Samsung made it very clear at the launch of the Galaxy M series that this new series is targeted at young millennials, a market that has been captured by Chinese smartphone makers for a few years now. In order to recapture this audience, the Samsung M series phones have aggressive prices compared to older Samsung models, as well as notched displays, dual or triple camera setups, and big batteries. Samsung already has the Galaxy M10 (Review) and Galaxy M20 (Review) in the market catering to the sub-Rs. 10,000 and sub-Rs. 15,000 segments, and has now brought in the Galaxy M30 to recapture the Rs. 15,000 - 20,000 segment.
While we already know how competitive the low-cost smartphone market can get, is the Samsung Galaxy M30 capable enough to take down the competition? We put it to the test to find out.
The Samsung Galaxy M30 is designed a lot like the Galaxy M10 and Galaxy M20. It has a teardrop notch at the top which Samsung refers to as the Infinity-U display. The phone sports a big 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display with narrow bezels at the top and the sides and a thicker bottom chin. Samsung has moved the earpiece towards the frame of the phone, and it is as wide as the notch.
Samsung has opted for a plastic unibody for the Galaxy M30, and offers it in two colours, Gradation Blue and Gradation Black. We had the Gradation Blue variant for review which had a nice blue gradient on the body. Samsung has curved the sides of the phone making it comfortable to hold in the hand. The corners are also rounded so they don't dig into your palms.
The power and volume buttons are placed on the right of the Samsung Galaxy M30 and offer good clicky feedback. We found the power button to be well positioned, but reaching the volume buttons required a quick shuffle in the hand. To the left of the device is the SIM tray which has two Nano-SIM slots and a dedicated microSD card slot.
At the top, the Samsung Galaxy M30 only has a microphone hole, while the 3.5mm headphone jack, USB Type-C port, and loudspeaker are placed at the bottom. The phone has an oval-shaped fingerprint scanner at the back which we felt is a little too high, making it inconvenient to reach. There is a triple camera setup at the back, which sits flush with the body. The selfie flash is placed right below the camera module.
Samsung has managed to pack in a big 5000mAh battery while keeping the weight down to 172g. You get a 15W charger in the box which should be able to top the phone up relatively quickly.
The Galaxy M30 sports a big 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display with a full-HD+ resolution (1080x2340 pixels). The panel is crisp, has good viewing angles, and is also legible when outdoors. It has a small notch in the centre of the top, which houses the selfie camera. While it is small in size, it might bother some people. You do have the option to mask it by enabling the Hide Camera option in the display settings. It puts a black bar on either side of the notch, but does not round the corners, which looks odd.
The display settings on the Samsung Galaxy M30 can be tweaked and you can choose between Adaptive Display, AMOLED Cinema, AMOLED Photo, and Basic. We had the display in Adaptive Display mode all the time. This mode also lets you tweak the white balance and colour levels.
Powering the phone is an octa-core Samsung Exynos 7904 processor with two ARM Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 1.8GHz and six Cortex A-53 cores clocked at 1.6GHz. There are two variants of the Galaxy M30, one with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage, and the other with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You do have the option to expand storage by up to 512GB using the dedicated microSD card slot.
Connectivity options for the Galaxy M30 include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. It has an accelerometer, proximity sensor, gyroscope, and compass. The Galaxy M30 has two Nano-SIM slots and supports 4G as well as VoLTE on both SIMs.
The Galaxy M30 comes with Samsung Experience 9.5 running on top of Android 8.1 Oreo which is a slightly dated version of Android. Our review unit had the February security patch, which is good, though we would've liked if Samsung shipped this phone with OneUI and Android Pie like it does on the Galaxy A30 which is priced slightly higher than the Galaxy M30.
You get a few preinstalled apps from Samsung including Samsung Max, a data compression app; My Galaxy and the Galaxy Apps Store. We found the My Galaxy app to be spammy as it kept sending push notifications including ads and news. This got quite annoying as the phone would display four to six notifications a day on topics ranging from sports and news to movie promotions. We did not opt in for this and didn't find an option to disable them either. Ultimately, we had to disable the My Galaxy app to stop these notifications, which is far from ideal.
Microsoft Office Mobile, OneDrive, LinkedIn, and a bunch of Google apps are also preinstalled.
While setting up the phone for the first time, it gave us a list of recommended apps to install, which we didn't. During setup it also asked us for permission to display lock screen stories — news stories, sponsored content, and more on the lock screen. It's easy to overlook this during setup and enable them by default, though at least you can disable these later if needed. We didn't enable Lock Screen Stories since we found these annoying when we reviewed the Samsung Galaxy M20.
Samsung has baked in a few handy gestures. You can swipe down on the fingerprint scanner to pull the notification shade down, and swipe up to close it. You can double-tap to wake the display. Samsung's Chat Over Video feature lets you respond to notifications from some messaging apps such as WhatsApp in a pop-up window while watching a video. Gesture navigation is also available but it simply replaces the navigation buttons with swipe points.
The Samsung Galaxy M30 has the same processor as the Galaxy M20 and we were expecting similar performance out of it. With day-to-day tasks, the phone showed no sign of slowing down or stuttering. We could multi-task easily with several apps in the background.
