Hands-On, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S10 Series Hands-On: Jack of All Trades

After months of rumours and leaks, the Samsung Galaxy S10 series is official. As expected, there are three different devices in the series: the Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, and Galaxy S10+. There’s also the Galaxy S10 5G with support for (you guessed it) 5G connection, but that isn’t shipping until the second quarter of 2019.

With three different devices in the lineup, the S10 series is more versatile than ever, and there’s bound to be at least one device that you’d prefer over the other two. I’ve spent some time playing around with these three new shiny phones, and while they’re not the most radical devices to come from Samsung, the S10 series is a solid offering.

Out of the three devices, my personal favourite is the Galaxy S10e. Even though it’s not quite as sleek as the other two devices (it doesn’t have a fancy curved display, triple camera system, or in-screen fingerprint sensor), it’s the most compact phone here. I love the idea of small, powerful smartphones, and this is the S10e’s best quality.

Just because the Galaxy S10e is the most affordable device in the series doesn’t mean it has to feel or look cheap. It has solid build quality, it looks premium, and it’s doesn’t lose out much in terms of hardware.

It’s still powered by the same chipset as its more costly siblings – the Malaysian market is getting the Samsung Exynos 9820 variant – it still has the same rear camera system (minus the telephoto sensor), it comes with 128GB of expandable storage, 6GB of RAM, a 3,100mAh battery, and hey, even a 3.5mm headphone jack.

There is, however, one hardware of the Galaxy S10e that is quite different: the display. Packing a 5.8-inch Full HD+ “Dynamic AMOLED” display, it’s not quite as sharp and impressive as the S10 and S10+’s Quad HD+ curved screens. But is it a bad display? Not at all. It’s still plenty sharp, it has vibrant colours, and it’s still certified for HDR10+. I also dig the lack of bezel at the top of the display, although there’s still a small chin at the bottom.

Of course, I can’t talk about the Galaxy S10e’s screen without mentioning the new “Infinity-O” display. Basically, there’s a hole-punch cutout at the top right of the screen for the 10MP selfie camera, and you’ll definitely notice it. But how distracting will it be? I’ll only find out once I got to spend more time with the phone in a full review.

Besides the display, I’m not thrilled with the S10e’s side-mounted fingerprint sensor, which also doubles as the power button. Now, I’m perfectly okay with the side placement of the sensor, but I am puzzled at Samsung’s decision to place it so high up. It’s hard to reach with my thumb, and it forces me to readjust my grip on the phone every time I want to unlock it.

Next, we have the “standard” Galaxy S10. In comparison to the S10e, the S10 has a larger, higher resolution 6.1-inch 1440p Dynamic AMOLED curved display. It also comes with an extra 12MP telephoto sensor on the back, a larger 3,400mAh battery, and of course, an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor beneath the display.

Speaking of which, I am absolutely blown away by how quick the in-screen fingerprint sensor is. A light tap is enough for the sensor to recognise my fingerprint, and it feels as accurate as a conventional sensor – that’s a huge accomplishment.

Samsung may not be the first manufacturer to implement an in-screen fingerprint sensor on a smartphone, but it certainly has the best sensor in the business right now with the S10 and S10+ – in my experience, at least.

And finally, we have the largest device in the series, the Galaxy S10+. Its hardware is mostly identical to the standard S10, but the S10+ has a bigger 6.4-inch 1440p Dynamic AMOLED curved display, a much more generous 4,100mAh battery, as well as a secondary 8MP RGB depth camera on the front.

Yes, the Galaxy S10+ has two selfie cameras, and to accommodate these two sensors, this phone has an oblong-shaped hole-punch cutout. This…unique-looking cutout is probably the easiest way to tell the Galaxy S10+ apart from the regular S10. Whether or not it will prove to be more distracting than the circular cutout of the latter remains to be seen.

Beyond these differences, the Galaxy S10+ simply feels like a bigger S10. It is as premium as the other devices in the series (perhaps slightly more than the S10e thanks to its curved display), and weighing 175g – 198g for the 512GB and 1TB variants with a ceramic back – it has a nice heft to it.

Last but certainly not least is the camera performance of the Galaxy S10 smartphones. As mentioned, the Galaxy S10e has the exact same primary 12MP f/1.5 – f/2.4 shooter + 16MP f/2.2 ultra wide-angle sensor as the S10 and S10+. The only rear camera the S10e doesn’t have is the 12MP f/2.4 telephoto sensor, which is available on the other two devices.

Okay, so how is the camera performance of the Galaxy S10 smartphones? At a glance, extremely good. There is almost no shutter lag on all three phones, they can lock in focus extremely quickly, and the end results look fantastic. Plus, the camera configuration of these phones are more versatile than ever. There’s a normal camera, an ultra wide-angle shooter, and in the case of the S10 and S10+, even a telephoto sensor.

That being said, I only had a brief time with these phones, so I did not manage to test their low light camera performance. But seeing how Samsung has consistently delivered great camera systems on its flagship smartphones, I reckon the S10 series will perform admirably when photographing in low light conditions.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 series retails from RM2,699 in Malaysia, and that’s for the Galaxy S10e with 128GB of storage. A tier up is the 128GB Galaxy S10, which goes for RM3,299. As for the Galaxy S10+, the 128GB variant can be bought for RM3,699, while the 512GB model carries a RM4,599 price tag.

All in all, the Galaxy S10 series is a great followup to the much more underwhelming Galaxy S9 lineup. While the changes and improvements introduced in this generation aren’t quite as drastic as the jump from the Galaxy S7 to the Galaxy S8, it’s still reasonably good.

However, competition is getting tougher, and whether or not the S10 series can stand on equal ground with these upcoming phones remain to be seen. It is the jack of all trades – it does everything extremely well, but it’s not breaking any new ground.