Taobao product recommendation – Redmi K20 Pro: the flagship-killer killer

OnePlus phones used to be the de-facto flagship-killer, with flagship level specs at a fraction of the cost of true flagship phones. However, Redmi just killed their flagship-killer with the release of the K20 Pro. It boasts flagship level specs at a price point that is lower than OnePlus’.

The K20 Pro 6GB + 128GB cost CNY 2239 (S$432) at present. For me, 6GB RAM and 128GB storage is the entry level specs anyone should get. There is also the option to get 6GB + 64GB at CNY 1999 (S$386), which is dirt cheap, but i think one will run out of storage in less than a year. In my opinion, it’s worth paying $46 more to save the trouble. I don’t think you can find any other device that has a lower price for a flagship level phone (only the Vivo iQoo comes close, but i suspect software updates for Vivo phones are less frequent than Xiaomi).

Having used the K20 Pro for two days, here are my thoughts about the phone:

The good
The phone checks my 3 main considerations when getting a phone: performance, battery life and camera quality. The performance? You can’t go wrong with the Snapdragon 855. The 4000mAh battery lasts more than a day with moderate usage. Camera wise, the phone uses the same Sony IMX586 sensor as the OnePlus 7 Pro, which scored 114 on dxomark.

Form factor wise, the phone measures 156.7 x 74.3 x 8.8mm, and i found that it slips into my jeans rear pocket easily. Somehow, it feels more sturdy than the OnePlus 6 i was using before even though they have similar dimensions, maybe because it is slightly thicker (the OnePlus 6 measures 7.75mm in thickness). I found thicker to be better, less prone to bending.

The screen is bright and crisp, with nice colour saturation. FHD+ screen resolution (2220 x 1080) seems to be the in thing now, and it is indeed better, because even with the keyboard displayed, you’re still left with adequate space for content display, much better than the FHD resolution.

Another plus point for the phone is that it already runs on Android 10, way ahead of most of its competitors. MIUI 11, the just-released latest version of Xiaomi’s Android implementation, is a vast improvement over what it used to be, and it finally provides the App Drawer style of launcher. Moreover, it supports swipe up gesture to access the app drawer, plus swipe down gesture to access notifications, just how i like it.

I don’t usually bother much about themes but MIUI does provide many downloadable themes (most of which are ugly), and i happen to be able to apply a theme that suits my taste, one by the name Pixel Q. The default two themes that come preinstalled are horrible. Anyway, it’s good that MIUI provides sufficient customization options so i am not stuck with an ugly user interface.

Another feature that i appreciate about MIUI is the built-in Dual-App support. This allows me to clone apps (to run the same app with different login credentials) without having to install a third-party app cloner, which is way more cool, especially since it is completely Ad-free.

The stock camera app doesn’t do justice to the capability of the camera sensor, but various ports of the Google Camera app work on the K20 Pro, allowing it to punch above its weight.

The bad
I am using the China ROM that came with the phone, and this means i will see Chinese wordings here and there despite having selected English as the language of the phone. Not a biggie for me, since i can read Chinese, and also since i chose to stick with the China ROM (to avoid risk of bricking the phone, and also to be able to get future ROM updates quicker).

The settings menu on the lock screen is completely in Chinese, because the theme is implemented by a Chinese theme creator. The calendar and date wordings can be changed to English from the settings.
For this particular theme, swiping to the right on the lock screen reveals some shortcuts, including some China specific ones like WeChat Pay and Alipay, which are irrelevant outside of China. The countdown timer, calculator, voice recorder and flash light functions can be launched without authentication, which is mighty useful.

The double tap to lock screen feature does not work at all, even with the preinstalled themes. I had to resort to using the Lock screen widget (at least there is one). Another annoying thing is that there is a sound clip played when the phone is plugged in for charging, and it cannot be disabled.

The other thing that comes as a slight disappointment is that the USB port is only USB 2.0. I was hoping it would support HML (USB to HDMI) but it does not (Xiaomi phones don’t support MHL in general).

The notification light is now implemented as part of the pop-up selfie camera, which has a faint red colour light whenever it pops up (which probably serves as a warning to be extra careful with handling the phone when the vulnerable unit pops up). This means you have flip the phone around and look at the top (which is very unnatural), and squint in order to see the very faint red ring. Basically, it is as good as not having a notification light. You do have the option of using the Always-On-Display to display notifications, but Always-On-Display does not sit well with me – a waste of battery life in my opinion, despite how efficient they may claim the AMOLED screen to be. I hope they will offer the feature, in the future, to activate Always-On-Display only when there are notifications.

Conclusion
All in all, i am very satisfied with the phone, mostly because it costs so little. It is one fast phone! The OnePlus 6 (sporting the Snapdragon 845) was already fast enough for me but the K20 Pro is even faster with the Snapdragon 855. I could configure the phone to more or less to how i want it to be. This was not the case years ago with the Redmi Note 3 phone i tried using. MIUI was absolutely trash. I highly recommend getting this phone, if you don’t mind spending more than a day to configure it, and also only if you consider yourself geeky enough. Otherwise, OnePlus may still be the better choice.

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