Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review: A Versatile Flagship!

Galaxy S10 Review

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy S10+ seems to have it all. It is definitely an impressive smartphone featuring a beautiful punch-hole Infinity-O display, oodles of RAM and storage, a versatile camera, and more. But every Samsung smartphone in the past has been equally impressive on paper. How does the Galaxy S10 actually fare in real-life use?

The Galaxy S10 series marks the 10th iteration of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S lineup. Unlike the Galaxy S9 from last year, Samsung has shaken things quite a bit with a number of new features and set the bar once again for other smartphone OEMs like Apple to follow. It also gives us a glimpse at some of the features the 2019 iPhone 11 series will pack.

Note that while I am reviewing the Galaxy S10+ here but all the things below will also apply for the Galaxy S10.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review

Build Quality

The Galaxy S10 builds on the design that Samsung first debuted with the Galaxy S8 in 2016. By switching to an Infinity-O panel at the front and reducing the top and bottom bezels, Samsung has managed to make the Galaxy S10 standout even more.

Like previous flagship Galaxy devices, the Galaxy S10 essentially sandwiches an aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass panels — Gorilla Glass 6 at the front and Gorilla Glass 5 at the rear. It packs all the bells and whistles that one can think of as well like IP68 certification, USB-C connectivity, a headphone jack(!), wireless charging, and stereo speakers. The stereo speakers are massively improved from the Galaxy S9 and Note 9. They are louder and the stereo effect is also more pronounced this time around.

The degree of the display curve has changed and coupled with the switch to a slightly taller aspect ratio display, the Galaxy S10+ feels comfortable to hold in hand. However, with its massive 6.4-inch QHD+ display, the Galaxy S10+ is simply too big for one-hand use.

Another design oddity on the Galaxy S10+ is the absurdly high power button. It is placed way too high and its placement would require one to always adjust their grip before/after pressing it.

I am not going to argue here as to where the ‘O’ cutout in the display is worse or better than a notch. However, for all intents and purposes, it fades away into the background as one starts using the Galaxy S10.

The Galaxy S10 also comes with an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner. It is not as fast the capacitive fingerprint scanner used by Samsung in its previous flagship devices but it is still better than the optical fingerprint scanner we have seen the likes of Oppo and OnePlus use in their devices. It is far more accurate and more forgiving to debris and dirt than optical in-display fingerprint scanners. It is important to note that one does not need to keep their finger on the fingerprint scanner and wait for the device to unlock. Instead, just like capacitive fingerprint scanners, keeping your finger on the scanner for a second and then lifting it is good enough.

Galaxy S10 fingerprint scanner

There’s also face unlock on the Galaxy S10 but it is simply not as secure as Face ID on the iPhone X/XS. In fact, Samsung’s implementation is worse than other Android OEMs as well since the Galaxy S10’s face unlock works even when your eyes are closed. On OnePlus 6T, the phone will only unlock if you are looking at the device and your eyes are open. This is definitely an area on which Samsung needs to work since this is a major security and privacy issue.

Display

Ever year, with its new flagship device, Samsung sets a new standard for mobile displays. And this year with the Galaxy S10, it has repeated the same formula. This time around, the company is using a new Dynamic AMOLED panel on the Galaxy S10 series which offers a peak luminance of 1,200 nits, impeccable color accuracy, great viewing angles, HDR10 support, and more.

I will skip all the jargon here and come straight to the point. The Galaxy S10’s display is big, beautiful, and accurate. It really has no faults. The insanely high brightness levels and low reflectance means the display is clearly visible even under the harshest of sunlight. The beautiful display is complemented by the extremely thin top and bottom bezels which further add to the immersive look.

I am actually surprised at how Samsung has managed to raise the smartphone display bar so high with the Galaxy S10. It will definitely be interesting to see how Apple responds with the iPhone 11 later this year. Apple sources OLED panels for the iPhone X/XS series from Samsung itself and makes its own set of improvements to it.

Camera

The primary camera on the Galaxy S10 is the same as the one found on the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 from last year — a 12MP sensor with 1.4um large pixels and an f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture. The performance of the primary camera is typical Samsung — photos are always slightly overexposed, fine details are sacrificed to reduce noise, and moving subjects are always blurry in low-light. But in typical Samsung fashion as well, the dynamic range in photos is impressive, focus is always quick and spot on, and unlike Huawei and other Chinese vendors, Samsung does well to not overly boost colors and saturation.

The highlight of the Galaxy S10’s camera setup is the versatility and flexibility offered by it. The primary 12MP camera is accompanied by a 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide angle shooter. While its quality is not as good as the primary sensor, especially in low-light, taking photos from the ultra-wide angle shooter is a lot of fun. This is something that you really need to experience for yourself to understand.

There’s also the 12MP telephoto sensor which offers 2x optical zoom that has not really seen any major improvements for a couple of years now. It is capable of taking decent shots in daylight and its best to avoid using it altogether in low-light scenarios.

Despite the Galaxy S10 not beating the Pixel 3 in the camera department, I would pick the former. That’s because unlike the Pixel, the Galaxy S10 has a stable and faster camera app complemented by a more versatile camera system. Plus, the S10’s camera also has decent video recording capabilities. One can switch between the three cameras while recording videos which adds to its versatility. The Galaxy S10 is also among the very few devices in the market that is capable of recording videos in HDR10.

