We just did a mega comparison between four of the most popular phones under Rs. 20,000 in India today — the Vivo Z1 Pro (Review), the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review), the Realme 3 Pro (Review), and the Samsung Galaxy M40 (Review). It was the Samsung Galaxy M40 that turned out to be the best all-rounder, provided you can afford to spend the premium that it commands. Since we did that comparison, two new models have already emerged to challenge it — the Realme X (Review) and the Redmi K20 (Review).
Samsung's offering is priced identically to the top-end variant of the Realme X, which actually makes the two models direct competitors. The Redmi K20 costs just a few thousand rupees more than both these phones, but it could be another excellent option, considering the features it offers. Which one should you pick?
The only way to settle this is to compare the design, features, performance, software, and battery life of the Redmi K20, Realme X, and Samsung Galaxy M40 to see if we have a clear winner. If you were wondering which is the best smartphone to buy for around Rs. 20,000 right now, then read on to find out.
All three of these phones look modern, have near-bezel-free displays, and are easy to carry around. The Samsung Galaxy M40 has the smallest footprint of the three and is also the lightest and slimmest. The placement of the volume rocker isn't the best, as it's a little hard to reach. You get a hybrid dual-SIM tray, so the internal storage can be expanded, unlike the other two, although only if you're willing to sacrifice a second SIM.
The body of the Samsung Galaxy M40 is built from plastic and the back panel does pick up scuffs pretty easily. There's also a capacitive fingerprint sensor instead of an in-display one like you get on the Redmi K20 and Realme X. The headphone jack is missing, and in place of a traditional earpiece, Samsung uses a screen vibration technique to deliver sound, which works well.
The Realme X is the largest of the three and is also noticeably heavier than the Samsung Galaxy M40. One-handed use isn't the easiest, even if you have large hands. Thankfully, the buttons are more ergonomically placed. You get a headphone jack, as well as an in-display fingerprint sensor and a pop-up selfie camera. You don't get expandable storage though, which shouldn't be a huge issue considering there's 128GB onboard. The body is built using polycarbonate, which feels premium, and the back has a laminated layer, which thankfully, doesn't scuff too easily.
However, neither of them quite match up to the build quality and finish of the Redmi K20. This phone is slightly taller, wider, and thicker than the Galaxy M40, but it's not as cumbersome to use as the Realme X. The body is also built using Series 6000 aluminium and the back has Gorilla Glass 5, which is quite impressive.
One side effect of this, though, is that the Redmi K20 quite slippery. Like the Realme X, you get a headphone jack, a pop-up selfie camera, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. In this department, we'd pick the Redmi K20 for its excellent build quality and relatively compact size. It also has the most striking look for the back panel, amongst the three.
Coming to the displays, the Samsung Galaxy M40 has a PLS TFT LCD display, which produces good colours, high levels of brightness, and decent viewing angles. There's a slight vignetting effect around the edges of the display, which is only noticeable against a white background, so this isn't a big issue.
The Samsung Galaxy M40 also has a hole-punch front camera, which isn't as distracting as a notch. It can also be masked, but in doing so, you lose out on some screen space. There's scratch protection too but it's only Gorilla Glass 3.
The Realme X and the Redmi K20 have similar-looking notch-free and hole-free displays, which means there's no interruption when viewing your content. All you see is a giant screen, stretching from one corner to the other. We've started to see such displays pick up steam this year and it's crazy that we now have such immersive designs at such low prices. Both of these phones also have Gorilla Glass 5 for scratch protection, and have full-HD+ AMOLED panels. Due to this, colours are more vivid and better saturated, and blacks look inky.
The displays on all three phones have good brightness and produce rich colours. The Realme X and Redmi K20 Pro offer punchier colours and better black levels, thanks to their AMOLED panels. The Realme X has slightly warmer colours compared to the Redmi K20. We watched a few 4K videos streamed online, and in our experience, the Redmi K20 had the most accurate colours and best brightness. Plus, the fact that it's also HDR certified is a big bonus.
It's a close call between the Realme X and the Redmi K20, but the winner of this section is the Redmi K20. Its display can reach the highest brightness of all, at 600nits, and is HDR certified, which means you can take advantage of the wider colour gamut that compatible HDR videos offer.
A lot of people's buying decisions are influenced by the processor or the amount of RAM a phone has, and for them, the Redmi K20 will look mighty appealing. It's the first phone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 SoC, which is an absolute beast of a chip for the mid-range market. It uses an 8nm fabrication process, so it's power efficient. It features eight Kryo 470 CPU cores and a new Adreno 618 GPU. The base model of the Redmi K20 has 64GB of storage, which is not a lot considering you can't expand it. There is a 128GB version too priced at Rs. 23,999, and both have 6GB of RAM. We would have liked 8GB on the higher storage variant, considering the price.
The Realme X has the second-most powerful chip among the three, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 which is built on a 10nm process and has slightly weaker Kryo 360 CPU cores. The Realme X has the lowest amount of RAM (4GB) in its base variant priced at Rs. 16,999, but 128GB of storage is standard for both. The higher priced one at Rs. 19,999 has 8GB of RAM, which is something spec-lovers will appreciate.
