The sub-Rs. 20,000 segment in India has seen a lot of new smartphone launches in the past few months. Most manufacturers are now offering powerful hardware and great features in this price range, which wasn't as common in the recent past. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) made a mark for itself with the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 SoC and an aggressive starting price of Rs. 13,999. The competition hasn't been quiet since then, and we have seen a lot of powerful competitors come up in this price range, including the Realme 3 Pro (Review) and the Samsung Galaxy M40 (Review). These smartphones are good alternatives to the Redmi Note 7 Pro, and we have compared both of them against it individually. Now we have yet another interesting option in the form of the Vivo Z1 Pro (Review). The Vivo Z1 Pro is the first Z-series model from Vivo, and it marks the debut of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 712 SoC in India. As a result, there are now these four highly desirable value-for-money smartphones in the market. So which one should you pick? We pitted all four of them against each other in a battle royale, to see which is the last one standing.
Each smartphone here represents a different approach to design. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro, which was the first of our four competitors to hit the market, has a glass-sandwich design. It has Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at the front and back which gives it a premium feel. It has a rounded plastic frame in the middle and is comfortable to hold.
The Redmi Note 7 Pro has a 6.3-inch LTPS In-Cell display with a dewdrop notch. The power and volume buttons are well positioned and the fingerprint scanner at the back is easy to reach. There's an IR emitter at the top along with the 3.5mm headphone jack. This phone also sports a USB Type-C port for charging. It has a dual camera module at the back which protrudes slightly.
The Realme 3 Pro sports a 6.3-inch IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection and fairly slim bezels on the sides. It has a laminate back which scuffs easily. The power button is positioned on the right while the volume buttons are to the left. It has a 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom.
The Realme 3 Pro has a Micro-USB port which makes it feel dated. There is a dual camera setup at the back along with a fingerprint scanner, which is well positioned. Realme offers the 3 Pro in multiple gradient finishes, which might be appealing to some buyers.
Samsung Galaxy M40 was launched quite recently and was the first phone in the sub-Rs. 20,000 segment to sport a hole-punch display. It has a 6.3-inch PLS TFT LCD panel instead of the AMOLED panels common on Samsung devices. There is Gorilla Glass protection for the display but Samsung hasn't specified which version. Samsung has used a plastic frame which does pick up minor scuffs up when used without a cover.
The Samsung Galaxy M40 is sleek and is light. It has a triple camera setup at the back along with a fingerprint scanner. We found that the power and volume buttons as well as the fingerprint scanner were placed a bit too high for our liking.
The Samsung M40 does not have an earpiece and instead, the upper portion of the screen itself vibrates to produce sound. This phone has a USB Type-C port but misses out on a 3.5mm headphone jack. Samsung provides Type-C headphones in the box, but you don't get a USB Type-C to 3.5mm dongle.
The Vivo Z1 Pro is the latest competitor. This smartphone has a big 6.53-inch display and a hole-punch front camera. It is bulkier than all the other smartphones in this comparison, which is partly thanks to its big battery. The Vivo Z1 Pro also has a dedicated Google Assistant button which can be used from any screen. The power and volume buttons are to the right, and the volume button is a little hard to reach.
The frame and back panel of the Vivo Z1 Pro are made of plastic. Vivo also has gradient colour options to choose from. At the back, the Vivo Z1 Pro has a triple camera setup, while the hole-punch selfie camera is positioned in top left corner of the display. The Vivo Z1 Pro sports the dated Micro-USB port along with a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Of all four smartphones, the Redmi Note 7 Pro looks and feels the most premium in the hand, while the Vivo Z1 Pro and the Galaxy M40 look more futuristic with their hole-punch displays. Overall, we would pick the Galaxy M40 as the phone with the best design, primarily because it is sleek and manageable in the hand.
All these smartphones have powerful processors, but budget pricing is what makes them appealing. The Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy M40 both sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 SoC while the Realme 3 Pro uses the Snapdragon 710 SoC, and the new Vivo Z1 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 712 SoC. Let's take a look at the options on offer.
The Redmi Note 7 Pro has three variants: 4GB RAM with 64GB storage priced at Rs. 13,999, 6GB RAM with 64GB storage priced at Rs. 15,999, and the 6GB RAM, 128GB storage variant is priced at Rs. 16,999.
The Realme 3 Pro and the Vivo Z1 Pro both have three variants with the same configurations as the Redmi Note 7 Pro. These Realme 3 options are priced at Rs. 13,499, Rs. 14,999 and Rs. 15,999 respectively, while the Vivo Z1 Pro variants are priced at Rs. 14,990, Rs. 16,990, and Rs. 17,990. This gives the Realme 3 Pro a slight advantage over the Redmi Note 7 in terms of pricing, but the Vivo Z1 Pro isn't far away.
Samsung's Galaxy M40 is only available in one configuration, with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, priced at Rs. 19,990. This makes the Galaxy M40 expensive compared to the other models in this comparison.
