Back in June, TCL released the TCL Stylus 5G for the T-Mobile network at a very approachable price of $258. The timing for this release could not be better. This year, Samsung curiously decided to stray away from the Note model of devices, opting to lean more on their Galaxy S22 Ultra model. While you can use a stylus with that device, gone is the niche feature of being able to stow away your stylus within your device. Here is where the TCL Stylus 5G comes in, not only returning that very feature, but also coming in at a very approachable price point.
We spent two months with the device, taking it to sporting events, capturing photos, and using it for both work and play. Now, we are finally ready to share our thoughts in a proper review!
|Size||6.67” x 3.01” x 0.35” (169.6 x 76.5 x 8.98 mm)|
|MEMORY||128GB ROM / 4GB RAM|
|SD Support||microSD™ up to 2TB|
|Processor||MediaTek™ Dimensity 700 5G|
|Speed & Type||Octa-Core 2.2 GHz|
|Operating System||Android™ 12|
|Sensors||Accelerometer (G sensor), GPS (A-GPS), Proximity, Light, E-Compass, Gyro Barometer, Fingerprint (side-mounted)|
|Connectivity||Network/3G/4G/LTE/5G, Wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi Display, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, USB Type-C, USB 2.0, USB OTG, 4FF Nano SIM + microSD Card, 3.5mm headset jack|
|Battery||4000mAh, 18W Fast Charge|
The TCL Stylus 5G comes with an 9V2A 18W charger, USB-C Cable, SIM tool, and its built-in stylus.
The phone features a calm and sleek build with a solid frame. On the right, you have the volume buttons and the device’s power button which doubles as a fingerprint sensor. The left side houses the phone’s SIM and SD card tray. On the bottom, you have a 3.5mm headphone jack, a mic, USB Type-C port, a speaker, and the device’s stow-away stylus. The TCL Stylus 5G features both front and rear facing cameras, stereo speakers, and an additional mic on the top of the device.
The TCL Stylus 5G comes out of the gate with a solid base of specs. Running the latest Android operating system, the TCL Stylus 5G comes equipped with many of the nooks and crannies that you would expect from an Android device out today. An Octa-core 2.2 Ghz processor and 4GB of RAM is a good amount of horsepower for powering through your regular daily tasks. Much appreciated here is the expandable SD storage slot and the 18W Fast Charge, which gets your device to a full charge within 2 hours.
At its base, the TCL Stylus 5G is an easy and comfortable phone to handle. The device has textured surfaces along its sides, allowing you to maintain a sturdy grip during single-handed use. The rear of the phone features a matte finish which resists fingerprints and smudges. The stow-away stylus does a good job at being both easily accessible and out-of-the-way when not in use. When you need to use it, you simply push in the stylus inward to eject and expose the pen, allowing you grab it with ease. Internal magnets keep the stylus from accidentally sliding out of the bottom when the pen is exposed. The stylus safely hangs there, waiting for you to grab it.
As far as appearance and handling goes, the TCL Stylus 5G is a very solid device in those departments.
Display and Media
|Size||6.81” Dotch™ Display|
|Resolution||FHD+ (1080 x 2460)|
|Screen to body ratio||90.20%|
|Glass Type||2.5D NEG|
|Color Reproduction||395 PPI, 16.7M colors, 500 nits brightness (typical)|
The TCL Stylus 5G sports a 6.81” FHD+ display powered by TCL’s own NXTVISION technology. Interestingly enough, the color mode on the device is set to “Vivid” by default. I instinctively changed this to “Natural” and immediately preferred the results.
The screen remained sharp while the colors became warmer, making the overall display richer and livelier. Overall, imagery on the screen looks clean, vibrant, and beautiful on this device.
Video watching is pretty good on the device, where the higher the resolution your media is the more noticeable the dip in frame rate becomes. I do a lot of media consumption of my mobile devices at higher frame rates, specifically 1080p at 60fps. A considerable portion of that goes to watching fighting game matches. On the TCL Stylus 5G, I set YouTube to playback a couple of videos at 1080p at 60fps. It was noticeable right away that frames were being dropped.
When taking it down a notch to 720 p at 60, the TCL Stylus 5G faired a bit better now showing a much smoother video. At 480p, the video becomes even cleaner, with practically no frame loss whatsoever. Throughout the various resolutions the picture still remained sharp and colorful. For a $258 device, it is a still a very fine display showing beautiful images that can get up to a frame rate of 60fps, depending on your content.
While we are on topic of media consumption, the TCL Stylus 5G is fully equipped to deliver you sound directly or through Bluetooth or wired headsets. The stereo speakers on the TCL Stylus 5G are nice and loud. Sound is pretty well balanced, giving you a nice representation of high, mid and low ranges. I am not one to normally listen to my media straight from my phone’s speakers. Nevertheless, I was still impressed by what TCL Stylus 5G brought to the table here. So, if you are looking to relax with a quick movie or handle a video call, this device is ready to go.
|Megapixels||50MP (main camera) + 5MP (super wide angle) + 2MP (macro) + 2MP (depth)|
|Flash Type||LED Flash|
|Focus||PDAF + FF + FF + FF|
|Zoom||4x digital zoom|
|Lens (Wide angle/ FOV)||74.4°+114.9°+88.8°(macro)+85°(depth)|
|Sensor Pixel size||0.64μm(50M)/1.28μm(4in1,12.5M)+1.12μm(5M)+1.75μm(2M)+1.75μm(2M)|
|High Dynamic Range||Yes|
|Camera Video||Video Capture: 1080p @ 30fps Video Playback: 1080p @ 30fps|
|Front Camera Video||Video Capture: 1080p @ 30fps|
Focusing on the rear camera, TCL Stylus 5G is very solid in well-lit situations. We did not notice much in optical image stabilization, so you will have to put some minor effort in maintaining steady hands when you take your shots. Nevertheless, capturing with the TCL Stylus 5G is pretty straightforward and easy.
