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Samsung Galaxy M31s Review: Pros, Cons And The X-Factor
The Galaxy M31s is built on the success of the highly popular mid-ranger- Galaxy M31 which gave a tough competition to sub-20K smartphones from Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo and Vivo. Although the starting price has seen a hike this time, it does reflect as noticeable upgrades to the camera hardware and software in addition to some minor changes to 1080p AMOLED display. However, the new Galaxy M-series smartphone still draws power from the dated Exynos 9611 chipset which powered the predecessor and also the Galaxy M21 handset.
- Long-Lasting Battery
- Vibrant Super AMOLED Display
- Software-Rich Camera Setup
- Sturdy And Very Functional Design
- Dedicated microSD Card Slot
- Smooth Day-To-Day Performance
- AMOLED Panel Lacks 90Hz Refresh Rate
- Not Meant For Gaming
- Bloatware And Spammy Notifications
- Dated Corning Gorilla Glass Protection
Having tested both the Galaxy M31 and the Galaxy M21, I spent some time with the new Galaxy M31s to evaluate if the price hike is justified and does the new camera with Sony sensor makes any major difference. Here's what I found out.
X-Factor- Improved Camera Performance 64MP Sony Sensor
The new 64MP quad-lens camera is the X-Factor of the new Galaxy M31s. The primary camera still sports the massive 64MP resolution sensor but it now uses the latest Sony IMX682 sensor which has proven to be a better performer than the Samsung-made 64MP camera sensor. The Sony sensor has a bright f/1.8 aperture and ideally results in better clarity and color reproduction.
The primary sensor is now accompanied by a 12MP (f/2.2) ultra-wide-angle sensor with 123-degree field-of-view. The Galaxy M31 has an 8MP wide-angle lens. The other two lenses are still of 5MP resolution- one macro sensor with 4cm distance for close-up shots and a 5MP depth sensor to create bokeh. To capture selfies, the Galaxy M31s features a 32MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture. This is a good spec-sheet for a sub-20K smartphone but does it translate to a good real-life camera output? Let's find out.
Good Daylight And Decent Low-Light Camera Performance
Thanks to the big Sony sensor with the bright aperture, the Galaxy M31s captures vibrant pictures in daylight and well-lit shots even when the light conditions are not favorable. The big camera sensor lets in a good amount of light to create enough details in 16MP pixel-binned shots. You can also enable the 64MP mode to capture crisp shots with better-resolved details. The 64MP shots also show slightly better contrast and sharpness.
Similar to images, the Galaxy M31 also records lively videos that show vibrant colors and impressive dynamic range. The video recording maxes at 4K 30fps resolution. The Galaxy M31s also features an effective software backed ‘Super Steady Mode' but it doesn't support the higher resolution. It only works with 1080p 30fps mode and yields good results.
Good Dynamic Range Even With Wide-Angle Sensor And Macros
And as expected, the Sony sensor combined with Samsung's camera optimization results in excellent dynamic range. It is only while clicking portraits that the dynamic rage takes a slight hit, otherwise, the 5MP macro and even the 12MP wide-angle sensor maintains good dynamic range.
But with the segment's best 123-degree FOV comes along heavy distortion which is hard to ignore. I think a 118-degree FOV would have made an ideal wide-angle shooter for the Galaxy M31s. It would have cut down the heavy distortion for better overall landscape results.
Good Macro Camera
The Galaxy M31s is a decent smartphone for macro photography. The 5MP dedicated macro sensor captures crisp shots and also ensures vivid colors; however the 4cm distance is a bit restricting. If Samsung could have reduced the 4cm distance to 2cm, the Galaxy M31s would have been the perfect macro shooter in the sub-20K price-point.
Exclusive Camera Modes Comes Handy
The 64MP camera setup on the Galaxy M31s is called the Intelli-Cam because it brings some intelligent features on-board. We liked the ‘Single Take' mode which captures up to 10 discrete photo and video files in just one take. The feature comes handy and helps you capture multiple outputs of a moment. The list of output includes Hyperlapse videos, Boomerang videos, photos with applied filters, Smart Crop and Best Moments shots. The Galaxy M31s also comes equipped with a ‘My Filter' option lets you create and save customized presets to give a quick retouch to your shots. You can create up to 99 filters and save them in the camera app itself.
6.5-inch Super AMOLED Display Offers Immersive Visuals
Similar to the Galaxy M31, the Galaxy M31s also flaunts an AMOLED screen; however, the new OLED panel feels more vivid and responsive. It is still a full HD panel with 1080 x 2340 pixels resolution and 405 PPI pixel density. It measures 6.5-inches and unlike the dewdrop notch, the selfie camera now rests in a tiny dot (Infinity-O-Display) similar to what we get to see on the Samsung's flagship Galaxy smartphones. The punch-hole looks aesthetically better and less obtrusive than the dewdrop notch panels.
The 1080p AMOLED panel is a delight for multimedia jobs, especially for video playback as it is Widevine L1 certified and offers deeper blacks and good viewing angles. With L1 certification, you can stream high definition videos across streaming platforms such as Netflix, Prime Videos, YouTube, etc. The sunlight visibility is good if not the best and you can comfortably use the smartphone outdoors.