All these smartphones support expandable storage, but only the Vivo Z1 Pro and the Realme 3 Pro sport dedicated microSD card slots while the other two have hybrid dual-SIM slots.
Of all the phones we have here, it is the Vivo Z1 Pro that has the biggest battery at 5,000mAh. The Redmi Note 7 Pro has a 4,000mAh battery, while the Realme 3 Pro has a 4045mAh battery. Samsung's Galaxy M40 has the smallest battery at 3,500mAh. All four models support dual 4G VoLTE, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.
Only the Samsung Galaxy M40 has NFC, while the Redmi Note 7 Pro has an IR emitter.
All four smartphones run Android Pie which is the current version of Android. Each manufacturer has customised the UI on its offering. The Z1 Pro runs Vivo's FuntouchOS and the Redmi Note 7 Pro runs Xiaomi's MIUI, neither of which have an app drawer. The Realme 3 Pro's ColorOS skin and Samsung Galaxy M40's One UI do. We found that the Redmi Note 7 Pro kept pushing spammy notifications at us throughout the day, while the others didn't have this problem.
The Samsung One UI is the most polished and stands out compared to the others, making the M40 our pick as far as software is concerned.
The Samsung Galaxy M40 has the best display with vivid colours, maximum brightness, and the best viewing angles of the four smartphones we've compared. It is followed by the Realme 3 Pro. The display on the Realme is a little warm, which costed it the lead.
The Redmi Note 7 Pro is third when it comes to the display since its viewing angles aren't as good as those of the Realme 3 Pro, causing it to look washed-out in darker areas. The Vivo Z1 Pro was the least impressive here. It is relatively low on brightness, has subdued colours, and the viewing angles are just average compared to the other smartphones at this price point.
While testing the speakers of each phone, we found that the Galaxy M40 had the loudest output and the best quality sound. The Realme 3 Pro was second. It wasn't as loud as the Galaxy M40, but quality was decent. The Redmi Note 7 Pro was neutral, while the Vivo Z1 Pro was dull and tinny.
We ran our set of benchmarking apps to determine which smartphone offers the best performance on paper. In AnTuTu, the Vivo Z1 Pro managed to score the highest with 184,384 points. It was followed by the Redmi Note 7 Pro at 178,570 and the Galaxy M40 at 171,177. The Realme 3 Pro could only manage 155,563 points. In Geekbench 4, the Snapdragon 675-powered Redmi Note 7 Pro and Galaxy M40 managed higher scores compared to the Realme 3 Pro and Vivo Z1 Pro.
In graphics benchmarks, the Vivo Z1 Pro's Snapdragon 712 SoC managed to score the highest in every test, closely followed by the Realme 3 Pro. The Redmi Note 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy M40 secured the third and fourth spots respectively.
We played PUBG Mobile on all these smartphones to see which one is the best device to play games on. The game defaulted to its High preset on all of them, but we observed occasional stutters on the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Galaxy M40. The Vivo Z1 Pro and the Realme 3 Pro, on the other hand, could run the game at these settings without any stutters. We also observed that the Vivo Z1 Pro and the Realme 3 Pro did not get warm, while the Snapdragon 675-powered Redmi Note 7 Pro and Galaxy M40 ran warm after just 10 minutes.
Now we come to our HD video battery loop test. We were expecting the Vivo Z1 Pro to dominate its competition since it has a massive battery, but it was the Redmi Note 7 Pro which ran the longest at 19 hours and 23 minutes, followed by the Vivo Z1 Pro which managed 18 hours and 32 minutes. The Galaxy M40 and the Realme 3 Pro were next in line scoring 15 hours, 30 minutes and 14 hours 13 minutes respectively.
We also streamed an hour-long YouTube video on all these smartphones at max brightness. The Vivo Z1 Pro registered a 9 percent battery drop followed by the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Realme 3 Pro with 10 percent and 11 percent battery drain respectively. The Galaxy M40 registered a 15 percent battery drain for the same activity.
Each smartphone takes a different approach when it comes to cameras. The Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Realme 3 Pro both sport dual camera setups. The Redmi Note 7 Pro sports a 48-megapixel primary sensor (f/1.79) along with a 5-megapixel depth sensor, whereas the Realme 3 Pro sports a 16-megapixel primary sensor (f/1.7) and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. The Samsung Galaxy M40 and the Z1 Pro both have triple camera setups. The one on the Samsung consists of a 32-megapixel primary sensor (f/1.7), an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. Vivo uses a 16-megapixel primary sensor (f/1.78), an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor, and a 2-megapixel depth sensor.
We took photos in different lighting conditions with each of these four smartphones to determine which one delivers the best results. The Samsung Galaxy M40 did have an issue with autofocus and we had to wait for it to lock focus. The Realme 3 Pro was super quick to focus, followed by the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Vivo Z1 Pro.
In daylight shots, we noticed that the Realme 3 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy M40 came close to getting scenes right. The Redmi Note 7 Pro could not get the background exposure right and over-sharpened images, causing a loss in details. The shots taken by the Vivo Z1 Pro looked good at first, but on zooming in we noticed a lack of detail. The Realme 3 Pro managed the best details here.
