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Samsung Galaxy M31 Review

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The Samsung Galaxy M31 is the company’s latest installment in their bang-for-the-buck smartphone line.

Launched in the Philippines for Php13,990, the Galaxy M31 has a lot of value-oriented features that Samsung’s fancy Galaxy A series doesn’t have for the same price.

So here in our Samsung Galaxy M31 review, we’ll see if these features makes it a worthy device to own.

Samsung Galaxy M31 Specs

  • Android 10, OneUI 2.0
  • Dual SIM, Dual Standby
  • 6.4-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED Display, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Samsung Exynos 9611 2.3GHz octa-core processor
  • Mali-G72 MP3 GPU
  • 6GB RAM LPDDR4X
  • 128GB onboard storage, expandable via microSD up to 512GB
  • 64-megapixel main + 8-megapixel ultra-wide + 5-megapixel macro + 5-megapixel depth cameras
  • 32-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Fingerprint scanner, Face unlock
  • HSPA+, 4G LTE
  • WiFi, WiFi hotspot
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Bluetooth 5.0, FM Radio
  • USB Type-C
  • Dimensions: 159.2 x 75.1 x 8.9mm
  • Weight: 191g
  • Colors: Space Black, Ocean Blue
  • 6,000mAh non-removable battery

Design and Build Quality

You can look at the design in two different ways. One, Samsung didn’t bother to spice up the design since it’s only a budget device. Or, you can see it as Samsung intentionally going with a simple and minimalistic look.

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The look of the Galaxy M31 is similar to the Galaxy M20 from early 2019. It has a plastic back panel that’s available in Space Black and, the unit we have here, the Ocean Blue. The color options are a bit dark and muted and we wish there’s a lighter version.

With its shiny and glass-like surface, the Samsung Galaxy M31 is ludicrously a fingerprint magnet. Plus, the plastic material is really prone to hairline scratches over time. With that, we suggest you purchase a protective case, as it doesn’t come one in the box. No official IP rating either, but we expect it to withstand minor water splashes.

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The moment you’d pick it up, you’d instantly notice how large it is. This thing is 8.9mm thick and weighs 191g. But, that’s understandable considering that we’re getting a large 6,000mAh battery out of it.

It may be a little heavy and thick, the curved corners still makes it really comfortable in the hands.

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The overall build is pretty solid, no weird flexing or anything. This is probably due to the sturdy chassis on the inside, and the Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the front. It’s quite disappointing that Samsung didn’t went with Gorilla Glass 5, just like most of its competition.The review unit we got also didn’t come with a pre-applied screen protector.

But nonetheless, the screen is a beauty to look at. The Samsung Galaxy M31 has a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED panel. It is large enough without adding extra bulk to the already thick device. It has ultra-thin bezels on top and sides, made possible by the slightly noticeable Infinity-U notch for the selfie camera. However, the chin bezel is relatively thick.

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On the left side, we have the SIM tray that can house two nano SIM cards and a microSD card all at the same time.

While on the right, we have the lock/power switch below the volume controls. The physical buttons feel surprisingly rigid and tactile that’s really comfortable to press.

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The top only have the noise-cancelling microphone. While on the bottom we have a USB Type-C (thankfully), a bottom-firing speaker, primary microphone, and the headphone jack.

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On the back, we have the L-shaped quad-camera setup that’s similar to the Galaxy A71, only inverted. The fingerprint scanner is on the middle, while on the bottom we have the Samsung logo.

Overall, we’re pretty satisfied with the build of the Samsung Galaxy M31. Although it lacks any design flare, it feels sturdy and industrial enough to last.

Display and Sound Quality

Being one of the biggest OLED suppliers in the world, pretty much all Samsung midrange phones comes with a Super AMOLED screen. The Samsung Galaxy M31 also has it, with a 2340 x 1080 pixel resolution and ~402ppi. But unlike most AMOLED screens, this one has been stripped down with extras like HDR10 support.

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However, it has the usual pros that AMOLEDs have. For one, it offers really vibrant colors and deep contrast. The color mode was set to Vivid out of the box, which really saturates the screen that may misrepresent colors. We suggest you go to the settings and set it to Natural mode.

Moreover, sharpness is really good, great for reading small texts. The screen brightness is also flexible enough for using it at sunnr outdoors, or browsing your feed at night. The OLED panel also enables its Always-On feature, which displays the time, date and notification even when the screen is off.

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Unlike most phones, the Samsung Galaxy M31 didn’t came with a case on the box. However, unlike most phones, it did come with a pair of headset on the box. It’s not the best-sounding earphones around, but it’s better than nothing.

Hardware and Performance

The Samsung Galaxy M31 is powered by a 2.3GHz Exynos 9611 octa-core processor, the same processor found on the new Galaxy A51 and Galaxy M21. It’s bundled with a decent 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, expandable up to 512GB via a microSD card.

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Mobile Legends Graphics Settings

In terms of numbers and benchmarks, Samsung’s Exynos 9611 fails to compete with those of Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Kirin. Still, as per hour testing, it provided a decent and reliable performance — from multitasking, social media browsing, taking pictures, and what not. Although, we did notice a couple of lagging here and there, which we rarely experienced on other devices.

Samsung Galaxy M31 Benchmark scores

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Gaming was also satisfactory on the Galaxy M31. Titles like Call of Duty Mobile ran at playable frame rates at Medium settings, but still not the smoothest. On the other hand, Mobile Legends was playable smoothly with the High Frame Rate (HFR) mode enabled.

Software and User Interface

If there’s one thing that’s really great about the Samsung Galaxy M31, that’s the user interface. This device runs on Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI 2.0 interface on top.

