Monday, 19 August 2019

Doesn’t Beat The Competition_Zaap Hydra Extreme

Bluetooth speakers are a dime-a-dozen in the market. Setting their products apart from the competition should be a huge challenge, but we see rivals routinely aping designs from each other or going with ODM-designs from China, which means that competing speakers look identical.

Zaap is one such manufacturer and while the Hydra Extreme (Rs 2,999) is not a unique speaker by any means it does have a few extras up its sleeve. For one, it’s water resistant and it also is protected against shocks from drops or falls. It’s a rugged-looking compact unit, which should ideally be perfect for the outdoors and your travels. Let’s see if it fits that bill.

We won’t delve too much into box contents, because there’s literally nothing in the box besides the speakers and the requisite aux and microUSB cables. It’s as basic as it gets. Instead let’s look at the design of the speakers.

Zaap Hydra Extreme: Design and Build

The Zaap Hydra Extreme comes with a carabiner attached to a compass. Add that to the rugged exterior with angled cuts of hard plastic and some metal elements, and it looks all set for a day of sailing. Alas, the compass is a fake and just for show. That’s a terrible first impression.

The body looks seriously serious. There’s not a touch of playful design here, with the ports protected by sober rubber flaps. The exposed screw-work is another touch that definitely makes these speakers look and feel masculine.

I definitely can see many people dig this design, and it certainly matches the promise of being a rugged speaker, even if it looks a little run-of-the-mill for this category.

It’s not Extreme by any means, but we can see why that word was used in its name. The ‘Hydra’ part is presumably for its water-resistant build. Hydra, of course, has nothing to do with ‘hydro’ which is the water-related prefix Zaap is trying to go for. But it stuck with Hydra, which you may know either as a genus of small, fresh-water organisms, the mythical Greek many-headed serpent or the fictional supervillain organisation from Marvel Comics, named after said serpent. It may seem like a digression, but it really does annoy me when brands use names without a thought. It’s the first thing anyone finds out about your product, so it should be bang on the money.

That aside, I don’t think I have any complaints about the look of these Bluetooth speakers; they look as promised and definitely make you feel like it’s rugged. The defunct compass was a shame, but then again, I don’t know anyone who would use a compass to navigate these days.
Zaap Hydra Extreme: Sound Quality

While the look gives you the feeling of the speakers being robust and full, I probably should not have expected much from the small sound chamber in these speakers. Sure it gets loud and has booming bass, but the sound quality is far from stellar. It comes with 12-watt stereo speakers and dual subwoofers for a very bass-forward sound.

For one, the speakers are not great for songs or genres which let the treble shine, as they don’t reproduce the highs very well – it tends to get shrilly and shows distortion easily at higher volume levels. Secondly, the mids are muddled by the bass. If you like bass-heavy genres or generally want to feel that boom, you should definitely pick these up because it has a very, very warm sound. A lot of the delicate instrumentation or layering is lost with so much emphasis on the bass.

I found a neat trick to making these sound better at home. Just set them at 80-85% volume, and leave them in a glass cabinet or shelf. You could even leave it inside a drawer, with it open slightly. This creates a better acoustic chamber for the speakers and does help in controlling some of that hyper-energetic bass performance.

I do wish the speakers had a more well-rounded soundstage and didn’t lean so heavily towards lows, which is shame for someone like me who prefers listening to Indie and Alternative Rock genres. It’s not that the speakers are bad, but if you have heard the same song many times over various earphones and speakers, you would easily notice the muddled mids and weak highs.
Zaap Hydra Extreme Connectivity

The speakers come with rubberised buttons on top, with a power button, volume controls and play/pause/call answer button. They all work fine. Connecting to the phone was also trouble-free and worked in the first attempt for multiple devices easily. Double-pressing the volume button also changes tracks in compatible apps.

