The Samsung Galaxy M series has gained immense popularity thanks to affordable prices and up-to-date hardware. Samsung has managed to reduce prices by selling these models online, reducing delivery costs. Sub Rs. 15,000 Samsung Galaxy M30 set the pace, and a refreshed variant, the Galaxy M30s, really helped the company consolidate its position in this segment. Samsung has now launched a successor to the Galaxy M30s, called the Galaxy M31. You now get a quad-camera setup, which is an upgrade from the triple camera setup on the M30s. However, the processor and battery capacity remain unchanged. Will this be enough to keep the Galaxy M series competitive in the market? We review the Galaxy M31 to find out.
Samsung Galaxy M31 Design
At first glance, it is difficult to differentiate the Samsung Galaxy M30s (Review) and Galaxy M31 from the front. Both the smartphones feature a large 6.4-inch display with a waterdrop notch, which Samsung calls Infinity U Display, the bezels are not thin but are acceptable for the price. Like other smartphones in the M series, Samsung has used plastic in the making of the Galaxy M31. The earpiece is sleek and sits right above the display in the frame of the smartphone.
Lift the Galaxy M31 up and it feels comfortable to hold in the hand. The edges are slightly curved which helps with grip. Samsung has placed the power and volume buttons on the right side of the device. The power button is easy to reach but the volume button could have been positioned better. On the left is the SIM tray which didn’t come completely flush on our review unit. The Galaxy M31 has a 3.5mm headphone jack, primary microphone, USB Type-C port and speaker at the bottom. The top has only the secondary microphone.
When you look at the back of the Galaxy M31, you will notice some changes. The camera module is similar to the Galaxy M30s but now packs a fourth camera. Next to it is the fingerprint scanner which was convenient for us while holding the smartphone.
The Galaxy M31 packs in a big 6,000mAh battery and weighs 191g which makes the device feel a bit heavy. Samsung has thankfully bundled a 15W charger in the box which will help keep the charging time down. The company offers the Galaxy M31 in two colours, Ocean Blue and Space Black. We had the Space Black variant for review, and it caught fingerprints and smudges with great ease. There is no case in the box, so you may want to buy one.
Specifications and features of Samsung Galaxy M31
The spec sheet of the Galaxy M31 looks similar to that of the Galaxy M30s. It sports a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with full-HD+ resolution. It also has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection which prevents it from picking up scratches easily. The display has good viewing angles and is legible when outdoors. There are two color profiles to choose from, and you can change the white balance as well.
Samsung has retained the Exynos 9611 SoC from the Galaxy M30s. It is an octa-core processor with four performance ARM Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.3GHz and four performance Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.7GHz. For graphics, it has Mali-G72 GPU. You get a choice between 6GB RAM and 64GB storage variant and 128GB storage variant. 15,999 or Rs. 16,999 respectively. However, Samsung is offering Rs. 1,000 off which brings the prices to Rs. 14,999 and Rs. 15,999 respectively. The duration of this offer has not been specified.
The Galaxy M31 has two nano-SIM slots and has support for 4G as well as VoLTE. It also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. Storage can be expanded up to 512GB.
On the software front, Samsung ships the new Galaxy M31 with OneUI 2.0 on top of Android 10. The software is similar to what we have seen on the recently launched Galaxy S10 Lite (Review) and Galaxy Note 10 Lite (Review). We found a fair amount of bloatware in the Galaxy M31. Apart from Google apps, Netflix, Facebook, Candy Crush Saga and Samsung Max were preloaded in the smartphone. Samsung also has its own apps such as My Galaxy and Samsung Shop. We found My Galaxy to be a bit irritating as it kept pushing notifications throughout the day.
You need to be careful about what you allow when setting up the device, otherwise Samsung will send you marketing information as well. The setup process suggests that you download several other apps which we suggest you skip.
The Galaxy M31 gets Android 10 goodies like Dark Mode and Focus Mode, which can be enabled very easily through the notification shade. Dolby Atmos is available but it only works with earphones. Digital wellbeing and parental controls are also present on the device. Traditional gestures like double-tap to wake, gesture screenshot are also available on the Galaxy M31. You also get the option to ditch the three-button navigation layout in favor of full-screen gestures.
