TCL’s entry-level Stylus 5G is smart for somebody on a strict price range who completely should have 5G and a built-in stylus. That is fairly a particular demographic, and I am unsure many individuals meet all of that standards.
The TCL Stylus 5G is out there for $ 258 from T-Cellular or $ 269 from Metro by T-Cellular – they’re the very same mannequin – and for now, these are the one methods to buy it within the US. The Stylus 5G can also be the third notable price range stylus cellphone to reach on retailer cabinets within the US this 12 months, alongside the 2022 variations of Motorola’s Moto G Stylus and Moto G Stylus 5G. Bought all these product names straight? Good, there is a quiz later.
TCL’s stylus cellphone is the least costly of the three, and its specs replicate that. It does not provide fairly as a lot RAM because the Motorola choices or the $ 282 non-stylus OnePlus Nord N20, its 4,000mAh battery is on the small facet for the category, and its 6.81-inch LCD affords neither a quicker refresh price nor the richness of an OLED – choices its equally priced rivals provide.
This all leaves the TCL Stylus in awkward territory. It is cheap, to make sure, but additionally totally unremarkable. Even beneath $ 300, a cellphone can provide one thing that stands out, and the TCL’s mixture of a low value, 5G, and a stylus does not add as much as a useful proposition.
The cellphone’s efficiency is suitable, although there is a noticeable stutter and hesitation right here and there as I soar between apps, sort emails, and scroll timelines. The Stylus’ MediaTek Dimensity 700 chipset and 4GB of RAM are enough to get by means of day by day duties, however I would not anticipate much more from them. Battery stamina is not best-in-class, however it’s going to final by means of a day of average use.
The Stylus ’6.8-inch display screen is an space the place it looks as if TCL may have performed higher, given its major enterprise making TVs. It is a 1080p LCD, so the decision is enough, and the display screen will get vibrant sufficient to make use of in direct daylight. However fairly than providing a quicker refresh price, TCL continues to lean on its NXTVISION expertise as its standout characteristic, and it is simply not spectacular.
In concept, this characteristic enhances photographs on display screen to spice up shade and distinction. In actuality, it is exhausting to identify the distinction with the characteristic turned on or off, and the colours usually look oversaturated even in “pure” mode (it is set to vivid by default). There’s nothing essentially fallacious with this display screen, and allowing for the sub- $ 300 value, it is okay for the value. It is simply that TCL may do some extra on this division, and it most likely ought to, given its pedigree.
The cellphone’s headline characteristic works because it ought to: pop the stylus out of its silo, and you may see a customizable display screen of shortcuts to stylus-friendly apps. Along with a inventory notes app, TCL has partnered with Nebo to supply a model of its present notes app that’s constructed round handwriting recognition. It does not fairly have all of the strong options of the paid model of the app, but it surely does embrace some options not obtainable on the everyday notes app. For instance, you may underline a handwritten phrase to transform it to daring textual content or add spacing by drawing traces by means of handwriting. It is also extra conducive to mixing handwriting and keyboard-typed textual content.
Particular person notes are formatted both as dominated pages for textual content or grid-lined freeform pages higher suited to doodling. Consequently, the divisions between notes are extra inflexible than Motorola’s tabbed interface. You may add a freeform part to a text-based web page, however you may’t simply add textual content or convert handwriting on a freeform web page. There’s not a lot you are able to do to type your word web page with totally different background colours, both – for that, you may must go to TCL’s customary notes app.
There’s additionally a handwriting-friendly calculator app known as MyScript 2, additionally made by the identical firm as Nebo. It takes written equations, turns them into textual content, solves them, and saves the ends in the app’s historical past for later reference. It is a good addition that is not included on Motorola’s stylus telephones – but it surely’s additionally a $ 3 app that anybody can obtain, so it should not be a deal maker or breaker. Exterior of these two apps, there are just a few different helpful gadgets on the stylus shortcut menu, like a display screen magnifier and GIF maker – nothing that is revolutionary and even essentially requires a stylus however mimic a few of the pen choices Samsung supplies on its premium S22 Extremely stylus cellphone.
The Stylus 5G ships with Android 12, because it ought to, as a result of Android 13 is nigh. TCL’s advertising and marketing director, Stefan Streit, says that the cellphone will get Android 13, however that would be the solely OS improve that it sees. It is solely scheduled to obtain two years of safety updates, which is not a lot. Each Motorola and OnePlus provide three years of safety updates for equally priced telephones, so TCL’s two-year coverage is on the low finish, even amongst price range units.
The Stylus 5G contains three rear cameras – there are 4 lenses, however one in every of them homes a 2-megapixel depth sensor you may disregard. There is a 50-megapixel most important digital camera, a 5-megapixel ultrawide, and a 2-megapixel macro. Across the entrance, there is a 13-megapixel selfie digital camera.
It is a very related configuration to the TCL 30 V 5G, and efficiency is comparable. The digital camera does far more face-smoothing than I favor, and it is susceptible to some unusual lens flare – delicate however noticeable. In any other case, pictures in good and even reasonably low gentle look nice, with vibrant (if a tad cool) colours. In dim gentle, the mixture of face-smoothing and low shutter speeds imply you may get lots of blurry folks pictures. Video recording tops out at 1080p, and clips look fairly shaky even with the system’s digital picture stabilization enabled.
The TCL Stylus 5G is basically unremarkable, and even contemplating its very cheap value, it is exhausting to advocate. The stylus works nicely, and its pre-downloaded handwriting apps do some greater than the usual choices from Motorola. However as a complete package deal, it falls nicely in need of Motorola’s 5G and non-5G stylus telephones with a lackluster display screen, middling efficiency, and one much less 12 months of software program assist.
If a stylus is a must have and there is some flexibility in your price range, then the 2022 Moto G Stylus 5G is nicely price the additional cash. The model that T-Cellular sells has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is lower than the 8GB / 256GB unlocked model we reviewed, but it surely prices $ 300 fairly than $ 500. For $ 40 extra, it’s an excellent bit pricier than the TCL Stylus 5G, but it surely’s a significantly better system with an additional 12 months of promised safety updates.
If a stylus is not a must have, the OnePlus N20 is a superb possibility for these on T-Cellular. It affords one of many nicest screens within the class and quick wired charging – and at $ 282, it is inside placing distance of the $ 260 (ish) Stylus 5G.
Realistically, TCL might be attempting to scoop up a few of the price range stylus cellphone market that LG left behind when it took its stylus telephones and exited the smartphone enterprise. Fittingly, the final Stylo cellphone (nicely, the primary, too) I reviewed included good stylus options however was finally too gradual to advocate. TCL appears to put on LG’s sneakers a bit of too comfortably right here.
Pictures by Allison Johnson / The Verge