For voice calls, the speakers are more than adequate and the built-in microphone works without a problem. I just don’t know about the convenience of answering calls on a large speaker. If it’s for you, the good news is you can do it.
Zaap Hydra Extreme Battery Life

The Zaap Hydra Extreme is rated for 8 hours of continuous listening, and I found the claim to be more or less true. In everyday usage, at around 60-70% volume, you are likely to get a full day’s usage with intermittent listening and just over 8 hours for continuous listening. You are likely to get less than that if you also take calls on the speaker.

When it comes to charging, the speakers use the older microUSB port and the supplied cable, while not the longest, is quite adequate for charging up the speakers next to your PC. You don’t get a power adapter, so you will have to supply that yourself for wall charging.

The performance over aux through the 3.5mm jack is similar to Bluetooth. I didn’t find any difference in sound quality, but battery life is sure to improve over the aux connection and it’s definitely great to have.

You also get a tripod stand screw in the bottom so you can place the speakers at a height when used in a multi-speaker arrangement.
Zaap Hydra Extreme: Up Against Stiff Competition

The competition is not much better though, and that should be some consolation. I compared the Zaap Hydra Extreme to Zook Rocker M2, which also has a super-masculine look and a rugged exterior. I have had the Zook Rocker at home for a while now, and it’s used as a companion for my laptop. It does the job and doesn’t have great sound, but it’s good enough for movie watching and the occasional YouTube party mix. The Zaap Hydra Extreme have a very similar sound signature and I suspect use the same driver manufacturer. In any case, the Zaap speaker’s water-resistance is an advantage over the Zook unit.

I also compared the sound quality to a Google Home Mini, which I use at home. And the Home Mini produces richer, fuller sound without overpowering any one frequency. And given that it’s same price as the Zaap Hydra Extreme, I would recommend the Home Mini if you only want to use the speaker in a fixed location with no expectation of portability.
Zaap Hydra Extreme: Final Words

The affordable Zaap Hydra Extreme speakers definitely look great, but the skewed soundstage and the bass-forward performance really didn’t impress me from a reviewer’s point of view. As a casual listener though, the speakers are adequate and match the competition with its loud output and long battery life. If you are looking for water-resistant pair of speakers which don’t break the bank, and don’t sound any worse than the competition, then the Zaap Hydra Extreme could make sense for you.

However, as we said in the beginning there are plenty of wireless speakers these days and a casual search on Amazon threw up plenty of rivals for the Zaap Hydra Extreme, which also have water resistance such as the Boat Stone 600 (around Rs 2,500) or Sony’s Extra Bass XB10 (around Rs 2,800) splash-proof speakers. We haven’t tested either but we can’t expect the sound quality to be much worse. So yes, there’s plenty of competition and Zaap just doesn’t make enough of an impact to earn a clear recommendation. The Galaxy M series is Samsung’s attempt at taking over the reigns from Xiaomi when it comes to the budget smartphone segment, with the M20 being the flag bearer of this attempt. So, does the Galaxy M20 succeed, or is it a failed attempt? That’s what we are here to find out.

I have been using the phone for more than a week now and while I haven’t had a great experience with Samsung’s budget phones in the past, be it the Galaxy J or Galaxy On series phones, honestly I was excited to use the M20. I has been hyped to be the Samsung budget phone that can truly take on the competition.

Well, after using it for a while now, I can tell you that the M20 is definitely a better attempt at budget phones than what we have seen from Samsung. And that’s saying a lot. Let’s see if it can really take on the competition?
Samsung Galaxy M20 Specifications

Before we get started, let’s take a look at the specs of the Galaxy M20:
Display    6.22” HD+ PLS TFT Panel, 1080 x 2340 pixels,
Processor    Samsung Exynos 7904 octa-core 14nm SoC
RAM    3/4 GB RAM
Storage    64 GB, expandable upto 512GB via microSD
Battery    5,000mAh
Primary Cameras    Main Camera: 13MP AF, F1.9 + Ultra Wide: 5MP, F2.2
Secondary Camera    5MP (F2.0)
OS    Android 8.1 Oreo
Sensors    Accelerometer, Barometer, Face Unlock Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
Network and Connectivity    LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/(2.4/5GHz) Dual VoLTE, Bluetooth 5.0, headphone jack, USB Type-C Port
Samsung Galaxy M20 Design and Build Quality