One major oversight of the rear camera is the lack of a Night Sight mode. We have seen the likes of Google, Huawei, OnePlus, and others include a Night mode in their smartphones that is optimized to take photos in extreme low-light scenarios. While the Galaxy S10 does come with a Night mode, it cannot be enabled automatically. Instead, it triggers itself on automatically when the amount of light drops below 1 lux. Even then, the end results are not that impressive and Samsung’s Night mode implementation is nowhere near Google or Huawei.

The front 10MP DualPixel camera on the Galaxy S10 series might seem like a major improvement over previous flagship Galaxy devices but the reality is a bit different. The dynamic range has definitely improved and the DualPixel autofocus means selfies will be considerably sharper. However, Samsung’s image processing simply kills all the selfies taken on the Galaxy S10. It applies a gracious amount of skin smoothening effect even when the beauty filter is turned off which leads to all fine details being wiped away.

This becomes a major issue in low-light scenarios where selfies turn out relatively soft and look a bit odd due to their lack of details. Samsung and other OEMs need to take a cue from Google — and Apple to a certain extent — on how to optimize the front camera’s image processing.

As for the secondary depth sensor on the Galaxy S10+, it is really not that useful. I hardly found any improvement in Live Focus photos taken with the Galaxy S10+ when compared to the regular Galaxy S10.

Software

Software has always been Samsung’s Achilles Heel. The company has always managed to release smartphones with top-notch hardware but they have always faltered in the software department.

With its new One UI, Samsung is turning a new leaf when it comes to software. Its new One UI is definitely impressive and packs plenty of customization options and features. Samsung has also managed to cut down on the number of unnecessary features and bloatware which helps in improving the overall experience of using One UI.

Based on Android 9.0 Pie, One UI comes with almost all features that one can think of. This includes Digital Wellbeing, Do Not Disturb, Blue light filter, navigation gestures, and more. Samsung’s Navigation gestures are not as good as that of iPhones and there’s clear room for improvement here though.

A special note for the Galaxy S10’s Night mode here. With iOS 13 and Android Q, we are likely going to see Apple and Google embrace a system-wide dark mode. Samsung, however, has beaten them to the punch with Night mode in One UI. Samsung’s implementation is downright fantastic and it looks even better of the Dynamic AMOLED display of the Galaxy S10.

Power users must also install Samsung’s own Good Lock app from the Galaxy Store. It offers a number of modules and low-level customization options suited for them. This includes customizing the Always-On Display clock, enhancing the overall multi-window experience, and more.

As for software updates, Samsung has really improved in this front. While you are not going to get major Android updates within weeks of Google releasing it, Samsung is at least rolling out monthly security updates for its devices.

Performance and Battery Life

Outside of the United States and a few other markets, Samsung is selling the Galaxy S10 series with its own 8nm Exynos 9820 chipset. Developed in-house by Samsung, this chip is simply not as good as the Snapdragon 855-powered variant sold in the United States. This is going to matter if you are a heavy gamer or a benchmark junkie. But regular users are hardly going to notice this.

In day-to-day use, the Galaxy S10 performs remarkably with no lags or stutters. Samsung has clearly spent time optimizing One UI for smoothness and it shows. The impressive performance is also helped by the fact that the Galaxy S10 and S10+ come with a minimum of 8GB RAM. That makes these phones an absolute powerhouse when it comes to multitasking.

While playing heavy games like PUBG or Fortnite, the Galaxy S10+ performs well enough. It does show some signs of lag and drops frames every once in a while but the overall performance is still great.

It is primarily in the battery life department where the Exynos 9820-powered variant of the Galaxy S10 falls behind its Snapdragon 855 variant. Despite this, you need not worry about making it through a day of heavy use with the Galaxy S10+. That’s thanks to Samsung including a massive 4,100mAh battery on the device and also optimizing its idle power consumption. While not as good as the likes of the iPhone XS Max, the Exynos 9820-powered Galaxy S10+ can still offer around 4-4.5 hours of Screen-on Time on a single charge.

On the charging front, the Galaxy S10+ comes with 15W wired fast charging and 12W Qi wireless charging. The 15W wired fast charging is definitely disappointing since Huawei, OnePlus, Vivo, and others are now offering 2x the fast charging speeds on their devices. But it is still far better than the 5W adapter that Apple bundles with its $999 iPhone XS.

On the bright side, the Galaxy S10 series supports USB-PD and Quick Charge as well. This means irrespective of which fast charger you use, the device will charge at its full 15W capacity.

As for 12W wireless charging, its definitely a nice addition. What’s nice is the inclusion of reverse wireless charging a.k.a Wireless PowerShare on the Galaxy S10 series. With this feature, one can wirelessly charge other devices using their Galaxy S10.

At 4.5W, Wireless PowerShare is good enough to charge small smartphone accessories like the Galaxy Buds, AirPods with wireless charging case, and more. It can also be used to charge other smartphones, though it is a bit impractical and only suited for niche cases. What’s even better is that one can use Wireless PowerShare while charging the Galaxy S10 itself. This makes the feature a boon to have for heavy travelers.

Reverse wireless charging in smartphones is definitely going to get more accessory makers to include wireless charging in their devices. This will ensure that one only needs to carry their phone charger with them while traveling.

Conclusion

The Galaxy S10+ has a lot going for it. A great display, an equally great build quality, a versatile camera, one-day battery life, wireless charging, and useful features like Wireless PowerShare. With One UI, Samsung has also fixed its software issues for good. For 2019, Samsung has set the bar for other flagship phones to follow with its Galaxy S10 series and Apple should take note of this.