Samsung Galaxy S10 review
The Samsung Galaxy S10 is all about the stunning 6.1-inch Infinity Display. It sets this phone apart from the competition. You get a gorgeous and almost edge-to-edge look, stretching from top to bottom, with pixels spilling over the curved edges at the sides. Gone are the big bezels as they are pretty much inexistent. This is the first Samsung phone with an in-screen fingerprint reader, the first with a triple camera arrangement and the first with an HDR 10+ screen. Inside, Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 mobile chipset makes its first appearance, promising greatly improved processing speeds and a much more efficient power management. This is backed up by a healthy 8GB of RAM and internal storage space, which can be expanded.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 might not have the groundbreaking camera of the Huawei P30 Pro or the astounding battery life of the Moto G7 Power but the total package it brings to the table makes it a serious contender for best Android phone of 2019. If you’ve got to have the best Samsung and arguably the best Android phone, yet don’t see the point in twin selfie cameras or ridiculous zooming capabilities, the S10 is pretty much all the phone you’d ever need.
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Its new Infinity-O screen, borrowed from the Galaxy S10 and S10e models, is so large it means the front camera is a small ‘punch-hole’ in the screen. One wonders how they can fit so much in such small space behind the vibrant and bright Super AMOLED display. The phone also features a new ultrasonic fingerprint sensor and this time they have fit it on the front. You can’t see it but it is there and it is the right place for it.
The Samsung S10 provides you with an impressive 93.1% screen-to-body ratio on the front of the phone. In all fairness, this is truly amazing and we really love it, definitely way better than the traditional notch. After a couple of hours with the Galaxy S10, you’ll forget about the camera punch hole and roll with it.
The three-lens camera behind the phone is all about getting the most out of tech behind. The lenses take normal, telephoto and new ultra-wide photos. The ultra-wide definitely allows you to capture more of what’s in front of you without the need to back up. Honestly, the tech behind to achieve these results is mind-blowing. And the way the camera behaves in low light is incredible, more about this later.
The Samsung S10 supports the cool wireless PowerShare feature, allowing you to use the back of the S10 to Qi charge another phone. How useful in real life this is, it is open to discussion but best to have it than not. What Samsung has done is to take all the best features from all the handsets in the market and fit those in while leaving some room for their own innovation, such as faster Wi-Fi 6 and HDR10+ which are both firsts for smartphones
It’s been a decade since the Galaxy S range and while innovation on smartphones has not been the same rate as on the previous decade with the S10 they have packed enough inside (and outside) to deserve your attention when considering your next upgrade.
If there is one thing Samsung does well are their screens, with even Apple buying them from Samsung for the iPhone phones. That alone should be enough to know that if there is one thing they will get right, it is the display. The Samsung Galaxy S10‘s 6.1-inch 19:9 Super AMOLED display panel looks better than anything you have ever seen, and it has recently been crowned the most color accurate smartphone display ever. It is capable of reaching a retina-blinding peak brightness of 1,200 nits, with support for HDR 10+ content and 10-bit color.
Samsung has also reduced the phone’s blue light emission with the default display profiles, without having to enable the rather heavy-handed “eye comfort” display mode. The readability of these fancy AMOLED panels is also top-notch. Expect a pretty much perfect contrast and, when we shone a torch at the phone’s light sensor, the display was capable of producing a peak luminance of 1,024cd/m².
You can only admire the shiny curved edges with pixels that spill over the sides, increased brightness for better outdoor visibility, and HDR10+ support for superior contrast and color ratio but there isn’t much HDR 10+ content available at the moment so it is hard to test and provide an objective opinion. On top of this, there is a QHD+ resolution too, which provides 550ppi resolution, ensuring every detail on screen is seen crisp and sharp. The only downside we found is with Full HD+ if you use it with a VR headset, as it doesn’t look as good as it could. If you don’t use VR then it is an issue you don’t need to worry about.
The new Infinity-O display type is what stands out. Samsung has successfully implemented a laser-cut hole in the top-right corner of the screen to embed the front-facing camera. It is not less distracting and sits now nicely to the right in the notification bar, providing plenty of space for the time, battery and connectivity icons, as well as any notifications. It goes without saying that you get additional screen real estate, and that translates into a better user experience.
The phone is 157g, lightweight compared to similar phones this size, and it is really thin with dimension 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm. Those marginal increases in height and width are due to the Samsung Galaxy S10’s screen-to-body ratio of 93.1% that we mentioned earlier. The Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus sports that 6.4-inch screen with the same screen-to-body ratio but some people might find that too large to hold comfortably.