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Just like in our Galaxy A71 and other Samsung reviews, we’re impressed by how clean and straightforward this interface is. I really like the smooth transition when you swipe up/down the home screen to launch the app drawer. There’s a search tab on top so you can look up the app you want to use easily.

The notifications tab looks organized. On top of its is the control center, which you can expand by swiping further down, giving you more access to different settings.

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You can enable the Dark Mode on the control center, or have it scheduled in the settings menu.

The Always On feature is also configurable in the settings. You can choose when it shows up, and customize what information it displays and the text color.

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The Samsung Galaxy M31 also has a Game Launcher app. You can easily launch games from here, download new games, link your Discord account, and see your total play hours.

For customization, One UI has a dedicated Galaxy Themes store that offers wallpapers, icons, and Always-On screen designs. Oh, and for those who are worried, there are a couple of pre-installed apps, which you can uninstall easily. Out of the 128GB of storage, 108GB is usable.

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The Galaxy M31 uses Samsung Keyboard, which is easy to get used to. The camera app is also intuitive and compliments the camera hardware. And if you’re curious about your smartphone usage and habits, the Digital Wellbeing section on the settings will provide you with that information.

Overall, the interface on Samsung smartphones is one of the best in the Android space today.

Camera Quality

The camera features of the Samsung Galaxy M31 looks really appetizing on paper. It has a quad-camera setup on the back, which consists of a 64-megapixel wide camera with an f/1.8 aperture, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide, 5-megapixel macro, and 5-megapixel depth sensor. While on the front, we have a sharp 32-megapixel selfie camera.

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In good lighting, it’s no surprise that the 64-megapixel main camera takes incredibly sharp photos with good contrast and dynamic range. But in typical Samsung fashion, the software tends to oversaturate the image. It may look too much for pro photographers, but it sure is nice for casual snappers who want an Instagram-ready shot every time.

The Samsung Galaxy M31 could have handled low-light shot better, but it didn’t. The Night Mode feature is no help, either.

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64-megapixel | Outdoors
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64-megapixel | Outdoors
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64-megapixel | Indoor
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64-megapixel | Night Mode: OFF
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64-megapixel | Night Mode: ON

We’re also liking the quality we got out its 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera. Details are not the sharp, which isn’t surprising. But the processing of the colors and contrast are pretty much the same. The shots at night are almost unusable, too.

What we liked is the wide field-of-view it provides. It lets you easily take pictures of buildings, tight spaces, group of people, and more.

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8-megapixel ultra-wide | Outdoors
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8-megapixel ultra-wide | Low-light

We also have the 5-megapixel macro camera, which seems unnecessary. It only lets you get close by up to 4cm and the quality is not the best.

If you want to get really close to a subject, you can just use the 64-megapixel main camera and crop in.

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5-megapixel macro

The macro camera might be disappointing, but the 5-megapixel depth sensor surprisingly isn’t.

It allows the Samsung Galaxy M31 to take professional-looking blurry backgrounds. It has a smart edge detection on the subject, and the blur intensity and style can be adjusted after the shot is taken.

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5-megapixel depth sensor

On the front, we have the 32-megapixel front-facing camera, which takes really detailed selfies, with decent colors and contrast. The pixel-packed sensor gives the Face Beauty feature a lot of room to work with so the overall image wouldn’t look soft. Selfies taken indoors looks relatively clean, too.

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32-megapixel front camera | Face Beauty: OFF
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32-megapixel front camera | Face Beauty: ON

Overall, we’re pretty satisfied with the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy M31. They are more than enough, especially for the price.

Connectivity

We haven’t noticed any connectivity issues during our time with the Samsung Galaxy M31. Both the dual-band WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 5.0 posed no problem during our testing.

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It also has the modern USB Type-C, making it compatible with most modern accessories. Plus, a built-in FM Radio, although it requires you to plug in a pair of earphones to work. Thankfully, it comes one in the box.

The Galaxy M31’s loudspeakers provides decent call quality, while the dual microphone array can pick up your voice with less background noise.

Battery

The battery life is probably the strong suit of the Samsung Galaxy M31. It’s one of the rare devices to come with a whopping 6,000mAh battery in this category.

As per usual, we ran PCMark’s battery test for this review. It loops synthetic tasks until the battery reaches 20%, with the screen brightness and volume set to 50%, and WiFi and Bluetooth turned off.

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With that, we were able to get a score of 14 hours and 6 minutes of screen-on time. In the real-world, this means that you can easily stretch the battery to two days of light to moderate use. If you’re a heavy gamer or Netflix binge-watcher, then you might have to reach for the 15W charger before the day ends.

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy M31 is a complete device for online schooling, gaming, streaming, and other tasks. It has a vibrant screen for watching Netflix, a reliable processor for playing games and other work/school-related tasks, a decent set of cameras, easy-to-use interface, and a really long battery life.

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But for the price, we’ve seen other competing devices with a more powerful processor, better camera software, and a more imaginative and sturdy design.

Samsung Galaxy M31 pricing and availability in the Philippines

Just like before, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy M31 will only be available in Samsung’s online outlets. That includes their own online store, and through Lazada, Shopee, and MemoXpress. You can get it for a price of Php13,990.

Pros

  • Premium AMOLED screen
  • Great battery life
  • Good gaming performance and other basic tasks
  • Clean and straightforward UI
  • Instagram-ready outdoor shots
  • Earphones included

Cons

  • Plastic back prone to scratches, a free case would’ve been nice
  • Noticeable UI navigation lags and stutters
  • Poor low-light camera performance
  • Boring design

Comments

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  1. Square module taken from Huawei’s design playbook, yeesh. No wonder Samsung has been left behind by Huawei, even their exynos chips are dead compared to kirin.

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