Samsung Galaxy M20 review: don’t teach your daddy to make phones

Galaxy M20 34 - Galaxy M30

Rating: 8/10

Yay:

  • Excellent TFT panel with deep blacks and good screen estate
  • 5000mAh battery definitely lasts long
  • Widevine L1 support for streaming videos
  • Excellent sound from headphones
  • Very natural looking portrait pictures

Nay

  • Low light pictures are not great
  • It is 2019, should’ve come with Android Pie
  • Face unlock works with eyes closed
  • No 5GHz Wi-Fi support

Introduction 

For all of 2018, Samsung was sitting in the sidelines. Silently observing, while Brands like Xiaomi, Realme, ASUS, and Honor were running the show in the lower mid-range segment.

Cut to 2019 and Samsung has clearly plotted a devious plan. One that has already worried its competitors. Don’t believe me? Well, take a close look at this “upside down” tweet. 

Galaxy M20 21

I’m sure you all know by now that I am talking about the Galaxy M10 and the M20 – the phones that are specifically made for the millennials!

I have been using the Galaxy M20 as my primary driver for some time now. And is this what the millennial really wants? 

Samsung Galaxy M20 design: staid looks but practical and functional

That the Samsung Galaxy M20 looks very plain from the rear is an indisputable fact. A tough, curved polycarbonate shell wraps around the internal components. Interestingly, there is a break in the design; the display is placed on a raised platform. Coming back to the rear, this polycarbonate shell is a smudge magnet. Especially if you have oily fingers as I do, the phone cannot keep the oil at bay. 

The fingerprint scanner sits on the rear and is at an easy to reach position. What’s unique about this scanner is that it is slightly raised so you can get a feel for it easily without looking at the back. This scanner is reliable and fairly accurate, but not the fastest one out there. That said, it is extremely fast to register your fingerprint by simply swiping down a few times. There’s also a face unlock option but it doesn’t work in the dark, nor is it very secure. In fact, it unlocked my face with my eyes closed. Even when I had switched off Faster Recognition. 

Galaxy M20 35

While the phone is on the chunkier side thanks to the large 5,000mAh battery, I really liked the weight distribution and the overall handiness. In fact, thanks to the slim bezels and the 19.5:9 aspect ratio of the display, the phone is not very wide. A couple of colleagues mentioned that it feels more compact than many other phones in the same price range. I definitely agree with that sentiment; the ergonomics are actually great. To add to that, I inadvertently dropped the phone once, from a great height that too, and not even a scratch was registered on the phone. The M20 surely feels very sturdy in my opinion. 

The power button and the volume rocker are on the right edge, and they offer great tactile feedback when pressed. There’s a mic on the top. The SIM card tray on the left has individual slots for the two SIM cards and the single microSD card. None of that hybrid slot BS. At the bottom, Samsung gives users a USB Type-C port. This is completely unheard of feature in this price range. Flanking the Type-C port on the sides is the mono speaker and the 3.5mm jack. As far as ports go, Samsung has really left no stone unturned. But, the one conspicuously missing feature is the notification LED. I know some folks who might rue the absence of one. 

Overall though, the Samsung Galaxy M20’s design is extremely functional and I have no complaints as such. 

Galaxy M20 31

Samsung Galaxy M20 display: don’t be fooled by ‘TFT’, this display will surprise you

The Samsung Galaxy M20 has a 6.3-inch TFT LCD panel on the front. This panel has a display resolution of 2340×1080 pixels. There is a perception that TFT panels are inferior compared to IPS LCD units. Honestly, after looking at the contrast ratio on the M20, I don’t really care. I used a high contrast theme with the M20 and the fairly deep blacks were just great to look at. Obviously, it is not as deep as an AMOLED panel that switches off the LEDs to create those inky blacks, but it does come damn close. But yeah, it has deeper blacks compared to an IPS LCD panel. 

