Most of Samsung's new A-series and M-series Galaxy smartphones have made been received well by consumers as well as reviewers like us. The Galaxy A70 (Review), Galaxy A50 (Review), and Galaxy M30 (Review) have all been worth recommending in their respective price bands. Now, the company is aiming to raise the stakes in the sub-Rs. 20,000 segment again with its new Galaxy M40.
The highest ranking member in the M-series series thus far, the Galaxy M40 is the first Samsung phone, other than its flagship S10 series models, to sport a hole-punch display. Incidentally, this also makes it the first phone in the sub-Rs. 20,000 segment with this feature. It's also the first time we've seen Samsung ditch the earpiece and go with a vibrating screen for voice calls. The rest of the specifications are pretty solid too, which makes this a very interesting pick.
Is the Galaxy M40 a sure-shot winner in the sub-Rs. 20,000 segment? It's time to find out.
The physical design of the Galaxy M40 isn't all that different from the others in the M-series. It features a glossy plastic frame and rear panel. The body attracts fingerprints very easily but surprisingly, it isn't too slippery for one-handed use. The buttons are clicky but we found the volume rocker to be a little out of reach. The plastic rear picked up minor scuffs and scratches quite easily with ordinary everyday use. It would be advisable to invest in a case, since you don't get one bundled.
The 6.3-inch display (6.1-inch factoring in the rounded corners) has Gorilla Glass for scratch protection and a full-HD+ resolution (1080x2340 pixels). However, it's a PLS TFT LCD panel instead of Samsung's Super AMOLED panels, which are used on the Galaxy M30 (Review) and similarly priced A-series models. This isn't a very big deal as the display is bright, produces vibrant colours, and has good viewing angles.
The bezels around the display are noticeable but relatively slim, including the chin at the bottom. When displaying anything with white or light-coloured backgrounds, there is some noticeable vignetting around the bottom edge of the display and some around the hop-punch area. It's not severe but it's something that you can't unsee, once you notice it. This isn't something we've noticed on Samsung's AMOLED-based displays on phones such as the Galaxy A30 (Review).
The hybrid SIM tray on the left can accommodate either two Nano-SIMs or a single SIM and a microSD card (up to 512GB). You can't use all three cards at the same time, like you can with the Galaxy M30. Thankfully, you do get plenty of internal storage. It's also a little tricky trying to get a Nano-SIM into the first slot, as it seems a tiny bit too small. The SIM kept popping out the moment we tried to push the tray back into its slot. We had better luck with the second SIM slot.
Other than the missing earpiece, the Galaxy M40 also lacks a 3.5mm headphone socket, which seems to be a trend that Samsung has now jumped on board with. Thankfully, Samsung bundles a Type-C headset in the box, which is yet another surprise considering the price this phone is selling at. We would have liked to see a Type-C to 3.5mm adapter as well, for enabling use of your existing headphones.
At the back, the triple camera module is aligned to the left of the phone, with the LED flash placed just below it and a fingerprint sensor in the middle. The sensor is placed a little higher than we would have liked, so a little bit of hand shuffling is needed to use it. It's fairly accurate at authentication, but it takes a second longer that we'd like to wake the screen up. Face recognition is an option, but this isn't very quick either. Authentication takes a couple of seconds in low light, which isn't ideal.
Overall, the Galaxy M40 is a comfortable phone to live with. We especially liked its slim and compact body and the low weight of just 168g. The Midnight Blue variant that we had for review got messy rather quickly, and we can't say how the lighter Seawater Blue option would look after being used.
In the box, you get a SIM eject tool, 15W adapter, Type-C cable, and the Type-C headset.
The core specifications of the Galaxy M40 are identical to the more expensive Galaxy A70 (Review). You get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 SoC, which we first saw in the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review). There's only one variant of the Galaxy M40 in India right now, which features 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Other specifications include dual 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 5, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, NFC, FM radio, and USB-OTG. Sensors include the usual ambient light sensor and accelerometer, plus a Hall sensor, and a gyroscope. The Galaxy M40 has a “virtual light sensor” for adjusting the brightness of the screen, but it's a little slow at adapting to the ambient light around you.
In terms of software, the Galaxy M40 runs on OneUI 1.1, which is based on Android 9 Pie. The phone recently got an update, to the May 2019 Android security patch. The features are very similar to what we've already seen on recent Samsung offerings , so there's not a whole lot that's new to talk about here.
You can customise the phone's theme, use Google's Digital Wellbeing feature to monitor your usage habits, configure motion and gesture shortcuts, and enable Dolby Atmos for wired or wireless headphones. Some features such as the Always-on display are missing, since the Galaxy M40 does not have an AMOLED panel.
OneUI has the tendency to spam you with unwanted notifications, however if you pay attention when setting up the phone and uncheck the relevant options, you can have a relatively spam-free experience, like we did. Surprisingly, this phone doesn't support Samsung Pay or even Samsung Pay Mini, despite having NFC, which is a shame.
Regular app and UI performance is very good. We used the Galaxy M40 on a daily basis for several days and didn't find anything major to complain about yet. Apps launch quickly, the interface is smooth, and the phone doesn't get too hot when running simple chat and social apps.
Benchmark performance was good too. In fact, most of the scores were a bit higher than those of the Galaxy A70 (Review), which also has the same SoC and RAM. In AnTuTu, we got a score of 1,71,177, while PCMark Work 2.0 returned a score of 7,501.