Let me tell you about my experience by starting off with the design. So the overall design of the Galaxy M20 is pleasing but it’s not great when it comes to looks, or to put it another way, lacks personality. I prefer the Redmi Note 7‘s premium glass design any day over the M20’s bland glossy plastic shell, but I have to admit it’s functional and Samsung is clearly going for that. If you have read our Galaxy M10 review, the Galaxy M20 is only a slight improvement with the plastic build sticking out in this day and age. It’s not bad by any means, it’s just not wow.

The Galaxy M20 has you covered on all fronts in terms of ports. You get the headphone jack, dedicated slots for SIM and microSD cards, fingerprint scanner on the back and a USB-C port, which is still rare in this price range.

That doesn’t mean it all works perfectly. The fingerprint scanner here is a little annoying. First of all, it’s placed awkwardly and I am still getting used to it. Secondly, it’s inconsistent. There’s no haptic feedback here, and sometimes it’s pretty fast, but sometimes it only detects my fingers on multiple attempts.

I also don’t like the fact that there’s no notification LED. I understand that this is a limitation due to the teardrop notch design, but Samsung could have placed it on the bottom chin like in the Redmi Note 7.
Samsung Galaxy M20 Display

The teardrop notch design aka Samsung’s Infinity V display certainly looks beautiful, despite the limited functionality. Ignore the bland back of the M20, and you will enjoy a beautiful looking smartphone. The modern front and the beautiful display complement each other well.

I know it’s a TFT display and there’s this perception that TFT displays aren’t good when compared to IPS LCDs, but trust me when I say that the display on the M20 is great. It’s vibrant, the viewing angles are great and while it’s not the brightest display I have used, it’s decent enough outdoors.
Next to the Nokia 6.1 Plus (left)

Samsung has done a good job when it comes to the display on the Galaxy M20, and the notch-laden front design is fine too, but the average fingerprint scanner is a problem for sure when it comes to the exterior of the phone.
Samsung Galaxy M20 Performance

Let’s take a look at the internals that keep the Galaxy M20 powered. I had my doubts about the performance of the all-new Exynos 7904 SoC which is backed by up to 6GB RAM. Unfortunately, the performance of the M20 is a mixed bag.

I am sure you already know that the Exynos 7904 benchmarks do not match up to the Snapdragon 660 or the Snapdragon 636 (as seen below), so we’ll only stick to the real world performance.

The phone has fine and smooth when it comes to usual day to day tasks, but I did notice some lag when I had multiple apps open or a heavy game like PUBG Mobile running in the background. It’s not too bad, to be honest, since I was using the phone as my daily driver, so it has a lot more apps than an average user in this mid-range segment, but I would have certainly liked a lag-free experience.

When it comes to gaming performance, a lot of you have asked us about the PUBG Mobile experience on the M20. Well, by default, PUBG Mobile runs on Medium graphics settings on the Galaxy M20, but the experience on medium is definitely not very good. There are a lot of frame drops, stutter, and it’s not really playable. Things are better when graphics are set to low, where it’s definitely playable, but it’s not the smoothest experience.

I also played Asphalt 9, where the graphics are automatically set to low, and the gameplay was good enough. Yes, there was some occasional stutter, but it wasn’t a huge problem. Also, if you are wondering about any heating issues, the phone did get warm for me but it wasn’t overheating by any means.

Overall, the performance on the M20 is just average and honestly, compared to the Redmi Note 7 and the ZenFone Max Pro M2, both of which have the more powerful Snapdragon 660, the Galaxy M20 just fails to match up. And it doesn’t help that the Experience UI 9.5, which is supposed to be more optimised, has its issues as well.

