Xiaomi’s Redmi smartphones have been by far the most popular Android smartphones in India. One thing they haven’t been is aspirational. While brands like OnePlus over-indexed on the cool quotient of their brand and built a following, Xiaomi struggled to get that foothold in India even though it was easily the most popular smartphone seller in the country. The last two times when Xiaomi attempted to sell a flagship-class phone in the guise of a flagship killer it arguably had the superior product in the Mi 5 and Mi Mix 2, but it still lost. The problem was that Xiaomi was trying to be something it wasn’t. It was trying to sell a Mercedes to a Mercedes customer. It may have had innovative products its product never appealed to people who wanted an aspirational brand. So with the Redmi K20 series, Xiaomi goes back to the drawing board.
- It uses the Redmi brand for a flagship phone which means this phone automatically becomes an upgrade choice for people who’ve owned Redmi Note smartphones in the past.
- It feeds of OnePlus’s desire to become an Apple-like brand and has resisted the desire to ramp the pricing of the K20 Pro which makes it a super competitive product and keeps it in the sub 30k range which ensures that it is not even competing with the OnePlus on price.
- It has made a phone which really is right up there with the OnePlus 7 series in terms of features and specifications but makes pragmatic choices which make a lot of sense for an Indian audience.
So here’s how the new Redmi K20 Pro gives a knockout punch to all flagship phones, just not so-called “flagship killers”.
- Price-wise, this phone is slotted below the standard OnePlus 7, however, in terms of features, it is somewhere between the OnePlus 7 and the OnePlus 7 Pro. For instance, you’re getting triple cameras and a pop-up selfie camera on the K20 and K20 Pro models which isn’t there on the entry-level OnePlus 7. At Rs 27,999 for the base level 6GB/128GB model it is Rs 4,000 lesser than the competition.
- While Xiaomi uses very similar camera hardware to the OnePlus 7 Pro, the triple cameras on the back and the pop-up selfie camera take just better more saturated and contrasty photos in both low-light and daylight. The cameras also do better with portrait mode and the wide-angle lens than the OnePlus 7 Pro in my tests, though one should expect this to be an evolving situation as both Xiaomi and OnePlus keep improving image quality with software updates.
- The Redmi K20 Pro becomes the most affordable phone in the market to get the Snapdragon 855 processor coupled with either 6GB or 8GB RAM and 128GB or 256GB storage. This is Xiaomi doing what Xiaomi does best – it is playing the value card and how. Real-world usage wise, its performance is right up there with the OnePlus, though it doesn’t seem as snappy as the “Pro” mostly because there is no 90Hz screen. You also get a handy game turbo mode which even allows you to manipulate the touch response of the screen manually on games like PUBG.
- It is also able to keep the price right by manufacturing these phones fully in India, unlike its previous flagship efforts. For this, it leverages its India supply chain — which involves common elements that are already being used in Redmi smartphones in India like the Sony IMX 586 sensor, Gorilla Glass 5 etc. This helps again keep the price in check but more so it allows Xiaomi to deploy proven learnings to a new product like the camera tunings for the IMX 586 sensor which it has been using since the Redmi Note 7 Pro and even the anti-corrosion coating which has been there on its phones for a while.
- Even though there is no 90Hz screen, the 6.39-inch OLED screens are very bright at up to 600 nits of brightness and have full HD+ resolutions while also being really vivid. This is a great balance between visual equity and performance. It also means the 4,000mAh battery inside this phone actually gives around 24 hours plus usage while also making it a gaming monster as the display is driving fewer pixels than the OnePlus 7 Pro.
- Xiaomi has upped the ante when one talks about its biggest weakness — smartphone design. Gone is the boring mundane design, you get this totally space-age psychedelic back pattern in blue and red, which reflects light in trippy ways. The OnePlus models may be the elegant ones, then definitely these play to one who loves hot-rodded sports cars. Crazy stuff here by Xiaomi.
- These phones also have subtle niceties which one wouldn’t associate with most modern flagship phones. You get a headphone jack, you get an IR blaster and you even get a high power DAC which powers also a really loud and clear mono speaker. The OnePlus may have dual speakers, but the speakers on the K20 Pro are louder and more balanced in sound.
- While previous Xiaomi phones have come with a 4,000mAh battery, they have usually been very slow to charge as Xiaomi has often skimmed on the charging brick in the box. This time around you are getting an 18W brick in the box of the K20 Pro and for those who crave even faster charging there will be a very affordable 27W sonic charger that can be bought separately. This brings the Redmi almost on par with the OnePlus’s fabled warp charger.
- One of the things that Xiaomi has added to the Redmi K20 Pro, which OnePlus skimmed by saying that they didn’t want to pay for the certification is water resistance. This isn’t full-on water resistance, but a p2i splash protection which is what most people need instead of the ability to dunk their phones in a swimming pool.
- Last but not the least are the improvements to Mi UI 10 which now also comes with the Poco launcher 2.0 that mimics the stock Android UI more than ever. OnePlus’s Oxygen OS is fabled to be the snappiest and the cleanest Android UI around as it takes inspiration from stock Android. Well, Xiaomi has done something similar though it retains advertisements which can be manually disabled. Considering the price of the phone, this is fine for most people and more so, it comes with more handy features than any Android overlay.
On balance, the K20 Pro, more or less outdoes the OnePlus 7, the Pixel 3a, the Galaxy S10, in the most crucial areas of performance, camera quality, battery life, and even industrial design while being significantly cheaper which makes this the flagship killer for ages. Even when compared to phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro, iPhone XR and the Google Pixel 3, it comes close to providing the experience of an expensive smartphone at a fraction of the price something which Xiaomi’s Redmi phones have been doing for years.