It has been merely three years since the first ever all-5G smartphone launched. Coincidently, it was a Samsung flagship device – the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. However, being a premium device, it was exorbitantly priced. Fast forward to 2023, when 5G smartphones have been democratised and are available across price segments, it is hard to comprehend that this was once a largely exclusive feature. I recently received a brand-new 5G smartphone from the house of Samsung for review – the Samsung Galaxy M14 5G – and to be honest, this affordable phone impressed me considerably during my testing period of one week. Not only does this phone pack 5G connectivity, which was missing in its predecessor, but it also sports a 5 nm processor – a true rarity at this price point. So, does the Samsung Galaxy M14 5G revolutionise the sub-₹15,000 smartphone market? That’s the question I set out to answer, and you will get a definitive answer through my review of the Samsung Galaxy M14 5G.
Samsung Galaxy M14 5G Review: Build and Design
Samsung has been at the top of its design game in 2023 and this isn’t just limited to its flagship series of smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy A34 5G I recently reviewed had an unbelievably premium look for its price – and with the budget Samsung Galaxy M14, you’re once again seeing glimpses of the premium look that the company has set out to standardise across its various offerings.
Now, it would be wrong of me to say that this device looks premium through and through. No, it doesn’t. You still get a dated-looking teardrop notch, a large chin bezel, and a glossy rear panel finish – all of which strip it off of its glamour, so to speak. However, what you are getting here is an acceptable design that is reminiscent of Samsung’s more premium offerings, primarily due to the camera module design.
Like the premium S23 series and the mid-range A34, the three rear cameras are housed in circular ring-like modules minus the metallic strip that runs around the aforementioned devices’ camera modules. The standardisation of the look makes the device more recognisable as a Samsung device. The Samsung Galaxy M13 also had a similar design, and I’m glad Samsung stuck to this formula because it works.
Would we rather have a matte rear back panel? Yes, of course. The glossy panel on the M14 attracts fingerprints and smudges galore. Despite this, the minimalist design looks classy and chic, in my opinion. A clear case would also help mitigate the fingerprint issue while retrieving the overall look of the phone.
The Galaxy M14 5G houses a USB-Type C port, a single speaker, and a 3.5 mm audio jack at the bottom of the phone. On the right, you get the volume rockers and power button, both of which have good tactility. The latter doubles as a fingerprint sensor which is decently fast, but I experienced a few misreads during my testing. The right side houses the SIM tray with slots for two SIMs and a microSD card. The phone is comfortable to hold due to the rounded edges, but it is quite thick at 9.4 mm.
Samsung Galaxy M14 5G Review: Display
The Samsung Galaxy M14 5G has a pretty nice display with smooth 90 Hz refresh rate support. It is a 6.6-inch PLS LCD panel with FHD+ resolution. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 against accidental drops as well. However, it is not without its shortcomings. The PLS LCD panel can’t compare to AMOLED panels which some other phones at this price point offer, one example being the Realme 10.
Additionally, the teardrop notch and the large chin bezel really impact how immersive the display feels. The display is bright enough though. Indoors, I tested the screen using a lux meter and got a reading of 421 nits at maximum brightness, which is great for indoor usage. When you’re outdoors, I suggest turning on Adaptive Brightness because it boosts brightness levels considerably when under direct sunlight. I got a reading of 865 nits outdoors under sunlight, which is decently bright and legibility in sunlight is satisfactory as well.
In my testing though, I found that the Adaptive Brightness feature tends to set the brightness too low when indoors at all times. I often felt the need to manually boost the brightness manually, which was quite bothersome.
The display has natural colours and good detail, however, the viewing angles are mediocre. The display is not HDR certified but does come with Widevine L1 support, so you can watch TV series and movies on OTT platforms in HD. The 90 Hz refresh rate allows for smooth scrolling between screens, when reading articles, and on social media. It’s a welcome addition to the Galaxy M14 since its predecessor missed out on fast refresh rate support.
Samsung Galaxy M14 5G Review: Performance and UI
Fitted with an Exynos 1330 5 nm SoC, the Samsung Galaxy M14 5G seems like an unbelievable performance-oriented beast, on paper. 5 nm processors under ₹15,000 are extremely rare. In fact, I don’t think there were any other smartphones with 5 nm processors under ₹15K other than this one at the time of writing this article. So, naturally, I had great expectations. Was the phone able to fully match up to them? Yes… almost.
The Samsung Galaxy M14 5G comes packing 4/6 GB RAM (I got the 6 GB variant for review) and 128 GB internal storage. The storage is expandable via microSD up to 1 TB, always a great thing to have. Now, the Exynos 1330 processor performs extremely well in most scenarios but there are instances where I faced a bit of stutter and lag when using the phone. This is with the 6 GB variant, mind you.
I ran a slew of benchmarks on this phone as well, and it performed extremely well – especially in CPU benchmarks. I compared the phone’s results with others in and around the ₹13-18K price point such as the Redmi Note 12, Infinix Note 12 Turbo, Moto G42, and Realme 9i 5G. The Samsung Galaxy M14 5G comfortably beat all of these devices in CPU tests such as AnTuTu, GeekBench, and PCMark Work.
I also ran GPU benchmarks on the phone, and the Galaxy M14 5G performed decently well. It beat all phones in the 3D Mark Wild Life and GFXBench Aztec Ruins tests. However, in GFXBench’s Car Chase and Manhattan 3.1 tests, the Infinix Note 12 Turbo and Realme 9i 5G overpowered the Galaxy M14 5G by a small margin. Next, I ran the CPU Throttling Test to check the phone’s performance under sustained workloads, and the phone performed well – throttling to only 82 per cent of its peak performance after 15 minutes of the test.