In well-lit and outdoor day shots, captures are sharp with a good representation of color. The colors are a pinch on the cooler side, but there is plenty of variation in the color presentation to make for some beautiful shots.
Despite employing just 4x digital zoom, as long as captures are taken in well-lit scenarios, even your zoomed-in shots still come in pretty well.
For comparison, here are some more of the East River in NYC, with the same zoom levels. These same shots were taken in the evening during the transition to night.
Here are those same shots again, this time at night. This is an example of the camera struggling to capture clear shots the darker your scenario gets.
Compare that with the TCL 10 5G UW we reviewed back in 2020, and you can see how that device does a noticeably better job at handling the dark.
Yet, as long as you are in adequately lit scenarios, you will also be able to capture some solid videos with the TCL Stylus 5G, with and without digital zoom. The microphones try their best in noisier surroundings, but you can still get a decent level of recognizable audio.
Overall, while certain conditions can challenge the TCL Stylus 5G’s main cameras, you still have a respectable mobile camera for what you are paying for with this device. Maintain steady hands and practice good light management and the TCL Stylus 5G can get the sharp and colorful shot that you want.
Using the TCL Stylus 5G is a smooth experience for the most part. The 3DMark test above provided a benchmark that closely matches how my day-to-day usage experience felt with the TCL Stylus 5G. The device handled day to day tasks, media consumption, and basic mobile gaming quite well. Browsing through screens on the device feels smooth, with the occasional jittering when I had too many apps open. Thanks to its large screen, composing texts and long emails with the phone in portrait mode felt effortless, responsive, and natural.
Drops in that “smooth” overall experience only presented themselves when graphical content was more than the device was ready for. One example of this was mentioned earlier in the Display section of this review, where I tried to watch a 1080p video at 60 frames per second. So of course, I had to dive into some mobile gaming to gauge the device’s limits even further.
Gaming will always be my most resource-demanding function with mobile devices. Here, the TCL Stylus 5G handled my games reasonably well. I set King of Fighters Allstar to its highest graphical settings to see how the device fared. I did notice some frame skips here and there when there was a lot happening on the screen. Nevertheless, the TCL Stylus 5G handled the game under these conditions acceptably well. The 6.81-inch screen also allowed for easier handling of the game’s on-screen touch controls, which is always appreciated.
Using the device with controller-friendly games was also an enjoyable experience. I paired the device with the HyperX Clutch Wireless controller that I also happened to be reviewing at the time. The less demanding gaming apps like Street Fighter IV Championship Edition for Android played well, without any noticeable hiccups. Even streaming Mass Effect Legendary Edition using the Xbox Game Pass app was an enjoyable experience with the TCL Stylus 5G. Despite the kind of input latency that I have come to expect with streamed games, I still had a fine mobile gaming experience with the device.
As a productivity device, the TCL Stylus 5G shines. Using the stylus for note taking, digital signatures, or even shorthand math is handy and effective. When using the pre-installed functions, writing with the stylus is a smooth and lag-free experience. It also works well as a mouse supplement when using Microsoft Office apps on the device. I used the TCL Stylus 5G with a Bluetooth keyboard to work on some of my reviews on the go. It was handy to have that stylus when I had to make text selections during edits.
However, if you are looking to use the stylus in more creative role, we did notice some issues. Our very own Gamergal has been known to do a lot of drawing using her various Samsung Galaxy Note devices and the Sketchbook app. So, I asked her give sketching a try with the TCL Stylus 5G. The first issue was the now noticeable input delay between the stylus and the screen. The second issue was that the device does not like it when your skin to touches the screen while you use the stylus. So, if you normally rest your palm on the surfaces that you write or draw on, you will have to disrupt that habit here.
As far as the 4000mAh battery goes, the TCL Stylus 5G’s battery life is solid. To see how heavily I could tax the battery, I booted up King of Fighters Allstar and set it on auto-play. The game, especially on its highest graphical settings, has always been a battery hog across all my mobile devices. The phone’s screen brightness was set at 62%. After about 2 hours and 42 minutes of letting my fighters fight non-stop, the TCL Stylus 5G’s battery drained by 54%. After that, the phone lasted well into the end of the day, at a moderate usage rate.
For only $258, the TCL Stylus 5G is a fine productivity device for both work and play. The display is beautiful and color, handling higher resolution videos at moderate frame rates and moderate resolution videos as high as 60 fps. If you need a mobile companion for word processing, number crunching, and note taking, the TCL Stylus 5G has your back. If you need a break and want to play some games, the TCL Stylus 5G can handle a good bulk of games quite well. You will only notice hiccups if the game you are playing is set to render a heavy amount of 3D graphics at higher frame rates. Last but not least, the camera is solid in the light but a little rough in the dark. Yet, when you are in those lighter scenarios, you can take some very nice shots.
At this price point, the TCL Stylus 5G gives you a little more than what you paid for. Unless you plan to use the device for heavy graphical design, the TCL Stylus 5G is fine and solid mobile companion. If you are curious about the TCL Stylus 5G, you can check it for yourself out by clicking here.
† As usual, there are no affiliate links contained within this post. We were provided a TCL Stylus 5G for review purposes and were not compensated for this review.