Galaxy M20 34

The colours are not as punchy as an AMOLED panel; it is still fairly accurate. The overall colour temperature even in the white reproduction is pretty neutral. The panel is also plenty crisp and at maximum brightness, it is definitely easily legible under direct sunlight. It is brighter than most phones in this price range. There are a few issues with the display though:

  1. The oleophobic coating (if it exists), just like the rear, is not very effective at keeping body oils at bay. I was wiping the screen after every five minutes of usage, thanks to all the smudges. 
  2. When you tilt the display at a slight angle, you will see the colour temperature shift to a warm yellow. This is a characteristic of TFT panels and there is not much Samsung can do to fix that. 
  3. The palm rejection is not very effective and it is doubly annoying because of the slim bezels. I would constantly swipe down the notification panel or trigger the homescreen customisation mode because of this problem. 

Galaxy M20 32

All said and done, the two big reasons why the Samsung’s display is great are: the tiny chin and the dewdrop notch. Since it is Samsung, the company has branded it the Infinity-V notch and it is the first time you see a notch on a Samsung phone really. But, I am glad Samsung waited this long to make a notched smartphone. Because a dewdrop notch is probably the best version of the notch right now; you just get so much screen estate. The only phone in this price range that can even come close to the M20 in terms of screen estate is the Realme twins – 2 Pro and U1. 

Also read: Realme 2 Pro review: winner, winner, chicken dinner

Samsung Galaxy M20 multimedia: bringing the A-game to the battle

Obviously, what is the point of such a great display if it doesn’t have Widevine L1 support? I definitely want to watch Netflix and Prime in Full-HD. This DRM support is the one reason why Samsung kills in terms of multimedia performance. The videos look crisp, bright and detailed. Not many phones in this price range can offer this level of fidelity. 

During my testing, I could play videos on Prime Video in Full-HD. On Netflix, that wasn’t the case but it is a problem of Netflix updating the software. I wouldn’t worry too much about this. 

Galaxy M20 33

Another reason why the multimedia performance on the M20 is great is that the phone supports Dolby Atmos sound for smartphones. While the setting doesn’t really work for music playback, I can tell you this, if you are watching movies, the Atmos setting can definitely come in handy in heightening the viewing experience. The phone also supports up to aptX Bluetooth streaming codec. I found the music listening experience using the 3.5mm jack and wireless headphones to be extremely pleasing. 

Now, coming to the mono speaker at the bottom. It is not very loud but it is crisp and sounds very full. In fact, the shimmer of the high-end frequencies is particularly heartening to hear from the mono speaker. I experienced this when playing Tiles Hop on the phone. 

Samsung Galaxy M20 software: Experience UI 9.5 is a refined experience but not without bloat

The Samsung Galaxy M20 comes with Android Oreo with a promised update to Android Pie in the future. While that is assuring, it is still a bit of a letdown in 2019. But it looks like Samsung wants us to forget about it with a slightly new coat of paint. This coat of paint is called Experience UI 9.5 and for the most part, it is a polished experience.

Galaxy M20 29 Galaxy M20 28 Galaxy M20 27

Let me break down my experience into easy to understand points:

  1. The thing about Experience UI is that it now asks you if you want to install third-party apps or not. You can choose to opt out. 
  2. On this new Experience UI 9.5, Samsung has added Lockscreen Stories. This is on by default and you have to go into settings to switch it off. As the name suggests, Lockscreen Stories essentially showcases a bunch of articles – based on your topic preferences – from Samsung’s content partner Glance. This is very heavy-handed and I immediately switched it off. In my time with the phone, I didn’t see any ads as such. So, that’s good. Interestingly, the Poco F1 also uses Glance for Lockscreen stories. The more you know…
  3. Notifications show up on the display in a small pill under the clock. You can hit the pill to pull down the notification shade halfway to see what it contains. Looks neat, I guess. 
  4. The Experience UI 9.5 operating system is extremely malleable. You can change the icon pack, the icon size, the size of the grid, and a whole lot more. Heck, it even offers you a system-wide dark mode in one of the Themes in the Theme Store. Very, very cool. 
  5. Samsung has added gestures for good measure. This is a feature ported from OneUI based on Android Pie. I am glad. 
  6. The problem with this operating system is that the notch is poorly optimised. The network settings and the clock on the top bar are pulled down below the notch when you pull down the notification panel. 
  7. There are also dual apps for those who want that. I don’t really need it, though. 
  8. I really like the cute animation that flows around the dewdrop notch when it tries to recognise your face or if you switch to the selfie camera. It is a pretty creative way to highlight the notch. 

