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Samsung Galaxy M31s review

Been there done that!

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

With the Galaxy M31s, Samsung has tried to repeat a winning formula. Though it had the option to offer an updated chipset, the company chose not to, making it the weakest link. While the device does perform satisfactorily, repeating the same chipset in almost all the devices could be a bummer. Also the M31s is costlier without offering any stellar update over the M31. Which makes it a tough choice to recommend.

For

  • Great Display
  • Long lasting Battery
  • Decent Camera performance

Against

  • Iterative upgrade over M31
  • Dated Chipset

TechRadar Verdict

With the Galaxy M31s, Samsung has tried to repeat a winning formula. Though it had the option to offer an updated chipset, the company chose not to, making it the weakest link. While the device does perform satisfactorily, repeating the same chipset in almost all the devices could be a bummer. Also the M31s is costlier without offering any stellar update over the M31. Which makes it a tough choice to recommend.

Pros

  • + Great Display
  • + Long lasting Battery
  • + Decent Camera performance

Cons

  • - Iterative upgrade over M31
  • - Dated Chipset

(Update) - Availability status on Amazon India

The Samsung Galaxy M31s is definitely an improvement, but only just. Often smartphone manufacturers believe that “if it ain't broke, don't fix it,” and repeating the winning combination works sometimes. But, should it always work? More so, when it was the same M series that helped Samsung get its mojo back when faced with the tough Chinese challenge. 

The Samsung Galaxy M31s is one such phone that has matured over the last few iterations that started with the Galaxy M30, M30s followed by the M31, that was launched in February this year, and now the M31s. So, comparisons between M30 and M31 are instantaneous as it is when we juxtapose it alongside the M31s. It is quite obvious that not much has changed in sequence but the M31s has taken several leaps over the M31 in terms of features and performance.   

Which tells us that  Samsung is heading in the right direction in general with these smartphones in the mid-budget segment. That said we will try to keep these comparisons aside, at least for the time being, and assess whether the Galaxy M31s is worth the money that you shell out.

Price and availability 

The Samsung Galaxy M31s launched in two different colour options, Mirage Blue and Mirage Black. There are two different versions of the device – 6GB/128 GB priced at Rs/ 19, 499 and 8GB/128GB priced at Rs. 21,499 and the phone can be bought from Amazon India.

Click here to buy the Galaxy M31s

(Update)

Samsung announced on August 26 (Wednesday), that its recently-launched Galaxy M31s would be back on Amazon India stores from August 27 (Thursday). The device was launched around Amazon's Prime Day sales on August 6 and continued through the Freedom Sales till August 12, following which it had disappeared from the online retail store for a brief while. 

The phone is still listed on Samsung’s official portal but the 6GB variant was not available for purchase. We did reach out to the brand for clarification and will update this section once we get some information around this. 

Inside the box 

The retail packaging of the Samsung Galaxy M31s contains some manuals, the phone, a sim ejector tool, a USB Type C to USB Type C charging cable and a 25W USB-PD fast charger. Unlike many other devices, Samsung does not supply a screen guard or a protective case in the M31s retail box. Nor do you get a pair of earphones in the box, which has somehow become a norm these days.

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Design

  • 159.3 x 74.4 x 9.3, 203g
  • Plastic build doesn't look cheap but is a fingerprint magnet
  • Mirage Blue, Mirage Black

Straight out of the box, the Samsung Galaxy M31s is huge. There is a massive 6.5-inch Super AMOLED panel with Infinity-O display that houses the selfie camera in the punch-hole design. On the right, you have the volume rocker and the power button cum fingerprint sensor while on the left you have the triple slot sim tray that has space for dual-nano sim cards and a micro-SD card. 

Though the phone stands tall with a display to book, the fingerprint sensor still lands at the perfect spot, making it easily accessible. As a right-handed person, I felt it to be quite easy to use my thumb to unlock the device. Upon trying to use my left hand, I found that the ease-of-use hadn't diminished as using my index finger did the trick. 

(Image credit: Jitendra Soni)

The device unlocked quickly, suggesting that the fingerprint sensor worked well. But, I experienced multiple instances when it did not register the right pressure from my thumb and locked me out for a few more seconds. The phone also kept showing me a warning that "Fingerprint sensor is blocked" on such instances, suggesting that the accidental touches were enough to trigger it. There were also instances where the sensor just refused to accept my thumbprint. So, overall, it was an iffy experience. 

On the bottom, you have a 3.5-mm combo jack, USB Type C charging port, a mic and a bottom-firing speaker. The phone has a huge 6,000 mAh battery and slightly towards the bulkier side.

On the rear, Samsung has gone for a minimalist design, which is something that I liked given the heavy-duty stuff that's par for the course these days. All you have is the quad-camera setup and LED flash housed in a rectangular camera module and the Samsung branding. 

The reflective gradient design gets all the attention here. While the camera bump is not quite prominent, it does come with a slight lip that protects the lenses from getting scratched. Additionally, there is a circular ring around each lens, which not only makes them look larger but adds to the overall design of the device. 

