Reviewed in India on 4 October 2019
*1-week update added.
For now, I can only compare the M30s with the Asus Zenfone 5z and a OnePlus 3T, both of which 'were' flagships of the respective brands. In the past I have used Motorolas exclusively. I 'was' a big Motorola fan and consider stock android as the best user experience on a smartphone.
1. Display 5/5 – Big, Beautiful but more importantly a well-calibrated one. It's easily better than the Oppo and Vivo AMOLED implementations, simply because Samsung has taken the pains to somehow calibrate each unit.
2. Ergonomics 5/5 – You are unlikely to call this device bulky or cumbersome for one-handed use because of the 20:9 aspect ratio, excellent weight management and OneUI optimisations for one-handed use.
3. Battery Life 4/5 – 11-12hrs SoT for me i.e. 1.5days use. Frankly, it's a bit disappointing considering that my older Motorolas gave 6-8hrs on 13nm architecture SoCs, had 2,700-3,000 mah batteries and had less efficient LCD panels. At 6,000mah it should've given close to 14hr SoT, for my use-case.
4. Performance 5/5 – Very fast app opening speeds! Compares very well with the Snapdragon 821 powered and phenomenally well optimized OnePlus 3T. Falls short of the Asus 5z, which is a no-brainer. RAM management is decent too, of the 4GB RAM I tend to have 1.5GB free. 8-10 non-game apps are typically always in memory. UFS 2.1 is a Big leap for those of us upgrading from eMMC storage. This is particularly noticeable in both app opening speeds as well as in the gallery app where Images and Video thumbnails load instantly. Deleting is also super fast!
5. Touch Response 5/5 – Fast, precise, with low latency. Particularly noticeable on the keyboard, quick toggle menu, as well as when knocking off notifications or deleting feeds on say, the Chrome browser. Faster animations further this experience.
6. One UI 3.5/5 – It's difficult to rate it because I've ALWAYS used stock android. And although I enjoy the add-ons OneUI comes with I also miss the clean, fluid, conflict-free experience that stock android is known for. Mind you, this is FAR better than the Chinese ROMs that I tried out in offline stores; ColorOS, FuntouchOS, MIUI and even ZenUI. OneUI is less obtrusive, cleaner, has no ads and is easier to use one-handed. OneUI isn't flawless, I have experienced app crashes (Tata Sky and Palabre) on when I never faced any issues with them with my previous phones. It does ship with bloatware, asks for a LOT of permissions, has unrequired 'suggestions'. Though all of that can be shut down within 5mins. What you do have to put up with is – stutters. You see them from time to time. It may not be a deal breaker, but yes it's clearly a step-down from stock android. For me, if Stock android is 100... Oxygen OS gets a 100 too, One UI gets 85 and ZenUI gets 75. The other Chinese skins (MIUI, ColorOS, FuntouchOS) are definitely far more heavily modified and further away from the core experience android is known for.
7. Call Quality and Cellular Reception 5/5 – I actually placed calls from all the weak spots at home where signals drop to just 1 bar. Thankfully the M30s doesn't drop signals more than other phones that I've used in fact it's a shade better than the Motorolas I had previously. It's not a mind-blowing signal-catcher either, but yes I do get internet on my Jio sim where sometimes the other phones would struggle. Call quality was Good too, slightly better than the 5z but just short of the OnePlus 3T. Compared to 5z, the sound is sharper (but never sibilant) as opposed to being slightly more muffled and recessed in the upper frequencies.
8. Reliability/Peace of mind and a vast Service network.
1. Build quality 3/5 – Its a unibody plastic build but a rather flimsy grade of plastic has been used. You can feel and at times also hear the plastic flex next to the power button and the fingerprint scanner. The button themselves have a short travel and satisfactory tactility. Most Chinese phones (which I checked out at offline stores) offer a better build and have Gorilla Glass too, which is rated higher than Schott or Asahi's dragontail (used here), especially in terms of drop protection. For scratch resistance this should be ok, hopefully.
2. Charging performance 2/5 – 2hrs 30mins is very 2015 (6,000 mah, I know). Perhaps an 18w charger helps shave off 15mins or so?, I'll give an update on that. What's more irksome is that if you are using the phone while charging it significantly slows down charging speed (3.5hrs or so!), this is a difference you can't miss. It does not happen on the other devices I have at home, to this extent.
3. Cameras 2/5 – I've used SLRs/DSLRs for over 2 decades so I understand a thing or two. Which also means I don't expect phones, especially at this price point to do great. Even with toned down expectations the cameras are rather poor. The '48mp' Detail is absent, dynamic range mediocre and there's over sharpening/ringing too, though colours are thankfully more natural than I expected from Samsung. Frankly, the '48mp', '64mp', '108mp' number dropping these days is wayyy deep into gimmicky territory because these things at best may be a tad better than older 12/16mp modules, when implemented right. I can only say that it's nowhere near the 12mp primary camera on the Asus 5z (especially with gCam, at night). What's good is the Video Stability & super slow motion feature. Stabilization is actually better than the other two, especially surprising if you know that both 5z & 3t have OIS, this does not! I will update this section if/when I can compare it against its class.