Overall, if you are a fan of Samsung’s operating system you will appreciate all the small tweaks to the software. Even if you are not a fan, you will realise that this is a premium software experience at this price. Is it better than stock Android or MIUI? Well, that’s a subjective opinion. But, I can assure you that Experience UI 9.5 is super refined. Sree has done a slightly more detailed review of the new OS in his review of the M10. Do go check it out. 

Also read: Samsung Galaxy M10 Review

Samsung Galaxy M20 camera: just one software update away from being a great camera

The Galaxy M20 has a dual camera setup on the rear with a 13MP primary camera with an f/1.9 aperture lens and a secondary 5MP f/2.2 camera. Before I discuss the quality of the pictures, let’s take a look at the camera app. Interestingly, Samsung offers a feature-rich experience similar to its flagships. 

For example, you get a Live Focus mode, Panorama mode, a few stickers, and the likes. Small features like swipe up to switch on the selfie mode comes in really handy. All things considered, the camera app is easy to get accustomed to and use. It is one of the most feature rich and easy to use camera apps in this price range.

Samsung Galaxy M20 4

As for the picture quality, the M20 captures a great number of details when you shoot wide landscape shots. The colour temperature is pretty accurate and in our camera comparison, Sree discovered that the M20 had a far better wide shot compared to the Redmi Note 6 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro. 

Moreover, you also have a dedicated wide angle lens that can take a wider field of view. Samsung has tried its best to keep the colour processing similar to the primary camera but I did find some inconsistencies once in a while. Take a look at this specific example for your own understanding. 

Samsung Galaxy M20 15

Wide

Samsung Galaxy M20 14

Non-wide

What I like about Samsung’s use of a wide-angle lens is that in the default Gallery app it gives an option to do Shape Correction. This helps reduce the barrel distortion by a lot. The software does a great friggin job, honestly. 

Samsung Galaxy M20 16

Wide

In close up shots of colourful flowers, the M20 tends to boost colours. But the details are still present. What I particularly like about the M20 camera is the great Live Focus mode. The level of depth, the blur, and the edge detection are very well done. You really don’t get such natural bokeh from other phones in this price range. The dynamic range by default is not very impressive but the HDR mode can fix that for you easily. 

Samsung Galaxy M20 3 Samsung Galaxy M20 2

In low light, the M20 does a great job with the exposure and lets in a decent amount of light for the picture to look good. But, the software does some aggressive noise correction in indoor shots and lets the noise be in darker portions in night shots. I still like the pictures but the M20 might not be the best low light camera in this price range. 

Samsung Galaxy M20 8 Samsung Galaxy M20 7

Coming to the selfies from the 8MP camera, they are alright at best. I think other phones like the Realme U1, the Honor 10 Lite, and the Mi A2 offer far more detailed selfies. As far as video recording goes, the M20 lacks stabilisation but the picture quality and the colours are pretty good. 

Samsung Galaxy M20 6 Samsung Galaxy M20 5

Anyway, if you want a more detailed look of the camera performance, just head over to Sree’s camera comparison. In any case, I guess, a GCam mod for Samsung Galaxy M20 should just kill it no? Overall though, I think the M20’s cameras can capture good pictures in its current state. But they definitely offer a lot of potential and need a couple of software updates to make it even better than its current state. For starters, I’d love for EIS to make it to 1080p video recording. 

