Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 20 this week, a smartphone with a four-figure price tag. The beefier Galaxy Note Ultra was even more expensive – $ 1,300 compared to the Note 20’s $ 1,000. Both models were savagely compromised by a shiny smartphone from a booming smartphone maker: Samsung.
This week I bought the Samsung Galaxy M31, a sensational smartphone that’s about a quarter the price of Samsung’s new Notes. Yes, it’s not quite as powerful, not quite as stylish, but it does have a stunning display, four cameras, and battery life that borders on incredible. I’m not sure if I would trade it in for a Galaxy Note if someone offered me one for free.
Samsung Galaxy M31 Specifications
Most people would suspect that a phone under $ 300 would have distinctly mundane specs. However, the Samsung Galaxy M31 hits well above its price range.
Let’s start with the screen, a beautifully crisp 6.4-inch 1080 x 2340 Super AMOLED display. So crisp, in fact, that it’s actually sharper than the 6.7-inch screen of the new Note 20, which has a resolution of 1080 x 2400, giving it a pixel density of 393 ppi compared to at 403 dpi of M31.
They both display 16 million colors, both are coated with protective Gorilla Glass (the Note 20 being a newer version), although the Note 20 supports HDR, which could be important for those watching. Netflix on their phones. Believe me, however, the Galaxy M31’s display is stunning: finely detailed, punchy colors, punchy contrast.
As I mentioned, there are four cameras on board the M31. There’s a 64-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide, a 5-megapixel macro camera, and a depth sensor. Then there’s the 32-megapixel up front, which is carved into a small circular notch in the edge-to-edge screen. It doesn’t have the optical zoom you’ll find on the Notes, but you won’t be disappointed with the photos taken by the M31. It’s a more than decent smartphone camera setup.
On the video side, it’s capable of taking 4K images, but only at 30 frames per second. Notes will give you 60 fps smoother in 4K, up to an unmistakably impressive 240 fps in Full HD. Still, for everyday video shooting, the M31 is good, if not spectacular.
The compromises of the Galaxy M31
Compromises ultimately have to be made on such a cheap phone. There is no waterproof or dustproof rating, no wireless charging, no 5G. The speaker is distinctly bad compared to my old Samsung Galaxy S9, not to mention the new Notes.
Perhaps the biggest compromise comes in terms of performance. The Galaxy M31 is based on the mid-range Exynos 9611 chipset and the Mali G72 GPU, neither of which come close to the Notes in the benchmarks.
That said, the day to day performance is good. Apps take half a time longer to open than on a flagship device and there is an occasional stutter, but nothing too frustrating.
Performance in games like Minecraft is solid, but if you want a phone that will be untouchable in graphically demanding titles like Fortnite, then the M31 isn’t for you. He’s not a breathtaking performer.
Did we mention the battery life?
However, these slightly underpowered internal components give the Galaxy M31 a huge advantage. Combined with the massive 6000mAh battery (Note 20 has a 4300mAh battery in comparison), the battery life is exceptional. The best I have ever seen in a modern smartphone.
I removed the M31 from the charger at 6.30am Thursday morning, used it reasonably extensively over the next two days – including for several hours streaming music through bluetooth headphones and for a short stint as a satnav in my car – and at 11 p.m. on Friday night, the battery was still 42%.
In other words, it’s a phone that will comfortably give you two days of battery life, three at a time, if you turn it off overnight (like I did). I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for a phone where I don’t constantly worry about battery life when I’m away. It is a game changer and it is a low budget device.
Why pay more?
The Samsung Galaxy M31 is a ridiculously good value phone, currently an Amazon exclusive in the UK, but likely to reach other territories in the near future, just like its predecessor, the M30.
Even if the Galaxy M31 doesn’t quite tick all of your boxes, there are so many other good phones under $ 500. The Moto G 5G Plus offers better performance and 5G radio, if that is important to you; the OnePlus Nord is just as impactful in terms of performance and price; even the iPhone SE offers serious value to Apple fans.
Yes, high-end phones like the Notes are beautifully designed and offer unique features like the stylus. But are they really worth two or three times the price? It’s very difficult to see how.