The Samsung Galaxy M30 is similar to its cousin, the Galaxy A30, in a lot of ways, including performance and camera quality. Where it feels like a step up is exterior design and battery life. Where it feels like a step down is software. It’s still a pretty good buy for Rs 14,990.
In the last two or so months, Samsung has announced a whole bunch of smartphones in India, including refreshed models in the Galaxy S, Galaxy A, and Galaxy M series. While the Galaxy S series continues to represent the Korean electronics company’s flagship range, the Galaxy A and Galaxy M series are two very similar ranges that represent Samsung’s mid-range smartphone models. Understanding the difference between the updated Galaxy A and Galaxy M series can be tricky, considering the similarities in specs and model names, but the latter seems to be spelling “mid-range” more clearly these days, what with the Galaxy A80 now advancing towards pop-up and swiveling cameras.
The Samsung Galaxy M30 was announced in India on February 27 with the #IM3XPOWERED hashtag pasted all over social media, indicating the presence of a triple camera setup on the back. The phone was launched in two variants: 4GB RAM + 64GB storage for Rs 14,990 and 6GB RAM + 128GB storage for Rs 17,990. Colour options included were Gradation Blue and Gradation Black. We got the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage variant on our testbed in Gradation BLue, and we got cracking with its tests. Read on to learn how it performed.
The build of the Galaxy M30 is quite similar to that of its A-series cousin, the Galaxy A30. It has a smooth rounded finish on all four corners and a back panel that’s made completely of plastic. To add a touch of class to it, Samsung has thrown in a two-tone gradient finish on the back panel; the blue on the back of the phone fades from light to dark gradually along the length of the phone. The result is a phone that both looks and feels good in the hand. Even without any case or cover on, the Galaxy M30 feels grippy in the hands. What’s more, the back panel remains mostly free of smudges and fingerprint marks. That said, you wouldn’t want to hold this phone right after feasting on an oily samosa.
While the top side of the Galaxy M30 houses just the secondary microphone, the left side is home to the SIM and microSD card slot. The bottom side gets a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer, and a single-grille loudspeaker. That leaves the right side of the phone to house the power button and volume rocker, which are well placed and comfortable to press. Those who aren’t a fan of Samsung’s proprietary virtual assistant Bixby will be happy to note that there’s no dedicated Bixby key on the Galaxy M30’s body. The back panel is home to a vertically aligned triple camera setup, a single LED flash, and a fingerprint scanner, which, in my opinion, is placed way too high up for easy reach. In summary, the Galaxy M30 is built and designed quite well for its price.
Like the Galaxy A30, the Galaxy M30 has a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display with an aspect ratio of 19.5:9 and a resolution of 1080 x 2340 pixels. Like some of the other models in the Galaxy A and Galaxy M series, the Galaxy M30 is blessed with Samsung’s “Infinity-U” display, which means that it gets a high screen-to-body ratio of over 90 percent and a tiny U-shaped notch at the top to accommodate the single selfie camera. Pixel count on the display is approximately 400 pixels per inch, which is definitely healthy by today’s standards.
The colours on Galaxy M30’s display appear full and rich. In addition, the software allows the colours to be set to a cooler or warmer temperature. The screen is dim enough to be used in bed and bright enough to be used indoors. The minimum brightness is 3 LUX and the maximum brightness is 560 LUX. In comparison, the Galaxy A30 and Galaxy M20 have a maximum screen brightness of 616 LUX and 537 LUX respectively. Content on the Galaxy M30’s display isn’t viewable under direct sunlight but that’s forgiable, given that sunlight legibility is quite hard to achieve anyway. In summary, the Galaxy M30’s display is surely up to the mark, considering its price in the market. I just wish the software had an option to lower the screen resolution by just one notch (sorry for the unintended pun); that would have helped save more battery.
