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Never Settler meets Flagship Killer: OnePlus 7 Pro vs Redmi K20 Pro

It is the clash that a lot of people have been looking forward to. Ever since OnePlus announced the OnePlus 7 Pro (review), Xiaomi’s sub-brand Redmi had thrown down the gauntlet to it, even hijacking OnePlus’ trademark “flagship killer” tagline and claiming to offer as much (if not more) at a much more affordable price. Well, the Redmi K20 Pro (first impressions) is in the market now, and not surprisingly, it has sparked off a storm of debate on just how well it compares with the OnePlus 7 Pro. There will be some who will wonder why this comparison is not being made with the OnePlus 7, which is priced closer to the Redmi K20 Pro. My answer is that it’s simply because the two Pro devices represent the best of each brand thus far (the OnePlus 7 is a poor cousin of the OnePlus 7 Pro, let’s face it). Yes, there is a huge price gap between them but that has not stopped people from making comparisons. So which one is the better option, all in all? Well, here’s what I think:

The 7 Pro rules the front…

Both phones come with AMOLED displays. But there is no doubt that the OnePlus 7 Pro has a clear edge over the K20 Pro here. Even if you are not a fan of its tapering over the edges design (so Samsung), the stark fact is that the display of the OnePlus 7 Pro is bigger (6.67 inches against 6.39), has a higher resolution (quad HD+ against full HD+) and comes with a 90Hz refresh rate that makes it better at handling graphics (the difference can be noticed if you look carefully). This one goes to the OnePlus.

…but the K20 Pro has the back!

Let me get this clear – the OnePlus 7 Pro is not an eyesore. Its back is gorgeous and extremely classy, with its beautiful gradient finish. However, its subtle classiness tends to get a little overwhelmed by the more flashy one of the K20 Pro, which has a solid core in the middle with flame-like bursts of colours near the sides depending on the angle of the light falling on them. And well, the smaller display of the K20 Pro also means it has a more compact frame. All of which gives it an edge in the overall looks department.

They feast on the same chips…

If you are looking to separate these Pros in processor terms, you are going to have quite a task. Both are driven by the latest darling of the flagships – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. This one is a tie!

… but One is Plus in the memory department

Both phones have plenty of RAM and storage to go around, although neither has expandable storage. However, at the time of writing, the OnePlus 7 Pro has an edge in terms of sheer byte quantity – it has a 12GB + 256GB variant, while the K20 Pro tops off at 8GB + 256GB. The 7 Pro also uses UFS 3.0 storage technology, which is a step ahead of 2.1 on the K20 Pro – the difference in performance terms will not be super noticeable to be fair, but it definitely gives the OnePlus an edge.

Camera specs with One (Plus)…

In terms of sheer camera specs, the OnePlus 7 has a clear edge over the Redmi K20 Pro. Both the phones come with triple camera set ups on the back, and pop up selfie cameras. And both also feature the Sony IMX586 48-megapixel half-inch sensor as the main camera. However, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s main sensor has a significantly larger aperture (f/1.6 as against f/1.75). The OnePlus also has an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, as against the 2x optical zoom on the K20 Pro. Both phones have ultra wide angle lenses, with OnePlus having the bigger megapixel count (16MP as against 13MP on the Redmi), but the Redmi actually having a wider field of view – 123 degrees to 117. The Redmi has greater megapixels in the selfie department, though – 20MP against 16MP on the front camera. What, however, really tilts the camera specs round in favour of the OnePlus is the presence of OIS on the main and telephoto sensor of the OnePlus 7 Pro, giving it a clear edge for low light shots and those with movement.

… but K20 Pro pulls back on performance!

With the sort of arsenal the OnePlus 7 Pro has up its camera sleeves, you would think it would make mincemeat of the Redmi K20 Pro. But rather remarkably, the Redmi device holds its own and often even delivers better colours than the OnePlus. The OnePlus does have a clear edge in low-light shots and in much more stable video, but is let down by its own inconsistency and penchant for slightly dull snaps. The K20 Pro also comes with a much richer camera app, which just lets you do much more. The Redmi phone also handled portrait mode better, getting tripped up by edges fewer times. It is a classic case of potential versus performance – the OnePlus 7 Pro has the better rear cameras in terms of tech and potential but the Redmi K20 Pro’s cameras end up matching them in terms of sheer performance. OnePlus does plan to improve the camera further, so this equation could change, but at the time of writing the two phones were pretty much at par in the camera department in terms of results. The 7 Pro will get you more details, but the K20 Pro will deliver better colours. In the selfie department, however, the K20 Pro has a very clear edge, with its front facing camera scoring in both colour and details.

Gaming and multi-tasking… well, ahem…

With almost similar chip and memory configurations, the two phones almost match each other when it comes to handling heavy duty gaming and multi-tasking. If one does look very carefully then in some cases the 90Hz refresh rate of the OnePlus 7 Pro does make the action look a bit smoother, but the difference is the sort that can be noticed only when you are looking out for it. The K20 Pro also brings some gaming customisations to the table, but truth be told, there is not much to choose between the two here. I would give my vote to the OnePlus 7 Pro, though, simply because that bigger screen looks more immersive and we do think that the number of apps and games that are designed for 90Hz displays will increase in the coming days.

