Samsung Galaxy S10 Review: Hands-on

After the Galaxy S9 looked practically the same as the S8, Samsung had to find a way to tweak its winning big display smartphone formula enough to make the S10 look like a new step forward.

The company has done this by skipping the trend for notches and opted for the newer hole punch-style cut out for the front-facing camera. This pushes the 6.1in screen’s borders even wider, the bezels even narrower and the price even higher.

We went hands-on with the Galaxy S10 before Samsung’s Unpacked event. Here’s our first impressions of Samsung’s new flagship smartphone.

We also took a look at the Galaxy S10e and the Galaxy S10 Plus.

Price and availability

The Galaxy S10 will cost from £799 / $899 for the base model.

It’s available to pre-order now. All pre-orders get you a free pair of the new Galaxy Buds wireless headphones.

It’s a Galaxy phone, so it’ll be available absolutely everywhere in the UK and US. Make sure to check you’re getting the best price with our best Galaxy S10 deals.

Samsung also announced a Galaxy S10 5G edition that is to be launched later in the year. It has a huge 6.7in display and will, unlike the other S10 phones, support upcoming 5G data network speeds.

Infinity but not quite beyond

If you thought the S8 and S9 had small bezels, the S10 looks even better – if you’re into the look. By moving the front camera into the actual display, the S10 achieves a 93 percent screen-to-body ratio.

We’ve seen similar looking displays on the Oppo Find X with its slider and the Honor View 20 with a cut-out but it’s the first time a Galaxy S phone has had any form of notch.

We don’t think it’s a big deal but you might not like the idea of a floating camera module in the top right of your actual screen, with icons pushed to the left rather than being in the top right corner.

But side by side with the Galaxy S8 or S9 the S10 is impressive, and makes the bezels of the older phones somehow look huge. The S10’s display is, as usual, the best you’ll see all year Samsung really knows how to calibrate an OLED panel and while Apple’s are more colour accurate, if you like the saturated vibe here you’ll be more than happy.

Outdoor viewing is exceptional as are the viewing angles. If there was ever a display to get lost in, this is it. But that cut-out camera is going to bug you when watching full-screen videos.

The design language is largely the same as before here, with a glass sandwich that attracts fingerprints. The new colours of green and white go with a slick Samsung black, and we’re pleased to see – still – a headphone jack on the bottom edge.

What’s new?

The biggest upgrade on the regular S10 is the camera set up. Instead of the one lens on the small S9 you now get three – and it’s the same set up as on the larger S10 Plus.

There’s the same 12Mp wide main lens with a variable aperture of f/1.5-2.4, a 16Mp ultra-wide f/2.2 and a 12Mp f/2.4 telephoto. We’ve seen triple camera arrays on phones like the Mate 20 Pro and LG V40 but it’s good to see Samsung bring it to the S line.

We noticed a very smooth transition when moving between lenses in the updated camera app and it should prove to be a great user experience. We’ll judge whether image quality has improved in our full review.

Samsung told us it has added better stability to video capture along with shot suggestions and a scene optimiser. Hopefully these software tweaks won’t get in the way like they do on LG’s AI modes.

The phone is whip fast out the box, running on the 8nm Exynos 9820 in Europe and the Snapdragon 855 basically everywhere else. Samsung’s version of Android 9 Pie, One UI, is a major redesign of it’s operating system and it’s very good.

At first glance it’s a little bright and bold but within the menus and apps there are creative and thoughtful changes – great to see from a company that used to think a water drop sound on every button press was a good idea.

The S10 has 8GB RAM as standard with a choice of 128- or 512GB storage. This is great to see especially with the bonus of up to 512GB storage in the microSD slot. A Terabyte in your phone in 2019 began with the Note 9 and means the Galaxy S10 will bring the functionality to the mainstream (not that everyone will take advantage of it).

Gimmicks and upgrades

A slightly pointless addition that’s playing catch up with Huawei is the S10’s wireless power share. Turn it on and place the phone face down and it turns into a Qi charging mat. You can charge any Qi device on it including the new Galaxy Buds in their charging case.

This is a gimmick as it means you can’t use your phone when charging things, but it at least could be useful if your phone is plugged in and charging at night to share power with headphones or your smartwatch. It’ll charge a second phone very slowly, though.

Users will probably find it most useful for giving the Galaxy Buds juice if they run out.

A more useful upgrade in the S10 is the 3,400mAh battery up from 3,000mAh in the S9. The S10 Plus will be the battery champ here with 4,100mAh but the regular S10 needed the boost given the big bright display it has to power.

Samsung quietly had to remove the iris scanning biometrics it so hyped up on the S9 as the bezel-less design means it can’t fit in an infrared light. Instead you have 2D face recognition or an in-screen fingerprint sensor.

The latter worked well in a demo and is secure enough for mobile payments and secure apps. Samsung says the ultrasonic tech means it works in the cold and wet unlike competitors’, but we haven’t tested this yet.

Early verdict

Samsung would have you believe the S10 is a giant leap forward when really it’s just an evolution of the already excellent Galaxy S line. The thin bezels and camera cut out might not be to your taste, but we can’t argue with the quality of the amazing display.

The addition of three cameras on the regular model is a great move by Samsung and means you only lose out on screen size, battery size and the extra front facing camera by getting the smaller, cheaper S10.

We’ll have a full review on Tech Advisor very soon.

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