Technophile

Redmi K20 Pro:The cheapest Snapdragon 855 phone available

Mala Bhargava | Updated on July 24, 2019 Published on July 24, 2019

Xiaomi takes the pricing up a notch to give you a phone with the flagship bells and whistles

When Indian consumers hear the name Redmi, they’re bound to think they’re getting a whole lot for very little. That’s been a game-changing formula Xiaomi has followed for its products in the country. But now there’s a slight tweak to that. With the Redmi K20 Pro, launched with a more affordable sibling — the K20 — the Chinese tech giant has given flagship-level specs and features for an increased not-quite-budget price. In doing so, Xiaomi has done a bit of a OnePlus and we see immediate comparisons being made between the two new K20 phones with the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro.

Xiaomi says the K series has been five years in the making though none of the features the K phones come with were as much as a gleam in anyone’s eye so long ago. Fancy designs, pop-up cameras, blazing fast processors, etc, are relatively new developments. But perhaps the company had always planned on bringing flagship-level phones at non-flagship prices, mopping up more of the market than they have already done.

So that’s what the new K20 phones are — a line-up that still maintains the value-for-money formula because it still costs less than the top-end premium phones but gives you most — if not all — of what those phones have.

The K20 and K20 Pro have a lot in common and even look identical, but we’ll take a closer look at the K20 Pro first. If you like a bit of razzmatazz, the back of these phones look like nothing you’ve seen before.

Of Fire and Ice

There’s a mesmerising play of light in the six-layer glass sandwich. It’s dark-ish in the middle and alive with streaks and tendrils of prismatic light and colour around all the ends.

There’s a Flame Red, a Glacier Blue and a Carbon Black. There’s a holographic rim around the camera lens. Xiaomi has a couple of names for this design: ‘Fire and Ice’ and ‘Aura Prime Design’. Whatever they want to call it, the look is something you’ll hate to put away inside a case, which you’ll have to, despite the Gorilla Glass 5. A vertical ‘Redmi designed by Xiaomi’ tagline adds another little touch of elegance to the design on the back. With all this, the design looks as premium as any premium phone. Even the power button is coloured — red on our blue review unit.

Glitz and glamour aside, it’s what is on the inside that takes the K20 Pro into premium territory: the Snapdragon 855, currently the fastest processor unless you count the 5G version, not available for use everywhere yet, as being faster. The 855 is what is being used by the most expensive phones right now.

Our 8 GB RAM/256 GB storage review unit is all smoothness and speed but if you feel you don’t want to spend quite that much, you can step it down to a 6 GB RAM/128 GB storage variant. There’s no slot for an external memory card but the amount of storage should be enough for most users. There are special gaming related features and tweaks for avid gamers, a sizeable chunk of the tech savvy users who are fans of this brand.

The Redmi K20 Pro has an in-display fingerprint sensor that works fine, getting a bit faster as you begin to use it. It retains the 3.5 mm headphone jack, gets a 4,000 mAh battery with an 18 W charger and a 27 W charger available to buy optionally. Battery life is great.

Pop up and light up

The K20 Pro sports a 6.39-inch AMOLED display, which looks and feels just great. Colours look very rich and compelling on it. Its thin edges are achieved by getting the front camera out of the way and putting it in a pop-up mechanism.

The 20 MP selfie camera does the usual things including smoothening and whitening and flattering. But by and large, photos from the front camera come out good with colours and the mechanism, whose pop-up sound you can select from presets, has a neat party trick — it lights up around the edges to look interesting. The notification light is also hidden in the pop-up’s edge.

The rear cameras include a 48 MP (f/1.75) using the Sony IMX586 sensor (another flagship favourite), and with a 13 MP (f/2.4) ultra-wide lens. You can shoot in 48 MP using a dedicated shooting mode in the camera app. The third camera is an 8 MP (f/2.4) telephoto lens. You get some impressive and detailed shots in daylight.

Using the depth camera often blows out the background, over-exposing it until you shift around and find a more optimal focus. Overall, the camera is what you’d see on others in the same category and it’s one of the things on this phone that don’t quite match up to those more expensive phones.

The K20 Pro runs Xiaomi’s MIUI 10 on top of Android 9 and it’s full of customisations. Fans of the brand are deeply involved with every feature while others really like the hardware more and prefer a barely-tweaked stock Android.

On the K20 Pro, you’ll find all those customisations, some of them really useful and some downright annoying. You’ll find notifications urging you to look at certain content or download promoted apps and this is where the premium experience is somewhat derailed.

However, it is how the company keeps the cost down and you can dig into the notification and app settings and keep turning off what irks you until you have the phone working just as you like it.

The K20 Pro has a lot of competition. It may be the most affordable 855 phone but not by a very long shot. There’s the OnePlus 7 and the Asus 6Z to contend with, plus several more if you step down the processor, including its own cousin, the K20. We’ll look at these in the near future.

Price: ₹27,999 and ₹30,999

Pros: Unique looks, premium design, great screen, flagship processor, value for money

Cons: Crowded software, push notifications can be annoying

Published on July 24, 2019
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