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Thursday, April 09, 2020

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: The ‘Paisa vasool’ smartphone

The new Galaxy M31 sticks to the same formula, a phone that leans heavily on display quality, battery life and, oh yes, the affordable price tag. But this time, Samsung has also made emphasis on the camera -- and the results are just amazing.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Rs. 14999
Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi | Updated: February 28, 2020 10:39:03 am
Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 With normal usage, the phone lasted over 2 days and you don’t need to carry a power bank with you anymore. (Image: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

To be honest, I was not that optimistic about the Galaxy M30s when it came out last September. But when I started reviewing the device, my perception changed. Since then I have recommended the phone to many people.

I think Samsung has figured out what consumers want in a mid-range smartphone that’s not only accessible but offers features that solve key pain points like long battery life and a bright display. The new Galaxy M31 sticks to the same formula, a phone that leans heavily on display quality, battery life and, oh yes, the affordable price tag. But this time, Samsung has also made emphasis on the camera — and the results are just amazing.

After using the Galaxy M31 for about four days, I found the smartphone to have everything I would like for my daily driver. This is a smartphone with very little issues to write of.

Here is my full review of the Samsung Galaxy M31.

Samsung Galaxy M31 Specifications: 6.4-inch Infinity U FHD+ Super AMOLED display| Exynos 9611 processor| 6GB RAM, 64GB/128GB storage| microSD support|Quad cameras (64MP main+5MP macro+5mp depth+8MP ultra-wide)6000mAh battery, 15W fast charging support|Android 10, One UI 2.0

Samsung Galaxy M31 price in India: Price starts at Rs 14,999

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: Design

The Galaxy M31’s design hasn’t changed much from the Galaxy M30s. The phone’s back is made of a hard-coated polycarbonate shell. In simple language, it’s “plastic” but that does not mean the phone is flimsy and will break within a few days. The Galaxy M31 feels well-built and sturdy; I think the reason for using a plastic shell has something to do with a 6000mAh battery inside.

The design is not a head-turner. But I am ready to accept a phone that puts more emphasis on practicality.

I got the review unit in black but you can buy the phone in blue as well. However, the black version is a fingerprint magnet and you will need to buy a good case.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 has a waterdrop-style notch, like the original Galaxy M30s.

From the front, it looks just like the previous Galaxy M30s. You get to see a waterdrop notch and the bezels are slim. There’s a slightly bigger chin at the bottom edge, which I feel is unnecessary.

Flip over the phone, and you will notice an oval-shaped fingerprint scanner. It’s quick and works great. The phone has four rear-facing cameras housed in a large square-shaped camera module in the left-hand corner. This new square camera cluster is now standard across Samsung’s new lineup, including the Galaxy S20 series.

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You’ll find the power button on the right spine with a volume rocker above. Meanwhile, the left-hand side has a hybrid SIM tray. The bottom of the phone has a USB-C port, flanked by a 3.5mm headphone jack and a speaker grill.

Must read| The Samsung Blog: Galaxy S20 series won’t have 5G in India, but don’t fret 

At 8.9mm thickness and weighing 190 grams, the Galaxy M31 is exactly the same size as the Galaxy M30s. Given the phone packs a 6000mAh battery, I think it’s not as heavy as you would expect. Honestly, it doesn’t feel too big and I could use the phone one-handed.

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: Display

The display on the Galaxy M31 is exactly the same size and resolution. You are getting a 6.4-inch Full HD Plus Super Infinity-U display. Even though both phones use the same screen technology, somehow the display on the Galaxy M31 is better than on the Galaxy M30s.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 The screen has amazing contrast levels and the colours pop up. (Image: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

I don’t know the exact reason — I found the Galaxy M31’s screen slightly superior. The screen has amazing contrast levels and the colours pop up. My colleague Sneha Saha seems to agree, given she herself compared the Galaxy M31 and Realme X50 Pro 5G side-by-side. Surprisingly, the Galaxy M31 produced vibrant colours even in bright sunlight, whereas texts and images were barely visible when she took the Realme X50 Pro 5G out for a spin in bright sunlight. Let’s not forget: the Realme X50 Pro 5G is a flagship smartphone and costs way more than the Galaxy M31.

Must read| The Samsung Blog: Samsung didn’t lie about the Galaxy Z Flip’s glass display

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: Performance

The Galaxy M31 uses the same processor as the Galaxy M30s: Exynos 9611. This might not be the fastest processor around, but I got fairly decent performance with 6GB RAM and 128GB expandable storage inside. In fact, the performance is slightly better, thanks to Android 10.

