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Despite the occasional performance hiccups, the Samsung Galaxy A30 offers good value overall and a pleasant widescreen video-watching experience for the Rs 16,990 it commands in the market.
For all of us in India summer may be fast approaching but in Samsung’s world, it’s pouring smartphones. The Korean electronics giant shot out within a short span of time its new Galaxy S10 flagship series phones (Galaxy S10, S10+, and S10e), Galaxy M phones (Galaxy M10, M20, and M30), and Galaxy A phones (Galaxy A10, A30, and A50) with signs of more to come.
Samsung’s Galaxy A series continues to represent the brand’s mid-range line-up, with three new models ranging from Rs 8,490 to Rs 22,990. The Galaxy A30 positions itself comfortably in the middle at Rs 16,990. Maximising screen-to-body ratio has become a design trend of late and it doesn’t change with the new Galaxy A30.
Like its brethren, the Galaxy A30 sports a tiny notch to accommodate only the selfie camera. The software is fully updated with Android 9 Pie running out of the box and Samsung’s new One UI slapped on top of it. Let’s see how the Samsung Galaxy A30 fared in our review.
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The design of the Samsung Galaxy A30 is nothing out of the ordinary, given its lightweight price tag. It’s got a tall form factor with rounded corners all around. The curved screen fits well around the body of the phone, making the beholder feel the borders around the screen aren’t too thick. The phone’s all-plastic body feels slippery in the hand unless the bundled TPU case is slapped on. Since it’s made of plastic, the rear panel of the phone sports a neat glossy finish, which gives the phone sufficient class. The rear panel is also home to a circular fingerprint scanner, which scans swiftly without missing a single read. In comparison, the more expensive Galaxy A50 comes with an in-display fingerprint scanner.
Unlike the Galaxy A50, the Galaxy A30 gets a traditional fingerprint scanner on the back
The sides of the Galaxy A30 are home to the SIM card/microSD card slot, primary and secondary mics, a 3.5mm audio jack, USB Type-C port, and a single speaker grille. The power key and the volume rocker are placed next to each other and could really use some tactility. Apart from pressing one key for the other by mistake one could also end up pressing the region between Volume Up and Volume Down in the rocker, which is also clickable (for some reason) but does nothing.
Plenty of curves, plent of gloss
The display on the Samsung Galaxy A30 is the same as that on the more expensive Galaxy A50: a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-U unit with a tall aspect ratio of 19.5:9. “Infinity-U” is Samsung-speak for a curved display with a U-shaped notch on top. The tiny notch houses the selfie camera and nothing else, giving the display an overall better look than those with a wide ugly notch on them. The screen resolution is 1080 x 2340 pixels, bringing the pixel density up to a healthy 403 pixels per inch. From the review unit, I could tell that the colours on the Galaxy A30’s display looked bright and vibrant. The screen was bright enough (616 LUX at max brightness) for use in daylight and dim enough (3 LUX at min brightness) for use in bed. Text and images on the AMOLED screen were quite legible even under direct sunlight.
Samsung calls it an "Infinity-U" display
Samsung’s software included an option to set the screen mode, which meant I could select between preset colour modes or set the RGB values myself along with the desired colour temperature. It also included One-handed mode, which programmatically reduced the screen size for easy reach of all the buttons. If you use your phone while riding the metro a lot, this will save your life. While YouTube videos zoomed in to fill the “notched” screen pretty well, some games like Ace Force could not, thereby missing out on the edge-to-edge design advantage. Still, I felt that rounding off the corners had made a positive difference to the viewing experience of the display. In summary, the Galaxy A30’s display is—I’m sorry for the pun—top-notch for its price.
Audio is a bit of a weak point on the Galaxy A30. Sound from the single side-firing speaker on the phone’s body is loud but tinny. Try showing your friends an electronic song like deadmau5’ Phantoms Can’t Hang and you’ll observe that most of the frequencies jar on the ears, especially lows and mids. Then try playing something less bass-heavy like the acoustic version of Eric Clapton’s Layla, and you’ll realise that even vocals are screechy. The tiny driver on the Galaxy A30 is best reserved for loud and annoying alarms; get yourself a portable Bluetooth speaker if music on the go is your thing.
Audio department could have been stronger
The Samsung Galaxy A30 is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 7904 chipset that’s built on a 14-nanometre process. The GPU accompanying it is a Mali-G71 MP2. The handset ships in only one variant and that has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage space. Luckily, a microSD card of up to 512GB capacity can be used in it to expand storage. As expected, the benchmark scores of the Galaxy A30 are similar to those of the Galaxy M30, a phone that’s powered by the same Exynos 7904 chipset.
The review unit of the Galaxy A30 bagged a score of 94040 in AnTuTu 7.0, 1313 and 4054 in Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core tests respectively, which is only about fifty percent of the score of the ideal benchmark device. In comparison, its competitors like the recently launched Redmi Note 7 Pro, Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2, and Honor 10 Lite scored 179186, 129379, and 130849 respectively in AnTuTu. Their Geekbench scores too are higher. In terms of benchmark figures alone, the Galaxy A30’s closest competitor is the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M2.
Everyday activities are handled quite well by the Exynos-powered Galaxy A30. On the review unit, I was able to browse on a dozen open tabs on Chrome while the phone was playing music in the background and installing new apps without too much fuss. Every now and then the animation slowed down and the phone made me wait before loading a screen fully but at no point did the phone freeze completely. During heavy background installations (or when the phone’s disk activity was high basically), even commonly used elements of the phone’s UI saw stutters in animation. For example, pulling the notification drawer down when the phone was downloading game files for Asphalt 8 caused visible stutters.
