The term ‘budget flagship' has been thrown around a lot to describe premium yet affordable smartphones, but there is no strict definition of it. An easy way to define a budget flagship is that such devices tend to offer top-of-the-line hardware, but ditch some of the features of premium flagships that buyers might be willing to live without. More often than not, we have seen that the prices of such devices are so aggressive that you don't really have to think twice if you are looking for a good deal. Over the past few months, we have seen a lot of such smartphones that sport the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC and are priced under Rs. 40,000.
The OnePlus 7 (Review) was among the first to be priced so aggressively, starting at Rs. 32,999. That was followed by the launch of the Asus 6Z (Review), which had an even lower starting price of Rs. 31,999. While these are great prices for such capable smartphones, Xiaomi made many jaws drop by launching the Redmi K20 Pro (Review) at just Rs. 27,999. That begs the question: is cheap really cheerful? Or should you pay more for either of the other models? We compare the Redmi K20 Pro, the OnePlus 7, and the Asus 6Z to help you decide which one is the best budget flagship.
Do any of these phones cut corners when it comes to design? Well, only OnePlus does to a certain extent, while the other two phones are more modern. Since we have called out OnePlus, let's talk about the OnePlus 7 first. It uses almost the same design as the outgoing OnePlus 6T (Review), and as a result, does not bring anything new to the table.
The OnePlus 7 does have stereo speakers, which weren't available on the OnePlus 6T, though. The power button is to the right along with the three-position alert slider, while the volume buttons and the SIM tray are on the left side.
The OnePlus 7 lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack. It has a dual-camera setup at the back, and a 6.41-inch AMOLED display with an in-display fingerprint scanner just like the OnePlus 6T. It is now available in three colour variants, Mirror Gray, Red, and Blue.
Asus offers a fresh design and incorporates a rotating camera module with the Asus 6Z. This means that the dual camera setup at the back flips over and both can be used as selfie cameras. It does not offer stereo sound like the OnePlus 7 does, and we found the bottom speaker to be a lot louder than the earpiece.
At the bottom, the Asus 6Z has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB Type-C port, and the loudspeaker. The power and volume buttons are on the right and are fairly easy to reach. Asus has added a Google Assistant button on the 6Z, which is also on the right side. This Assistant button is too high and you will need to shuffle the phone in your hand. The SIM tray is on the left.
The Asus 6Z sports a 6.4-inch display and is the only smartphone here without an in-display fingerprint scanner. Instead, it has a traditional capacitive fingerprint scanner at the back. Asus only sells the black colour option of the Asus 6Z in India.
Xiaomi's Redmi K20 Pro sports an all-screen front and has a pop-up selfie camera. The earpiece is thinner than that of the Asus 6Z, and it sits between the frame and the display. The Redmi K20 Pro has a 3.5mm headphone jack and the secondary microphone at the top, while the USB Type-C port, SIM tray and loudspeaker are at the bottom.
Xiaomi has positioned the power and volume buttons on the right, while the left side is blank. The power button is finished in red, which stands out on our Glacier Blue unit. Xiaomi also offers the Redmi K20 Pro in Flame Red and Carbon Black. The Redmi K20 Pro has a 6.39-inch AMOLED display with an in-display fingerprint scanner. At the back, it has a unique gradient finish and a triple camera setup.
In terms of design, the Redmi K20 Pro would be our pick thanks to that pop-up selfie camera, in-display fingerprint scanner, and gradient finish on the back. The Asus 6Z comes in second place because the rotating camera module does help it stand out. The OnePlus 7 comes in the last spot here since it just looks like a OnePlus 6T with a new paint job.
These three smartphones are the flagships of respective manufacturers (or nearly so in case of the OnePlus 7), and all of them sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC. The OnePlus 7 is available in two variants, one with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage priced at Rs. 32,999, while the other has 8GB of RAM and 256 of storage and is priced at Rs. 37,999.
Asus 6Z, on the other hand, has three variants: 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage priced at Rs. 31,999; 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage priced at Rs. 34,999; and 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage priced at Rs. 39,999. The Redmi K20 Pro is available in two variants only: one with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage priced at Rs. 27,999 while the other with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is priced at Rs. 30,999.
All three smartphones have Bluetooth 5, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, dual 4G VoLTE, dual Nano-SIM slots, and GPS. The Redmi K20 Pro and Asus 6Z have FM Radio, which the OnePlus 7 misses out on. The OnePlus 7 and the Asus 6Z have NFC, which the Redmi K20 Pro misses out on. These phones also all have the usual array of sensors. The Redmi K20 Pro and the Asus 6Z have fall detection mechanisms in place which retract their camera modules if a fall is detected. The Asus 6Z is the only smartphone here that offers expandable storage, that too with a dedicated microSD card slot.
These smartphones all run the latest version of Android Pie but have custom skins on top. The Asus 6Z is the closest to stock Android, while the OnePlus 7 runs Oxygen OS. The Redmi K20 Pro runs MIUI 10. While MIUI 10 still sends spammy notifications, the frequency of these notifications has reduced compared to other Xiaomi phones. While we like the stock approach that Asus has taken for the UI, we found the added features of the Oxygen OS to be the most useful.