First of all, it’s Android Oreo, which is disappointing. Secondly, there are the ads. Yes, the Experience UI here has its own version of ads. Firstly, there’s Lock Screen stories, which shows you a new story on the lock screen, which are basically promotional photos for different companies. Now, you can disable this feature, but it’s really annoying.

Ads are also being pushed as notifications from the MyGalaxy app. I have never even opened the MyGalaxy app and I got clickbait notifications such as these. I really wasn’t expecting this when I started using the phone, and that has left me really disappointed.

Now, this is the reason I prefer stock Android over any other custom skinned UI. I mean, credit where it’s due, the Experience UI here has some great features, like the decently fast face unlock, navigation gestures like in One UI, and I like that it lets you choose if you want certain apps to be pre-installed or not, but ya, the sluggish performance and the ads in the UI don’t make a great case for the Galaxy M20.
Samsung Galaxy M20 Cameras

Moving on to the cameras now. The Galaxy M20 has dual cameras on the back, with the secondary sensor being a pretty cool wide angle sensor, so that’s nice. Anyway, here are some photos from the phone.

Now, as you can see in these photos, the photos aren’t mind-blowing, but they definitely look decent. The colors are nice, the details are good enough and yes, some photos have white balance issues, but it’s generally decent in good light. When it comes to low light, like every other budget phone, the M20 is a mixed bag. Now, the f/1.9 aperture does manage to capture photos with decent light, and some photos are okay but most low light photos have low detail with some noise. So, it’s definitely average.

I also took a few shots from the wide angle lens, and while the quality in wide angle photos isn’t very good, it results in some really cool shots, so it’s definitely good to have.

The M20 also has the live focus mode aka the portrait mode, and it works decently. Most portrait mode photos look good, with some nice colors but some shots do not have the best edge detection. But there’s one problem and it’s the fact that it only works on faces, and it does not work even when someone is looking away.

Compared to the ZenFone Max Pro M2 and the Redmi Note 7, you can see that the Galaxy M20 manages to beat the Asus phone on most occasions, but in almost every comparison, the Redmi Note 7 photos are just way better.

Galaxy M20

Anyway, let’s talk about the selfie cameras on the Galaxy M20. Now, I wasn’t really expecting much from the 8MP camera, and well, I was right in not expecting much, because as you can see, the selfies are pretty average. The selfies lack detail, the colors are off, it’s just not very good.

Moving on to videos, the Galaxy M20 only supports 1080p at 30FPS, and the videos tend to be a little overexposed. Plus, I have noticed that the M20’s autofocus does not work too well in videos and the white balance issues are present here as well. There’s no EIS or OIS either, which means videos aren’t the most stable, and are certainly worse than the Redmi Note 7.

Overall, the Galaxy M20 definitely has decent cameras for a budget phone. It’s not anything extraordinary, but it manages to beat the ZenFone Max Pro M2 in a lot of scenarios, which is great since the Max Pro M2 is one of the best budget phones out there. Having said that, it fares poorly against the Redmi Note 7. The M20’s cameras are no match for the Redmi Note 7.
Samsung Galaxy M20 Battery Life

I am sure you must have noticed that I have mixed feelings about everything in the M20 so far, but if there’s one thing in the M20 that has outright impressed me, it’s the battery. The M20’s massive 5,000 mAh battery lasts long.

Generally, the phone would be around 40 to 50% by the end of the day after being on 100 percent at the beginning, and on most days, I use my phone extensively. My usage includes Google Maps, music on Bluetooth, a few games of PUBG Mobile, usual web browsing, social media, camera usage etc. So, I like the fact that usually the M20 easily went to the second day. Plus, the M20 charges fairly quickly. The phone has a 15W fast charger in the box that charges the Galaxy M20 from 10 to 100% in just 1 hour 50 minutes. It’s really great, because it’s a 5,000 mAh battery we are talking about. The Max Pro M2, which also has a 5,000 mAh battery takes 3 hours to get fully charged, so the M20 is definitely amazing on this front.
Samsung Galaxy M20 Connectivity

Lastly, let’s talk about the connectivity, where again, the Galaxy M20 is a mixed bag. So, the Galaxy M20 has dual 4G VoLTE support and it has the Widevine L1 license, so HD videos on apps like Netflix and Prime Video shouldn’t be a problem.