Sound from the Galaxy M30’s single down-firing loudspeaker is moderately loud. The driver inside is good enough for ringtones and alarm tones but not fit for high-quality music. At maximum volume, you can observe signs of tearing and distortion in high frequencies. Bass, on the other hand, is tinny, and therefore produces poor “thump” effect for songs like Starboy by The Weeknd. If you’re a fan of music on the go it’s worth getting a portable Bluetooth speaker along with the phone. On the other hand, the earpiece is loud and clear enough for calls even in noisy environments like a crowded canteen.
As you may have guessed by now, the Galaxy M30 shares its Exynos 7904 chipset with the Galaxy A30. The Exynos chipset, built on a 14-nanometre process, has an octa-core processor. There are two high-performance Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 1.8GHz and six high-efficiency Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.6GHz. The GPU is a Mali-G71 MP2, the same as that on the Galaxy A30. All this is combined with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM, depending on the variant you pick. The storage on board can be expanded to a maximum of up to 512GB using a microSD card, which gets a dedicated slot along with the two SIM cards.
The Galaxy M30 review unit fared more or less as well as the Galaxy A30 and Galaxy M20 on our CPU and GPU benchmark tests. On AnTuTu 7.0, the Galaxy M30 trumped the Galaxy A30 by 13665 points but lost to the Galaxy M20 by 187 points. On PCMark Storage, the Galaxy M30 won over the two phones by scoring 6552, while the Galaxy A30 and Galaxy M20 scored 4266 and 5653 respectively. Surprisingly, the Galaxy M20 beat the other two in some more benchmark tests like Geekbench Single-Core. Heat, I felt, was one element not very well managed on the Galaxy M30. The front face of the phone heated up every now and then, especially when a background activity like new app installs was happening. This made placing the earpiece against the ear quite difficult.
Performance on the review unit of the Galaxy M30 can best be termed decent. It wasn’t underwhelming in that the phone was able to keep up while performing everyday tasks like calling, texting, browsing, online video playback, and some light gaming without any major struggle. That said, its performance wasn’t particularly laudable either. Though minor, there were noticeable stutters and lags in the animation while switching between apps and tabs inside Chrome. Luckily, they never felt like they were bringing the overall speed of the phone down by a great margin. For example, pulling the notification bar down while playing a game or video would often result in noticeable stutters in the animation. That aside, there was no major flaw in overall performance.
Gaming too was decent on the Galaxy M30 review unit. According to our metrics analysis tool; Gamebench, Asphalt 9 ran at a median frame rate of 28 frames per second when the measurement was taken for about thirty minutes. PUBG Mobile, on the other hand, ran on Medium graphics settings at a median frame rate of 24 frames per second. Both scores are on the lower side even for mid-range models in the Rs 14,000+ price range. I faced no major lag while gaming on the Galaxy M30 save for a few occasional jerks while loading and during action sequences in the game. In other words, the Galaxy M30 is best bought by those who don’t play games heavily or care about gaming quality too much.
Finally, here’s a department in which the Galaxy M30 differs from the Galaxy A30. While the Galaxy A30 gets a dual camera setup with its primary sensor being a larger 16-megapixel unit, the Galaxy M30 gets a triple camera setup. The rear panel has three cameras stacked vertically. The first and primary camera is a 13-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/1.9, equipped with phase-detection autofocus. The second camera is a 5-megapixel 12-millimetre “ultra-wide angle” sensor with an aperture of f/2.2, offering a 123-degree field of view. The third camera is a 5-megapixel depth sensor with an aperture of f/2.2. The front face has a single selfie shooter, which is a 16-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. The selfie camera is used across the Galaxy M30 and Galaxy A30.
Before I go any further, I recommend that you check out this piece that’s dedicated to the Galaxy M30’s camera prowess, it was composed by my colleague Swapnil last month. You can find full-res camera samples taken by him here on our Flickr gallery. In my own experience with the Galaxy M30 review unit, I thought photos taken on the Galaxy M30 review unit’s primary camera displayed the right amount of colour and sharpness. Photos taken through the ultra-wide angle sensor display a considerable amount of barrel distortion, which becomes more apparent if the composition isn’t right. Photos taken through the Live Focus mode appear appropriately blurred when the camera is trained on faces but the system falters when the camera is focussed on other subjects like a small idol of Buddha.