Games ran smoothly too, but the Galaxy M40 does heat up quite a bit when playing heavier titles such as PUBG: Mobile. Even a 10-minute match made the back of the phone quite hot, although it wasn't unbearable. The volume from the bottom speaker was quite low in PUBG, but in other apps such as YouTube, it was fairly loud.
The Type-C headset has a balanced sonic signature, with good details in the mids, crisp highs, and satisfying bass. The in-line remote also lets you control music playback. Dolby Atmos helps boost the volume and improves the soundstage.
The narrow borders around the display result in quite an immersive feeling when watching videos or simply viewing any content. Most apps automatically mask the hole-punch area but you can force them to use all of the screen space, if the cutout doesn't bother you.
For voice calls, Samsung's Screen Sound technology works quite well. The first time you receive an incoming call, you get a visual overlay which shows you the ideal area to place your ear. We had no trouble hearing the caller, but voices sounded slightly hollow. You can also feel a mild vibration intermittently when the person is talking on the other end. It's a different experience and is something we got used to after a bit.
The phone is Widevine L1 certified, which means you can stream high-resolution movies from platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
The three rear cameras on the Galaxy M40 consist of a 32-megapixel main sensor with an f/1.7 aperture, an 8-megapixel wide-angle sensor with an f/2.2 aperture, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor. There's no optical stabilisation. Sadly, autofocus isn't very quick either. However, the phone can shoot video at up to 4K at 30fps and can even do slow-motion video at 240fps, but at 720p resolution.
The main sensor saves a 12-megapixel image by default, and you manually change the resolution to the full 32 megapixels. The lower resolution does result in slightly better details, so it's best to stick with that option.
Under good light, the main camera captures decent details and colours are also well represented. Photos look good on the phone's display, but upon closer examination, finer textures and sharpness aren't always up to the mark. There's usually a bit of grain on the sides of the frame, and highlights can look overexposed.
There's also noticeable shutter lag with the main sensor, which causes motion blur in objects that aren't completely still when you shoot. Even slight handshakes in less than ideal lighting can cause mild blurring around the edges of your subject.
The wide-angle camera is fun to use as it lets you capture interesting perspectives, but details are considerably weaker and there's no autofocus.
Macros fare a lot better in daylight. Colours are punchy and the level of background blur is good. The camera app also has Samsung's Scene Optimiser, which tries to optimise camera settings for the subject or scenario. Sharpness is also very good.
The phone has a ‘Live Focus' or portrait mode, which worked well for object and pets, but weirdly not so much for people. Whether it was shooting indoors or outdoors, under ample light, we often had inconsistent edge detection for the background blur.
The Galaxy M40 struggles a bit in low light as autofocus gets a bit slower. Even with still objects, details are lacking and edges aren't very well defined. Landscapes aren't much better either, as details are mushy and dark regions get a little grainy.
The 16-megapixel selfie camera shoots fairy average-looking photos, but shutter lag is an issue when there isn't a lot of light around. There's portrait mode too, which works decently well.
Video quality is good at 4K and 1080p, but there's no stabilisation at either resolution, which means if you move about then you'll end up with shaky footage. Super slow-motion footage looks good, but you can only do this in short bursts.
Battery life is one of the Galaxy M40's strengths. The 3,500mAh battery lasted for a good 15 hours and 30 minutes in our HD video loop test, and with regular use, we managed to average a full day on a single charge. With heavy use, which included lots of camera and benchmark usage, we still managed to get almost 20 hours of runtime. The phone supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology with the bundled 15W fast charger. We were able to get from zero to 47 percent in 30 minutes, and up to 86 percent in an hour.
The Samsung Galaxy M40 crams in a tonne of features, which instantly makes it a very attractive option even amongst Samsung's other A-series and M-series offerings. Some of its highlight features are segment firsts, such as the Screen Sound tech for voice calls and a hole-punch display. Add to that the ample RAM and storage and the powerful SoC — all of it sounds too good to be true. However, Samsung has had to cut a few corners to sell the Galaxy M40 at this price.
While the LCD screen does deliver good brightness and colours, the vignetting around the edges can be distracting, especially if you're a stickler for such things. We would have preferred one of Samsung's AMOLED panels here. Photos taken with the Galaxy M40 are quite average and the autofocus speed could have been better. The hybrid dual-SIM slot might be of concern too, especially considering that other phones such as the Galaxy A70 (Review), Galaxy A50 (Review), and Galaxy M30 (Review) have a dedicated expandable storage slot. Face recognition isn't very speedy, and we don't see why the headphone socket has been left out.
It seems as though Samsung is going the Xiaomi route, launching multiple offerings with overlapping features in a very small price range. On paper, the Galaxy M40 looks like a better offering than the Galaxy A50 (Review), and in some ways, it is. However, there are still a few reasons to pick the Galaxy A50 over the Galaxy M40. You'll be getting a slightly weaker SoC and less storage (even on the higher-end variant version), but you gain a larger battery, AMOLED display, and a headphone jack.
The Samsung Galaxy M40's processor is good for gaming, but if that's your priority, then the 6GB version of the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) is possibly a better choice and is available for less. Let's also not forget the Poco F1 (Review), which offers a Snapdragon 845 at Rs. 17,999.
The Galaxy M40 feels like it's trying to cater to all audiences, and while it is definitely a segment disruptor, it falls a bit short of being the undisputed leader that it could have been. With that said, it's still a solid overall performer, and the most polished M-series offering by Samsung till date.
Is the Samsung Galaxy M40 good enough to beat Redmi Note 7 Pro? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.