4. LTE speeds over Jio 2.5/5 – A bit disappointing actually. Here it's more like the 6-series from 2018. Even with UFS 2.1, app downloading over Jio was very similar to the older phones I've used. Nowhere close to the 3t, leave alone 5z. Mind you, the Snapdragon 7-series is FAR closer to the 835/845 on this category.
5. Heapdhone quality 3/5 – I'm not a hardcore audiophile but I've spent a small fortune on audio over the years. The m30s has a lively presentation with good dynamics and respectable detail but the frequency response isn't flat. The bass is clearly boosted and the upper frequencies are muted. Its definitely a flavoured sound unlike my Moto G5 Plus which had phenomenally clean audio and superb stereo separation (price no bar!), with my Audio Technica ath-m50, Soundmagic e10c and Beyerdynamic Byron I never had a complaint. The M30s has better detail for sure but it's a more central ('in your head'), less neutral sound. The Hidizs Sonata HD is a good option if you want a solid upgrade for around 2-2.5k, if you want to go cheaper still try the pixel Type-C to 3.5mm dongle there's a lot of praise for it and it's available for just 1.3k or so.
6. Lack of XDA love – The XDA community showers tons of love to Snapdragon powered phones in making them cleaner/slicker/customizable with Custom ROMs because Exynos is locked out by Samsung :(
7. Speaker performance – Not bad but certainly nothing above mediocre. At least it's not that ear piercing, shrill sound that some models at this price point are plagued with and its loud too. OnePlus 3T has a significantly cleaner, tighter output. I won't even bother drawing a comparison with the 5z ;)
8. Android Update track record – I found that Samsung has one of the slowest update speeds, 6-10 months after official release (if you're lucky!). Which probably means no Android 10 until March 2020 :( May be things change in the OneUI era?
First impressions, a full 5/5.
I'll update with Long-term findings.
--- 7th October, 2019. 1-week update ---
One UI experience.
So I've begun to appreciate OneUI in its entirety. The stutters have reduced, I guess when the phone was new there was a lot happening in the background. Besides, some of the intrusive stuff was still running which I've since force stopped and disabled.
The features that I think are great additions over stock android...
1. Open in pop-up view – True multitasking! A huge plus in my book.
2. Always on display – A great feature to have on an AMOLED display and a 6,000mah battery.
3. The screenshot toolbar – it's well designed and the added functionality is much appreciated.
4. Gesture based quick app switcher – A neat and well implemented way of quickly moving through apps
5. 9-band Equaliser – The presets and the fully customizable graphic equaliser have system wide effect over audio, a very underrated feature.
6. Dark/Night mode – Android 10 will bring this at the system level. But it doesn't hurt to have it at some level already, even if its only for the system apps.
What I think are half-baked or unrequired features...
1. Aggressive auto brightness – The ambient light sensor almost always chooses a brighter than required output.
2. Assistive touch – 2 pages to swipe through is a good idea but most of it is of absolutely no use! And there's no option to customise it either.
3. Screenshot shortcuts – They've given 3 bad ways of doing it. And the award for the worst experience goes to... "Palm swipe"! Not only is it inconsistent but also senselessly cumbersome. 3-finger swipe on my Motorola worked flawlessly and was faster too. I tried the Assistive touch but that always-on-screen button soon became an eyesore. So I ended up with the Power button + Volume down key :(
All my other 'first impressions' remain unchanged.
A piece of advice for prospective buyers:
If the negative reviews confuse you, please understand this – The negative reviews are by people who have either...
1. Bought the device for the wrong reasons.
2. Or have unrealistic expectations from a device that was available under 12k, at launch.
3. Or have a genuine issue with a bad unit (a very small percentage).
4. Or are paid trolls!
Most of the negative reviews seem to fall in category 1. & 2.
The USPs of this device are...
1. A Very Very good display – It's accurate, most cheap AMOLED sporting devices are not. Which is why you get unnatural skin tones and unrealistic greens/reds with some other mid-range phones (Mi A3, Realme XT, Vivo z1x etc.)
2. One UI – A FAR cleaner alternative to Chinese skins/ROMs
3. Excellent battery life – 11/12hrs of SoT!
4. Fast app opening speeds and RAM management
I ordered a case but it hasn't been delivered yet.
Despite that there's not one scratch on the display or the back!
You will be disappointed if you are buying this device particularly for...
1. Build quality
2. or Camera performance
3. or Charging speed
4. or Superfast updates
5. or for making NFC payments (via Google pay or Samsung pay). Though not many outlets accept this in India, at least not in Tier 2 cities, as of 2019.
Also remember that all other alternatives will come with their own set of drawbacks too.
Can't have it all, not in 2019 at least.
Rating unchanged, fully satisfied "for the price paid!"