It might be uncharitable to say it, but I’m actually glad the Galaxy S10 isn’t foldable. Despite so-called industry analysts suggesting otherwise, Samsung’s flexible stablemate, the Galaxy Fold, somewhat failed to deliver when reviewers got their hands on the device.
Samsung certainly isn’t squeezing the bendy trigger just yet with its flagship S-series phones, and I think that’s a good thing. Flexible screen technology has barely entered its formative years, after all, and as we’ve seen from other devices such as the Royole FlexPai, the outcome can be rather disappointing.
Even without this, the Galaxy S10 is still every bit as impressive as we could have hoped for. This phone doesn’t need to rely on bendy screen gimmicks to push its way out from under the crowd.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: What you need to know
If you’re not already foaming at the mouth at the starting price, you might be interested to discover that the Galaxy S10 represents the next era of Samsung smartphones. This is the first Samsung phone with an in-screen fingerprint reader, the first with a triple camera arrangement and the first with an HDR 10+ screen.
The Galaxy S10 is a dramatic departure from the phone that came before it. Internally, Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 mobile chipset makes its very first appearance, promising vastly improved processing speeds and greater power efficiency. This is backed up by a healthy dose of RAM and internal storage space, which can be expanded.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Price and competition
The only problem is that you’re expected to pay quite a bit for the privilege. SIM-free, the Galaxy S10 will set you back an eye-watering £799 for the 128GB version. If you require more internal storage, the 512GB model costs a whopping £999.
That puts the Galaxy S10 in the crosshairs of some terrific premium-priced flagships. Apple’s iPhone XR is perhaps its biggest rival at this price – as long as you don’t mind using iOS, you can pick one up for roughly £750. Apple’s fancier iPhone Xs doesn’t offer quite as good value for money, as your £999 will only net you a phone with a pitiful 64GB of internal storage, which can’t be expanded.
The Huawei P30 is a solid Android alternative, complete with a 3x optical zoom camera and Huawei’s fastest-ever mobile chipset, and it costs £699. If you fancied saving even more cash, the Xiaomi Mi 9 offers a flagship-like experience for £300 less.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Design and key features
The Galaxy S10’s revamped design is perhaps its most noticeable change. You won’t struggle to tell this phone apart from its predecessor this time around: the Galaxy S10’s chassis is now surrounded by an iPhone Xs-like silver-tinted trim. It looks just as swish, in fact, and even the chin and forehead bezels have been completely removed.
In doing so, Samsung has sidestepped the notch trend, opting instead for a pinhole selfie camera, 10-megapixel in resolution, located in the top right of the screen. At first, I thought this might be quite distracting, but it actually blends in rather nicely and has necessitated an increase in the phone’s screen-to-body ratio, which is now up to a massive 93.1%.
There’s no surprise about the positioning of the phone’s various physical elements. The power button, volume rocker and USB Type-C charging port are all in the places you’d expect, while the dedicated Bixby button – yes, Samsung is still doing that – also returns to the phone’s left edge, although this can be disabled if you want.
Other things from previous-generation Samsung flagships remain in place, with dust and waterproofing to the IP68 standard, a Gorilla Glass-coated front and rear and, of course, a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The rear-mounted fingerprint reader is no more, as the Galaxy S10 is fitted with an in-display sensor for secure unlocking. Samsung says this sensor uses ultrasonic waves to detect fingerprint ridges more accurately and that it should work more effectively in rainy weather conditions. Although, given that even basic things like typing tend to go haywire with a bit of rain, you can’t expect miracles.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Display
This time around, the Galaxy S10 is fitted with a 6.1in Dynamic AMOLED, Quad HD+ display. This is a brand-new panel for Samsung, capable of reaching a retina-blinding peak brightness of 1,200 nits, with support for HDR 10+ content and 10-bit colour. Samsung has also reduced the phone’s blue light emission with the default display profiles, without having to enable the rather heavy-handed “eye comfort” display mode.
The Galaxy S10’s HDR 10+ support is perhaps its biggest new feature. In theory, this provides greater dynamic contrast and more inky-looking black levels. I say in theory, of course, because frankly there isn’t much HDR 10+ content available at the moment so this isn’t all that easy to test.