However, the problem is, that the Galaxy M20 does not have support for 5GHz Wi-Fi. I know, the Max Pro M2 too does not have it, and I know it’s not a big deal in India but honestly, it’s something I expect from every phone.

Unlike in the past, where Samsung has cut costs by dropping sensors, I am glad to say that the M20 does not skip any of the major sensors. It has an ambient light sensor, a gyroscope, the proximity sensor and the accelerometer.
Samsung Galaxy M20: What’s Good and What’s Bad

I guess we have answered pretty much all your questions, so let’s move on to our verdict. It will help us to sum up the good and the bad in the phone.

    Really nice display
    Great battery life
    USB Type-C charging
    Interesting wide-angle camera


    Plain, functional design
    Performance is a mixed bag
    Ads in Experience UI
    Bad photos in low light
    No support for 5Ghz Wi-Fi

Samsung Galaxy M20 Review: Buy or Wait for Redmi Note 7?

Samsung really seems to have made an effort to compete in the budget smartphone segment, but having used the Galaxy M20, I believe Samsung still has a long way to go before it can truly compete with the likes of Xiaomi, Honor or Asus. Look, the Galaxy M20 has decent cameras, the design is functional and practical, the battery and charging is super impressive, but the inconsistent performance just does not match up against the competition.

Plus, there are some issues in Samsung’s Experience UI. The average fingerprint scanner also makes it hard for me to recommend the Galaxy M20. So, if you are looking to buy a budget phone right now, the ZenFone Max Pro M2, which is a great all around smartphone, even though it does not have the best cameras, is the option to go for.

And if you are in no hurry to buy a phone, I’d suggest you to wait for the Redmi Note 7, because the Xiaomi phone is just way better than the Galaxy M20 in almost every aspect from what we experienced.

So, there you have it. That was our Galaxy M20 review. If you still have any doubts, just comment down below and we will respond to them as soon as we can. A lot has changed since Samsung dominated the mid-range market in India with its Galaxy Grand series in and around 2013. At the time, Micromax was its biggest upstart rival, and now Samsung is the one trying to get back into the market, as it looks to break the dominance of Xiaomi, Honor and newer brands such as Realme, and even Asus’s renewed vigor thanks to the ZenFone Max Pro series.

As a result, the sub-Rs 10,000 segment is probably the most hotly contested segment in the market, even more so than the fluid mid-range segment. Samsung is bringing its best to the sub Rs 10,000 segment with the Galaxy M10, priced at Rs 7,990 onwards.

Along with the Galaxy M20, the phone represents Samsung’s biggest bet for the Indian market. The phones are being debuted in India and have been made completely in India, save for the imported SoC and other components. This means Samsung has been able to price it just right, and for once, a Samsung budget phone is competing on even pricing against its rivals.

In theory, the Galaxy M10 should make Samsung’s rivals worry, but can it become the Korean giant’s savior in the Indian market? That’s what we are about to find out after more than a week of using the Galaxy M10.
Samsung Galaxy M10 Specifications

Before we get started on our reviw of the Samsung Galaxy M10, here’s a look at the specs:
Display    6.22” HD+ PLS TFT, 720 x 1520 pixels
Processor    Samsung Exynos 7872 hexa-core 14nm SoC
RAM    2/3 GB RAM
Storage    32 GB, expandable upto 512GB via microSD
Battery    3,400mAh
Primary Cameras    Main Camera: 13MP AF, F1.9 + Ultra Wide: 5MP, F2.2
Secondary Camera    5MP (F2.0)
OS    Android 8.1 Oreo
Sensors    Accelerometer, Barometer, Face Unlock Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor
Network and Connectivity    LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/(2.4/5GHz) Dual VoLTE, Bluetooth 4.2, headphone jack

There are some notable omissions such as the lack of a fingerprint sensor, which is seen in cheaper phones too. It does make the M10 seem less appealing for buyers. Does the phone make up for it with a great user experience?