Speaking of performance, launching apps and switching between them was quick with no noticeable lag anywhere during the course of the review. The user interface was responsive and gaming performance was excellent. I tried out Call of Duty: Mobile, one of the most demanding games on smartphones. It did run well with no issues.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Wasn’t a fan of Samsung’s user interface seen on previous smartphones but the new One UI 2.0 is the most polished version yet. (Image: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: Battery

Battery life was excellent and why not. Like the Galaxy 30s, the Galaxy M31 has a 6000mAh battery. With normal usage, the phone lasted over 2 days and you don’t need to carry a power bank with you anymore. This is the power bank. It’s a relief for users who constantly travel for work. Good to see that the phone uses a USB-C port for charging, and you get a 15W fast charger inside the box.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 I got the review unit in black but you can buy the phone in blue as well. However, the black version is a fingerprint magnet and you will need to buy a good case. (Image: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: User interface

The Galaxy M31 runs Samsung’s One UI 2.0 based on Android 10. I wasn’t a fan of Samsung’s user interface seen on previous smartphones but the new One UI 2.0 is the most polished version yet. There are a bunch of new features that I particularly liked including the visually appealing icons, updated camera interface, native screen recorder, and redesigned device care section. On the downside though, the phone ships with a ton of bloatware apps. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Snapchat, Dailyhunt, Helo, to name a few. Some will love it, others will hate it.

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: Camera

That’s the most interesting part of reviewing the Galaxy M31. As I said in my Galaxy M30s review, I liked the cameras but the performance was less satisfactory. I think Samsung took the feedback seriously because the Galaxy M31 has pushed the envelope. This time though, there are four cameras instead of three, with the main camera sporting a 64MP lens.

Just look at the close-up shot of an old person. Didn’t you find the image astounding?

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample using the Live Focus mode. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

In particular, I also liked the Live Focus mode, which lets you take portrait shots, which uses data from a depth sensor to produce the blurred-background “bokeh” effect when taking portraits. I captured a number of images using the Live Focus mode.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample using the Live Focus mode. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample using the Live Focus mode. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) In particular, I also liked the Live Focus mode, which lets you take portrait shots, which uses data from a depth sensor to produce the blurred-background “bokeh” effect when taking portraits. I captured a number of images using the Live Focus mode. Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample using the Live Focus mode. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample using the Live Focus mode. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Okay, so, the four lenses are a 64MP wide-angle camera, a 5MP depth camera, a 5MP macro lens and an 8MP ultra-wide-angle lens. The 64MP lens is an upgrade over a 48MP lens seen on the Galaxy M30s. With a fast aperture of f/1.8, the main lens can take excellent shots in any condition. This works great in low-light conditions, too.

You can see the camera samples below.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express) Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The Galaxy M31 is way better compared to the Galaxy M30s in low-light photography. Yes, the images are not perfect by any means and there is quite a bit of noise. However, we have to appreciate that Samsung is at least trying to improve the quality of pictures snapped in low-light conditions.

The Galaxy M31’s ultra-wide-angle lens is fun to use. I like taking ultra-wide angle shots, as I personally like cityscapes and historical monuments.

Take a look at the below image, which I captured right in front of a Church.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 ultra-wide-angle camera sample. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

And when it comes to photos taken with the macro lens, I was least satisfied. I didn’t find them to be particularly sharp.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 camera sample using the Macro mode. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The camera interface is also improved. What I liked about the camera interface is that it has got a little organised as when taking a photo; the extra camera modes and features have been shifted into the ‘more’ section.

The 32MP front-facing camera is okay. The software overprocesses images and thus dilutes the picture quality. If the issue is related to software, Samsung can fix it with a software upgrade.

Galaxy M31, samsung galaxy m31, galaxy m31 review, galaxy m31 amazon india, galaxy m31 features, galaxy m31 specs, galaxy m31 vs poco X2 Samsung Galaxy M31 front-facing camera sample. (Image: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

There’s also an AR Emoji feature that uses the phone’s front-facing camera to mimic your expressions in cute characters similar to Apple’s Animoji. Then there are slow-motion selfies, a feature that’s currently only available on the Galaxy M31, if we are specific to smartphones priced under Rs 20,000. Apple too offers a similar feature but you need to pay Rs 65,000 for the iPhone 11.

Samsung Galaxy M31 review: Should you buy it?

I think you are already using the Galaxy M30s, there isn’t any major reason to upgrade unless you want a better camera. That said, I think Samsung is targeting a bigger audience with the Galaxy M31, especially those who actively use the Galaxy J-series smartphones. For them, I think the Galaxy M31 is worth upgrading without any second thoughts.

You know the good thing about the Galaxy M31 is that there are very few negatives. I have tested a lot of mid-range smartphones, but there’s hardly any of them that stood out on all parameters. The combination of simple looks, lightweight design, capable quad cameras – and perhaps above all the insanely long battery life makes the Galaxy 31 worth the money. At Rs 14,999, I am not missing out on a flagship smartphone and that really is something Samsung’s strategy to sell the Galaxy M30s. I have a sneaky feeling that the Galaxy M31 is Samsung’s “iPhone XR” in the mid-range segment.

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