TCL 20S vs TCL 20 SE: Which one should you buy?

TCL 20S vs TCL 20 SE: Which one should you buy?

TCL’s new phones for 2021 have landed in the United States in the form of the TCL 20 Series. While the TCL 20 Pro 5G is clearly targeting the upper mid-range segment with the inclusion of 5G and has a very respectable set of specifications, the 20S, and 20 SE are targetting the budget crowd. If you’re looking for an affordable Android phone and have trouble deciding between TCL 20S and 20 SE, we can help. In this comparison, we’ll take a look at how these two TCL phones stack up against each other.

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TCL 20S vs TCL 20 SE: Specifications

SpecificationsTCL 20STCL 20 SE
Dimensions and Weight
  • 166.2 x 76.9 x 9.1 mm
  • 199g
  • 172.08 x 77.14 x 9.1mm
  • 206
Display
  • 6.67-inch LCD
  • Full HD+
  • 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Hole-punch display
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • 6.82-inch LCD
  • HD+
  • 20.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Waterdrop notch
  • 60Hz refresh rate
SoC
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 665:
    • 4 x performance 4 x efficiency Kryo 260 CPU cores (Up to 2.0GHz)
    • 11nm
  • Adreno 610 GPU
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 460
    • 4x Kryo 240 based on Cortex-A73 @ 1.6GHz
    • 4x Kryo 240 based on Cortex-A53 @ 1.8GHz
  • Adreno 610 GPU
RAM and Storage
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128GB flash storage
  • MicroSD card support
  • 4GB
  • 128GB flash storage UFS 2.1
  • MicroSD card support
Rear Camera
  • Primary: 64MP primary
  • Secondary: 8MP ultra-wide
  • Tertiary: 2MP macro
  • Quaternary: 2MP depth
  • Primary: 48MP, f/2.0, 1/2″ sensor, 79° FoV
  • Secondary: 5MP, wide-angle, f/2.2, 115° FoV
  • Tertiary: 2MP, macro camera, f/2.4
  • Quarternary: 2MP, depth, f/2.4
Front Camera
  • 16MP fixed focus
  • 13MP fixed focus
Battery
  • 5,000mAh
  • Up to 18W fast charging
  • 5,000mAh
  • No fast charging
Connectivity
  • Bands (North America):
    • GSM:850/900/1800/1900MHz
    • UMTS:1/2/4/5/8
    • LTE:1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/ 20/25/26/28/29/38/40/ 41/66/71
  • NFC
  • WiFi 802.11.b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz + 5GHz)
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • USB Type C
  • Bands (North America):
    • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    • UMTS: 1/2/4/5/8
    • LTE: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/28/66
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • USB Type C
Other features
  • Side-mounted fingerprint reader
  • Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner
Software
  • Android 11 with TCL UI
  • Android 11 with TCL UI

Design

TCL 20s vs 20 SE - Design

TCL 20s (left) and TCL 20 SE (right)

The two TCL phones look quite different from each other. The only aspect of their design that bears any kind of similarity is the vertical camera setup, which is actually a style trope in all TCL 20 series phones.

The TCL 20S offers a look that’s slightly more understated that than the 20 SE. You get a hole-punch selfie camera design on the front that, like all hole-punch cameras, kind of disappears in the display. The company has also gone with bare-minimum bezels and rounded corners. Moreover, the phone’s back panel is embedded with micron-sized prismatic crystals that offer gleam but don’t become too distracting. Overall, the 20S has an elegant design that looks modern and shiny but without becoming too much.

TCL 20 SE, on the other hand, has a slightly dated design with its waterdrop-style notch and a back panel with dual nano photoetching that shimmers and sparkles. Moreover, the front of the phone also features a thick chin.

So, if you’re into shiny things and aren’t bothered by a slight bezel on the bottom, the 20 SE will be more up your alley. However, the TCL 20S will entice a consumer that looks for an understated and elegant design.

Display

TCL 20S

The TCL 20S may not be very shiny but it outshines the 20 SE in the display department. The phone features a 6.67-inch full-HD+ (1,080 x 2,400 pixels) LCD screen with 20:9 aspect ratio. The TCL 20 SE however packs a 6.82-inch HD+ (720 x 1,640 pixels) LCD screen with 20.5:9 aspect ratio. Thanks to the full-HD+ display, the 20S includes over 130 more pixels-per-inch (PPI) than the 20 SE that has just 263 PPI.

There is no doubt that the 20S will offer a better display experience. But if your budget is tight and you can survive with a lower-resolution display, you could consider the 20 SE. The one positive of the lower resolution is going to be slightly better battery performance if that’s any consolation.

TCL 20S vs 20 SE: SoC, RAM, and Storage

While looking at the names of the SoCs in TCL 20S and 20 SE, it seems like the 20S will have a clear advantage over the 20 SE, but it’s not that simple. The Snapdragon 460 in 20 SE is actually a newer SoC than the Snapdragon 665 in 20S. This means the Snapdragon 460 has some newer technologies, like the Spectra 340 image signal processor (ISP) versus the Spectra 165 ISP in Snapdragon 665. The Snapdragon 460 also integrates LPDDR4X RAM that’s supposed to consume less power than the LPDDR4 RAM in Snapdragon 665. But these power improvements are marginal.

