A new challenger appears!
For those in the market for a powerful smartphone with flagship specs and a very affordable price tag, the Redmi K20 Pro is unquestionably the strongest contender out there right now.
It’s not very often we get to see a smartphone with flagship specs and a non-flagship pricing. Smartphone giants across the industry, such as Apple and Samsung, have recently all dished out powerful handsets at price points above $600 to say the very least, and have never really addressed the mid- to low-end markets. But this is where Redmi saw its opportunity and seized it ever since its inception in 2013. The Xiaomi sub-brand has released budget-friendly smartphones to address the demand and planted a powerful foothold in the sector. Their latest device, the Redmi K20 Pro, was released on May 28 in China, and it’s the first flagship level device that the company released.
What I liked:
- A very strong flagship competitor at just $360 with the base model
- Flagship-level specs on almost everything at a cheap price
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Large battery with fast charge; capable of charging to about 50% battery in just 30 minutes
- Very immersive viewing experience with a notch-less full screen
- Powerful performance overall and still very light and thin
What I disliked:
- Camera algorithms are just standard, not exactly outstanding
- Does heat up after prolonged and intensive use
- Running MIUI, which is not exactly a personal favourite when it comes to operating systems
- Display color calibrations may not be the most natural looking one, but more on the vivid side of the spectrum
- One single stereo speaker on the bottom; not a dual-speaker setup
- 6.39-inch super AMOLED display
- Triple camera setup with a Sony’s 48MP primary sensor, 13MP ultra-wide angle lens, and a 8MP telephoto lens
- 20MP front pop-up camera module
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
- 4,000mAh battery with 27W fast charge
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Dual SIM slots with a Nano-SIMs and microSD
Redmi jumped out of their regular comfort zone with gradients and simple designs to a fiery one this time. The K20 Pro features a rather wild and unpredictable fiery pattern on both sides of the back cover, creating a flame-like appearance for the back cover. When hit by sunlight, the blazing lines almost seem to come to life when the device is held, giving it a refreshing look compared to its regular gradient colored covers. It comes in Carbon Black, Glacier Blue, and Flame Red.
The design on the glass back cover may not be for everyone. Some may find it rather messy, others more creative. I personally find it different and innovative, and not all that chaotic. If you’re among those who don’t like to put on a case just to show off the back cover of your smartphone, then this is one of those designs that will stand out among the crowds.
The phone weights about 190g and about the same size as an iPhone 7 Plus, Lenovo Z6 Pro, or really just all other conventional smartphones nowadays. Even though it looks big, the handset really feels natural and comfortable to hold.
One of the most enjoyable highlights of this phone undoubtedly goes to its display. The 6.39-inch Samsung AMOLED display features a rather standard HD resolution at 2340 x 1080, with 403 pixels per inch. That said, although it isn’t the best display compared to other flagships, it does provide a very immersive viewing experience at half the price of others.
When dropped side by side with others such as the OnePlus 7 Pro or OPPO Reno, one can barely make out the difference when watch HD content. Clarity is certainly sacrificed here when compared to other flagships, but when one is on a budget, the K20 Pro is still very capable of delivering a great experience and alternative choice. The only really noticeable difference when compared to others is the color calibrations. The K20 Pro has a more vivid display calibration compared to the default settings of other manufacturers.
Nowadays, several smartphone manufacturers are using camera quality and performance as an indicator of how good a smartphone is. Taking a look at some sample shots, the K20 Pro does a rather good job overall.
The regular 48MP wide angle lens is capable of taking most still shots, and edge distortion treatment make the pictures look natural as well. Even on gloomy days where not enough sunlight filters through the clouds, the general outline of dark clouds appear true to life.
Here are some more sample shots:
The K20 Pro doesn’t over sharpen images, and gives the pictures a more natural rendition with enough detail and saturation. Color wise, the K20 Pro applies a more vivid and warm color calibration as opposed to other flagship manufacturers. It does have a slightly wider angle for its ultra-wide pictures, which does come in handy when taking pictures of stunning sceneries or group shots. Although it might be an algorithms thing, colors seem to look more saturated the wider the angle becomes.
The K20 has a solid performance in terms of camera performance overall. I wouldn’t say the pictures look amazing, but at this price range, I’d say they are quite impressive.
Right, and one more interesting thing I’d like to add here is that the K20 Pro features slow motion video recording of up to 960fps. To clarify for those who isn’t familiar, that is taking 960 frames per second to get that ultra slow motion video. Granted the recording time isn’t very long, but nonetheless still very exciting. It’s a rather impressive number considering most other manufacturers offer up to 240fps slow motion recording only. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
Pop-up Camera Module:
This is one of the more innovative solutions that Chinese smartphone manufacturers have come up with recently to achieve a fully notch-less display. By digging into a good chunk of space inside the phone, the K20 Pro also features a capable pop-up camera module (with LED lights!) to address the growing demand of notch removal.
Just like the OnePlus 7 Pro and OPPO Reno, the pop-up module has a self-retracting mechanism that allows the module to quickly retreat whenever the phone detects that it’s in a state of free-fall. This is a rather handy function seeing as it’s a common occurrence for phone to drop accidentally.
Performance-wise, the pop-up camera can take natural-looking selfies that are not over-sharpened. I’m glad Redmi finally gave the option to turn off AI beautifying, allowing selfies to look more natural and true to life. One thing I’ve noticed with MIUI is that the algorithm tends to brighten up pictures after they are taken. So pictures generally look brighter than they actually appear.
And here comes another popular performance indicator that many may be looking out for—gaming. The games that I ran on the Redmi K20 Pro include the popular ones like PUBG, Arena of Valor, and Asphalt. The in-game graphics settings have all been cranked up to max when I played around with the phone and all the games ran smoothly.
This isn’t surprising considering the K20 Pro does come with at least 8GB of RAM, as well as other important performance-enhancing specs like the Snapdragon 855. The only downside to the gaming experience was the heating issue. The device isn’t equipped with the best cooling system, so overtime the phone does heat up and it’s something that should be watched out for if you’re a hardcore gamer. Otherwise, the Redmi K20 Pro provides an overall well-rounded gaming experience with a very immersive display. I just can’t stress that enough.
Final verdict of the K20 Pro, I’d say this is really the best bang for your buck at this current juncture in time. If you’re desperately in need of a powerhouse and on a tight budget, the Redmi K20 Pro is a very solid choice for average users. The base model begins at around 2499 yuan, whereas a lot of other cheap flagships start at 3000 yuan. If you spend 3000 on the Redmi K20 you get the highest configuration of 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. So all in all, this is a great device for those who are looking for budget smartphones with a well-rounded performance, and perhaps not the best choice for those who are in the market for something with more of a punch.