Photo by Saurabh Singh   
Photo by Saurabh Singh   

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Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro Review: Rewriting The Flagship Phone Rulebook, circa 2019 

Written By Saurabh Singh | Mumbai | Published:

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  • Just like the Mi 3, the Redmi K20 Pro also marks the start of an all-new journey for Xiaomi
  • The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s best smartphone ever – and its most ambitious

Xiaomi made its India debut on July 16, 2014 with the Mi 3. The biggest USP of the Mi 3 was the fact that it brought high-end specs, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, at a price which was below Rs 15,000. Something which was reserved for flagship phones that cost at least 2x more. Something which was not heard or seen before. Come to think of it, Xiaomi’s Mi 3 was the first flagship killer phone ever – in India. Clearly, it was way ahead of its time, the Mi 3. 

Exactly five years later, Xiaomi has launched the Redmi K20 Pro and I can’t stress enough how it’s déjà vu all over again. Because it’s coming straight after the Poco F1 – and because it also has very similar aspirations - logic would dictate that’s the phone it’s succeeding – read, replacing. While I am not sure about a Poco F2 happening anytime soon, I am sure about one thing - the Redmi K20 Pro reminds me of the Mi 3 in so many ways, I have absolutely no doubts in saying, that’s the phone that it is succeeding spiritually. Just like the Mi 3, the Redmi K20 Pro also marks the start of an all-new journey for Xiaomi.  

It’s not that Xiaomi hasn’t made any flagship killer phones after the Mi 3. There was the Mi 4. The Mi 5. The Mi 6. The Mi 8. The Mi 9. But it’s also no secret that Xiaomi has had a tough time selling its Mi-branded flagship killer phones in India as much as it would have liked – all but the Mi 3. To a point that Xiaomi stopped bringing them to India altogether. The Mi 6, the Mi 8 and the Mi 9 never made it to India. There was of course the one-off Mi Mix 2 that ‘surprisingly’ made the cut – but again, CEO Lei Jun has admitted that it might not have been the best fit for Xiaomi’s India audience. 

Xiaomi’s Redmi phones have a different story. They've been selling like hot cakes. In fact, Xiaomi has become India’s top smartphone company on the back of its Redmi phones. Xiaomi believes it’s time to capitalize on their success now with a much more high-end Redmi phone – a Redmi phone that proves Xiaomi can make a premium phone on its own terms. Ala, the Redmi K20 Pro. Like it did with the Mi 3 once upon a time. As for selling it, Xiaomi might just be able to pull it off too. While the Mi 3 had its relatively low pricing to back it, the Redmi K20 Pro will be relying heavily on India’s new-found love for all things Redmi. 

Design – prime contender for best-looking flagship killer phone out there 

Earlier in the year, Xiaomi gave Redmi a makeover. Not only is it an independent sub-brand now, Xiaomi has also given it a fresh new look - one that brings Redmi in-sync with 2019. And the change is (being) reflected across its entire Redmi portfolio and not limited to just the more expensive models like the Redmi K20 Pro. The Redmi K20 Pro, being a high-end phone, of course takes all of that and magnifies it by a factor of 20! For obvious reasons. 

The Redmi K20 Pro is based on Xiaomi’s new aura gradient design scheme, but there’s a twist in the pattern – as against the Redmi Note 7 Pro/Redmi Y3/Redmi 7. Even though the Redmi K20 Pro, Redmi Note 7 Pro, Redmi Y3 and Redmi 7 are all Xiaomi phones, it’s remarkable how each of them can stand out from the rest – so telling one from the other won’t be lost in translation. The Redmi K20 Pro, being a high-end phone, has what Xiaomi is calling an ‘aura prime’ design and it’s safe to say that it’s the prime contender for best-looking flagship killer phone out there. 

The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s best smartphone ever – and its most ambitious

It’s hard to capture in words, but basically, the gradient shifts from the sides inwards – like it is in the Redmi Y3 and Redmi 7. But unlike these more affordable Redmi phones, the Redmi K20 Pro uses depth – layering – to also entail in some never-seen-before light bending along the sides. You can’t see this selective gradient at all angles and in all lighting conditions, but it’s there, and when you see it, you can’t help but gawk at it. It’s so beautiful. Because Xiaomi is using the same paint-job on the mid-frame, the whole thing feels like unibody – with light literally dancing into the sides.  

Adding some more glitz to an already glamorous phone is a pop-up selfie camera with custom LED lighting – that lights up every time it pops in and pops out. Clearly, this is a phone you’d love to flaunt – without trying too hard. This thing can stand on its own, as a style statement, of course.    