The Snapdragon 665, on the other hand, has a newer X12 LTE modem, and it supports up to 4K30 encode/decodes, whereas the Snapdragon 460 comes with an X11 LTE modem and supports only up to 1080p60 encode/decodes.

The four Cortex-A73 (marketed as Kryo 260) CPU cores in the Snapdragon 665 are also clocked way higher at 2GHz, compared with the Cortex-A73 (marketed as Kryo 240) cores in Snapdragon 460 that are clocked at just 1.6GHz. The four Cortex-A53 cores clock at the same level – 1.8GHz – in both SoCs. Both also pack the same GPU – Adreno 610.

If we just compare the SoCs, the 20S will perform better in high power needs, like gaming, but otherwise in not-so power-sensitive tasks, both phones should offer about the same level of performance.

In terms of RAM and storage, both 20S and 20 SE come with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage with a microSD card slot.

So if you’re going to game a lot and do other power-intensive tasks, TCL 20S makes more sense. But otherwise, the TCL 20 SE can help you save money without losing out too much on the performance front.

Cameras

Cameras on TCL phones

TCL 20S and TCL 20 SE (right)

Both TCL 20S and 20 SE come with quad rear cameras but at least two cameras in both setups are different. The 20S packs a 64MP main shooter with an 8MP wide-angle camera, and the 20 SE comes with a 48MP primary camera with a 5MP wide-angle camera. The 20S primary shooter is also capable of taking 4K 30fps videos, whereas 20 SE is limited to just 1080p 30fps videos. The two phones also include 2MP macro and 2MP depth cameras, although the utility on both of these will be very limited.

For selfies, TCL has housed 16MP fixed-focus front camera on the 20S, and a 13MP fixed focus shooter on the 20 SE.

Overall, the 20S has a number of advantages over the 20 SE in terms of imaging capabilities. So if you take a lot of pictures, the 20S makes more sense.

TCL 20S vs TCL 20 SE: Battery and Connectivity

TCL 20S and 20 SE are pretty much on the same level in terms of battery and connectivity options. You get a large 5,000mAh battery on both phones, but only the 20S supports 18W fast charging in the US. TCL is also bundling a compatible 18W charger in the box for the 20S, the 20 SE will only come with a 10W charger. Moreover, both phones also support reverse wired charging, so you can use them to charge other devices like a pair of TWS earbuds.

The two phones feature a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer and come with 4G LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC. Both can be used on AT&T and T-Mobile networks in the US. The 20S can also work on Verizon, but 20 SE isn’t certified for the same.

In terms of Wi-Fi connectivity though, the 20S gets Wi-Fi 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) but the 20 SE is limited to Wi-Fi 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4). So the 20S supports faster Wi-Fi. So unless faster Wi-Fi is your concern, TCL 20S and 20 SE stand at the same level in this department.

Android Version and Updates

TCL 20 SE

The TCL 20S and 20 SE run on Android 11 with the TCL UI. While the company has promised Android 12 updates for the 20S, the Android update future of 20 SE is unclear. However, the 20 SE will still get security updates till January 2023. The security update support for the 20S will also last longer till April 2024.

So TCL 20S scores a win in this department. If you’re planning to keep your new TCL phone for the next three to four years, the 20S makes more sense given the longer update support, including a guaranteed update to Android 12.

TCL 20S vs TCL 20 SE: Pricing

TCL is selling just one variant each of the 20S and 20 SE in the United States. The 4GB + 128GB TCL 20S costs $250, whereas the 4GB + 128GB 20 SE retails at $190. This $60 price difference accounts for a lot of areas where the 20 SE falls behind the 20S.

There are two color options for both phones. While TCL 20S gets North Star Blue and Milky Way Black, the TCL 20 SE comes in Aurora Green and Nuit Black.

Both new TCL smartphones can be purchased from Amazon.

Conclusion

While the TCL 20S clearly tops the 20 SE in a number of departments, there are quite a few things on which both phones are at the same level. So it essentially comes down to your priorities and what you’re willing to sacrifice on.

If a high-res display, better cameras, and gaming performance are your priorities, TCL 20S is a clear better candidate. But if you’re short on budget and can live with a lower-res screen, a slightly underpowered processor, and the lack of 4K recording, TCL 20 SE is also a decent option.

    TCL 20S
    The TCL 20S is an affordable phone that features a 6.67 inch full-HD+ display, Snapdragon 665 SoC, and Android 11.
    TCL 20 SE
    TCL 20 SE is the company’s newest budget phone. It runs on Android 11, and packs Snapdragon 460 SoC and a large 5,000mAh battery.

If you’ve purchased the phones, do check out our recommendations on accessories, cases, screen protectors, and more:

About author

Gaurav Shukla
Gaurav Shukla

Gaurav has been covering technology for over a decade now. He has done everything from blogging about Android to reporting the latest from the world of Internet giants. When he is not writing about the tech companies, he can be found binge-watching new TV series on the web.