Samsung Galaxy M10: What’s in the Box

The M10’s retail package is rather sparse, given that this is a budget phone. This is what you get inside the box:

    Samsung Galaxy M10 smartphone
    1 x USB Type-A to Micro USB Cable
    1 x 5V 1A Charging Adapter
    1 x Ejection pin
    User Manuals

Unlike other budget phones, you don’t get a clear Silicone or PVC case along with the Galaxy M10, but the plastic back should help hide some finer scratches.
Samsung Galaxy M10: Design and Build Quality

Like I said in our first impressions piece on the Galaxy M10, the phone seems to have been designed for utility and function, rather than a premium look and feel.

The front has a trendy teardrop notch, which the company calls Infinity-V.  We are still not used to seeing a Samsung phone with a notch, but this one is far less intrusive than most notches in this price segment, which tend to be wide and large. I love how the notch remains out of sight for most parts of the UI, a feeling enhanced by a dark wallpaper.

The screen to body ratio of the M10 is a healthy 81.6 % which is higher than the Realme C1 and Honor 9N, both phones with notches in this price range. I have no complaints with the front of the phone and it looks as modern as many mid-range phones such as the recently-launched Oppo K1.

One thing to note about displays with so little bezel is that the all-glass front picks up fingerprints rather easily. Cleaning the M10’s panel is an hourly chore, one not helped by the fact that the plastic back also picks up smudges easily. The notch holds the 5MP front camera, which is also used for face unlock, and since there’s no fingerprint scanner here, you would be happy to know it works quite fast and unlocks the phone quickly.

The so-called chin is rather large, but in my opinion, it makes the phone easier to hold in landscape for watching videos or for games. Overall, the front of the phone is definitely a step above the competition in this range, and perhaps on par with some more expensive mid-rangers.

    The notch and the slim bezels give the phone an unmistakable modern look

The modern look for the front is in stark contrast to the glossy blue rear in our review unit. The design of the rear panel seems generations older, not helped by the lack of a fingerprint sensor.  The plastic build means handling the phone is easy and there are no real sharp edges to be worried about. The phone feels light despite weighing 160 g, and is slim but it doesn’t feel flimsy.

The only thing that hints at this being a 2019 phone is the dual 13MP+5MP (ultra-wide) camera module, which have become oh-so-common even in the budget segment. The polycarbonate back is not a problem for me – I don’t really expect to see metal in this price range. And despite it being glossy, it’s quite grippy and comfortable to use in one hand.

The sides of the phone are plastic too, since the back wraps around the side for a monolithic look. The sides also start to pick up grime and smudges just as easily – using the phone with food or oil around means it will be dirty as soon as you pick it up.

The left side has the SIM slot, while the right has a clicky power button below the volume rocker. Both the buttons are quite tactile and while they are not the easiest to find blind, you get used to the placement after a day or so. You will find the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, along with a budget-friendly micro USB port and the speaker holes.

I would best describe the Galaxy M10 as a utilitarian phone which doesn’t waste time taking you through the scenic route. It gets straight to the point, and that’s something I can appreciate. Whether the performance matches up to that approach, we will see soon.
Samsung Galaxy M10: Display

Samsung’s Infinity V notch is not intrusive in the slightest, and certainly doesn’t get in the way of the UI. It reminds us of the notch on the OnePlus 6T, which is not a bad thing. We suppose more and more manufacturers will choose to use the single front camera with dewdrop or teardrop or U-shaped notches this year for the affordable segment. In Samsung’s case, the front camera shows a cool rippling or wave effect around the notch when unlocking the phone.

