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Samsung Galaxy S10, S10 Plus and S10e review

Do Samsung's tenth anniversary Galaxy phones live up to the hype? We find out.

Pros

  • Consistently great performance
  • Best screen you can find
  • Excellent camera, especially the wide-angle option

Cons

  • In-screen fingerprint scanner isn’t quite as quick as a physical pad
  • Not the fastest charging phone on the market

First impressions and design

  • One of the few devices with the latest Gorilla Glass 6 for extra protection
  • In-screen fingerprint sensor
  • Super thin bezels and still no notch thanks to “hole-punch” camera

For its long-awaited tenth-anniversary Galaxy phone, Samsung has brought us not one, not two, but three iterations of the S10.

The least expensive is the pocket-sized S10e that comes with a 5.8-inch screen.

The underlying specs are very similar to its two bigger siblings apart from the camera, which lacks the zoom lens, and the innovative in-screen fingerprint scanner, having been equipped, instead, with a side-mounted sensor.

But apart from that it has all the stellar features found in its more expensive big brothers. Just without the hefty price tag.

S10 with box

The Galaxy S10 comes with traditionally wired AKG earphones.

Then there’s the standard S10 with a crisp 6.1-inch display, our favourite of the three. And finally there’s the larger-than-life S10 Plus that, in addition to a slightly larger 6.4-inch screen, packs a dual-lens front-facing camera with an intelligent depth sensor designed for selfie portraits.

S10 Display showing movie

Hands down the best screen on any phone on the market right now.

The S10 range is the product of a decade of innovation and refinement and it shows.

If you’re already a Samsung Galaxy user, you’ll be familiar with the button layout. The power button is located along the right-hand side. And at about the same height but on the opposite side, you’ll find the volume rocker and the dedicated Bixby button that fires up Samsung’s voice assistant.

The presence of this hardware button, introduced on the Galaxy S8 back in 2017, shows that Samsung is serious in offering a valid alternative to Google's when it comes to AI-powered user assistance.

S10 in the hand

The tiny dot camera is much less intrusive than the wide notch seen on many competitors.

The 6.4-inch display takes up almost the whole front of the device. 88.3% of it to be precise. Samsung has been relentless in its effort to remove any non-screen area out of the front of its devices, driving the trend for infinity displays. It started with the introduction of curved sides back in 2014 and then the relocation of the fingerprint sensor to the rear in 2017.

With this latest release, the focus has shifted to removing the black "forehead" that made the Galaxy S9 ever so slightly taller than it needed to be.

While the majority of manufacturers have introduced a notch, Samsung has opted for the much more elegant solution of a "hole-punch" camera. And because it’s much less intrusive than a notch, you'll soon forget it's there, making it ideal for watching movies and playing games.

The Galaxy S10 is waterproof and is built with the latest version of the super tough Gorilla glass. Given its smooth surfaces, however, we’d recommend getting a good quality case.

The other, less visible innovation is in the fingerprint scanner. Samsung has abandoned the tried and tested capacitive sensor, located at the back in the previous generation. Instead it’s gone with an "ultrasonic sensor" located under the display which uses sound waves to trace your fingerprint pattern.

The location could not be better given that accessing it requires the least amount of effort. But the technology is still in its infancy and we have found it ever so slightly slower than the traditional capacitive sensor. Still, it’s still very responsive and much easier to reach than a rear fingerprint scanner.

At the bottom of the device, you'll find a reversible USB-C a loud-speaker and, contrary to current trends, a traditional 3.5mm audio jack, for which we’re very grateful.

Build Metal and glass
Weight 157g (S10), 175g (S10 Plus), 150g (S10e)
Dimensions 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8 mm (S10), 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm (S10 Plus), 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm (S10e)
Waterproof rating IP68
Protection Gorilla Glass 6 (S10 Plus), Gorilla Glass 5 (S10 and S10e)

Want the S10? Take a look at our best Samsung Galaxy S10 deals.

Think you'd prefer the S10 Plus? Here are our best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus deals.

Got your eye on the smaller model? Check out our best Samsung Galaxy S10e deals.


Screen and sound

  • Hole-punch style camera is small and unobtrusive
  • Excellent visibility in almost any condition
  • Great sound from the loudspeaker

The 6.1-inch "Dynamic-AMOLED" screen found in the Galaxy S10 is hands down, the best display you can find in any phone at the moment.

Even compared to the exceptional level of brightness and contrast found in the likes of the iPhone XS, the Galaxy S10 offers superior clarity and readability even in full sunlight.

