The Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus are two smartphones full of technical highlights, from ultrasonic fingerprint scanners to triple cameras. You can read how you like it in this Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review
As an Android user, you have a lot of smartphones to choose from. Even if you limit yourself to the top devices alone, in the coming months you will have a choice of OnePlus 7, Huawei P30, Xiaomi Mi 9, LG G8 ThinQ, Nokia 9 PureView, Sony Xperia 1 and the Samsung Galaxy S10. Despite that huge range, the vast majority of all United States people probably go for Samsung. It is still by far the most popular Android manufacturer in our country.
Fortunately, Samsung does enough every year to earn that popularity. Also with the Galaxy S10, they have added many features that should ensure that the device stands head and shoulders above the competition. From a full screen with a camera hole and fingerprint scanner to three cameras on the back and the fastest hardware. Is that enough in a market in which that competition is becoming stronger?
Note: although in this review I quote both the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, it is mainly based on an extensive test of the Galaxy S10 Plus. We could only try out the normal model for a short time. However, the differences between the two smartphones are minimal – see also later in this review. You can expect an extensive, separate Galaxy S10e review on Golobal Tech soon.
Design: an elegant solution for the notch
Samsung has been working towards larger screens on a smaller surface for a few years now, and the ‘Infinity O’-display of the Galaxy S10 is the provisional highlight. At the top is a minimal bar, because Samsung has placed the selfie camera in the screen. At the bottom, there is another narrow bar, but in total more than 93 percent of the front screen. Because the image also slopes obliquely in the side, an impressive front-filling design is created.
Because of those smaller edges, the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus are the same sizes as their predecessors, despite the larger screens. The Galaxy S10 with a 6.1-inch screen is 70 millimeters wide and 150 millimeters high, the Galaxy S9 79 millimeters wide and 148 millimeters high. The new devices are even slightly lighter: 157 grams for the Galaxy S10, 163 grams for the Galaxy S9. The larger screen therefore definitely does not make for a lomper device.
I experience the camera hole as an excellent alternative to the notch. Such a notch feels almost like a bite out of the screen, no matter how small it is. However, with a hole exactly the same size as the camera, the impact remains limited. Because more and more menus and apps are already partly or completely black, the gap falls away nicely.
The hole is flat with the rest of the screen and nicely finished. The entire display has a consistent brightness, even right next to the camera hole. With the Honor View 20, another smartphone with a camera on the screen that appeared earlier this year, it was different. There the image was slightly duller and darker at the edge. This is absolutely not the case here.
Samsung also deserves kudos for retaining design elements that have been deleted by others. The Galaxy S10 is one of the few top models with a headphone connection. The device also has space for a memory card and wireless charging is supported. It can hardly be more complete.
Screen: class as usual
The screen is, as we are used to from Samsung, top class. The maximum brightness makes the screen so bright that you can still read the S10 even in full sun, while the lowest brightness dims everything enough that your eyes do not burn away immediately when you grab your smartphone in the dark in the morning. In terms of sharpness, you have nothing to complain about thanks to the high resolution of 3040 by 1440 pixels.
In the past, Samsung was criticized for the colorfastness of the image. The manufacturer chose to make the AMOLED screen vivid and colorful, and that was sometimes at the expense of what it really should look like. It all looked very nice, but for color purists and image editors it was far from ideal. Samsung has finally listened to this criticism this year and is now giving users options. In the settings, you can switch between ‘natural’ and ‘vibrant’ colors, and adjust the white balance manually.
Fingerprint scanner: rather on the back
The Galaxy S10 is one of the first smartphones equipped with an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner in the screen. It uses sound waves and vibrations to make a 3D scan of your finger. According to Samsung, that is better than the optical fingerprint scanner that is for example in the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro. There is a small camera under the image that makes a scan of your finger. Such a scanner would work less well with water on it.
Then there are the disadvantages that every smartphone with a scanner on the screen has. For example, the relatively small field on which you can place your finger is hard to find by touch. If the device is on standby, then it is necessary to find out exactly where your finger should be. After a while, you can remember that, but it is never as easy to find as a small notch on the back of your finger. Moreover, the ultrasonic scanner does not work well with thicker screen protectors, so you miss a bit of protection if you want to use the scanner.