Photos taken indoors appear grainy and darker than usual. It’s the same case with videos shot indoors but the camera is quick to focus when the scene changes, which is good for panned takes. Selfies come out bright and colourful even when shot indoors but could do with more detail. Most faces appear just a bit distorted when zoomed in. Though the camera software is eager to add “Beauty” effects to any selfie, the option can be turned off completely. On the bright side, the default camera app is mostly quick to reach while taking photos and after taking photos. There’s no noticeable lag between daytime shots and while opening the gallery for previews.
One area where the Samsung Galaxy M30 understandably suffers is in its lowlight capabilities. The primary camera, when shooting in low light, suffers from significant loss in detail because of aggressive noise reduction. There is also a minor but noticeable lag between focussing, tapping the shutter button, and the shot being taken. Suffice it to say you will not be taking in action shots during night time. Similarly, the ultra-wide angle camera in low light, without AF, suffers from poor exposure and plenty of noise. You’re better off avoiding using the ultra-wide angle camera in low light. In summary then, the camera on the Galaxy M30 has its share of weaknesses but comes out all right in the end for everyday photos, especially in the daytime. Just don’t count on it for lowlight shots.
Click on the images above to view their full-res version in Flickr
Ultra-wide angle camera
Primary camera, Normal mode
Primary camera, Live Focus mode
While the Galaxy A30 gets Samsung’s latest software in the form of Samsung One UI layered on top of Android 9 Pie, the Galaxy M30 settles for Samsung’s older Experience 9.5 UI spread on top of Android 8.1 Oreo. The software makes for an overall pleasant experience while using the Galaxy M30. Users who like setting different wallpapers and themes will enjoy the many free and paid options Samsung’s UI has to offer. Users will also get the option of using Samsung’s gesture-based navigation, which, sadly, is not the same as the pill-type navigation offered on stock Android Pie. The icons and menus still resemble the old TouchWiz UI Samsung used to use on its older smartphones, which is good news for Samsung loyalists. All that said, Samsung should really work fast to roll out Android 9 Pie so it can keep up with the competition.
While the Galaxy A30 stands proudly with its 4,000mAh battery, the Galaxy M30 quietly wields a larger 5,000mAh lithium polymer unit, which seems to make a world of difference to the phone’s battery life. On our standard battery benchmark test, the Galaxy M30 review unit scored an impressive 666 minutes (11 hours, 6 minutes). In comparison, the Galaxy A30 scored 512 minutes in the same test, and Galaxy M20, an even more impressive 834 minutes.
In everyday usage scenarios, the Galaxy M30 lasted well over one and a half days with about 20 percent charge to spare. During these test scenarios, I left the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and set the screen brightness to over 60 percent. When I played a YouTube video in Full HD resolution for about forty minutes, the battery dropped only by 3 percent. When I played PUBG Mobile for about thirty minutes, the battery dropped only by 4 percent. On the whole, I got the impression that the phone was lasting over a day and a half on a single charge. Charging took close to two full hours, which is understandable, given the massive capacity of the battery inside.
The Samsung Galaxy M30 seems to tick most of the right boxes for a mid-range Android smartphone at Rs 14,990. Two apparent areas of weakness, however, are performance and software. While performance on the Exynos 7904-powered Galaxy M30 isn’t bad, it isn’t particularly impressive either. The feeling that you’re using a mid-range smartphone with sub-par specs does seep in when you’re gaming or browsing heavily. Software too isn’t as updated as what’s available on the Galaxy A30, a phone that was launched around the same time as the Galaxy M30.
If, however, you’re buying a smartphone for light-to-moderate usage, involving messaging, calling, and some photography, the Galaxy M30 steps up to the plate. In addition, the Galaxy M30 has respectable build and a clean look all around. So, whether you’re taking the Samsung Galaxy M30 to college, work, or around the neighbourhood, you’re likely to catch a second glance from passers-by.
Written with inputs on Camera from Swapnil Mathur
15 Oct 2019
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