For more High Resolution pictures head to this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1pF3UwUS1pOXAH3mZcTBQEI7YD4F6THqE

Samsung Galaxy M20 performance: almost as powerful as an SD636-toting phone

Interestingly, Samsung has fitted the M20 with a brand new homegrown System-on-Chip. The new Samsung Exynos 7904 is an octa-core chipset made on the 14nm fabrication process. The eight cores on the 7904 include two Cortex A73 chips clocked at 1.73GHz each and six Cortex A53 chips clocked at 1.53GHz each. The chipset has a Mali G71 GPU for graphics as well. If you want to see a spec-to-spec comparison between the Exynos 7904, Snapdragon 660, Snapdragon 710, and the Helio P70, Varun has created written an article for you. The link is in the description. Do check it out. 

Also read: Exynos 7904 vs Snapdragon 660 v Helio P70 v Kirin 710: the midrange SoC battle

Our review unit of the M20 had 4 gigs of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. And if you want more storage, the card slot accepts SD cards of up to 512GB capacity. There is a lower variant that comes with 3 gigs of RAM and 32GB of internal storage just in case you don’t want to fork more cash. By the way, the internal storage is one of the fastest eMMC 5.1 drives I have tested yet. In our AndroBench read/write speed test, the M20 returned scores of 306.2MB/s and 144.44MB/s. That’s pretty good!

Galaxy M20 18 Galaxy M20 19

So, I ran our regular suite of benchmarks on the phone. The phone scored 1,07,158 in AnTuTu, which is around the Snapdragon 636. And, in the Geekbench test, it scored 1314 in the single-core test and 3982 in the multi-core test. Again, very close to the SD636. And finally, in our 3DMark Sling Shot benchmark run, the phone scored 580 points in the OpenGL ES3.1 test and 1101 in the Vulcan run. The OpenGL ES3.1 score is lower than the SD636 but the Vulcan score is higher than the SD636. I noticed that PUBG ran smoothly only in Balanced with Medium FPS setting. If you are a heavy gamer, a phone with SD660 or Kirin 710 might be better suited for you. But for casual gamers, the M20 will be great!

Galaxy M20 20 Galaxy M20 17

In daily usage, I found the phone to be extremely responsive. The animations on Experience UI 9.5 are slightly heavy-handed and that could make the phone seem slow, but I didn’t face a single lag at all. In fact, I opened PUBG and a plethora of other apps, and the phone didn’t force close the other apps like Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and more. While it did restart PUBG but that’s fine. I think Samsung does a fine and dandy job of RAM management.  

As for the call quality, the M20 has an incredibly clear sound from the earpiece. I had to actually reduce the volume a couple of levels during calls. It latches on to network even in areas of congestion. My only concern is that the phone doesn’t have 802.11 ac support and therefore 5GHz Wi-Fi networks won’t show up when you are scanning.

Samsung Galaxy M20 battery: unbeatable in this price range

Samsung is very proud of the fact that the Galaxy M20 comes with a 5000mAh battery. This is the biggest battery that we’ve seen on Samsung smartphone yet. And the battery performance is excellent. I consistently got 6+ hours SoT on extremely heavy usage where I was subjecting the phone to benchmark tests, gaming, and the likes. 

That’s not it though, the Type-C port exists so it can support fast charging for the battery. Samsung claims that the M20 supports 15W fast charging but you get a 10W charger in the box. Using this charger, I managed to charge the battery from 0 to 100 in 2 hours and 28 mins. This is with the screen on. With screen off, I got the phone to charge from 0 to 100 in around 2 hours and 10 minutes. That is great fast charging speeds for a 5000mAh battery. In comparison — and Sree will tell you in his review of the phone — the M10 takes more than 3 hours to charge from 0 to 100. 