It’s in the colour reproduction, however, that Samsung has made the most significant changes. The display now hits the highest standard of colour reproduction in the digital cinema standard DCI-P3.

In other words, Samsung has gone to great lengths to make sure movies and TV programmes are rendered as they were intended. And the results are better than anything we’ve seen on a smartphone.

S10 display video

The screen is capable of adjusting its dynamic range on the fly and can cope well with videos that contain a great variety of light levels.

But this isn’t the only factor that makes the S10 the perfect upgrade if you often find yourself catching up on your favourite TV series on your phone.

HDR+ is a little understood but nonetheless very significant feature of this display.

Say you want to play the latest episode of Star Trek during your commute. Any old HDR display adjusts the light range based on an average for the whole episode as soon as the playback starts.

In practice, this means that the fight scene in the gloomy Klingon ship loses much of the details of its darkest corners, for the benefit of rendering more natural colours in the scene where the away team is stranded on the desolate but very bright planet.

With HDR+, however, the light range is allocated dynamically for every frame, and the results are truly remarkable, delivering utterly unmatched video quality.

The technology is still not widely used, but we expect the major streaming providers such as Amazon Prime and Netflix to start supporting for new releases.

The options for colour rendering in the display settings have also been revised to a simple option between the default Natural and a Vivid Mode with a colour temperature slider to adjust to your preference.

S10 Display settings

Samsung has simplified the Screen settings tucking away all but the basic customisation into an “Advanced Settings” menu.

The loudspeaker located at the bottom produces deep sound and superb clarity, placing the S10 among the top performers we have tested this year.

S10 bottom of the device

Audio traditionalist will be pleased to see that the standard headphone jack is still there. The sound is also surprisingly good when using the loudspeaker.

Size 6.1" (S10), 6.4" (S10 Plus), 5.8” (S10e)
Resolution 1440 x 3040 pixels (S10 and S10 Plus), 1080 x 2280 pixels (S10e)
Technology Dynamic AMOLED

Camera

  • The wide angle lens has plenty of applications and it’s great fun to use
  • Augmented reality apps and Bixby Vision are integrated
  • High level of customisation
  • Well designed interface

There are three cameras on the back of the Galaxy S10.

The primary camera is a 12-megapixel "standard" wide-angle lens with Optical Image Stabilisation.

The secondary shooter is another 12-megapixel sensor but with optical zoom lens capable of lossless 2x zoom, also equipped with Optical Image Stabilisation.

Lastly, there’s a 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens capable of a 123° field of view.

S10 Camera lenses

Three cameras at the back. All three deliver useful features with wide appeal.

The wide-angle may not be as sophisticated as the other two lenses as it lacks Optical Image Stabilisation, and is less capable in low light conditions. However, it’s a lot of fun to use and allows you to capture striking shots that are less awkward to produce than panoramas.

It‘s great for holiday snaps, allowing you to squeeze more people and scenery into a single shot.

There isn't much innovation when it comes to the hardware of the primary camera, which appears to be identical to the one found on the Galaxy S9 released last year. But it’s still one of the best around. It delivers consistently good photos with natural colours and no-oversaturation.

The dynamic range is excellent. As good, in fact, as the one found on the raved-about Google Pixel 3.

The lens also supports dual aperture so it will switch between f/1.5 to brighten up dark scenes and f/2.4 which delivers sharp details when the light is plentiful.

S10 reflective back and cameras

The camera lenses can attract fingerprint but Samsung has thought of that too. Smudged lens detection that will let you know when the lenses need a wipe.

The camera software is an area where Samsung has put considerable effort, resulting in a setup that makes it incredibly easy to take brilliant photos without any real skill or know-how.

Bixby Vision allows you to point at an object and retrieve results of similar images, description or shopping options. The S10 also introduces augmented reality tools like room decor and personal styling, which lets you use the selfie camera as a smart mirror so you can try different styles of virtual RayBan sunglasses.

Although the effectiveness and usefulness of these tools is slowly improving, the applications are limited and technology still in its infancy. So, while they’re fun to play with, they might not change your life just yet.

As you would expect from a high-end smartphone, there are plenty of settings available to fit your needs, but Samsung has gone the extra mile with the S10 interface. From intelligent features like Scene Optimiser to shutter button behaviour, focus tracking and even camera modes priority, almost anything can be customised to fit your exact requirements.