The Redmi K20 Pro will be available in three colours - Glacier Blue, Flame Red and Carbon Black. While the Glacier Blue and Flame Red options look flamboyant and may even be too loud for some, the Carbon Black option is for those who like it subtle. So, there’s a little something for everybody. 

As for build materials, the Redmi K20 Pro has a glass and metal sandwich design – worthy of its flagship killer credentials. Its smooth all-glass body may be slippery – and prone to smudge and fingerprints – but it’s built rock solid and Xiaomi is bundling a protective case in the box, just in case. What I really like about the Redmi K20 Pro though is its physical dimensions and the even weight distribution – the Redmi K20 Pro never becomes too overpowering, even when you’re using it for long. The power button and volume rocker on the right are placed just right and offer excellent tactile feedback. Xiaomi has also managed to keep the headphone jack – something which is fast becoming a rarity in flagship phones. 

As for durability, Xiaomi is using Corning Gorilla Glass 5 on the front as well as on the back and the sides are all-metal. There’s no water-proofing as such but Xiaomi is using P2i hydrophobic coating in the Redmi K20 Pro which makes it resistant to accidental splashes of water or rain. 

Display – over the horizon, at half the cost 

The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s first phone in India with a Samsung-made Super AMOLED display – Xiaomi is calling it horizon AMOLED. Needless to say that it’s a high-quality panel with deep blacks, abundant brightness levels and great viewing angles. The display also supports DCI-P3 colour gamut and HDR10 standards. That display is 6.39-inch, boasts of a 1080p+ resolution and stretches nearly all the way to the corners by the way – except for a slight chin, that could have been smaller.    

The Redmi K20 Pro is also Xiaomi’s first phone in India with an in-display fingerprint scanner for biometric authentication – it's mostly fast and accurate, but there’s some room for improvement.  

Performance, software and battery life – Snapdragon 855 + 4,000mAh + No ads 

The Redmi K20 Pro is a flagship through and through. The phone is powered by a top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor paired with up to 8GB RAM and 256GB storage (which is non-expandable). There’s a massive 4,000mAh battery under the hood with support for 27W fast charging through USB Type-C – Xiaomi will be bundling an 18W fast charger in the box. The software inside is MIUI 10 based on Android 9.0 Pie – without ads. 

Long story short – the Redmi K20 Pro is the most powerful Android smartphone that you can get at its price. It’s got a big battery too. Its software is also the latest and greatest that Xiaomi has to offer at this point of time. While all of that’s fine, the Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s first phone in India after a long, long time to ship without any ads – and that is its main USP. 

For those unaware, Xiaomi is an Internet company first and a hardware company later. Because it limits all profit coming from hardware sales to 5 per cent (globally), one of the ways it makes money is through ads – ads that often tend to show up across the length and breadth of MIUI. You can say that India was caught unaware when Xiaomi started serving ads in MIUI one fine day last year, out of the blue – with no prior intimation. 

To this day, Xiaomi continues to serve ads in MIUI, in India. The move has – for obvious reasons - not gone down well with many privacy-conscious users (and critics) and has also become one of Xiaomi’s downsides that rivals such as Realme have started exploiting – letting buyers know how their phones don’t show any ads. 

Although there’s the option to limit ads in MIUI, there’s no full-proof mechanism to stop them altogether – not to mention, limiting them by selective tweaks in the UI isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. 

FYI, there’s a difference between first-party notifications and ads. The Redmi K20 Pro does not show any ads, but its first-party notifications maybe confused for ads. First-party notifications are common in most phones, and it is possible to opt out from settings. 

The Redmi K20 Pro is the most powerful Android smartphone that you can get at its price

Now that we have that out of our way, let’s talk basics -  

-The Redmi K20 Pro is a performance powerhouse breezing through everything you can potentially throw at it without breaking a sweat. It can get hot when you’re out stress-testing it, but it’s also quick to cool down, so that’s nice.  

-Even though the Redmi K20 Pro runs MIUI, Xiaomi is using the Poco launcher in the phone – that made its debut with the Poco F1 and has since been garnering rave reviews for its different approach, the biggest one being that it brings an app drawer into the equation. You can group app icons into categories and hide apps directly from the app drawer to protect them from prying eyes. Xiaomi also lets you customize app icons, so if you’re a fan of stock Android, you can basically turn the whole experience closer to your liking. 

-It really helps that Xiaomi has been able to well optimize the software with the hardware. The Redmi K20 Pro is easily the fastest Xiaomi phone I have ever tested - and while phones like the OnePlus 7 will feel faster, the Redmi K20 can get close. 

-Lastly, the Redmi K20 Pro has outstanding battery life – this is easily a one-day phone even for the most demanding users. 