It would have helped a lot if the Galaxy S10 still had an alternative security method. Unfortunately, the options in that area are too limited. Face recognition is present, but it is entirely based on the selfie camera. That way you can unlock it with a picture of yourself. There was no room in the camera hole for more advanced face recognition technology. If the fingerprint scanner annoys you, you are actually dependent on a pin code or pattern, and that will no longer be sufficient in 2019.
Software: OneUI has been cleverly addressed
The Samsung Galaxy S10 is equipped with Android 9.0 (Pie) with the OneUI interface. Previously the Samsung interface was sometimes maligned on this site, but I am very pleased with OneUI. The software is optimized to use the smartphone with one hand as much as possible. In many of the included Samsung apps, the top of the screen is filled with information, and the buttons are all on the bottom half. This makes it easy to reach them if you hold the device. It is a concept that sounds simple, but it works surprisingly well, especially on the larger screen of the Galaxy S10 Plus.
Samsung provides a whole slew of pre-installed apps. Not only own services such as Samsung Health and the Galaxy Store, but also Microsoft apps such as LinkedIn and Office Mobile. None of them are unfortunately removable.
Samsung’s update policy is very good these days, especially for the Galaxy S series. The manufacturer rolls out monthly security updates for at least three years after the release. In practice, support for the most popular devices continues even afterward. Moreover, Samsung is usually faster with these updates than most competitors. Also, updates to Android Q, R and maybe even Android S in the coming years are fairly fixed. So you don’t have to worry about support much.
I can be brief about Bixby, the smart assistant that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S8. The assistant adds very little and is in no way better or smarter than the Google Assistant. You can also use the latter in the United States since the end of last year and is by far the best voice assistant on Android. Fortunately, you can relatively easily link the Bixby button on the side to the Google Assistant.
Hardware: speed is fixed
The entire Galaxy S10 family is equipped with an Exynos 9820 chipset. That is an 8nm chip with eight cores: four from 1.9 GHz, two from 2.4 GHz and two from 2.7 GHz. You can put countless benchmarks on it and they will all agree: this is one of the most powerful chipsets of the moment. Only the iPhone and some Android devices with the Snapdragon 855 know how to match that speed and computing power.
In practice, you notice that especially in how quickly everything appears on a screen. Fast switching between tabs and numerous websites in Chrome goes without a hitch, and also a graphically intensive game like Fortnite is no problem for the Galaxy S10. Thanks to the large 8 GB memory (6 GB in the S10E), you can effortlessly switch quickly and a lot between all your apps in the background.
All devices in the series are equipped with a minimum of 128 GB of storage space, of which more than 100 GB is available for users. That should be more than enough to cram the device full of apps, games, photos, videos, and music. If it is unexpectedly not enough, then the Galaxy S10 also has space for micro SD memory cards of 1 terabyte at most. For a little more money, Samsung also sells variants of the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus with more storage space.
Camera: not surprisingly good, but also not surprising
Samsung was just about the only major manufacturer last year where the flagship does not have a dual camera. With the Galaxy S10, they more than make up for it by putting three cameras on the back. You first have the primary camera of 12 megapixels, which thanks to a variable aperture of f / 1.5-f / 2.4 can also take sharp photos in low light situations.
Then there is the telephoto lens, also of 12 megapixels. You can use this to zoom in twice optically, without losing the quality of the image. Handy if, for example, you want to zoom in on the details of a building, or if you want to practice macro photography. The third camera is a 16-megapixel wide-angle lens. It has an angle of view of 123 degrees, which means that you can shoot very wide photos with it.
With the primary camera, you can shoot very beautiful photos in just about all circumstances. The image is sharp, colorfast and full of details. The Galaxy S10 shoots quickly and sharp even at dusk or in the dark. With the other two cameras, the image is also good, but just a little less impressive. If you take a picture with the wide-angle lens, the picture will look good on a small screen, but it will soon be out of focus as soon as you zoom in a bit.