The fingerprint scanner is quick to unlock the smartphone, and there's also face recognition which uses the selfie camera to unlock the phone. Face recognition isn't the fastest but does the job in most lighting conditions.
Dolby Atmos is available but it can only be enabled when using headphones. We found the loudspeaker to be a little too soft when watching videos and playing games.
To test gaming performance, we played PUBG Mobile which defaulted to the Medium preset with graphics set to Balanced and frame rate set to Medium. We noticed lag at these settings while playing the game, and changed the graphics setting to Smooth. This eliminated lag and the game was playable. After playing PUBG Mobile for 37 minutes we noticed that the phone was warm to the touch and the battery level had gone down by 9 percentage points.
We ran several benchmarks to test the performance of the Galaxy M30. It scored 1,07,495 in AnTuTu. In Geekbench 4, it managed 1,328 and 4,171 in the single-core and multi-core tests respectively. In comparison, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro scored 1,78,570 in AnTuTu and scored 2,389 and 6,593 in Geekbench 4's single-core and multi-core tests. The benchmark scores from the Galaxy M30 were also slightly lower than those of the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 which is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 SoC.
The Galaxy M30 managed 22fps in GFXBench T-Rex and 7fps in GFXBench Manhattan 3.1. These scores are lower than the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro as well which is similarly priced. In terms of performance benchmarks, the Galaxy M30 scores less than some of the popular smartphones in this price range.
This phone makes up for its average performance by offering good battery life. With a 5000mAh battery onboard, it can go on for a really long time without needing to be plugged in. With our usage, which consisted of using the Galaxy M30 for navigation for close to 5 hours, watching a couple of videos, and using an active Whatsapp account, the phone easily lasted for over a day and a half.
In our HD video loop test, the Galaxy M30 clocked 17 hours and 4 minutes. This is a good time and is higher than that of the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 but the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro tops the Galaxy M30 at 19 hours and 23 minutes. When you finally do run out of power, the supplied fast charger is helpful. It managed to charge the phone to 23 percent in 30 minutes and 46 percent in an hour. It took over 2 hours to charge the phone completely.
The triple camera setup on the Galaxy M30 consists of a 13-megapixel primary camera with an f/1.9 aperture, a 5-megapixel depth sensor with an f/2.2 aperture, and a 5-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera with a 123 degree field of view. For selfies, this phone has a 16-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture.
Samsung's camera app is simple and easy to use. You'll find toggles laid out at the bottom while the different modes are at the top. The camera has Panorama, Pro, Beauty, Live Focus, Stickers, and Continuous Shot modes. In Pro mode, it lets you set exposure, ISO, and white balance before taking a shot, and Stickers lets you add AR stickers onto your subject. Live Focus puts the depth sensor to use and lets you set the level of background blur. You can use beautification filters and tweak multiple settings manually or enable Smart Beauty for the phone to manage beautification itself.
Photos taken with the Galaxy M30 were on par with what we've seen from some of the other smartphones in this price range. The shots we took in the day were sharp and had good details. The phone was able to focus and set the exposure right. Objects at a distance were still visible.
When shooting against the light, we observed chromatic aberration. The phone could manage good separation between subjects and backgrounds in macro shots. However, we noticed that the phone would aggressively boost the reds in shots, causing some of them to look artificial.
The ultra-wide-angle sensor is useful to capture wider subjects or groups of subjects, but since it lacks autofocus it is best used for landscape shots. It did introduce barrel distortion in a few photos we took, but Samsung offers a shape correction option in the gallery to sort this out. This sensor, however, does not capture details as well as the primary sensor.
We shot some portraits using the Live Focus mode and were happy with the output. You can set the level of blur required, and the edge detection is good. You also get the option change the level of blur and add effects to these photos in the gallery.
The low-light camera performance of the Galaxy M30 was average. Photos had low noise but there was fine grain This could be down to an aggressive noise reduction algorithm. Objects at a distance weren't very recognisable, but this is acceptable at this price.
Selfies taken with the 16-megapixel front camera had good detail. We also used the Live Focus mode for a bokeh effect and in spite of there being only a single front camera, , the Galaxy M30 managed good edge detection.
Video maxes out at 1080p for the primary camera but lacks stabilisation, which led to shaky results.
The Samsung Galaxy M30 is the third smartphone from Samsung in the M series, and is priced well at Rs. 14,990 for the 4GB RAM variant and 17,990 for the higher 6GB RAM variant. It is one of a few smartphones at this price to sport a vivid Super AMOLED panel, which we liked. We also found the big battery very helpful as we could stay away from the charger a lot longer than usual. The cameras are good in daylight but could do with a few tweaks for better low-light photography.
We were hoping for the new OneUI with Android Pie on the Galaxy M30 and were disappointed to find the older Samsung Experience UI along with Android Oreo. For the asking price, the Galaxy M30 is not a bad option, but if you want better performance rather than features, you can take a look at the Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro which offers seriously good value along with the Realme U1 (Review) and the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2 (Review).
Are the affordable Realme 3 and Samsung Galaxy M30 smartphones worth buying? We discussed these things on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.