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The rear panel of the phone merges ever so smoothly with the body, thanks to the curved edges making the device extremely comfortable to hold. The carbonate back panel on this phone is unlike the one present on most other similar devices and one can easily mistake this for a glass. 

While it is elegant, the back panel of Galaxy M31s is a fingerprint magnet. You’d often find yourselves wiping off the phone using a cotton cloth. Also, since it is plastic, the back is prone to scratches. The unit we have has a fair amount of scratches over a couple of weeks of careful usage. With prolonged usage one can expect the back panel to show more signs of wear tear, hence getting a case along with the phone itself is advisable. 

Overall the phone is designed to look premium and the gradient design adds to the look and feels along with the minimal back panel bearing a glass-like finish and the camera module. These combined with the large display in front gives an impression that this phone belongs to the family of premium devices from the Galaxy S10 range.

(Image credit: Jitendra Soni)

Display 

  • 6.5″ FHD+ Super AMOLED screen
  • Infinity-O punch-hole
  • Punchy colours

The display on the Samsung Galaxy M31s is among its highlights. The massive 6.5-inches Super AMOLED display with FHD+ resolution is easily one of the best that one can find in this price range. However, it does lack higher refresh rates available with most flagships at this price point, and Samsung may need to make amends in the next-gen devices.

Though it might be subjective, we feel that the punch hole camera setup is better as it occupies less space on the screen and as a result, you get a higher screen to body ratio. The cut out for the camera on the M31s is also fairly small and isn’t obstructive while watching videos or playing games. There is a circular light that goes around the camera the moment you click a selfie. The face unlocks though did make me anxious as it is quite slow and definitely an area that could do with an upgrade next time. 

(Image credit: Jitendra Soni)

Colours on this large screen look punchy and have deep blacks, thanks to the Super AMOLED display. It makes content consumption immersive and enjoyable. Good contrast levels, vivid and responsive displays are the key selling points of this phone. Even outdoor visibility is good and the display can get bright when the phone is used outdoors.

Samsung could’ve gone for an in-display fingerprint sensor on this phone since most competitors in this price range sport one, however, the side-mounted physical fingerprint sensor is a better idea and we will talk about it later on in the review. There is support for Widevine L1, hence streaming high definition content over the internet is not an issue on this phone.

Performance 

  • Samsung Exynos 9611 chipset
  • 6GB & 8GB of RAM
  • 128GB of UFS 2.1 storage

Performance overall is not the highlight of the phone. Samsung has for some odd reason persisted with Exynos 9611 SoC. This is the same chipset that powered various other Samsung devices in the budget and mid-budget segment including the M31. We had expected some extra punch in the device given that it's an upgraded one. However, it must be said that the experience was way better compared to the Galaxy A50 that I tested last year even though both devices had similar chipsets and price.

Coming from a Redmi K20 Pro, which sports a Snapdragon 855 chipset, I could feel the lack of raw horsepower. That said, the Galaxy M31s was able to manage all the tasks thrown at it. However, there were those occasional stutters and lags that left you wanting more especially when the playing field is getting tougher with devices now offering more bang for the buck. 

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The noticeable yet random lag in the camera app was also a tad disturbing. There were quite a few instances when the camera captured the image a fraction of a second later, which is often what differentiates between a good shot and a great one. The perfect bird formation or your pet's expression could just pass by without getting framed. 

The chipset does not appear capable of handling heavy-duty tasks and is not ideal for graphic-intensive games. My attempt to multi-task on the device while editing a small video clip appeared tough to handle for the phone, which went into a bit of a drag and performed inconsistently.

I played various games on the phone, like PUBG, Asphalt 9, NFS No Limits and could experience the same slight stutter and occasional frame drops. After a PUBG session of around 30 minutes, the rear panel started warming up, though it never went to the level of being uncomfortable. For regular games and media consumption, this phone is just perfect thanks to the large and bright display coupled with a huge battery.

The unit I tested came with 128GB of storage coupled with 6GB of RAM, though there is one more variant available that comes with 8GB of RAM and the same amount of storage. We think Samsung could’ve offered more storage on the 8GB variant. The phone does support storage expansion via a micro SD card, however, not many people rely on micro SD cards these days.

(Image credit: Jitendra Soni)

Camera 

  • Quad-lens rear camera
  • 64MP, 12MP, 5MP and 5MP sensors
  • Ultra-wide, depth and macro secondary cams
  • 32MP selfie camera

The Galaxy M31s has a quad-camera module at the back, featuring a 64-megapixel primary Sony IMX682 sensor of an f/1.8 aperture, a 12MP ultra-wide sensor of an f/2.2 aperture, a 5MP depth sensor and a 5MP macro sensor. On the front, the phone has a 32MP selfie camera of an f/2.2 aperture.

The camera performance of the Samsung Galaxy M31s is on the inconsistent side with the sensor struggling to lock focus while capturing videos. There were occasions when I pressed the camera shutter and the screen blipped for a moment. Like when it captures an image but it never does get captured. I would like to believe that this could be an issue with the device I tested but suffice to say that I missed taking quite a few shots due to this challenge. 