The design is not going to be groundbreaking and you’ll remain in familiar territory. Its thinner aluminum frame is sandwiched between smooth Gorilla Glass-coated front and rear, with a range of colors to choose from for the back. Samsung Galaxy S10 colors will vary by region, with the US getting all but yellow and green. It is an overall clean and smooth look in a world of camera bumps and rear-fingerprint sensors as the bump from three cameras at the back are almost unnoticeable.
Samsung has provided two scenarios in which their new Wireless PowerShare would be helpful in the real world. One is charging a friend’s phone and the second one is for charging their Galaxy earbuds at night. Samsung noted, and this is worth bear in mind, that PowerShare won’t work when the phone is below 30%. If you don’t have Samsung’s earbuds or can’t be bothered charging another person’s phone then this is a gimmick, but people will find novelty ways to use these feature in ways we can’t imagine.
There’s little surprise about the positioning of the phone’s various physical elements. The power button, volume rocker and USB Type-C charging port are all in the places you would expect them to be, while the dedicated Bixby button (yes, Samsung is still doing that) also returns to the phone’s left edge, although this can be easily disabled if you want.
In our opinion, the best thing about the Samsung Galaxy S10 is its size. It is thin and lightweight, which makes it easy and comfortable to hold. So much so that it is possible to use the Samsung S10 one-handed, with the curved edges on the front and rear helping to give the impression that the phone is actually narrower than it actually is. We would still recommend a protective case, not just because it is an expensive phone but also because some will feel the glass and metal so smooth that might struggle to get a good grip and possible slip through their hands.
The fingerprint sensor at the front works great and it will work whether your fingers are cold, or even wet, a problem many phone’s optical 3d sensors struggle with. It is not as fast as an optical scanner but it is more reliable, and we are talking about a fraction of a second slower to read, register and unlock the S10, in our opinion unnoticeable in the real world. It takes a little time to get used to applying the right pressure, but you’ll get it right in no time.
The Samsung S10 still gives you the classic 3.5mm headphone jack which is a welcome feature given the fact they are moving towards wireless, with their own galaxy earbuds.
The Galaxy S10 has a dual-aperture 12-megapixel sensor with a triple-lens dual-aperture camera on the back with a 12MP regular lens, 12MP optically zoomed telephoto lens and a brand new 16MP ultra-wide lens, 123-degree lens (the only lens that isn’t optically stabilised). These are the same as the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus have.
The main S10 camera will give you punchy, Instagram-ready colors straight off the blocks and it definitely looks better than the relatively muted photos out of an iPhone. The Samsung Galaxy S10 is one of the best camera phones out now. But not everything is perfect and in HDR mode the background might be a little overexposed in daytime images while giving you a little too much noise/ grain on lowlight. When you deal with lenses and cameras this tiny doing so much, something’s gotta give and in the Samsung S10, it is its HDR. For most people will still be great and might not even notice but then again, it is HDR which many (if not most) never actually get to use but it does help in lifting the shadows and softening the bright areas.
The good news is that we found the Galaxy S10 camera to be more versatile and fun in some ways. Take, for instance, the ultra-wide camera’s 123-degree field of view. It serves the purpose of not having to back up to get everything in a shot. The ultra-wide camera isn’t always sharp (there’s no OIS on this lens like there is on the other rear lenses) and you’ll have to watch out for an unnatural fisheye look at the edges. Anyone unfortunate to be on the edges of a group photo can exhibit ‘fat face’. But when it works, you’re really glad you have this option. Just pack everyone into the centre of group shots, and leave the scenery on the edges. Ultra-wide photos do work really well for landscape shots when people aren’t the main subject.
What we got the most use out of, and fun with is the new Live Focus filter option. Specifically, the color-point filter allows you to go beyond simple bokeh by making the background black-and-white while keeping your subject in the foreground in color. This is really fun and gives you a lot of creative ideas. The camera doesn’t always get the snap right but if you keep pressing the shutter button down it will eventually adjust and work out how to separate the monochrome background from the color foreground eventually. This is something that takes a lot of processing power and it is done almost in real-time, which is amazing. We love this feature and we are sure you will too.