Miscellaneous - 

-Phone calls made with the Redmi K20 Pro are of excellent quality and I did not face any call-drop issues beyond the usual on my review unit. 

-The mono speaker out at the bottom of the phone can get really loud but overall sound quality could have been better (fuller).  

-The Redmi K20 Pro also supports Hi-Res audio and the built-in Hi-Fi DAC delivers outstanding audio via wired headphones. There’s also aptX for wireless audio.  

-The Redmi K20 Pro misses out on Xiaomi’s signature IR-blaster. There’s no micro-SD card slot either. 

Camera(s) - fully loaded  

The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s first phone in India with three rear cameras, and a pop-up selfie camera – it's fully loaded is what it is. Let’s get the specifics out of the way before talking about camera quality. There’s a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor behind f/1.75 26mm lens, an 8MP telephoto sensor behind f/2.4 52mm lens for 2x optical zoom, and a 13MP ultra-wide sensor behind an f/2.4 15mm lens. On the front, the Redmi K20 Pro has a 20MP camera.  

There are two key things to know about the Redmi K20 Pro cameras - 

-The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s fastest (focus locking/shutter speed) camera phone ever. 

-The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s best (all-round quality) camera phone ever. 

But the thing is, there are so many good camera phones in the market already, what you decide to pick will depend entirely on what you’re looking for, from your purchase – that's both a good thing and bad. Good that there are so many options, bad that there’s no one phone you can say hits it out of the ball park on all fronts even with so much capable hardware. 

The Redmi K20 Pro is well stacked, but its all-round camera performance can be best summed up as being inconsistent. The main 48MP sensor (that shoots 12MP photos by default) can capture some good-looking photos with good detail and good dynamic range in well-lit situations. But metering issues creep up every now and then resulting in over-exposed/blown out photos. There’s also Xiaomi’s highly aggressive colour-boosting algorithm that makes certain photos look artificial from time to time – I understand these photos will impress many, but for more neutral colours, you’ll be better off with an Asus 6Z or the OnePlus 7. In low-light, Xiaomi’s highly aggressive noise reduction algorithm entails in softer-looking photos. Xiaomi’s long-exposure night mode helps shoot brighter, more detailed photos in such cases, but we’ve surely seen better from rivals. 

The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s first phone in India with three rear cameras, and a pop-up selfie camera – it's fully loaded is what it is

It certainly helps that Xiaomi is offering as much versatility here - 

-The wide-angle camera offers a wider perspective so you can capture a lot more of your subject. The quality may not be as good as the primary camera – Xiaomi’s distortion correction works well mostly but there’s noticeable softness towards the corners – but at least you get the option.  

-2X zoom photos shot with the telephoto camera come out well-detailed in good light with little noise – it helps when you want to get closer to your subject. For some reason, the telephoto camera doesn’t work in low light – instead, the Redmi K20 Pro fires up its main camera in such situations to shoot 2X digitally zoomed shots. 

Videos shot with the Redmi K20 Pro have the same plus and minus points as shooting stills – across the board. 

The 20MP pop-up selfie camera may be the Redmi K20 Pro’s weakest link. It’s not so much about being bad-quality as it is about Xiaomi’s beautification algorithm that’s so aggressive, it destroys detail in almost all the lighting scenarios. As such photos come out soft and because Xiaomi’s highly aggressive colour-boosting algorithm comes into play here as well, they look artificial. 

        

Should you buy the Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro? 

The Redmi K20 Pro is Xiaomi’s best smartphone ever – and its most ambitious. It’s most expensive too. The Redmi K20 Pro starts at Rs 27,999 for the base variant with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage while the top-end variant with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage has been launched at Rs 30,999. There was a time when Xiaomi didn’t launch a higher-end variant of its flagship phone in India, just because it would have crossed the Rs 25,000 price barrier. Clearly, Xiaomi has come a long way – it's more confident and more efficient than ever. And, it is India’s top smartphone company.  

Does the Redmi K20 Pro justify its asking price? Yes, it does. In fact, it more than justifies it. It’s no Samsung Galaxy S10 or iPhone XS or Google Pixel or Huawei P30 Pro, but it can stand toe-to-toe with all these phones, with its head held high. That’s saying a lot about what Xiaomi has managed to pull off here. Unlike the Poco F1, the Redmi K20 Pro has everything you could ask for in a 2019 flagship and then some – which is also possibly why it costs a little more in comparison.  

So, should you buy the Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro? Absolutely. It is the latest and greatest from Xiaomi. But since you’re shopping for a flagship killer, I assume you’re conscious about every rupee, in which case, you should also look at the Redmi K20 – a phone that has almost every bell and whistle as the Pro, only cheaper.   

Photos by Saurabh Singh    

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