Gaming on the Galaxy A30 review unit was a pleasing experience. There were no signs of lag while playing popular games like Asphalt 8 and PUBG Mobile even when the graphics was set to High. According to Gamebench, the median frame rate was 26 frames per second while playing PUBG Mobile and 30 frames per second while playing Asphalt. Touch response during action sequences remained consistent and natural. The gyros inside worked as expected while playing simulation games like Ace Force. The area around the cameras heated up after about ten minutes of gameplay but not to a point where I became conscious of the heat on the rear panel. In summary, the Galaxy A30 is fit enough to run modern games as long as there’s no other multitasking happening.
In summary, the Samsung Galaxy A30 isn’t a dud for everyday activities like browsing, video playback, and some light gaming, but is no quick shooter either. Jitters seen during screen animations are the biggest turn-off about the phone’s performance.
The Samsung Galaxy A30, like all modern Samsung smartphones, runs Android 9 Pie with Samsung’s refreshed One UI thrown on top. Despite the changes made towards a more intuitive user experience, I don’t feel the new One UI on the Galaxy A30 is a big departure from the old TouchWiz. It has the same roundish app icons and rounded rectangles for every menu item, making it look still very much like a Samsung, which is great news for those who like it and not great news for those who expected a big change. The size of the icons and text on the display can be changed in Settings.
I, for one, am not a fan of Samsung software. The review unit booted up with an inundated notification drawer, which put me off instantly. One of the first notifications to pop up right after the first-time setup was, “2 rarely used apps detected”. In the following couple of days, I noticed all sorts of distracting notifications. “Install Samsung Widget. What if you lost your phone? Add your personal pictures to Lock Screen Stories”. Such were the messages I saw in the notification drawer during my few days with the Samsung Galaxy A30. To add to my woes, a certain Samsung Pay mini app kept launching itself automatically in the background from time to time.
Notifications galore on the Galaxy A30
Like I said earlier, if you already are a Samsung Galaxy owner and enjoy the Samsung UI, there’s a chance you’ll like the UI on the Galaxy A30 too. However, if you’ve always preferred stock Android UI, you might end up finding the Samsung UI loud and bloated. While some apps like Dailyhunt can be uninstalled completely, others like Samsung Max and My Galaxy can only be disabled at the risk of system instability.
While the Samsung Galaxy A50 comes equipped with a triple-camera setup, the Samsung Galaxy A30 settles for a dual-camera setup on the back. The dual-camera setup includes a 16-megapixel sensor with an f/1.7 aperture and a 5-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. Of the two sensors, the smaller one is an ultra-wide unit with a claimed 123-degree field of view. The selfie camera is a 16-megapixel sensor with an f/2.0 aperture. The camera system does not support video recording in 4K resolution but in 1080p at 30 frames per second.
Photos of everyday objects like cars and buildings taken in daylight come out quite well on the Galaxy A30. The same photos taken in the ultra-wide mode display slightly blander colours but show a much wider angle. It even creates an obvious fish eye effect. Live Focus mode lets you adjust the level of blur for portrait shots even after the photo has been taken but demands that you focus on a face. “Find a face”, the review unit cried when I tried to focus on the snout of a little pup. Still, the final output from the Live Focus feature is pretty good; it’s hard to tell that the bokeh effect was made by software except in some rare shots. The selfie camera takes decent photos in daylight but attempts to polish (or “beautify”) faces even when the beauty level is set to minimum. There’s nothing very “pro” about the Pro mode except that it lets you adjust white balance, exposure value, and ISO. Photos taken in low light appear, expectedly, grainy and pixelated.
Normal Mode, Indoor
Live Focus Mode in Low; the good Bokeh effect made Shubham happy
Live Focus Mode in High; the low Bokeh quality made Shubham sad
Pro mode lets you set ISO, white balance, and EV compensation
The selfie camera is eager to "beautify" faces
Indoor selfies are not bad at all
Most of the time, the default camera app on the Samsung Galaxy A30 is slow to react. The image in the viewfinder freezes for half a second every time you ask the phone to switch modes or focus or take a shot. Processing Live Focus shots takes between three and five seconds after the image is taken. In summary, it seems as if the camera app needs to be updated to work better with the hardware available. As it stands, the camera system on the Galaxy A30 is acceptable for the phone’s price but suffers from low reaction speed.
The 4,000mAh battery on the Samsung Galaxy A30 gives the phone about one and a half days of life under medium to heavy use. During my time with the review unit, I played games, watched videos, and used common apps like Chrome, Hangouts, and TuneIn extensively. While navigating for thirty minutes (with the screen brightness set to max) the battery dropped only by five percent, which is a healthy rate of drain. Playing PUBG Mobile for about twenty minutes in high graphics settings made the battery drop by six percent, which is also a healthy rate of drain. Charging the handset from 7 to 100 percent took no more than 95 minutes using the bundled 15W quick charger. A long battery life is definitely one of this phone’s strong suits.
The Galaxy A30 is Samsung’s honest attempt at a modern mid-range smartphone with all the stuff that clicks in the market right now: tall waterdrop notch display design, dual cameras, and a large battery. Samsung has its own secret ingredient too: it’s using a wide-angle sensor for its secondary rear camera to set itself apart, which works in the Korean electronics company’s favour because it’s been well executed.
There are, however, some things Samsung hasn’t managed to get right on the Galaxy A30, I feel. For example, its Exynos chipset visibly hiccups while multitasking, the audio through the loudspeaker is comparable to that from an old radio, and the UI may not be for everybody. Despite its shortcomings, the Samsung Galaxy A30 proves to be a good buy for the Rs 16,990 it commands.