The Samsung Galaxy M40 is no slouch either. It features the Snapdragon 675 SoC and is only available in one configuration — which is 6GB RAM and 128GB storage — for Rs. 19,990 . This SoC has good CPU performance but is built on a comparatively larger 11nm fabrication process. Also, the GPU here isn't as powerful as compared to the other two.
All phones feature dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, and the expected variety of sensors. The Samsung Galaxy M40 has NFC, which the other two lack. It, along with the Redmi K20, also has FM radio, which is missing in the Realme X.
All things considered, the Redmi K20 wins this round for having the most powerful and power-efficient processor. Some might feel that it skimps on the RAM a little, but it's not something you'll notice with regular use.
For software, each phone offers a different take on Android 9 Pie. Samsung uses its overhauled skin for 2019 called OneUI, which is lean and looks very good. Samsung has kept the software up-to-date by providing a bunch of software updates since the Galaxy M40 launched. Samsung's stock apps have the ability to send spammy notifications but this can be avoided if you're a bit careful about the permissions you give the OS during the initial setup. Samsung also gives you Android 9's Digital Wellbeing feature, which is not often seen in custom skins.
The Realme X comes in a close second, for also having up-to-date software and an easy-to-use interface. The new ColorOS 6 offers plenty of customisation options such as themes, gestures, and the ability to use two instances of the same app. Digital Wellbeing isn't present though.
The Redmi K20 runs on MIUI 10, which is also fairly up-to-date with the June Android security patch. Like the other two UIs, there's a lot of customisation to be had, and while new users might take some time to get accustomed to the interface, existing Xiaomi users should be right at home. If you've used a Xiaomi phone before, you'll know that getting spammed with ads is a big problem. The ads have reduced quite a bit on the K20, but notifications are still something you have to live with.
None of the phones gave us any issues with day-to-day usage. Apps load quickly, all the interfaces are fluid without any noticeable lag, and gaming performance is also good. The Redmi K20 and the Realme X run cool for the most part, except when stressed, at which time they get a little warm. The Samsung Galaxy M40 on the other hand heats up very easily, and when gaming, the phone gets fairly hot. This is mostly down to the Snapdragon 675, which is known to get hot easily. We faced the same issue with the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) too, which has the same SoC.
In terms of raw CPU and GPU power though, there's no beating the Redmi K20. For instance, in the AnTuTu benchmark, the Redmi K20 returned 214,687 points, compared to 155,897 points from the Realme X and the 171,177 points from the Samsung Galaxy M40. The faster CPU cores in the Samsung Galaxy M40 enable it to outperform the Realme X. However, in gaming benchmarks, the Snapdragon 710 and 730 do perform better. In the GFXBench T-Rex test, the Samsung Galaxy M40 only managed 38fps, while the Realme X did 54fps and Redmi K20 managed 58fps.
All three phones have quick fingerprint sensors. The capacitive one on the Samsung Galaxy M40 is dependable, but the in-display sensors on the Realme X and the Redmi K20 are nearly as fast. We also have face recognition on all three phones, and to our surprise, it's the Realme X that turned out to be the fastest.
Between the two phones with pop-up front cameras, the Realme X is quicker at ejecting and retracting the camera module. Surprisingly, even compared to the Samsung Galaxy M40 which has a traditional front camera, the Realme X is still slightly faster at unlocking itself.
All three phones have a single bottom-firing speaker, so none produce stereo sound. Of the three, the Samsung Galaxy M40 has the lowest maximum volume of the three, and its sound is a bit tinny. The Realme X and Redmi K20 have higher volume levels and sound richer.
All phones can deliver day-long battery life, but the Redmi K20 manages to edge out the others thanks to its 4000mAh capacity. The Realme X has the second largest battery at 3765mAh, followed by the Galaxy M40 with a 3500mAh capacity. The Redmi K20 also fared very well in our HD video battery loop test, lasting for more than 24 hours.
All phones support fast charging. The Realme X ships with a 20W charger, compared to an 18W charger with the Redmi K20 and a 15W charger with the Galaxy M40. Xiaomi also offers an optional 27W SonicCharge charger, if you want even faster charging.
All three phones have high-resolution primary rear sensors, however, the Samsung Galaxy M40 and Redmi K20 have versatile additional cameras. The Realme X also has a second camera, but it's only for depth calculation. The primary sensors of all three phones have large apertures for better low-light shots. The Redmi K20 also has a 20-megapixel selfie camera, compared to the 16-megapixel sensors on both the others.
In daylight, the Realme X captured the most balanced images, with good details in the sky, good saturation, and fairly good detail in the shadows. The Redmi K20 came in a close second, with equally good colours and detail but some portions of the sky were overexposed. The Galaxy M40 required some coaxing before it locked focus, and colours looked comparatively muted.
The Redmi K20 and Galaxy M40 have useful wide-angle cameras, but between the two, the Redmi K20 offers better details and colours, even though the Samsung Galaxy M40 has a slightly wider field of view.