In close-ups, we saw that the Realme 3 Pro managed the most natural-looking shots with the most accurate colour tone and best detail. The Galaxy M40's shots were on the cooler side, causing the purple flower to look bluish. The Vivo Z1 Pro boosted saturation which made images look vivid but isn't accurate. The Redmi Note 7 Pro delivered decent output, slotting it above the Vivo Z1 Pro in our close-up tests.
As for portraits, it was the Galaxy M40 that took the top spot with good colour and a proper bokeh effect. The Realme 3 Pro was next, but the skin tones it produced were a bit too warm. The output from Redmi Note 7 Pro was a little underexposed but it still had good details and sharpness. This is an improvement over the last time we compared these two smartphones, which could be because of software updates that manufacturers release from time to time. The Z1 Pro came last here since photos came out with soft focus.
The Realme 3 Pro managed the best selfies, which had good details. The Galaxy M40 came in second mainly because of a pinkish tinge in the shots we took. The Redmi Note 7 Pro did not expose the background properly but managed better colours than the Vivo Z1 Pro. We found that selfies taken with Vivo Z1 Pro were a little grainy, and the colours were not pleasing.
When shooting portraits with the selfie camera, we found that the Galaxy M40 managed the best shots followed by the Vivo Z1 Pro. The Redmi Note 7 Pro came in third, while the Realme 3 Pro was last here because of boosted colours and aggressive bokeh that makes its shots look artificial.
Taking selfies in low light, the Realme 3 Pro came on top by exposing the entire scene properly, followed by the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Galaxy M40, while the Vivo Z1 Pro took the last spot due to its slightly grainy output.
In low-light shots, it was the Realme 3 Pro that managed to grab the top spot with proper exposure, good detail, and less noise. The Galaxy M40 took the second spot but lacks sharpness compared to the Realme 3 Pro. The Redmi Note 7 Pro managed to beat the Vivo Z1 Pro by managing noise better.
We used night mode on all these devices except the Galaxy M40 which lacks it. We found that the Realme 3 Pro managed to reproduce the best details, though images were a little saturated. The Redmi Note 7 Pro came in second since we found its colour reproduction to be slightly off. Vivo grabbed the third spot by offering better details than the Galaxy M40.
In low-light close-up shots, it was the Samsung Galaxy M40 that managed the best results, however, this needed patience as the device was slow to focus. The Vivo Z1 Pro came in second thanks to its warm colour tone. The Realme 3 Pro took the third spot since the colours it captured weren't accurate, and the Redmi Note 7 Pro was last because it couldn't focus and get a sharp shot.
All four smartphones offer EIS to try to stabilise video output. The Vivo Z1 Pro managed to deliver the best results with only very mild focus hunting in a few instances. The Realme 3 Pro came in second with mild shimmer visible in the output. The Redmi Note 7 Pro also exhibited a mild shimmer plus warping was visible at the edges of the frame. The Galaxy M40 was in the last spot as there was noticeable wobble in the output.
When recording video at 4K, none of these smartphones offer stabilisation. The Redmi Note 7 Pro and Realme 3 Pro were tied for the top spot with good colours. The Vivo Z1 Pro overexposed the sky, burning it out in a few places. The output from the Samsung Galaxy M40 was underexposed.
In low light, we found that the Galaxy M40 managed the best footage, but it had a major issue with focus. The Realme 3 Pro's output had a mild shimmer effect, while this was slightly more pronounced on the Redmi Note 7 Pro. The Vivo Z1 Pro was the weakest of the lot in this test, as it dropped the frame rate down to 20fps while all the others managed to keep it close to 30fps.
At the end of our exhaustive four-smartphone comparison, it's time to pick one overall winner that does it all well. No smartphone managed to ace all our tests, so there isn't a clear winner here by a great margin. The Samsung Galaxy M40 (Review) has a sleek and futuristic design, as well as the best display panel and the loudest speakers of the four. However, it has the smallest battery, though it still offers excellent backup.
The camera performance of the Samsung Galaxy M40 is second only to the Realme 3 Pro (Review) in most cases, but even so you will need to be a patient photographer since its autofocus is the weakest of the lot. This is one of the major reasons it scored a 7 in the camera department as part of our review, despite often offering better results than the other three phones in this comparison, all of which scored an 8. If budget isn't an issue, you could go in for the Samsung Galaxy M40. Yes, it is priced on the higher side compared to the other three, but it manages to do most things right.
If you are on a strict budget and don't wish to go overboard, it is the Realme 3 Pro that delivers the best value. It managed to win most of our camera tests convincingly, and the Snapdragon 710 SoC does run cool compared to the Snapdragon 675. The Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) offers good battery life, but the spammy ads and notifications it throws up can be a lot to handle.
Vivo Z1 Pro, Redmi Note 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy M40, or Realme 3 Pro: Which is the best phone under Rs. 20,000? 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.