It is a little hard to a clear winner in terms of hardware and software. The Redmi K20 Pro offers the best specifications for the price, but the OnePlus 7 offers the best software experience. We can call it a tie between the Redmi K20 Pro and the OnePlus 7 for the top spot, while the Asus 6Z comes in third.
Since all three powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, none of these smartphones showed any signs of slowing down when in use. We could launch heavy apps and multitask without noticing any lag or stuttering.
We found that the OnePlus 7 was the quickest to unlock using its fingerprint scanner, while the Asus 6Z came second followed by the Redmi K20 Pro. We noticed that the Asus 6Z has a slow unlock animation which could've cost it the lead.
All these smartphones are also capable of face recognition. The OnePlus 7 has a fixed selfie camera positioned in its dewdrop notch while the Redmi K20 Pro and the Asus 6Z have mechanical modules that take a little time to get into position. The OnePlus 7 is expectedly the quickest to unlock using face recognition, while the Redmi K20 Pro and the Asus 6Z are tied for second place as they both take around the same amount of time to unlock.
We compared the displays of all three smartphones and found that the Redmi K20 Pro had the best panel. It is the brightest, has a vivid output and supports HDR. It is a tie between the OnePlus 7 and the Asus 6Z for the second spot. We found the OnePlus 7 to be sharper, but the Asus 6Z was brighter and had no notch in the way, offering a more immersive viewing experience.
In terms of audio output, the OnePlus 7 is the clear winner thanks to its stereo speakers and support for Dolby Atmos. The Asus 6Z comes in second because it also offers stereo speakers but we found that the earpiece was not as loud as the main bottom-firing speaker. The Redmi K20 Pro takes the third spot since it only offers mono output.
As for our benchmark tests, the OnePlus 7 clocked the highest score in AnTuTu at 3,75,219 followed by the Redmi K20 Pro at 3,68,332 and the Asus 6Z at 3,55,965. In Geekbench 4, the OnePlus 7 led again with 3,536 and 11,192 points for the single-core and multi-core tests respectively. The Redmi K20 Pro scored 3,421, and 10,775, while the Asus 6Z managed 3.503 and 10,629 in the same tests respectively. Moving on to graphics tests, these smartphones were all neck-and-neck. In GFXBench Car Chase, the OnePlus 7 managed 37fps, followed by the Asus 6Z and the Redmi K20 Pro which scored 36fps and 35fps respectively.
We played PUBG Mobile on all three smartphones, and they were able to run it at the highest settings. All of them were warm to the touch after 30 minutes of gaming, but none uncomfortably so.
Battery capacities vary on these smartphones, with the OnePlus 7 having the lowest capacity at 3,700mAh. The Redmi K20 Pro has a slightly bigger 4,000mAh unit, while the Asus 6Z has the biggest battery here at 5,000mAh. Each of these smartphones will last well over a day with regular usage. In our HD video loop test, the Redmi K20 Pro lasted the longest at 19 hours and 26 minutes, with the OnePlus 7 in second place at 15 hours and 16 minutes. The Asus 6Z came in last and could only manage 14 hours and 22 minutes in the loop test despite its battery capacity advantage.
All these smartphones support fast charging. The OnePlus 7 comes with a 20W charger in the box while the Asus 6Z and the Redmi K20 Pro both ship with 18W chargers. The Redmi K20 Pro and Asus 6Z both support Qualcomm's Quick Charge 4.0 standard while the OnePlus 7 uses the company's own proprietary method.
The Redmi K20 Pro charged up to 80 percent in an hour, while the OnePlus 7 and the Asus 6Z got to 93 percent and 70 percent respectively. The smaller battery and faster charger give the OnePlus 7 a lead when it comes to charging.
Each one of these smartphones takes a different approach when it comes to the cameras. The Redmi K20 Pro has a triple camera setup at the back, while the Asus 6Z and the OnePlus 7 both have dual-camera setups. All three smartphones sport the same 48-megapixel Sony IMX 586 primary sensor.
The OnePlus 7 pairs the primary sensor with a 5-megapixel depth sensor while the Asus 6Z has a 13-megapixel ultra-wide-angle secondary camera. The Redmi K20 Pro, on the other hand, has a 13-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera as well as an 8-megapixel telephoto sensor which offers 2X optical zoom.
As for selfies, the OnePlus 7 has a 16-megapixel selfie shooter while the Redmi K20 Pro has a 20-megapixel front camera. The Asus 6Z does not have a dedicated selfie camera but both rear cameras double up as the selfie cameras.
We took photos in different lighting conditions using all three smartphones side by side, to see how they fare. All three phones are quick to lock focus and all feature AI as well, which helps detect the composition of a scene and set the camera up accordingly.