The Redmi K20 is the only phone with an additional 8-megapixel telephoto camera. This provides good quality photos when you need 2x optical zoom, and the difference in detail is very noticeable compared to the 2x digital zoom on the others.
The Realme X did the best job with close-up shots taken in daylight as well. Details were good, textures on objects looked natural and not heavily processed, and colours were vivid. The Samsung Galaxy M40 and K20 were tied for second place here, in terms of image quality. The Redmi K20 does have much quicker autofocus than the Galaxy M40, which requires a few taps on the viewfinder to ensure that your subject is in focus.
There's portrait mode on all three phones and the Galaxy M40 and the Redmi K20 allow you to adjust the background blur before taking a shot, whereas the Realme X doesn't. In terms of quality, the Redmi K20 really nails it. It uses its telephoto camera for capturing portrait shots, and the final image has the best details, edge detection, skin tones, and white balance. The Realme X comes in second since the skin tones are on the warmer side but the edge detection is still good.
It took a lot of effort to get usable shots from the Galaxy M40, as the latest firmware update seems to have messed up the Live Focus feature. Most of the sample shots we took of people had an inverted-blur effect —which means that even though the preview showed a blurred background, the final shot had the background in focus and our subject blurred out. This doesn't seem to happen with objects.
In low light, all phones struggled with capturing good details in landscape shots. The Redmi K20 applies an aggressive de-noising filter, which is why the darker regions have less noise, but this also flattens finer textures a bit. The Realme X has a bit more noise compared to the Redmi K20, but it does brighten up darker areas a bit more. The Samsung Galaxy M40 does a decent job with details, but again, you'll have to wait for a good second or two for it to lock focus before you can take the shot.
The Redmi K20 and Realme X have dedicated ‘Night' modes, which captures better details and colours compared to Auto mode. Between the two phones, we found Realme's Nightscape to be more effective in bringing out detail and colours in otherwise dark scenes. The colours do look a bit boosted but details are noticeably better than the Redmi K20.
In close-ups shot under artificial light, indoors, it's the Redmi K20 that edges out the Realme X, but only by a small margin. The Samsung Galaxy M40 does a decent job with detail too, but the exposure is a little off.
For selfies, we found that the Realme X delivered better skin tones, while the Redmi K20 produced slightly over-sharpened shots. The Samsung Galaxy M40 produced soft images, and colours were a bit muted. In low light, the Redmi K20 and the Realme X produced the cleanest images, although the Redmi K20 edges out the other two when using the screen flash.
All three phones can shoot 4K video, although only the Redmi K20 stabilises video at this resolution. Colours aren't too exaggerated, and stabilisation is good, except for a very slight intermittent stutter when moving about. The Realme X focuses well but colours are a bit boosted at this resolution. The Samsung Galaxy M40 captures better colours but continuous autofocus is slow, which means there are brief moments when things aren't in focus.
In low light, it's a toss-up between the Realme X and the Redmi K20. The former doesn't have stabilisation and delivers brighter but noisier video; while the latter produces cleaner footage but the stabilisation causes some terrible shimmer. Thankfully, stabilisation can be turned off in the Redmi K20. The Samsung Galaxy M40 offers much cleaner footage but it's also a lot darker and doesn't look very good.
At 1080p, stabilisation works well on all phones. The Samsung Galaxy M40 redeems itself a bit here but the slow autofocus is still a big issue. The Realme X has good detail but there is a mild shimmer effect when you move around. Autofocus is much quicker than with the Samsung Galaxy M40. However, the Redmi K20 pulls ahead with its impressive continuous autofocus, good stabilisation, and vivid colours.
In low light, image quality is quite average across all three. Here, the Redmi K20's footage has visible distortion and interment focus hunting; the Realme X has stable footage but its a bit noisy, while the Samsung Galaxy M40 has a softer image with less noise.
Without taking pricing into account, it's clear that the Redmi K20 beats the other two in most areas. It has the best design and build quality, an excellent display with HDR, very good app and gaming performance, excellent battery life, and a versatile trio of cameras at the back. Priced at Rs. 23,999, it's hard to find anything else which offers a similar feature set and does everything so well.
The Redmi K20 is far from perfect though. Low-light camera performance is one of its weak points; the glass back makes to quite slippery; and ads are still present, although not as much as before. Then there's the matter of flash sales, which is the only way you can buy one right now.
For those who still feel the Redmi K20 is overpriced, the Realme X is the next best thing. It's a close second to the K20 in most areas and for Rs. 4,000 less (than the 128GB model of the Redmi K20), it offers very good value. It has the fastest face recognition of the three; capable cameras; a modern design, and a vivid display. Our main gripe with it is that it can be a little too big to handle.
The Samsung Galaxy M40 might have come out victorious in our earlier comparison, but compared to these two new competitors, it falls a bit short in most scenarios. Software is something that it still has going for it, and we love how compact and light it is. However, looking at its overall features and performance, the Redmi K20 and Realme X come out ahead.
Are Redmi K20 Pro and Redmi K20 the best phones under Rs. 30,000? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.