Matters of sound!

The sound department sees a right royal scrap between two schools of thought. The OnePlus 7 Pro unabashedly follows the path of most premium flagships today, bringing dual speakers to the party with stereo sound to boot, but ditching the 3.5mm audio jack. The Redmi K20 Pro on the other hand, retains the audio jack but falls back on the good old single speaker formula. Which works better? Well, it really depends on how you listen to your music. The earphones crowd will obviously love the K20 Pro (which incidentally seems to deliver slightly better quality sound on earphones) but yes, the stereo speakers do enable the OnePlus 7 Pro to deliver a more immersive multimedia experience, be it gaming or films.

Wear this softly, it is Android Pie

Perhaps no parameter highlights the difference between the two devices as the software on them. Yes, both are running Android Pie out of the box. But you would not be able to say so at first glance, because the interfaces are radically difference. Xiaomi has opted to use its MIUI 10 based Poco Launcher, which adds an app drawer to the UI, while retaining the other features of the very feature rich and elaborate MIUI. On the other hand, the OnePlus 7 Pro comes with the much more minimal Oxygen OS, that is very similar to stock Android in overall look and feel, but has some neat touches of its own under the hood. Both schools of UI thought have their adherents, with some preferring the additional features MIUI brings to the table while others swear by the clean and uncluttered UI of Oxygen OS.  The presence of ads in MIUI (they can be turned off, but still…) is increasingly a matter of concern for some, but I really think that this is a matter of pure individual preference. I myself have a slight leaning towards MIUI given that it lets you do much more out of the box than Oxygen UI, ads notwithstanding, but many of my colleagues (especially the Pixel loyalists) love Oxygen OS. 

Warp meets Sonic Charging… and takes a charger edge

Both phones come with relatively large batteries – both with 4,000mAh capacities. And both also bring fast charging support to the table (Warp Charge in the case of OnePlus, Sonic Charge in the case of Redmi). The Force, however, is very clearly with the OnePlus 7 Pro here as comes with a 30W charger in the box. The Redmi K20 Pro supports a 27W charger, but has a 18W one in the box. Yes, both batteries are big, but the one on the OnePlus will get charged faster. Which is just as good because…

Life is different even with the same sized batteries

They may both have similar sized batteries, but that larger, higher resolution display with the higher refresh rate means that the OnePlus 7 Pro drains its battery out far faster than the Redmi K20 Pro does. A bit of careful handling will get you though a day of normal usage with the OnePlus 7 Pro, whereas the same sort of usage will get you closer to a day and a half on the Redmi K20 Pro. Yes, the OnePlus does charge faster, but it drains faster too. Roses. Thorns.

OnePlus… plus more Rupees too!

Which finally brings us to the BIG matter of price. And the gulf between the two devices in this department is so wide that many will wonder at why this comparison is being made in the first place. The Redmi K20 Pro is the most affordable Snapdragon 855 device in the market right now, starting at Rs 27,999 for the 6GB + 128GB variant, and Rs 30,999 for the 8GB + 256GB variant. The OnePlus 7 Pro on the other hand, starts at Rs 48,999 for the 6GB + 128GB variant and comes with a price tag of Rs 52,999 for the 8GB + 256GB variant, with the 12GB + 256GB one going at Rs 57,999. If money matters, there is only one winner here. In fact, as I had pointed out in an earlier article, to some on a tight budget, even the OnePlus 7 might represent better value for money than the Pro.

So, which one to buy?

Which of the two phones should you go for, then? Well, if budget is a constraint, then the answer is a no-brainer – the Redmi K20 Pro is easily the most affordable flagship device out there. Take it out of the equation, however, and the battle becomes an interesting one. For while the Redmi K20 Pro does have a few aces up its sleeve – the design, the better battery life, the more compact form factor and a richer interface – the OnePlus 7 Pro DOES give you something extra for the bucks it charges. You get a better, bigger display, cameras with more potential (OIS does make a difference), one of the fastest charging batteries (for which you do not need to buy a charger), stereo sound, and faster storage. The big call you need to make is whether all those are worth the about Rs 20,000 extra that the OnePlus 7 Pro is charging. It is a premium device, all right, but you need to work out if that premium is worth paying for, especially when another device runs it close in many departments. At a much lower price.

That said, the OnePlus 7 Pro is perhaps the most affordable premium Android flagship out there, one that seems targeted more at the likes of the Galaxy S and the Pixel series than the budget flagship segment that made it famous. Indeed, in what is a sort of sublime irony, the Redmi K20 Pro is exactly where OnePlus was about five years ago – defiantly offering flagship level specs at a price that is surprisingly low. And claiming that it is every bit as good as the existing premium players, if not better.

Is it a valid boast? Well, to quite an extent, especially when you consider its design and hardware. So, should you buy the Redmi K20 Pro or the OnePlus 7 Pro? That depends on how much you think the Price Plus of the OnePlus is worth in your book. Sooner or later, it all comes down to money, doesn’t it? 

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Nimish Dubey

Nimish Dubey has been writing on technology since 1999. He has contributed to a number of publications and websites including The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Mint, Economic Times, Outlook, and India Today. He is currently the Editorial Mentor at TechPP.com and a regular contributor to Indian Express. When not writing, he loves to read and listen to classic rock.