In daylight, the Asus 6Z has the most accurate colours. The Redmi K20 Pro over-sharpens images, which is evident on zooming in. This phone, however, has the most detail in its shots. In another scene, we noticed that the OnePlus 7 managed the brightest image but the Redmi K20 Pro had the best detail. We would pick the Redmi K20 Pro as the winner for daylight shots.
We photographed pink flowers using all three phones to see how they perform for close-ups. The Redmi K20 Pro's result was close to the actual colour of the flower while the AI on the Asus 6Z boosted it a bit too much. The OnePlus 7, on the other hand, made these flowers look reddish and also added a warm tint to the output. The Redmi K20 Pro managed to capture the water droplets on these flowers well, giving it another win here.
In portraits, we noticed that all three smartphones managed edge detection very well. The OnePlus 7 again had a warm tint which wasn't pleasing. The Asus 6Z had the most detail but it blew out the highlights. The Redmi K20 Pro delivers a lower degree of detail compared to the Asus 6Z but meters scenes much better, delivering good shots.
While taking photos in low light, we noticed that it was the OnePlus 7 that managed to capture the best shots. It dropped the shutter speed lower than the other two smartphones helping it deliver brighter images. The OnePlus 7 also managed much better separation between the trees and the sky. The Redmi K20 Pro takes the second spot, as the Asus 6Z had a yellowish tinge to the output. With night mode enabled on these smartphones, the OnePlus 7 came out on top again with better details overall. The Redmi K20 Pro's shots had visible grain on zooming in, and images did appear to be sharpened. The Asus 6Z takes the last spot here.
As for selfies, the Asus 6Z has a clear advantage over the competition as its rotating camera module lets it use the 48-megapixel primary camera for selfies. As a result, the 6Z delivered better shots while managing exposure better than the other two smartphones. The OnePlus 7 came in second place by exposing the subject better than the Redmi K20 Pro and offering better details. The Redmi K20 Pro's shots had lower detail, and we noticed that it oversharpens selfies as well.
With portrait mode enabled on each phone, the Asus 6Z was still the clear winner, managing exposures better and delivering superior details. The OnePlus 7 took the second spot because the Redmi K20 Pro overexposed its output.
We also took a couple of selfies in low light, and the Redmi K20 Pro had the brightest output but with a lot of noise. The other two phones were closely matched for second place but neither managed to deliver a well-lit selfie. When using the available flashes, we observed that the OnePlus 7 managed the best photo by properly illuminating the subject. The Redmi K20 Pro was second but it did have grain in the output. The Asus 6Z's shots had a yellow tinge and so it came in last despite the fact that it uses an LED flash while the other use screen flashes.
Video recording maxes out at 4K 60fps on all these smartphones. When recording 1080p footage during the day it was the Redmi K20 Pro that had the most natural colours, while the OnePlus 7 had the best stabilisation. On the Redmi K20 Pro, a shimmer is visible as the phone tries to stabilise footage. This wasn't a problem during our review. The Asus 6Z weirdly stuttered while recording footage, and this wasn't an issue either when we compared it with the OnePlus 7 a short while ago. We suspect that recent software updates might have caused these problems unintentionally
In 4K video clips, the Redmi K20 Pro had boosted colours and a mild focus hunting issue was noticeable in the output. The OnePlus 7 also boosted colours rather aggressively. In low light, the footage from the OnePlus 7, Redmi K20 Pro, and Asus 6Z were stabilised, but a shimmer effect was visible in each phone's output. The OnePlus 7 had the least shimmer, with output that appeared warm and saturated. Video taken with the Redmi K20 Pro also had boosted colours, and we saw focus popping issue.
Overall, the Redmi K20 Pro topped the camera portion of this comparison in most cases, though the OnePlus 7 and the Asus 6Z did shine in certain scenarios. The rotating camera module helps the Asus 6Z score better for selfies, while the improved software on the OnePlus 7 does help in low light.
While these three smartphones are the most affordable models in India with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC at the moment, picking one isn't easy. The Redmi K20 Pro (Review) and the Asus 6Z (Review) both have fresh designs, innovative camera modules, and 3.5mm audio jacks, which many people value. The OnePlus 7 (Review), on the other hand, offers stereo audio output and has faster UFS 3.0 storage, as well as the quickest fingerprint scanner. The OnePlus 7 also managed to ace our benchmarks. Oxygen OS is slick and adds quite a few useful features into the mix.
While the Asus 6Z won our direct comparison against the OnePlus 7, the competition was tougher this time. The Redmi K20 Pro not only delivers better camera performance in most scenarios, but it is also more aggressively priced. Starting at Rs. 27,999, it is Rs. 5,000 less expensive than an equally specced OnePlus 7, and almost Rs. 8,000 less than a similarly specced Asus 6Z.
The Redmi K20 Pro is the winner here, but not by a huge margin. Also, getting your hands on a K20 Pro could be an issue given the demand for the device and Xiaomi's flash sale model. If you don't manage to buy the Redmi K20 Pro and need a phone urgently, you can opt for either the OnePlus 7 or the Asus 6Z and you won't be disappointed.