Owing to these scores and my general experience, I can safely say that the Samsung Galaxy M14 is a capable performer under ₹15,000 that can perform general, day-to-day tasks well with only a few hitches. I recommend the 6 GB RAM variant of this phone, because the 4 GB one may be plagued with even more lag.
Now, I also tried gaming on this phone and through my experience, I can say that this phone is not for hardcore gamers. Light games such as Candy Crush work well and in games such as Call of Duty: Mobile, I experienced pretty smooth gameplay on Medium graphics with minimal frame drops. However, in Apex Legends Mobile, there were frequent frame drops especially when you land on the ground. The phone doesn’t heat much, but the constant frame drops in heavy-duty games can be slightly jarring. However, this is me nitpicking, and the overall performance is quite impressive at this price.
Moving on to the UI, the phone comes with Android 13 out of the box with One UI Core 5.1 on top. One UI Core is basically a stripped-down version of normal One UI. However, it still has some great Samsung features such as Secure Folder, Quick Share, Samsung Wallet, Game Launcher, and a few more. Samsung has also promised two years of OS updates and four years of security updates – which is quite decent. The OS looks clean but has some bloatware in the form of Samsung apps and other third-party preinstalled apps. There’s also Samsung Glance on the lock screen which is hard to disable.
Samsung Galaxy M14 5G Review: Cameras
The Samsung Galaxy M14 5G has a triple rear camera setup consisting of a 50 MP primary lens, 2 MP depth shooter, and 2 MP macro lens. This almost feels like a downgrade, considering the Samsung Galaxy M13 came packing an ultrawide shooter which is far more useful than the macro or depth lens. I would rather have Samsung ditch both the macro and depth lens (since the portrait bokeh effect can be achieved through software) in favour of an ultrawide shooter. The phone also gets a 13 MP camera for selfies.
I tested out all these cameras extensively and was generally appreciative of the results, especially at this aggressive price point. The primary camera takes detailed pictures in daylight with good colour and contrast. The dynamic range is pretty on point in most scenarios, except when there’s harsh lighting in the background. In such cases, shadows get crushed but the highlights are still kept in check. Here are some camera samples. Do note that these photos have been compressed for the web.
Shots taken indoors look good as well, but there is some softness at times. Natural background blur is great due to the size of the lens but I did spot some fringing in a few pictures. Portrait shots look good, and Samsung captures skin tones well. The colours are quite natural, with just a hint of saturation. Edge detection is good for the price, but expect the phone to give people haircuts from time to time when taking portrait shots since it isn’t able to accurately blur out every stray strand of hair.
The 2 MP macro lens clicks some decent shots but you have to hold the phone extremely still for there to be no blur. Focussing via this lens is decent though, not as bad as we’ve seen on some other 2 MP macro cameras at this price.
In low light, the primary camera struggles to preserve detail and the shots taken have a fair bit of noise. If you turn on Night Mode, a lot of these issues are alleviated and you get much clearer and more detailed shots with little noise. Video is limited to 1080p at 30 fps on both cameras and the footage is decent in daylight, but there’s uncontrolled noise in low light.
The selfie camera clicks very good pictures in daylight with natural-looking skin tones and good detail retention. Portrait images from the selfie camera also have decent edge detection. However, in low light, you will see some noise starting to creep in.
Samsung Galaxy M14 5G Review: Battery life
This is where the Samsung Galaxy M14 5G truly shines. Equipped with a ginormous 6,000 mAh cell and the relatively power-efficient Exynos 1330 SoC, the Samsung Galaxy M14 has an extremely long-lasting battery life. Most users should easily be able to squeeze out two days’ worth of battery life on a single charge. If you’re a light user, you may even be able to push it to three!
In our 4K video loop test, the Samsung Galaxy M14 lasted for a whopping 18.5 hours on a single charge. GPS Navigation via Google Maps for one hour only cost the phone 3 per cent battery (from 57%-54%) and watching Netflix for 30 minutes dropped the battery by merely 2 per cent (from 51%-49%).
This is even more than the battery performance we got on the Galaxy M13 which also housed a 6,000 mAh battery. Another area where the Galaxy M14 improves over its predecessor is fast charging. The M14 comes with 25 W fast charging support while the M13 only supported 15 W. I recorded a charging time of 1 hour and 22 minutes to take the battery from 0-100 per cent, which is pretty decent.
Our only gripe here is that you don’t get a power brick in the box. There’s only a USB-Type C charging cable provided, so customers will have to spend more to get one if they don’t have a 25 W charger handy already.
Samsung Galaxy M14 5G Review: Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy M14 5G has a trifecta of strengths – battery life, performance, and camera. It offers great bang for your buck by not only providing you with 5G connectivity on a budget but also delivering in terms of raw performance. While this is definitely not a phone for hardcore gamers who play intensive smartphone games, it is more than capable of running most basic apps without a hitch and even playing games such as COD: Mobile on Medium graphics with ease. And for anyone looking for exceptional battery life – this sets a great standard under ₹15,000.
However, it does miss out on some essentials – a charger in the box, an AMOLED display, and an ultrawide camera. Many of these essentials are present in competing products which could hamper its popularity. All that aside, for those who want a budget 5G phone with dependable performance and an excellent camera, I would be more than comfortable recommending the Samsung Galaxy M14 5G. There are a few misses, but at this price point, they are not really worth complaining about too much. Going back to the question I asked in my intro, does it revolutionise the sub-₹15,000 smartphone market? No. But it is a standout product at this price, without a doubt.
If I had one feedback to give Samsung, it would be to start including power bricks in the boxes of budget smartphones again since most users would not have a compatible charger to power the device up with. They would end up having to buy the charging adapter separately, which negatively impacts both their wallets and the environment.