Galaxy M20 39

I also tried a 15W charger that you get with the Note 9 in the box. But unfortunately, the M20 charged only in 10W speeds. To sum it up, the M20’s battery is what is going to drive people towards this phone. 

Also read: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review: the best Android phone I’ve used all year

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy M20?

So that was my full review, and I can confidently say that Samsung has built a phone that could entice a good chunk of the millennials looking to buy the phone online. And a large chunk of millennials who recommend/buy phones for the older family members can pick the Samsung for the sheer brand value. Also, let’s not forget that this brand value will probably sell more phones than any review. 

In fact, I spoke to a layman about the new M20 and he had only one thing to say – “Bhai, Xiaomi koi kyun khareedega. Yeh, toh kaafi accha phone hai aur price bhai acchi hai.” (Brother, why would anyone buy a Xiaomi phone. The M20 is a good phone and the price is great too)

Galaxy M20 32

The M20 has great battery life, a crisp and attractive display, great multimedia performance, a dependable performance, and more. Yes, there are a few issues but I doubt if they are deal breakers.

Having said all that, let’s compare the M20 to its competition like we always do.

Redmi Note 6 Pro/Mi A2

While I know that the Redmi Note 7 is just around the corner, Xiaomi’s current proposition is the Redmi Note 6 Pro. The M20 has a bigger battery and the display is better too. Performance wise, the Note 6 Pro might be slightly more powerful. And, the M20 might not be as good as the Note 6 Pro when it comes to camera performance. It is evident that Samsung is taking on Xiaomi more than any other brand by making the M20 an online-only phone. And, this is the battle I am going to watch closely to see how it plays out as we reach further into 2019.

Mi Days

Also read: Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro first impressions: minor upgrades that actually make an impact

There’s also the Mi A2, which has dropped in price drastically. With its SD660 SoC and the stunning cameras, the Mi A2 definitely makes for an interesting purchase. But the poor battery life and the thick bezels around the display are a bit of a letdown in 2019. The M20’s great battery life and the modern front design will probably attract a lot of users. 

Xiaomi Mi A2 launched in India - POCO

Also read: Xiaomi Mi A2 review: I love this phone but I don’t know if you will too

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2

A silent player in the background, ASUS has managed to make a superb impact with audiences with the ZenFone Max Pro M2. Compared to the Samsung, the Max Pro M2 might not feel as refined. Especially, the camera app which gets my goat every single time I use it. Else, the ZenFone Max Pro M2’s stock Android is what sways a lot of buyers. The M20 and the Zenfone Max Pro M2 are the two phones in this price category that come with a 5000mAh battery. 

The Max Pro M2 is truly a “pro” category phone that a lot of enthusiasts will buy because of SD660 alone. But, I think a lot of the more mature audience like, my mom, would prefer the M20. 

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2

Realme 2 Pro/Realme U1

Realme’s, rise to glory happened in such a flash last year. And all that accolade is well-deserved. The Realme 2 Pro and the U1 are great phones. But the M20 definitely has better software, display, and battery life. Once again, the brand name could also sway buyers to the M20. But, considering how Realme has been belligerent, I am sure the brand will fight back with something interesting. 

Also read: Realme 2 Pro review: winner, winner, chicken dinner

Honor 10 Lite/Honor 8X

Honor has been doing some interesting stuff too. The 8X and the 10 Lite are decent phones but Samsung offers a more colour accurate panel and more battery life. Compared to the 10 Lite, the M20 has a smoother performance too. Honestly, the M20 feels like a better buy than the 10 Lite. The 8X’s big screen could sway a few buyers but the M20 still stands a chance.

Honor 10 Lite 5

Also read: Honor 10 Lite review: a compact Honor 8X that also packs a punch

All in all, I think Samsung has done a great job with the M20. This phone marks the entry of a new and renewed Samsung that is out with a vengeance to get back the big chunk of the online market it lost out to other brands, majorly Xiaomi. 

What do you guys think of the M20? Do let us know in the comments section below. 

 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?