Review, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review: Setting the Benchmark

Over the past year, Samsung has been rather…risk-averse. While the Galaxy S9 and Note 9 smartphones were very respectable flagship smartphones, they’re not particularly exciting or groundbreaking. Rather, they’re refined versions of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 respectively.

And now, we have the Samsung Galaxy S10+ – the range-topping device in the series. Compared to its predecessors, I’d say it sits in the middle of the Galaxy S8 and S9 in terms of “excitement.” It doesn’t have the wow factor of the Galaxy S8, but it’s not quite as iterative as the Galaxy S9 either.

But one thing is certain: the Galaxy S10+ sets the benchmark on what to expect from a 2019 flagship smartphone, and that’s a good position to be in.

Specifications

Display6.4-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED (3040 x 1440)
ChipsetSamsung Exynos 9820 2.73GHz octa-core
GPU
Mali-G76 MP12
RAM8GB
Storage128/512GB, expandable
Camera (rear)
12MP f/1.5 – f/2.4, OIS, Super Speed Dual Pixel AF
12MP f/2.4 (telephoto), OIS
16MP f/2.2 (ultra wide)
Camera (front)10MP f/1.9, Dual Pixel AF
8MP f/2.2 RGB Depth sensor
Battery
4,100mAh
Dimensions157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm
Weight
175g (glass), 195g (ceramic, 512GB model only)
OSOne UI 1.1 based on Android 9 Pie
ConnectivityLTE
NFC
Bluetooth 5.0
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz)
3.5mm headphone jack
USB Type-C

Naturally, the Galaxy S10+ is as powerful as it gets. It’s powered by Samsung’s latest Exynos 9820 chipset, it has ample amount of RAM at 8GB, it has a huge 4,100mAh battery, and it has a sophisticated camera system too.

Does it lack anything? Not really. Water resistance? Check (it’s IP68-rated). Headphone jack? Check. Support for expandable storage? Also check. Basically, the Galaxy S10+ has an excellent, complete set of hardware.

Design

First things first, let me just say how much I love the Prism White model. At a glance, it looks like any other white smartphone, but shine some light on it, and you get this very nice reddish tint. Pictures don’t really do it justice: you have to see it in person to get the full effect, and no other phone looks quite like it.

Build quality is, unsurprisingly, fantastic. The Galaxy S10+ is very well put-together: the metal frame blends seamlessly with the curved front and back panels, it has a nice heft to it, and it feels solid in my hands. Samsung’s flagship phones have always felt very robust, and the S10+ improved upon this even further.

Okay, I think it’s time we talk about the elephant in the room – the oblong-shaped, hole-punch “Infinity-O” display. Honestly, I don’t find it all that distracting or intrusive. After using the phone for a while, I don’t really notice it anymore, and it’s virtually invisible when I’m playing mobile games and watching videos on YouTube. Games and videos simply don’t use the screen real estate past the hole-punch cutout.

You can hide the cutout, but you’ll be left with a huge top bezel – not the most eye-catching solution.

That being said, there is one thing with the hole-punch that bothers me. Because it’s positioned to the right of the display, the clock, signal, and WiFi icons are pushed to the left of the screen, making it look off-centre. It is not aesthetically pleasing, but some folks may not care too much about this – I certainly do though.

Another thing that I don’t quite like is the sheer length of the screen. The Galaxy S10+ has a 19:9 display, and it’s a very tall aspect ratio. The power button and volume rocker are placed way too high on the sides of the phone, and it’s nigh impossible to reach for the top of the display with one hand to pull down the notification shade. Thankfully, I can swipe down on the home screen to achieve the same effect.

Nonetheless, I like the Galaxy S10+’s overall design. It looks great (especially the Prism White model here), it feels premium, and despite packing a large 4,100mAh battery, it’s only 7.8mm thick. Thanks to the curved front and back glass panels, it feels thinner than it really is.

User Experience

Compared to Samsung Experience, One UI looks a lot more modern and polished. I love the fact that I can now double tap to wake the phone, and more importantly, the software itself still feels lightweight and zippy. It just does what I want it to without much issue, whether it’s switching quickly from one app to another, or launching the camera with a double click of the power button.

However, by default, the icons are comically large on the home screen. I’ve used the Galaxy S9+ as my daily driver prior to this, so switching to the Galaxy S10+ definitely felt jarring. Thankfully, I can resize the icons quite easily in the settings menu.

And then we have the Galaxy S10+’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. When I first tried it, I was very impressed with the speed of the sensor. However, after spending more time with it, the sensor does struggle to read my fingerprint accurately on certain occasions.

It can definitely recognise my fingerprint very quickly most of the time, but there are times where it gets finicky too: I had to place my finger on the sensor several times before it actually works, much like the majority of in-screen sensors. And if my fingers are wet, the sensor will struggle even more.

Then again, if I were to compare this ultrasonic sensor to other in-screen fingerprint sensors, how good is it? Very good; the best there is right now, I would say. But is it as good as a conventional sensor? No it isn’t, and I would still prefer a standard, capacitive fingerprint sensor over this ultrasonic one.

