It was Bob Dylan who once said that “All I can do is be me, whatever that is.” The short and succinct statement has a deeper meaning – as is the case with most things Dylan says or croons – and it certainly is easier said than done. Being yourself means at times putting certain barriers around and when you try to break those barriers, the inevitability of success and failure cannot be predicted. For Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi, “being me” is to be in its happy place of churning out smartphones that don’t cost too much (in the range of Rs 6,000-Rs 15,000). These smartphones – as Xiaomi’s ascent in the Indian market has proven – are lapped up by many a buyers. Not “being me” for Xiaomi means launching its much-touted Redmi K20 series of smartphones.
With the amount of hype Xiaomi was building around its Redmi K20 series smartphones, it is safe to assume that it is a big bet Xiaomi is making. Over the years, Xiaomi has secured its position in the sub Rs 15,000 price category with handsets offering competitive specs, but with the Redmi K20, Xiaomi has crossed the Rs 20,000 mark. To be fair, Xiaomi has attempted to play the field in the premium smartphone segment with the launch of its 2017’s Mi Mix 2, but it didn’t leave its mark.
While the Redmi K20 Pro seems to be the centre of attention at the moment, there is another offering, the Redmi K20, in the same series with slightly toned-down specs. We spent some time with the device and here is our review:
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Design
With its ‘fire and ice’ inspired design scheme, there is no denying that the design of the Redmi K20 is quite distinctive when compared to all the Redmi smartphones we have seen till now. The Redmi K20 Pro features a flame inspired design in both Glacier Blue and Flame Red colour variants. The two variants have a dark colour patch in the centre and the side edges come with a lighter tone that changes colour. The third colour variant of the handset is a Carbon Black, which looks a lot like the Poco F1.
When it comes to the design of the Redmi K20, there is a very clear distinction of those who may love it or those who may disapprove of it. For us, the design seems to be one of the highlights of the smartphone and will not disappoint most Android buyers out there. As per Xiaomi, this gradient back design has been made of 6 layers that makes the different patterns visible.
Xiaomi says that the unibody of the Redmi K20 is crafted from industrial grade aluminium. There is a 3D curved glass back protected with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which makes the handset quite prone to fingerprint smudges. The back houses a triple rear camera, placed in the centre. On the right side, you get volume rockers and a power button. On the bottom. You get a dual nano-SIM card tray and a USB Type-C port. The pop-up selfie camera sits on the top edge on the right that also has a notification indicator.
Overall, we can say that the Redmi K20 Pro is premium looking device. At 191 grams, the handset doesn’t feel too heavy for one-handed operation.
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Display
The front of the Xiaomi Redmi K20 is dominated by a 6.39-inch screen, with no notches of any kind. This has been achieved by making use of a pop-up camera design for the front facing sensor, but we’ll get to that. Specs wise, the Redmi K20 has a full HD+ display panel of 2340x1080p resolution and 403ppi.
With the Redmi K20 (and also Redmi K20 Pro), Xiaomi for the first time is using an AMOLED display and because of that, the colours are quite punchy, which makes the viewing experience on the smartphone great. Even the sunlight legibility of the device was more than satisfactory. Automatic brightness feature seems to be off its game since even in sunlight, it failed to increase the brightness to required levels so we’d recommend you turn it off.
Under the display settings, you get a dedicated Reading mode, adjustable contrast levels, dark mode and choice of text size. For those who are into the whole dark mode feature, we’d like to mention the dark mode right now seems to be far from perfect as it doesn’t work as well as you’d hope. For instance, even when it is enabled, it won’t be working when you open the app drawer. Even while enabling it, Xiaomi mentions, “Certain display settings aren’t compatible with the Dark Mode. However, they will be restored once you turn Dark Mode off.”
The display houses an optical fingerprint scanner becomes immediately prominent as soon as you touch the device when it is in lock screen mode. Using the ambient display setting, you can also enable time and a small graphic on the screen when in lock mode. In our experience the fingerprint sensor is not as snappy as we have seen in other devices. It required us to hard-press on the screen to unlock the device.
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Performance
As far as the hardware specs are concerned, Redmi K20 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor with Adreno 618 GPU. Buyers get two options when it comes to storage, although in terms of RAM there is only 6GB option. Storage wise, you can go for either 64GB or 128GB. There is no support for microSD card in the Redmi K20 so users don’t have an option to expand the storage have to do the best they can with this. This does come as a surprise but it’s a directly from the playbook of attempting to be a ‘premium’ device.