I really like the screen on the M10 – it’s easily one of the highlights of the phone. The 6.22-inch PLS TFT panel has a HD+ resolution of 720 x 1520 pixels with a 19:9 aspect ratio and around 271 ppi of pixel density. It’s obviously not going to make any hearts flutter, but it’s adequately bright, has surprisingly good viewing angles and is quite vibrant as well in color reproduction. That’s surprising given that it is a TFT panel, and not IPS, which are known for the natural colors. The M10’s display is not washed out, if that’s your biggest worry about this phone. The sunlight legibility is quite good too while not great.

The overall color tone of the display is a little cool for my eyes, with a noticeable blue tinge in white backgrounds. It’s certainly a bright spot in the M10’s repertoire.
Samsung Galaxy M10: Performance and Software

The Galaxy M10 is powered by the Samsung Exynos 7872 hexa-core 14nm SoC with 4 x 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 cores and 2 x 2.0 GHz Cortex-A73 cores. For GPU, the chipset has the Mali-G71 MP1.

The phone didn’t seem bogged down by multiple apps open and didn’t seem to have any lag that got in the way of the user experience in the first two days. The combination of the SoC as well as 3GB of RAM provided a decent, stutter-free experience in our first few days with the phone.

There was some very noticeable lag after a couple of days, with apps taking a little longer to load up, after a few days of usage. In my experience, most budget phone users will not have over 70 apps installed on their phone, as was the case with my standard Android backup. Secondly, the impatience with waiting for some games to load is largely due to me being spoilt by flagship-grade performance in my daily phone. For someone who has never used a smartphone, or for those upgrading from older Android budget phones, or Android Go devices, the Galaxy M10’s performance should give no cause for concern.

For gaming, we tried out Asphalt 9 and PUBG Mobile. Neither game looked its best self on this phone, likely due to the less-than-top-tier hardware. Asphalt 9 showed some screen tearing when the cars went into hyper drive, while PUBG Mobile was smoothest at low settings. It’s not the best phone to have for someone who wants to keep gaming on the go, but it’s certainly more than good enough for casual gaming as well as shorter sessions. If you are looking for a budget gaming performer, the Galaxy M20 should be better suited for the task, since it has a newer Exynos 7904 SoC.

The M10 runs Android 8.1 Oreo, with the Samsung Experience UI bringing its share of bloatware to the out-of-the-box software experience. I really dislike the interface of this phone, and perhaps it’s just that I have become used to stock Android or that MIUI or EMUI seem more matured and polished.

I wouldn’t say it’s bad, just that it seems to lack some finesse and fluidity. Once you get used to the UI/UX quirks and Settings pages of Samsung Experience, the experience is more or less like any other budget phone with the only difference being the OEM skin. As for bloatware, the competition isn’t doing any better. At least, Samsung does not inject ads into your notification banner by default like on MIUI.

One can hope that Samsung also releases One UI for its affordable lineup. For software updates, Samsung has said the Galaxy M10 will only get Android Pie in August. That’s almost when Android Q is expected to be out. This can be a major disappointment for potential buyers, unless Samsung changes its mind soon.
Samsung Galaxy M10: Cameras

Dual cameras are becoming very common in the budget segment, but not like the ones on the Galaxy M10. That’s because Samsung has added an ultra-wide sensor, instead of the typical depth sensor found in the competition. We have seen a similar sensor in action in the Galaxy A7 and Galaxy A9 and the wide-angle definitely makes certain kinds of photos look more immersive and impactful.

As one might expect the rear camera has a host of shooting modes and options. Here’s a look at the UI of the rear camera’s modes and Pro photo settings.

Here are some samples from the rear camera:

As you can see, this is not the best example of a good smartphone camera, as the colors are definitely less vibrant than the actual scene, and the lack of detail is woefully obvious. The only positive is that the competition also has similarly average cameras in this price range. We have not really seen a budget phone with a really good camera yet.

