Samsung Galaxy M31s Review: Great Battery and Smooth UI Make it a Good Phone for All
The Samsung Galaxy M31s offers a far more premium yet understated elegance, all the while maintaining consistent performance and camera results – making it one of the best smartphones to buy at under Rs 20,000.
- Last Updated: November 17, 2020, 16:58 IST
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Samsung’s prowess at offering price sensitive phones in India does not particularly need an introduction. In recent times, after Chinese OEMs took over the mainstream, affordable smartphone segments of India, Samsung came back with a rejigged portfolio of devices. Underneath the Galaxy S (and now Galaxy Z) series of flagship, super premium phones, it has the Galaxy A series that straddles the sub-premium and upper mid-range price segments, and the Galaxy M series catering the budget to mid-range price segments. The Samsung Galaxy M31s falls in the upper bracket of the Galaxy M series – just beneath the newer and more capable Galaxy M51. However, taking mid-range phones into account, the Galaxy M31s does seem a bit pricey – it starts at Rs 19,499.
Natural competition for the Samsung Galaxy M31s, hence, includes the Poco X3, Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, Realme 7 Pro, Vivo V20 SE and the likes. To face this onslaught in the sub-Rs 20,000 price segment, Samsung has geared the M31s with a design and build quality that defies its conservative pricing. It features 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, as well as a massive, 6,000mAh battery that helps power the 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display. It also has four cameras at the back, with 64-megapixel primary, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 5-megapixel macro and 5-megapixel depth units, all of which make for a pretty competitive device. However, there are shortcomings, too – the processor at the heart of the Galaxy M31s is the ageing Exynos 9611, and the display has no fast refresh rate the way competing phones have started offering. With all things considered, does the Samsung Galaxy M31s make for a phone worth spending your money on?
Design and ergonomics: This definitely feels quite premium
The Samsung Galaxy M31s makes use of a composite ‘glasstic’ material on its back. Samsung claims that even without being glass, this proprietary material makes a phone feel more premium than using a plastic back, all the while helping Samsung cut costs of putting a glass back and increasing the overall durability. In hand, the Galaxy M31s feels like a premium device, with a nice heft that adds to the in-hand feel. Our Mirage Blue review unit, which has a gradient blue-silver finish, does look quite premium, and even my peers seemed to agree that this definitely does not feel like a ‘cheap’ phone.
In terms of ergonomics, too, the Galaxy M31s ticks all the right checkboxes. The rear panel is curved slightly inward, and so is the glass on the upper side, making it a nice, smooth edge to grip. Despite its 6.5-inch display size, the Galaxy M31s feels as compact as you can expect from large screen phones nowadays. The fingerprint sensor-embedded power button is placed very well, which makes it super convenient and easy to unlock the phone. The sensor is super accurate and fast as well, all of which contribute to making the Galaxy M31s a great phone to hold and use.
If there’s any room for criticism, it is in how the composite material back may feel at times. It doesn’t feel too different from glossy plastic rear panels with a faux glass finish, which to some may feel a bit flimsy. The bottom-mounted mono speaker is also a tad low on volume, which you’d find inadequate only when playing a track or video loudly to share with others. It is also placed in a way that it gets easily covered by your palm, when holding the phone in landscape mode for watching videos or gaming. However, it does retain the increasingly infrequent 3.5mm audio port, which we feel should be a necessary feature at least in less expensive phones – for now.
Display: Looks rich, fast and super smooth
The 6.5-inch full HD Super AMOLED display is super smooth and rich, and offers excellent viewing angles. One of the areas where the Galaxy M31s falls behind is the lack of fast refresh rate – while the likes of the Poco X3 and Realme Narzo 20 Pro offer 120Hz and 90Hz displays, the Galaxy M31s sticks to good old 60Hz standard refresh rates. To be fair, if you haven’t seen how a fast refresh rate display looks like, you’re not really missing out on anything here.
However, given that the market already offers the faster refresh rates on displays, it is certainly a shortcoming for the Galaxy M31s. The overall display is quite good – excellent sunlight legibility, good night-time viewing, rich contrast levels with deep blacks, and a super smooth overall touch response make it a display that you’ll really, really like. The only drawback? If you classify yourself as a gamer, the Galaxy M31s is not quite your gig.
Performance and software: Good, but a bit behind rivals
The Samsung Galaxy M31s is powered by the Exynos 9611 processor, which is a shade over a year old now. This is combined with 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage, which for Rs 19,499 is standard fare. It also gets an 8GB RAM variant that can be yours for an extra Rs 2,000, but for our review, we stuck to the sub-Rs 20,000 6GB variant only. On paper, it’s all adequate – less expensive phones using a year-old processor is common practice, and the 10nm Exynos 9611 is quite adequate in theory.
