At Rs 20,499, the Samsung Galaxy M31 (Review) is still a solid Android smartphone that sits at the upper end of the budget smartphone segment in India. When launched early this year, it offered great value for money, given that waterdrop AMOLED display and a 64 MP camera. The only thing holding the M31 back was its plastic body that felt quite cheap, and its lacklustre gaming performance.
This also made the colourful and flashy designs of the Redmi Note 8 Pro (Review) (and more recently, the Note 9 Pro Max) attractive to buyers looking for a smartphone in the upper end of the budget segment. And then, there's also a recent threat in the form of the OnePlus Nord, getting you crazy value for money in terms of hardware and performance at an additional Rs 5,000.
The recently-launched M31s is not a brand-new phone through and through, but works on some of its predecessor's paint points to get you a similar phone with a couple of changes. Samsung believes the changes will convince users to choose the M31s over the Redmis and Pocos out there.
But do they add up? And how does the M31 v2.0 stack up against the competition? Let's find out.
Samsung Galaxy M31s. Image: Tech2/Sheldon Pinto
So, what's new?
- A glasstic body that looks and feels great
- A vibrant 6.5-inch hole-punch Super AMOLED display
- A 64MP (IMX682) primary camera by Sony that replaces a similar one made by Samsung
- And faster 25W wired charging
With that out of the way, let's dive in!
Design gets an A-series upgrade
The straight sides and slightly rounded corners look quite nice. Image: Tech2/Sheldon Pinto
The 'glasstic' (plastic that feels like glass) back is not bad at all, and feels quite premium compared to the M31. The 'Mirage Blue' dual-tone finish looks a bit flashy. The straight sides and slightly rounded corners look quite nice, as is the overall build quality. Yes, it does catch fingerprints, but you can wipe them off quite easily.
On the M31s, when you do press down on the power button (properly) there's a nice satisfying 'click' to it.
I like how the power button (that also houses the fingerprint reader) is a bit hard to press down. I believe this is intentional, so that you don't end up locking the phone when you tap the power button to authenticate an app. This was a problem when I reviewed the small, but mighty >Galaxy S10e more than a year ago. On the M31s, when you do press down on the power button (properly) there's a nice satisfying 'click' to it.>
Display hits the right notes
Most smartphone brands don't get the hole punch right. A large hole-punch cavity is often placed so deep inside the viewing area that it takes up more than twice the space the notifications bar takes up on a regular notched smartphone.
The Galaxy M31s and the Poco M2 Pro, L to R.
Samsung does a really good job by keeping the camera unit (or the cavity) small, and it sits just 3-4mm from the display's top bezel. The result? It does not eat into the display but basically gives you more viewing space by taking up less space than a regular water drop notch would.
Samsung does a really good job by keeping the camera unit (or the cavity) small. Image: Tech2/Sheldon Pinto
Super AMOLED panels are known for their deep blacks. The panel on this phone does not disappoint, even if it's not comparable to the good stuff you get in the mid-range with the A series. Some may prefer the default 'Vivid' colour mode, but I felt that it was a bit too saturated, with reds looking borderline orange. After setting it to 'Natural', the colours looked spot-on and the deep blacks really made for an enjoyable video streaming experience compared to regular LCD panels. Brightness was not a problem either, as content was legible in direct sunlight.
That's a really tiny hole-punch cavity!
Indeed, the display is worth the extra money over the more affordable LCD alternatives from Chinese smartphone brands.>
One UI pulls off a balancing act
One UI is the is actually the star of the show, and holds everything together.
Given the Exynos 9611 chipset inside, the M31s does not feel as snappy as I would like. But things are still smooth enough, and I saw no hiccups in day-to-day use save for some minor stuttering when juggling between third party apps.
Audio quality through the speakers was quite loud, clear and enough to fill a small room. The 3.5mm headphone jack? Please¦>
Should you buy a Samsung Galaxy M31s?
Unless you'd prefer to avoid a Chinese product, you really cannot ignore the better build quality of the Xiaomi >Redmi Note 9 Pro Max (Rs 16,999) and the> Poco X2 (Rs 17,499), both of which feel snappier in daily usage, offer better cameras with more detail and get you great gaming performance as well.
They are priced a bit lower but miss out on that lovely AMOLED display, a 6000mAh battery and the interface is known to be spammy. With that in perspective, Samsung's pricing for the M31s is justified.
If you own a Galaxy M31, there's really no need to upgrade, as the bits that matter mostly remain the same.
My only complaint about this phone is its gaming performance in comparison to the competition, in and below this price range. Everything else that's attached to this phone serves a purpose, whether it's the AMOLED display, the massive battery or that 64 MP camera -- all of which deliver.
It sits just below the mid-range at Rs 19,499, but gets you the right combination of battery-friendly performance with a dash of style and the convenience and comfort of an AMOLED display. Just don't game on it.