And here are a couple of examples of the wide-angle camera in action. The lower resolution wide-angle shot has even less detail than the regular photo.
Ultra-Wide Angle Camera
Main Camera
Ultra Wide Angle Camera
Main Camera

While these are not great pictures, I think it’s more than enough for someone who is using their first smartphone or just using the M10 as a backup phone for travels. These photos might not win you real competitions, but they are more than enough for Instagram, Facebook or your WhatsApp groups.

The notch on the front houses the 5MP f/2.0 selfie camera. These selfies are nothing great and look similar to the ones shot by the competition in this price range. The colors look muted, and the skin tone is definitely not natural. Samsung has added a Live Focus mode which helps you take shots with blurred background. You can also add stickers to you selfies to be shared on messaging apps.
M10 Selfie with Live Focus mode
M10 Selfie Sample
M10 Stickers Sample
Samsung Galaxy M10: Battery Life

Another key focus area for Samsung with the M10 is the battery. Samsung has packed in a 3,400 mAh battery, which falls short of what some of the competition offers – Realme C1, for example, has a 4,230 mAh battery.

The Galaxy M10 should ideally provide all-day usage, and the smaller battery pack is likely to reduce the weight of the phone. At 160 g, it’s already on the heavy side so the weight must surely have been a consideration on Samsung’s part.

When it comes to day-to-day usage, the Galaxy M10 will easily last you the whole day, and you will only need to charge it at night or when you sleep. It’s a fairly long-lasting phone and given that most budget users do not tax their phone’s SoC or GPU all that much, you shouldn’t have a lot of trouble using this phone all day.

With conservative usage, only using the phone to check notifications and with minimal browsing and YouTube, I was able to stretch the phone’s battery life to the next day too, before it died by noon. It’s a really good sign for someone who doesn’t use their phone too much, but still needs to be connected.

The Galaxy M10 doesn’t have fast charging support and comes with a standard 5v 1A charging adapter in the box. Samsung has not mentioned any support for fast charging standards, unlike the Galaxy M20. Charging the phone takes just under 2 hours in ordinary circumstances, with usage while charging. When left alone, the phone gets full in just over 90 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy M10 Review: Samsung’s Comeback?

In my first impression piece, I called the M10 an underwhelming device, and much of that was due to the fact that at first glance, this is not a special phone. But Samsung has finally delivered a decent user experience in the budget segment, and without sacrificing on key specs. The biggest omission in the M10 is the fingerprint scanner, and there Samsung makes up with fast face unlock – albeit not very secure.

Starting at Rs 7,990, the Galaxy M10 competes with the Realme C1 (2019) and the Redmi 6 in India. The 3GB + 32GB variant is priced at Rs 8,999 in India. Both those phones are serious competition with Realme’s momentum and Redmi’s market standing, while Samsung has the pedigree of a premium brand with its after-sales service network. That’s the real benefit with this phone as Samsung has established a great service network over the years, while the other brands are still not on the same level.

In terms of specs and performance, there’s very little separating the M10 from its competition, so Samsung has pulled level in many ways. We also expect Samsung to improve its game when it comes to software updates. I wouldn’t be surprised if the M10 receives security or quality of life updates every month, even if Samsung delays the Android Pie release.
Compared to Galaxy M20 (bottom)

Samsung is hoping to change the budget segment user experience with the Galaxy M10 and over the course of this week, I can see the signs of a company realizing its follies from the past few years, and bringing its A-game to the take on the rivals. At this stage, the M10 puts Samsung on par, but it won’t be long before it faces stiff competition from the new brand of affordable phones of 2019.

Samsung has fired the first shot across the bow of the competition, and it will be interesting to see the response. I am quietly excited for Samsung, as a healthy Samsung tends to bring out the best in the competition in Android. Do let us know what you think about Samsung’s Galaxy M10, and whether it can help Samsung come back as a force to be reckoned with.

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