This makes the camera not as big an upgrade as I had hoped in advance. The photos are absolutely more beautiful, and the two extra lenses are great gimmicks. But if you look at the Night Sight function of Google Pixel smartphones, the five cameras on the Nokia 9 PureView or the periscopic zoom at Huawei and Oppo, you can see that the competition is taking bigger steps. The Galaxy S10 has one of the best smartphone cameras of the moment, but the innovation seems to come from the competition.
Samsung has also crammed the camera app with all sorts of other features, often known from previous years. Consider super slow motion videos, AR Emoji and Bixby Vision, for example. They work at most slightly more stable and better than in previous years, but they are still gimmicks that you will rarely or never use in practice.
Battery: mega battery turns out to be mid-engine
The Galaxy S10 has a battery with a capacity of 3400 mAh, the S10 Plus even has a 4100 mAh battery. Yet with the S10 Plus, I often made it just a full day without recharging. I probably use my smartphone more intensively than most people. I often have Bluetooth devices paired, and I switch between apps all day long. On a somewhat busier day, the battery had to be on the charger around 7 p.m. to reach the end of the day. Limiting the resolution to full HD also did little.
Even with the relatively normal use of apps and functions, I usually get a screen-to-time of just five to six hours on the Galaxy S10 Plus. That is absolutely reasonable, but with such a large battery capacity I would have expected more. Samsung is being overtaken by the competition in this area, in particular, Huawei. The Mate 20 Pro has a similar battery, but a screen-to-time of 7 to 8 hours was the rule rather than the exception.
Another area that Samsung is lagging behind by standing still: the charging speed. The Galaxy S10 comes with a 15-watt charger. That has been the maximum charging speed of Samsung smartphones since the Galaxy S7 in 2016. That definitely still falls under ‘fast charging’, and it is a lot more powerful than the 5-watt charger that comes standard with an iPhone. But the competition is now doing better.
The 4100 mAh battery of the Galaxy S10 Plus is after 42 minutes full charge again for 42 percent. You need approximately one and a half hours for a full battery. For comparison: with the included charger of the iPhone XS Max it takes more than three hours to get the battery full. But Samsung’s largest Android competitors are much faster. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro, with a 40-watt charger and a 4200 mAh battery, is already 70% full after half an hour. The entire battery is full in one hour. Even the Moto G7 Plus, a budget device of only 300 euros, has a more powerful 28-watt charger that gets the battery full in about an hour.
Differences with the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10e
This year, Samsung is releasing three versions of the Galaxy S10 at the same time for the first time. I tested the most expensive model for two weeks, the Galaxy S10 Plus. It has a fairly high suggested retail price of 999 euros but is equipped with just a few extra features. For example, the Plus has the largest screen, 6.4 inches, and also a larger battery of 4100 mAh. He also has a second selfie camera in front, which is used as a depth sensor so that you can add a bokeh effect.
The Galaxy S10 offers a 6.1-inch screen, a 3400 mAh battery, and a single selfie camera in front for 899 euros. The new entry-level model is the Galaxy S10e, with a suggested retail price of 749 euros the cheapest of the three. Here the differences are slightly larger. The Galaxy S10e has a smaller screen of 5.8 inches, with a lower full HD resolution. Moreover, it is not sloping in the edges, but flat. The fingerprint scanner is not on the screen, but in the power button on the side. In addition, there are only two cameras on the back: the telephoto lenses have been scrapped.
Conclusion Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review
The Galaxy S10 shows that Samsung is still very strong when it comes to its flagship products. The screen is world-class, the chipset incredibly powerful and the cameras shoot excellent photos. However, some of the changes that Samsung is making this year are more gimmicks than actual improvements. The fingerprint scanner on the back had worked better, and the two extra lenses are not nearly as strong as the primary model.
If you buy the Samsung Galaxy S10, you buy a device that is very well finished. It is the smartphone of a company that is already at the top, a company that has (rightly) confidence in its own abilities. But it is also a company that should not rest too much on its laurels in the coming period. Let’s hope that next year, Samsung will not again be particularly busy with gimmicks, but will also be surprised with the best night photos, the very best battery, and improved security. Then you know for sure that Samsung will be at the top next year.
Buy Samsung Galaxy S10?
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