Review, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy S10e Review: Smaller Isn’t Inferior

The Samsung Galaxy S10 series is a little different this year. Instead of introducing only two models, the Korean company added a new member to the lineup: the Samsung Galaxy S10e.

What does the “E” stand for? According to Samsung, it is short for “essential,” and that really describes the Galaxy S10e quite well. It has most of the essential features of the S10 series, packaged it in a smaller, more ergonomic chassis.

But just because the Galaxy S10e is the most affordable (and smallest) phone in the series, doesn’t mean it cuts corners in important areas. In fact, I personally find it to be the most appealing device of the three – that’s how good the S10e is.

Specifications

Display5.8-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED (2280 x 1080)
ChipsetSamsung Exynos 9820 2.73GHz octa-core
GPU
Mali-G76 MP12
RAM6GB
Storage128GB, expandable
Camera (rear)
12MP f/1.5 – f/2.4, OIS, Super Speed Dual Pixel AF
16MP f/2.2 (ultra wide)
Camera (front)10MP f/1.9, Dual Pixel AF
Battery
3,100mAh
Dimensions142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm
Weight
150g
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

Despite its more affordable price tag (RM2,699), the Galaxy S10e has the same Exynos 9820 chipset, software, and camera performance as the Galaxy S10 and S10+. However, the S10e does lose out on the telephoto sensor, which may – or may not – be a particularly big deal.

If there’s any cause for concern with the Galaxy S10e’s hardware, it would be the 3,100mAh battery. It’s still reasonably big for a phone this size, but it’s a far cry from the S10+’s much larger 4,100mAh cell. So can the S10e return good battery life? I’ll get into detail further down this review.

Design

This is really the best reason to get the Galaxy S10e over its more expensive siblings. Its smaller size makes it the most ergonomic device of the series, one-handed operation is a breeze, and I love how the phone feels in my hands – it’s just so compact.

Of course, the Galaxy S10e also has great build quality. The metal frame, glass back, and the phone as a whole looks and feels premium. However, the phone does feel quite slippery, so I used the phone almost exclusively with the provided casing. (Side note: I really like design of the casing.)

How about the Infinity-O display of the Galaxy S10e? Well, the hole-punch cutout is not as distracting as I initially thought. While the off-centre look of the notification bar still bothers me – the camera cutout pushes the icons to the left of the screen – it’s not quite as jarring as the Galaxy S10+’s oblong-shaped cutout.

And then we have the Galaxy S10e’s side-mounted fingerprint sensor, which is a bit of a mixed bag. I love the speed and accuracy of the sensor, and I honestly don’t mind the side placement of it, but it’s positioned too high up. I would have to readjust my grip of the phone every time I want to reach for the sensor.

Nonetheless, I do appreciate the fact that the sensor also doubles as the power button. It’s a smart implementation, and it’s intuitive too.

Overall, the Galaxy S10e is a well-designed smartphone. One of the phone’s most appealing aspects is the fact that it’s a compact flagship device; it’s an increasingly rare size for high-end smartphones, making the S10e a unique product.

User Experience

One UI on the Galaxy S10e is largely similar to the software experience of the larger Galaxy S10+. It looks modern, it’s a lot more polished than Samsung Experience, and I can now double tap to wake the phone. Yes, the icons are still comically large, but this can be adjusted easily in the settings.

Samsung has made good progress when it comes to software, and One UI is easily one of the most polished versions of Android out in the market now. It’s intuitive to use, it is responsive, and it feels lightweight. Switching between different apps with a double tap of the Recents button is incredibly quick too.

This level of performance is expected from the Galaxy S10e’s Exynos 9820 chipset. Gaming on this phone is without a doubt an enjoyable experience, and much like the Galaxy S10+, the S10e also has excellent front-facing stereo speakers.

Part of what makes the gaming experience such a joy is the phone’s 5.8-inch 1080p Dynamic AMOLED display. Even though it’s not quite as pixel-dense as the S10 and S10+’s 1440p display, it still carries HDR10+ certification. Basically, you’re getting a very high quality display with the S10e.