Best-In-Class Battery Life
The Galaxy M31s is a heavy-duty device. It is backed by a massive 6,000 mAh battery cell that can easily last for more than a day with moderate to heavy usage. The AMOLED screen and the Exynos 9611 SoC are light on the battery which makes the phone easily last for more than 24-hours on one full charge. Samsung ships the Galaxy M31s with a 25W fast-charger in the box that refuels the big battery cell from flat to 100% in about 90 minutes. A big battery also gives the Galaxy M31s the capability to offer reverse charging.
Sturdy Design That Also Covers Basics
The Galaxy M31s looks much premium than its predecessor, thanks to the dual-tone gradient finish rear panel and the punch-hole cutout display which is usually seen on the company's premium Galaxy-series smartphones. The L-shaped rear camera sits on a minimally designed rear panel which is rather a smudge magnet. The smartphone feels very sturdy and gives a solid in-hand feel. The fingerprint scanner is now placed on the right side and it works wonderfully. The Galaxy M31s is available in two gradient finish color variants- Mirage Black and Mirage Blue.
One thing I always appreciate about the Samsung Galaxy series smartphones is the fact that the devices ensure all basics are covered. And the Galaxy M31s is no different. The handset offers a dedicated microSD Card Slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack and Type-C charging port. You can use two active SIM cards and a microSD card at the same time which means no compromise on connectivity for storage and vice versa.
The Galaxy M31s is powered by the familiar Exynos 9611 chipset. It is the in-house octa-core CPU by Samsung which supplies power to almost half a dozen Samsung devices and the recently launched Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. While the SoC offers good day-to-day performance, it is certainly not meant for power users. You can feel the performance dip while playing games, editing videos and performing other number-crunching tasks. I am testing the 6GB+128GB variant and it works without any issues for day-to-day jobs such as web browsing, social apps, video recording, Google Maps, Zoom calls, etc. The Galaxy M31s can also render graphics for casual games like Alto Odyssey, Stickman Master and even Asphalt 9 without any performance issues.
It is only when you start playing heavy games at higher graphics settings that the phone feels a bit underpowered. For instance, playing Call of Duty and PUBG at max settings isn't enjoyable as the gameplay struggles with frame drops. You tweak down the graphics a bit and the gameplay runs smooth. Heating issues only arise when you stretch the gameplay to 20-30 minutes which is usual for mid-range smartphones which lack adequate thermals.
Overall, if your usage includes heavy gaming, the Galaxy M31s is not an ideal device. If you are a casual gamer and mostly use your phone for day-to-day tasks, the Galaxy M31s will not disappoint you
AMOLED Panel Has Dated 60Hz Refresh Rate And Corning Glass Protection
The 6.5-inch AMOLED panel fails to offer the modern 90Hz refresh rate which means the Galaxy M31s lacks in terms of fluidity and responsiveness when compared to smartphones with 90Hz refresh rate LCD panels. Honestly, I would recommend you to compromise on refresh rate rather than color production and overall display quality. The Galaxy M31s AMOLED screen produces far better visuals than any LCD panel in the sub-20K display which offers 90Hz refresh rate. But if you are hard-pressed to buy a handset with a fluid 90hz refresh rate, the Poco X2 Pro, Realme 6 Pro are good options. Also, the upcoming Realme 7-series will boast 90Hz refresh rate panels.
As far as screen protection is concerned, Samsung should have offered the Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at this price-point. Chinese smartphone brands have been offering the Gorilla Glass 5 at much lower price-point.
Bloatware And Spammy Notifications
The OneUI is one of the most feature-rich and visually-appealing custom skin for Android smartphones. It works rather well on Galaxy-series handsets but isn't free of issues. The OneUI version 2.1 running on the Galaxy M31s has its fair share of problems. Samsung's in-house skin comes with pre-installed bloatware such as Daily Hunt, Microsoft apps and some apps which I remember not installing on the device but still showed up. For instance, Solitaire Infinite, Connections and Candy Crush Saga popped up on my device even though I have always denied all app-install requests from the annoying My Galaxy app.
Also, the same app keeps sending multiple app-requests that appear in the phone's notification panel. Even the premium Galaxy smartphones are marred by similar issues let alone the mid-range Galaxy M31s.
The Galaxy M31s is a great addition to the sub-20K price segment. It's not a true successor of the Galaxy M31 as the new phone also draws power from the underwhelming Exynos chip but the design, display and camera upgrades are undoubtedly noteworthy. Available in two memory variants - 6/128GB and 8/128GB at Rs. 19,499 (6/128 GB) and Rs. 21,499 (8/128GB), the Galaxy M31s is an excellent choice for someone who wants a non-Chinese smartphone with excellent battery life, good cameras and a great display for binge-watching. For avid gamers, the market offers some good options such as Redmi Note 9 Pro-series, the Poco X2 Pro and the Realme 6 Pro.