Samsung Galaxy M31 Performance and Battery Life
Samsung has bumped up the RAM on the Galaxy M31 compared to its predecessor which should give it some advantage when multitasking. We didn’t notice any lag or stutter while using the smartphone. The device is fast enough to load apps although larger apps take a bit longer. Since there’s a lot of RAM, multitasking is a breeze and we didn’t find ourselves waiting for an app to reload.
The fingerprint scanner unlocks the smartphone quickly, and the selfie camera works well with face recognition. We enjoyed watching content on the AMOLED display. There’s Widevine L1 support that lets you stream full-HD content.
We ran our usual benchmarks on the Galaxy M31. In AnTuTu, it managed to score 191,981 points which is higher than the Galaxy M30s. The Galaxy M31 also scored 348 and 1,247 respectively in Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core tests. For graphics benchmarks, the Galaxy M31 managed 41fps in GFXBench T-Rex and 8.9fps in GFXBench Car Chase.
We played PUBG Mobile on the Galaxy M31 and the game defaulted to high settings with the default graphics set to HD and the frame rate on high. The game was playable at these settings and we didn’t see any problems. After playing for 20 minutes, we noticed a four percent reduction in the battery, and the device got hot to the touch. The large battery will allow you to run the smartphone for a long time without having to plug it into the charger. It lasted 22 hours and 31 minutes in our HD video loop test.
With our usage, the battery lasted for about two days without any issues. If battery life is important to you, the Galaxy M31 will not disappoint.
Samsung Galaxy M31 Camera
The Galaxy M31 sports a quad-camera setup at the back and a single 32-megapixel selfie shooter. The primary camera of the Galaxy M31 has a 64-megapixel resolution and f/1.8 aperture. This camera takes 16-megapixel binned shots by default but you can switch to full resolution. There is also an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera with 123-degree field of view and f/2.2 aperture. The other two are a 5-megapixel depth sensor and a 5-megapixel macro camera. Samsung’s camera app is the same as before and we can easily find it. There’s a toggle to switch between the primary and wide-angle cameras. Scene Optimizer is quick to detect scenes and set up the camera accordingly.
We found the Galaxy M31 to be pointed and quick to lock focus in daylight. The pictures came out good and had good detail. When zoomed in, text could be read at a distance. The smartphone enables HDR automatically if required. Switching to the wide-angle-camera is easy and you can get a wider field of view. However, while these shots look great, zooming in reveals that this sensor misses out on details. There is also barrel distortion at the edges in wide-angle shots.
The Galaxy M31 is able to separate subjects and backgrounds when shooting close-ups, giving a natural depth effect. However, we felt that bright colors were reproduced too aggressively, resulting in a loss of detail. The macro camera takes good shots outside but the quality falls short inside the house. Output in resolution is limited to 5 megapixels.
Portrait shots were good and the camera app gives you the option to set the level of blur before taking the shot. Edge detection is very good and the Galaxy M31 does a good job of separating the subject from the background.
The Galaxy M31 takes longer to lock focus in low light, so you’ll need to be patient while taking shots. Photos taken in low light look good indoors but you can see fine grain in the output when you zoom in. Switching to Night Mode helps reduce grain in the output.
Selfies taken with the Galaxy M31 were good when shot with enough light, but in low light, the quality goes down a notch and results are grainy.
Video recording maxes out at 4K for the primary rear camera and selfie shooter. The Galaxy M31m lights up properly when shooting during the day, however, we found that the footage was not well-steady. There’s a Super Steady mode that uses the wide-angle-camera and crops the frame to reduce shake. We got nicely stable output using this mode, but video lacked detail. There’s no stabilization at 4K.
Samsung has seen success with the Galaxy M30s, so it didn’t want to fix what isn’t broken. What the company has done is upgrade the RAM, put in a fourth rear camera, and preload Android 10. The Galaxy M31 is not like a completely new device, but more like an update to the Galaxy M30.
The Exynos 9611 is capable but we wouldn’t have complained if this phone had a more powerful processor to stave off the competition. The upgrades make this phone a little better and more versatile, but it’s not a significant step forward.
Battery life is still the main attraction, and we can easily last two days without being plugged in, something the competition at this price level can’t quite easily do. The Redmi Note 8 Pro (Review) and Realme X2 (Review) will still offer you more bang for your money overall, but if you don’t care about benchmark scores and just want a device that covers the basics and With a great battery, the Galaxy M31 will do just fine.
Can Samsung Galaxy M31 beat Redmi Note 8 Pro, Poco X2? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts either RSSDownload the episode, or just hit the play button below.