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Having said so, the images, when captured, served up ample amounts of detail. The primary 64-megapixel Sony sensor was able to produce amazing images when the lighting was sufficient. However, in low light scenarios, one can notice the noise, though I would add that things were still under control. I must mention here that it took me some time to find a way to switch to the 64-megapixel mode.

(Image credit: Jitendra Soni)

Interestingly, Samsung has brought the Single Take feature from the flagships to this mid-segment phone. This feature lets users capture 10 seconds of footage in various modes with the wide-angle lens and is helpful for users who are unsure about how to capture a certain moment. 

Thanks to Single Take you’d get the same shot captured with almost all possible modes in one place so that you can choose the best and discard the rest. For most users, this may turn out to be just a one time use feature. However, it can be helpful for content creators who like to play with different modes. What's more, the feature is also available for the selfie camera.

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Selfies can be shot in regular mode, wide-angle mode and you can select the resolution manually to 32-megapixel as well. The front camera did perform up to the mark, one couldn't really tell much difference between the regular and the wide-angle selfie. It does capture an impressive amount of details if the lighting conditions are favourable and images look realistic thanks to the accurate colour reproduction. Apart from a ton of features, slofies are a welcome addition. 

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Samsung does allow you to capture images using the ultra-wide sensor both in the regular and in the dark mode, however, the images in dark mode are just ok. One reason could be that Samsung doesn’t do aggressive noise suppression which helps retaining details. Other modes include Pro, macro, food, live focus, super slow-mo, slow motion and hyper-lapse. 

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Macro shots were okay too, even though when one got up close to the subject, images had a painting like an effect or weren't very clear. For some odd reason, the Super slo-mo gets background music added automatically while the slow-mo video offers you an option to add the background music. 

Software 

  • Android 10
  • Samsung One UI
  • Mixed bag experience

The software experience on the Galaxy M31s is a somewhat mixed bag. The moment you start setting up the phone, Samsung’s Galaxy services pushes you to install additional applications without a way to opt-out. Even though you switch to a different task, it remains active in the background and the icon in the notification bar keeps suggesting that the phone setup is incomplete.

This persists even after you restart the phone. Which means that users might just end up installing some or all of these suggested apps just so that they can get rid of the irritating process in the background. We believe this is something phone makers, in general, should avoid as forcing users to download apps that are non-essential isn't really good experience.  

Mind you, these are not even the bloatware applications that come pre-installed on the device and you may have to live with.

(Image credit: Future)

Once the device is set up, you come across the bloatware as mentioned above and a ton of notifications from various apps that try to sell different Samsung products time and again. I was reminded of the Galaxy Unpacked launch event and every time the Galaxy M31s or any other Samsung smartphone went on a sale.

The phone runs on One UI 2.1 on top of Android 10 OS and apart from the bloatware that comes preinstalled, the UI is smooth. Though it is a slightly stripped-down version of the One UI found on Samsung flagships and this misses quite a few features. That said, with the Exynos 9611 the UI performance is smooth and I did not experience any unwanted lag or stutters during the day to day usage as compared to some Samsung devices that I used last year.

Battery 

  • 6,000mAh battery
  • 25W charger
  • Impressive battery life

The M series from Samsung is known for its massive battery packs and M31s isn’t an exception. It comes with a monstrous 6,000 mAh battery that can easily last for over a day for anyone. In my case, I used the phone as a primary device and during the testing period, the device was on auto-brightness, with WiFi on for the entire time along with a Jio 4G sim for data connectivity on the go.

After a day's work, the phone had over 30% of juice left and my usage included a lot of audio and video streaming, social media usage, capturing images (quite a few actually and editing them), playing casual games apart from the few calls over the network and few others over the internet.

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Since this is how a regular user would use the phone, you can expect a similar experience. Apart from keeping itself charged for longer durations, the massive battery can power other gadgets on the go. The Type-C to USB Type-C cable that is shipped with the phone comes in handy for charging other gadgets in case required.

The 25W charger supplied with the device looks sturdy and can top up your smartphone in just over an hour and in almost half an hour you get around 50% of battery that is good enough to last for a day in most cases.

Final verdict 

If you’re to review this smartphone as a standalone device, it checks all the points apart from the processor. I am using a Samsung device after a long gap and this is indeed a welcome change. The performance has improved drastically, the UI is far more responsive, the camera is impressive though the performance can be better. With a stellar battery performance and an amazing display to boot, the M31s is quite the modern device, though comparisons with its predecessor are but natural. 

What this means is the M31s could face stiff competition from its predecessor due to the lower price as well as the fact that it is in-stock while the M31s is missing at the time of writing this review.  The Galaxy M31s is expensive compared to other devices from Chinese brands that offer more features at a cheaper price. 

We do hope that this would be the last device from Samsung that comes with the  Exynos 9611 SoC and I hope that the company decides to incorporate chipsets that offer a better value proposition for the users.

Jitendra Soni

Jitendra has been working in the Internet Industry for the last 7 years now and has written about a wide range of topics including gadgets, smartphones, reviews, games, software, apps, deep tech, AI, and consumer electronics.