Camera Triple 12MP lenses (S10 and S10 Plus), dual 12MP lenses (S10e)
Optical image stabilisation Yes
Unique features Wide-angle lens and scene optimiser


Performance and battery life

The Samsung Galaxy S10 introduces a new iteration of the Samsung interface. It's colourful, highly customizable and overall very well designed.

Samsung proprietary apps are still there, from the web browser to Samsung Pay and Samsung Health, but you'll also find a folder packed with Google apps and another with Microsoft offerings like Linkedin and Office. Facebook and Spotify are also pre-installed.

S10 Screen

You’ll find plenty of pre-installed apps on the Galaxy S10 as well as useful tools like Game Launcher which organises all your games in one place.

All non-essential apps can be disabled but not all can be uninstalled, which is worth knowing if you’re trying to decide how much storage you need.

The basic Galaxy S10 comes with 128GB of storage of which around 20GB are already taken by the system and pre-installed apps. This should be more than enough for most users. But if you're a dedicated gamer or you like to record plenty of videos and don't always have the opportunity to sync to the cloud, we’d recommend opting for the 512GB version.

Having said that, you can always boost the memory with a MicroSD card. So it’s not the end of the world if you run out of memory.

Performance-wise, things never feel laggy and I think this is yet another area where the S10 proves itself to be the best Android out there.

What makes the S10 special is its consistency. Opening and operating the camera doesn't feel faster or slower than browsing the Play Store or checking your emails. The new Samsung Interface called One UI has been optimised and polished to provide a smooth experience that feels comfortable and surprisingly quickly. A sign of an extremely well-designed user interface.

The same attention to detail can be said about battery management. The reasonably sized 3400mAh battery is not the biggest out there but you can expect about the same battery life as many other premium Android phones. So you’re looking at a full day of heavy use or two days of light use on a single charge.

The Galaxy S10 is superior to some of its competitors as its battery management is effective at delivering high consistency.

The fast charger, capable of charging up to 40% in 30 minutes puts it above the Pixel 3. And it’s coupled by the very convenient wireless charging that, when used with a compatible pad, can top-up 20% in 30 minutes.

The Galaxy S10 can itself be used as a charging pad, thanks to the Powershare function. All you need to do is place one compatible device on top of the other, enable wireless charging on both and let your S10 boost the battery of another gadget.

While it can be used to charge another smartphone even when unplugged, there aren’t many people who we like enough to share our phone’s battery with. So for selfish users like ourselves, it’s the ideal solution for small devices such as the Samsung wireless earbuds or the Galaxy Watch.

When it comes to securing your phone, the Galaxy S10 introduces some significant, mostly positive changes. The iris scanner, a highly secure but impractical biometric security feature, seen on both the Galaxy S9 and S8 before it, has now been removed.

S10 Fingerprint

Ultrasonic fingerprint recognition is located in the lower part of the screen.

The capacitive fingerprint sensor, traditionally at the front of the device, then moved to the back, has also disappeared entirely and has been replaced by the innovative ultrasonic fingerprint sensor.

Instead of relying on electrical current as in the traditional capacitive pad, this innovative technology uses high-frequency sound waves that map your fingerprint as they bounce around it.

While the location has its advantages compared to the rear mounted capacitive sensor, it can feel a little slow at times.

Thankfully, Samsung has refined face unlocking. Easy to setup and use, this system relies on the front-facing camera to recognise your face as you swipe. It’s a fast and reliable way to unlock your device.

RAM 8GB (S10 and S10 Plus), 6GB (S10e)
Battery capacity 3,100mAh (S10), 3,400 (S10 Plus), 3,100 (S10e)
OS and version Android Pie 9.0

Value and verdict

As we’ve come to expect from the leading manufacturer of Android phones, this latest release is another steady step in the evolution of what is still the gold standard of Android phones.

Of the three available models, the large S10 Plus offers little extra apart from screen real estate and minor camera improvements. Meanwhile, the cheaper S10e is the perfect option if you're on a budget but would like to stick to a well-known brand with proven reliability and build quality.

Our pick is the "standard sized" S10. It strikes the perfect balance with a very generous screen that still feels compact.

At a time where its competitors are trying to outdo each other with headline-grabbing innovations, Samsung’s response is a premium, superbly refined device that, for all other manufacturers, is the phone to beat.

Decided you need Samsung's latest? Here are our best Samsung Galaxy S10 deals.

Thinking big? Take a look at our best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus deals.

Prefer the smaller model? Check out our best Samsung Galaxy S10e deals.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: galaxy s10, samsung
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