In the real world, however, the Galaxy M31s is a tad on the slower side of things. Mind you, though – it is certainly not sluggish. However, you will feel the comparative disparity in performance when you use it in tandem with devices such as the Poco X3 (powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G), Redmi Note 9 Pro Max and Realme 7 Pro (both powered by the Snapdragon 720G). The main area where the difference in performance is visible is in gaming – while the Poco X3 and other devices excel at offering better gaming performance than other everyday tasks, the Galaxy M31s does show intermittent lags in pre-game animations in titles such as Asphalt 9: Legends and Elder Scrolls: Blades, while in-game menus of heavy titles such as Call of Duty: Mobile also take a split second too long to load.
Real world performance, however, is quite adequate barring heavy loads. If you use the Google Chrome browser for Android, loading too many pages will require a bit too long for the app to open or reload from the background, and pages will reload despite the ample amount of RAM here. Apart from this, everyday tasks work with considerable ease – email apps, social media services, notes, calculator, messages and phone apps load and reopen without too much stress, and the Galaxy M31s is more than just usable for most regular things that you’d do on your phone. It is actually quite good for daily tasks.
Samsung has come a long way with its software since its TouchWiz days, and OneUI 2.5 on the Galaxy M31s is, safe to say, one of my recommended custom Android interfaces today. If you’re migrating from any other Android device, it may take you a while to get used to the interface. However, the overall layout is fairly ergonomic, and it is actually not too difficult to get the exact preferred display tint, font sizes, home and app drawer layouts, as well as specific app permissions and privacy settings. I like the non-fussy notifications system and quick settings drawer, and it is actually the ease of using OneUI that adds to the smoothness of using the Samsung Galaxy M31s as a daily driver. It just works, and that, frankly, is the most important thing you’d want from your phone.
Cameras: Reliable and easy, but without fancy extras
The 64-megapixel quad rear camera of the Samsung Galaxy M31s shows clear signs of being a typical Samsung camera. It is balanced to offer higher colour saturation than what is neutral, and clearly favours warm tones over neutral colours. However, it produces a decent level of details for its price range, and the camera app itself is fast and uncluttered to use.
It even gets a high resolution 64-megapixel photo mode, and both 4K and full HD videos look smooth and acceptable for a mid-range smartphone camera. The ultra-wide unit also offers an above-average level of details, and the camera unit offers just the right amount of image details and acceptable colour balance, to make it apt for direct sharing on social media platforms. The 32-megapixel front camera, placed in the central punch-hole slot, is actually rather impressive, and on overall terms, the Samsung Galaxy M31s offers one of the most consistent and non-fussy camera setup in the sub-Rs 20,000 range. It doesn’t add fancy optimisations and software paraphernalia, but that is exactly what I liked about it.
Battery life: One of the most reliable in the market
The mammoth 6,000mAh battery offers super impressive battery life, and on average usage of just everyday tasks (plus a couple of hours of streaming music wirelessly), the Samsung Galaxy M31s will comfortably last you for two full days. Even for power users, who have heavy gaming time or use their phones for intensive social media tasks, the Samsung Galaxy M31s will last easily for a full 24 hours. The bundled fast charging adapter offers 25W fast charging, which can juice up the battery from nil to full in a shade over 1.5 hours – this isn’t too bad, considering the size of the battery. Charging the phone for about 15 minutes can give you around 22 percent stamina, which itself can give you almost five hours of intensive calls, messages, browser and social media usage on an average work day.
Verdict: This is a great buy, if you’re not a power user
To sum up, the Samsung Galaxy M31s is one of the best budget smartphones you can buy, despite its processor shortcomings. To be absolutely clear, it is a highly recommendable budget smartphone for anyone except for those who are heavily into gaming. The likes of the Poco X3 and Realme Narzo 20 Pro offer more when it comes to core gaming performance. Apart from that, if you need a reliable smartphone that looks good, has a great display, excellent battery life, acceptable cameras and reliable everyday performance, all at under Rs 20,000, the Samsung Galaxy M31s is one of the best phones to buy.
In comparative terms, the Poco X3 will offer you better performance, a slightly better display, and equivalent cameras and battery life at a slightly lesser price tag, but for those who do not like Xiaomi’s MIUI, and would rather own a no-fuss phone than one that overkills on features, the Galaxy M31s is undoubtedly one of the best in its segment.