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Redmi K20 Pro review: a blazing entry into the affordable flagship segment

The K20 Pro marks the Redmi brand’s foray into the affordable flagship segment. This poses a bit of a challenge, given that until now, Redmi has been associated with budget and mid-range phones, with flagships coming under Xiaomi and POCO branding. And while Indian users are still wondering about the future of POCO in India (there’s been radio silence on that front), the K20 Pro isn’t trying to fill the POCO F1’s shoes. While the F1 offered flagship performance in an austere package, the K20 Pro amps it up with stunning design and modern elements like an in-display fingerprint scanner and pop-up selfie camera. To find out if the Redmi K20 Pro wears the flagship killer mantle successfully, read on.

Design and display

The K20 Pro is among the most gorgeous phones I’ve seen from Xiaomi, and I didn’t even get the Aura-design variant for review. My Carbon Black edition features a beautiful glossy finish atop a carbon-fibre design, with the primary camera and power button outlined in red. The phone is ergonomically curved and fits perfectly in the hand, but given its glass construction, is slippery and a smudge-magnet. That said, Xiaomi has covered both the front and rear of the phone with Gorilla Glass 5 for extra protection. Plus, the bundled case in the box features a premium matte black finish, which is a nice touch.

The front of the phone features a nearly full-screen design, barring a smallish chin at the bottom. This is thanks to the pop-up selfie camera which rises from the top left, complete with fancy red lighting and sound effects. You can choose from six sound effects in settings, but if you prefer a more discrete approach, both the visual and sound effects can be turned off. As for the durability of the front camera, Xiaomi says it can be used 300,000 times, and it also comes with drop protection to automatically retract the camera if a fall is detected. The top of the pop-up camera module also integrates a notification LED, which glows when it’s recessed.

The screen is a large 6.39-inch AMOLED full HD+ HDR panel, replete with rich colours and deep blacks. The viewing angles are excellent, as is outdoor legibility, however I found the auto-brightness aggressively dimmed the display to illegible levels. The K20 Pro is fitted with an in-display fingerprint sensor, which is fast and accurate. There’s also face unlock, but it’s slower than the scanner, and it doesn’t work in the dark either.

In terms of the ports, you get a USB Type-C port along with a 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual nano-SIM slots. There’s no microSD card slot for expansion though.

Cameras

The Redmi K20 Pro is fitted with triple cameras at the rear – a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor with f/1.75 aperture, an 8MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and a 13MP 124.8-degree ultra wide-angle lens. You get both laser autofocus and PDAF, as well as dual LED flash. Videos can be recorded in up to 4K at 60fps, and 960fps slo-mo recording is also present. Unfortunately, OIS is missing, so you’ll have to make do with EIS. The pop-up selfie camera is a 20MP unit with f/2.2 aperture. By default, the primary camera makes use of pixel binning to take 12MP photos. While you can shoot in full 48MP resolution, there’s not enough difference in quality to warrant this.

The K20 Pro has a very capable set of cameras that manage to deliver in most shooting conditions. Images taken in daylight are rich and detailed, although the saturation is too high for my liking, and reds tend to get blown out. The portrait mode is quite good at edge detection, and the background is not over-blurred so the effect doesn’t seem fake. The wide-angle camera tends to create a fish-eye effect, which is something the OnePlus 7 Pro’s cameras don’t suffer from. While the optical zoom is useful, it tends to over-soften images.

The K20 Pro can take some detailed close-up shots, and focuses even with busy backgrounds. Low light shots are pretty impressive too, and the night mode works well to bring out details in dark backgrounds. The Sky filter feature from the Mi CC9 series also makes its way to this phone, allowing you to change the colour of the sky and overall tone of the image, by clicking on different effects like Cloudy, Rainbow, Dusk, Sunset, etc. The implementation is impressive, and does a great job of sprucing up a dull image. The selfie camera in comparison was quite disappointing – even with beauty mode turns off it whitens skin a fair bit, which is something I detest.

Software and performance

The Redmi K20 Pro runs MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie. Unlike other Xiaomi phones, you won’t see ads on the K20 Pro, which was a good move on Xiaomi’s part, considering that this is a flagship. However, apps like the Browser, GetApps and Mi Video still send notifications, which you’ll have to disable manually for each app. The K20 Pro comes with the POCO launcher, which means you get an app drawer. A system-wide dark mode is also available, although in Gmail notifications, the subject line is darkened beyond legibility.

In terms of performance, the K20 Pro is fitted with a 2.8GHz Snapdragon 855 chipset, paired with either 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, or 8GB RAM and 256GB storage. I had the latter for review, and it was no slouch on the performance front. Multi-tasking is effortless on this phone, and freezes and lags won’t bother you. Gaming is also a treat, with games like PUBG running on the highest settings, and Asphalt 9 offering smooth and fluid gameplay. The K20 Pro makes use of the Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec (WCD9340), which integrates a Hi-Fi DAC for high-definition audio output through headphones.

On the battery front, you get a 4,000mAh unit with support for Quick Charge 4+. The phone gave me about 6 hours of screen time on average, and I usually had about 20-30 percent of battery left by the end of the day. In our video loop battery drain test, the K20 Pro lasted for a whopping 21 hours, which is very impressive. Unfortunately, it ships with an 18W charger, so if you want to make full use of its fast-charging prowess, you’ll have to shell out Rs 999 for the 27W fast charger. The bundled charger doesn’t do a bad job though – it took 1 hour 20 minutes to recharge completely in our tests.

The competition

The Redmi K20 is priced at Rs 27,999 for the 6GB + 128GB variant, and Rs 30,999 for the 8GB + 256GB option. At this price, its closest competitor is the OnePlus 7 (review), which is priced significantly higher – Rs 32,999 and Rs 37,999 respectively for the same variants. That’s quite a difference in price, and the Redmi K20 Pro offers a larger battery, a striking design and a pop-up selfie camera to boot. I think the K20 Pro is the real winner here, unless you’re a OnePlus loyalist and prefer the smoothness of Oxygen OS and the overall better cameras.

There’s also the ASUS 6z (review) to consider, but at a starting price of Rs 31,999, you’re only getting 64GB of storage, while the top-end 8GB + 256GB variant is priced at Rs 39,999. The ASUS 6z is a capable phone with a larger battery and clean interface, but the Flip camera mechanism can be glitchy.

Verdict

The Redmi K20 Pro is now the de-facto choice if you’re looking for an affordable flagship kitted with top-of-the-line specs and features. It’s the phone I’d recommend if you’re keen on the OnePlus 7 Pro, but can’t justify paying Rs 20,000 extra for a 90Hz display and Warp Charging. While the cameras leave something to be desired, the Redmi K20 Pro is in every way a true flagship, and one you should seriously consider if you’re looking to upgrade from the mid-range segment.

Pricebaba’s rating: 9 / 10

Pros:

  • Gorgeous design
  • All-day battery life
  • Powerful performance
  • Decent cameras

Cons:

  • Selfie camera whitens skin tones
  • No expandable storage
  • 27W charger needs to be purchased separately
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.