On the front, there is a single 10MP camera. If you upgrade to the S10 Plus, you’ll also get an 8MP camera meant for enhancing depth in portrait photos. In our tests, the difference between the two phones is minor, pretty much irrelevant. Samsung’s S10 single front-facing camera relied heavily on software to blur the edges around the main subject. The S10 Plus dual-selfie cam did better but then again, you get a bulkier phone and not so easy to hold. Is it a compromise worth the higher weight and size? We are not so sure. We were really happy with the S10 results anyway. Samsung’s camera AI will fine-tune things like white balance without you having to do anything, and super fast. Shot Suggestions is a new feature that uses the neural processor engine to nudge you to properly level your shots or frame subjects better. Incredible technology.
On the video front, the Samsung Galaxy S10 offers Digital Video Stabilization. This is meant to make all of your Ultra HD video as smooth as an action cam. Video footage does look superb, with crisp, clean and detailed 4K resolution videos, although the phone’s optical stabilisation is only available if you drop the frame rate down to 30fps. Treat this with a pinch of salt although we discovered it does a really good job. You do need to put some finesse at your end, the camera won’t do everything by itself but we found it stabilised images quite well.
There’s also HDR10+ video recording. It pulls in a wider amount of contrast but you should expect higher file sizes and maybe a few hiccups, as it appears to be experimental we are not 100% of its real value. You might run into issues when replaying clips on another device, as most video players don’t support this format just yet. Time will tell but it is good to have it anyway. The more the better.
Specs and performance
If there is one area where the Samsung Galaxy S10 gets proper upgrades it is under-the-hood. The most noticeable is the new top-of-the-line Snapdragon or Exynos chipsets, depending on which country you live in.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset is really fast. We benchmarked came back with record-breaking multi-score speed. The iPhone XS is still a bit faster, but Samsung is very close at 11,002 to Apple’s 11,481. How about that!! It also comes with 8GB of RAM, a serious and much-needed upgrade over the 4GB of RAM in last year’s S9. In terms of storage capacity, it includes options for 128GB or 512GB of internal storage. There’s no 64GB version to worry about here, and Samsung still supports expandable storage.
In addition, you will find the next-gen Wi-Fi 6, which supports the seamless transition between Wi-Fi connections. Not only that but it is four times faster than 802.11ax making sure your data flows as fast as possible. It should deliver a 20% speed boost which is a substantial gain.
Samsung is notoriously slow to update its S phones to the next version of Android software so be patient before you can upgrade to the new Android Q, which is currently being beta tested by google. But patience will pay off, eventually.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 packs in a 3,400mAh battery, an upgrade over the 3,000mAh capacity of the Galaxy S9. We would have wished for a higher capacity, to be frank, but any upgrade is a good upgrade. Samsung is still quoting the same 24-h battery life for the S10 as it did for its predecessor, and we found this to be accurate. The Galaxy S10 manages to outdo the iPhone XR by over four hours, even if it can’t do any better than the Huawei P30 and Xiaomi Mi 9 for overall stamina.
With a medium use, we regularly got to the end of the day with around 20% left in the tank. Our usage included a couple of hours of Spotify streaming, another couple of hours of video, a range of social media messaging, an hour or two of gaming and a smattering of emails, web browsing and camera use throughout the day. We could say it is medium to high actually so the results were really good as this is more than what the average person would use a mobile for on a single day. Especially as there were battery intensive apps like the games and video and more often than not people use those occasionally. It is good to see that the battery can cope well on a single charge for this heavy use and even heavier if needed.
With more reserved use, it’s possible to get a day and a half from the Galaxy S10 before you have to put it on charging. We found this to be quite good and in line with other phones of similar size.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 is a good and well designed 10th-anniversary phone for Samsung’s S series. The new display has higher resolution, more pixels and all of that packed in a thinner and shinier body. Top that with a triple-lens with a great wide-angle that we feel you could call it ultra-wide, and higher battery capacity. All in all an upgrade worth considering.
You’ll like all of these powerful features, while any friend in need of a short battery boost to their depleted battery will like the new Wireless PowerShare feature. The S10 offers enough to become a tempting upgrade. You won’t be disappointed! We loved the curved edges, 93.1% screen-to-body ratio, and overall performance.
If the Galaxy S10 price is giving you second thoughts for the features you get ( 6.1-inch display, telephoto lens and curved edges) and would like to consider the bigger (and in our opinion better) S10 plus model, read our review here, bearing in mind the bigger size and screen size. If on the other hand, the price for the S10 is too high, you should definitely consider the Galaxy S10e, where we feel you get amazing value for money. Without question, the S10 is a formidable Android phone. We won’t sugar coat it, it is expensive no matter how impressive it is, but it is absolutely worth the upgrade. This is Samsung’s biggest leap forward in years.