In our time with the Redmi K20, the handset handled multi-tasking of random apps with no frame drops or heating issues. Both the call quality and the audio quality are also satisfactory.
The Redmi K20 offers facial unlock support, but we found the pop-up selfie camera a bit slow for this. Both Oppo Reno 10x Zoom and OnePlus 7 Pro have a faster mechanism for this.
In terms of software, the Redmi K20 runs MIUI 10 based on Android 9.0 Pie operating system. But it functions on Poco launcher so it comes with an app drawer. Being a custom UI, the Redmi K20 comes with additional features. You get abundant Mi apps that can neither be uninstalled nor disabled so you will continue to receive notifications from them. The adware is also quite irritating for anyone who is new to the MIUI ecosystem. For an existing Xiaomi smartphone user, the bloatware will not be an issue. For those who aren’t familiar with Xiaomi’s app mechanism and what all it brings, this can be a potential deal breaker. Besides the Xiaomi apps, the handset comes preinstalled with third party apps such as Facebook, Amazon, Paytm among others, which thankfully can be uninstalled.
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Camera
The Redmi K20 comes with a 48MP primary rear camera with Sony IMX582 sensor. This is slightly lower-end compared to the Sony IMX586 sensor of the Pro variant of the K20. Specification wise, IMX582 sensor is able to record 4K videos at 30fps, whereas the IMX586 can record the same at 60fps. Other two camera modules on the two smartphones remain the same. There is an 8MP telephoto camera with f/2.4 aperture and a 13MP ultra wide-angle lens and 124.8-degree field of view.
Xiaomi has again made use of the pixel binning technique with this device, which means that even though the primary camera is a 48MP sensor, the Redmi K20 captures images in 12MP resolution by default and in order to take an image at 48MP resolution, you will have to manually enable the mode and good thing is that as soon as you open the camera app, you see it right on screen with other modes including Night mode and video so it is not a cumbersome task to look for it in the settings.
When it comes to the image quality of the pictures captured by the Redmi K20, you will not be disappointed. It manages to capture images with details even though slightly oversaturated colours in the daylight condition. But that is not a problem for all smartphone users out there as it makes your images pop-out. In a standard in-house lighting setup, the images turn out to be vibrant and colours are quite vivid and borderline inaccurate in some cases. However once you disable the AI camera mode, you will find that the colours turn out to be far more accurate. The portrait mode also works quite well and the quality of the image is directly proportional to the lighting conditions.
On the front, you will get a 20MP pop-up selfie camera that comes with Camera Edge Lighting System (CELS) on both sides that Xiaomi claims helps in taking better selfies. You will the selfie camera on the Redmi K20 if you like your images slightly processed and fixed by AI.
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Battery
One of the strong points of the Redmi K20 is its battery. Backed by a 4000mAh battery, the Redmi K20 easily lasted for over a day when put through daily tasks for surfing the web, scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, watching videos on YouTube.
Xiaomi Redmi K20 Verdict
The Redmi K20 has a lot going for itself. Xiaomi, on its part has ensured that anyone who buys this smartphone doesn’t feel that he or she is missing out a lot by not buying a Pro version. The two handsets have the same design, display and battery specifications and a non-avid smartphone users won’t feel much difference in everyday usage and camera performance of the two smartphones.
There’s a phrase in Latin — Caveat emptor – which means buyers beware, which may come in handy for a lot of potential buyers. At a starting price of Rs 21,999 you only get 64GB of internal storage of which only 49GB is available to users. This is a point that potential buyers have to be careful about. If this is enough for your usage, then you without thinking further go for the Redmi K20 as it is certainly one of the most competitive handsets at this price.
However, if this storage seems less and you are considering going for the 128GB variant that costs Rs 23,999, then you may want to take a step back and consider alternatives like the Realme X, Vivo V15 Pro — other handsets that run on Snapdragon 700-series processors. Alternatively, you may also consider buying the handsets featuring Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor such OnePlus 6T.
In the past when Xiaomi has tried not to “be itself” the results have not been up to the mark. However, with the K20 it does seem to have learnt a lot of lessons and may just have delivered a handset that is a toned-down variant but still packs in a lot that delivers results.