On a more positive note, the Galaxy S10+ is a fast, powerful smartphone. It doesn’t show any sign of slowdown no matter what I throw at it, and gaming on this phone is simply a joy. I can get high, consistent frame rate on PUBG Mobile, and the fantastic front-facing stereo speakers add to the enjoyment too – there’s clear distinction between the left and right channels.

What makes the Galaxy S10+ such a fun device to game on can also be attributed to its excellent 6.4-inch 1440p Dynamic AMOLED display. It’s HDR10+ certified – Samsung claims it’s the first phone with such a certification – so you can expect vibrant colours and excellent black levels with this display.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this is the best display I’ve seen on a smartphone thus far. Samsung knows how to produce incredible-looking displays, and the Galaxy S10+ is a testament of this.

Battery life isn’t exactly the Galaxy S series’ forte, but Galaxy S10+ is an exception. Equipped with a very generous 4,100mAh battery, I legitimately had trouble running down the battery to empty in a single day. On average, I was easily getting between five to six hours of screen on time with this phone, and that’s really impressive.

I’m a heavy smartphone user, and I set the always on display to be active at all times. I imagine lighter users can stretch the battery life up to two days; even more so if the always on display is disabled.

Unfortunately, the charging rate of the Galaxy S10+ isn’t great. Within 30 minutes of charging, the phone only got up to 35% from 0%. Very average charging rate.

I had a lot of fun using the Galaxy S10+ as my daily driver, and even though the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor didn’t live up to expectations, other aspects of the phone more than make up for this – particularly the brilliant Dynamic AMOLED display.

Camera

Camera systems with multiple sensors really blew up last year, and Samsung seems to be jumping on the bandwagon with the Galaxy S10+. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s the most versatile camera system the Korean company has ever released.

The triple camera system on the Galaxy S10+ is made up of a primary 12MP shooter with variable aperture (f/1.5 – f/2.4), a 12MP f/2.4 telephoto sensor, and a 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle camera – plenty of focal lengths to choose from for different kinds of shots and compositions.

While I appreciate having these three sensors on a single smartphone, the disparity in image quality can be bothersome. Naturally, the 12MP primary camera takes the best-looking images, while the 12MP telephoto and 16MP ultra wide sensors produce noticeably worse shots, especially in low light environments.

But beyond this small issue, I had a blast photographing with the Galaxy S10+. The camera interface is very responsive, there’s little to no shutter lag regardless of lighting condition, it can lock in focus extremely quickly, and the image output is, as expected, excellent. It has a wide dynamic range, great detail preservation, and more often than not, it’s effortless to get sharp, blur-free images.

Really, judge for yourself with these shots. The Galaxy S series always had excellent camera performance, and the Galaxy S10+ retains that, while making the camera system even more versatile with lenses of different focal lengths.

Competition

There are two variants of the Galaxy S10+ in Malaysia: the 128GB variant retails at RM3,699, while the 512GB ceramic model goes for RM4,599. Without a doubt the S10+ is an expensive smartphone, and it has a couple of very interesting competition – most of which are more affordable.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Huawei has improved by leaps and bounds in the past few years, and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese company’s most accomplished product yet. It is equally as premium as the Galaxy S10+, it also has a versatile camera system, and it has a slightly bigger 4,200mAh battery. To top it off, you can get the Mate 20 Pro for as low as RM2,649 now – that’s over RM1,000 cheaper than the Galaxy S10+.

However, there are many reasons why you should get the Galaxy S10+ over the Mate 20 Pro. The S10+ has a superior, sharper display without a wide notch, it has a more refined software experience, and unlike the Mate 20 Pro, the S10+ still uses a microSD card for expandable storage instead of a proprietary memory card.

Oh, the Galaxy S10+ still has a 3.5mm headphone jack too – can’t say the same for the Mate 20 Pro.

Samsung Galaxy S9+

Of course, the Galaxy S9+ is still a very viable alternative to the Galaxy S10+. Both devices have virtually the same software experience, the S9+ doesn’t have any hole-punch cutout – albeit at the expense of thicker bezels – and more importantly, it is much more affordable than the S10+.

But if you’re willing to spend more for the Galaxy S10+, you do get a number of improvements. You will get a more versatile camera system, a faster, more powerful smartphone, and much better battery life too. Yes, the S10+ cost a lot more money, but it also a superior smartphone in almost every way.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is an excellent flagship smartphone, no doubt about it. Every noteworthy flagship smartphone that’s released after this will inevitably be compared to it, and Samsung has set the bar pretty high up.

That being said, there are still room for improvement with the Galaxy S10+. The ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, for one, could be better. But as I’ve mentioned, other aspects of the phone are very good. It has a fantastic display, great battery life, and one of the best (and versatile) camera systems in the market now.

If you’re looking to get the absolute best flagship smartphone in the market now, the Galaxy S10+ fits the bill. But that may not be the case for long; as the year progresses, there will be a lot more competition. Huawei, for one, will be unveiling its latest P30 series of smartphones in the next few days.

It’s an exciting time to be shopping for a flagship smartphone. It’s a highly competitive segment, and it will be interesting to see how upcoming flagships will compare to the Galaxy S10+ – the benchmark has been set.