Okay, what about battery life? Surprisingly good, actually. Thanks to the Galaxy S10e’s 1080p display, its 3,100mAh battery can consistently return five hours of screen on time throughout my time with the phone. This is not a fantastic figure, but it’s definitely above average.

Charging rate of the Galaxy S10e, on the other hand, is reasonably good too. Within 30 minutes of charging, the phone got up to around 50% from empty.

I thoroughly enjoyed using the Galaxy S10e as my daily driver for the past few weeks. It has reasonably good battery life, great-looking display, and a polished software experience. If I were to nitpick, I’d definitely want better battery life, but that would be unrealistic to expect from a smartphone this compact.

Camera

Not surprisingly, the camera performance of the Galaxy S10e is identical to the Galaxy S10 and S10+. After all, the only thing you’re losing out with the S10e is the telephoto sensor. Beyond that, you’re still getting the 12MP primary shooter (the most important one) and 16MP ultra wide sensor.

Whether in broad daylight or low light condition, the Galaxy S10e’s dual camera system can deliver good-looking shots easily and effortlessly. The camera feels responsive, the autofocus speed is lightning fast, and the image output is easily one of the best in the business now.

However, it’s worth noting that the image quality between the 12MP primary shooter and 16MP ultra wide sensor differs quite a bit, especially in low light environment. It’s the same case with the Galaxy S10+, and there will always be discrepancy in camera performance on smartphones with multiple camera sensors.

If you want excellent camera performance, you will get exactly that with the Galaxy S10e. On top of that, those who don’t really care for the telephoto sensor found in the S10 and S10+ will be very happy with the S10e’s equally capable dual camera system.

Competition

For the Malaysian market, only the 128GB variant of the Galaxy S10e with 6GB of RAM is brought in. Retailing at RM2,699, it’s also priced quite well for a flagship smartphone, and it has a number of noteworthy competition.

Huawei P30

Also retailing at RM2,699, the Huawei P30 goes directly against the Galaxy S10e. Compared to the latter, the P30 offers a larger 6.1-inch 1080p OLED display – albeit with a notch – arguably sleeker-looking design (especially the gradient colourways), 8GB of RAM, and a more versatile triple camera system with up to 30x zoom.

That being said, the P30 does not offer the Galaxy S10e’s compact form factor, and One UI can provide a more pleasant software experience than Huawei’s EMUI software. If you place more importance in these two areas, the Galaxy S10e is definitely the better option.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Introduced in Malaysia just last week, the Xiaomi Mi 9 is priced very competitively at RM1,999 for the 128GB variant with 6GB of RAM. Despite costing RM700 less than the Galaxy S10e, the Mi 9 still offers a large 6.39-inch 1080p AMOLED display, a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, as well as a versatile triple camera setup headlined by a 48MP primary shooter.

However, the Mi 9 is a much larger phone compared to the compact size of the Galaxy S10e. There are simply no flagship-tier smartphone that is similar to the S10e in terms of size. If a small, compact high-end phone is what you want, the S10e is the only phone that offers this.

Besides, One UI on the Galaxy S10e is still far more polished than Xiaomi’s MIUI 10 software. Personally, I also find the hole-punch cutout of the S10e less distracting than the Mi 9’s notched display.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is, in my opinion, in a league of its own. It’s the only flagship smartphone in the market with a compact 5.8-inch screen, it offers good battery life, and despite being the most affordable phone in the series, it is still as capable as its larger, more expensive siblings.

Sure, you don’t get a fancy in-screen fingerprint sensor or a curved screen with the Galaxy S10e, but that is completely fine. Its capacitive fingerprint sensor is quicker and more accurate, and its flat display is more ergonomically-friendly.

But the Galaxy S10e’s compact form factor does have its fair share of shortcomings. There’s only so much battery you can fit into the compact chassis of the phone, and the absence of the telephoto sensor may discourage consumers from getting the S10e.

Regardless, the Galaxy S10e is an attractive flagship smartphone, thanks to its small size, relatively competitive pricing, and excellent dual camera system. Being small, in this case, doesn’t make the S10e an inferior product – it is one of its greatest strengths.