see on this cheaper price vary.

TCL Stylus 5G

The NXTVision setting might be switched on and off within the settings.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

TCL Stylus 5G: Should you purchase?

Considering the aggressive approach TCL costs its telephones, it will be incredible to see the corporate disrupt the cell area the way in which its value-filled tv units did. But when you’ve points with a tv’s built-in working system for streaming apps, you possibly can at all times plug in a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV or a recreation console to make use of as an alternative. A cellphone’s software program expertise is a crucial ingredient.

Until the TCL Stylus 5G works out its frequent resets, I can not suggest the cellphone in its present state. I’m inspired by how the Bluetooth connectivity points I skilled had been patched out. 

Someone wanting on this value vary ought to take a look at the $300 OnePlus N20, which has comparable specs. While we have not examined it but, the $250 Samsung Galaxy A13 5G can be price contemplating, however as we attain the tip of the yr it is probably Samsung will launch a more moderen model.

If you’ve a Stylus 5G and expertise the identical points I did, ensure your cellphone is up to date to the newest software program model (4.0.6E95 as of this writing). If this does not enhance issues, then it is price making an attempt to get the cellphone changed below TCL’s one-year guarantee.

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