In our technical testing, we found this to be one of Samsung’s best-ever displays. The screen’s sRGB coverage in the “normal” display profile reached 99%, with a total volume of 104%. A superb average Delta E of 1.2 also points at a screen that’s as colour-accurate as they come, although I can’t promise the same sort of viewing experience with the phone’s slightly oversaturated “vivid” display mode.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Performance and battery life
Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S10 is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 chipset in the UK – as opposed to the frequently-used Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 – which works with 8GB of RAM for multitasking and a choice of either 128GB or 512GB of internal storage. This can be expanded with a further 512GB via microSD, though, should you somehow manage to run out of space. A 3,400mAh battery keeps the phone ticking along and this can be charged wirelessly if you wish.
Speaking of wireless technology, the Galaxy S10 features a new reverse wireless charging feature called Wireless PowerShare. Just like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the Galaxy S10 can charge other compatible devices if you place them back to back. Although, unlike Huawei’s plus-sized flagship, the Galaxy S10 is able to magnanimously reverse charge non-Samsung handsets.
With Samsung opting to use its own chipset, rather than the Qualcomm standard, there’s the worry that its latest phones might underperform when compared with its equally pricey alternatives. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case in testing, as the 2.84GHz chipset managed to hold its own not only against the Snapdragon 855, but also against Huawei’s Kirin 980 and Apple’s A12 Bionic, too.
As you might expect, gaming performance is equally impressive. In the duo of GFXBench tests at FHD+ resolution, the recorded frame rate is practically identical to that of its Huawei and Apple rivals. If you do decide to increase the screen resolution to the native QHD+, you will notice a drop, but nothing dramatic. The S10 is a great gaming phone.
In our video rundown battery test, the Galaxy S10 managed to last 17hrs 44mins before needing to recharge. Put that result side-by-side with its rivals and the Galaxy S10 manages to outdo the iPhone XR by over four hours, even if it can’t do any better than the Huawei P30 and Xiaomi Mi 9 for overall stamina.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Camera
On the back of the phone, you’ll find the horizontal triple-camera arrangement. The dual-aperture 12-megapixel sensor returns from last year’s Galaxy S9, which has a super-wide aperture of f/1.5. What’s new, however, is that this camera is now flanked by a 16-megapixel wide-angle, 123-degree lens (the only lens that isn’t optically stabilised), as well as a 12-megapixel 2x telephoto zoom.
Samsung has also introduced an extra 30 scenes to the phone’s “Intelligent Camera” neural processing unit (NPU). Essentially, this feature enables the camera to identify the object in the frame, be it a dog, cat or plant, and adjusts the camera settings accordingly for the best image possible.
That’s an awful lot of new stuff, but how do the Galaxy S10’s images compare with the same shots taken on the Huawei P30? Well, for the most part, Samsung’s flagship seems to capture a greater amount of detail, particularly with notoriously tricky objects such as tree foliage and intricate brickwork.
The Galaxy S10 also does a better job at levelling out exposure, with the Huawei P30’s automatic shooting mode generally overexposing images a bit too much. The HDR mode also does a fantastic job of lifting up the shadows and softening brighter areas of the image.
One area where the Galaxy S10 could improve is in colour rendition. Generally speaking, colours aren’t as neutral as I may have liked and certain colour tones look quite oversaturated. If you take a look at the trees in my test shots, for instance, you’ll notice that the leaves look almost luminous.
However, this is a very minor criticism in the grand scheme of things and I’m generally very impressed with the Galaxy S10’s output. While it doesn’t zoom in quite as far as the P30, the 2x optical zoom sensor does a great job at getting right into the background and the wide-angle lens’ distortion correction, which straightens out lines in images, works wonders.
Video footage is also superb, with crisp, clean and detailed 4K resolution videos, although the phone’s optical stabilisation is only available if you drop the frame rate down to 30fps. HDR 10+ recordings – which you have to enable in the phone’s settings – look great too, although you might run into issues when replaying clips on another device, as most video players don’t support this format just yet.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Verdict
You might be disappointed that it doesn’t bend, but Samsung’s Galaxy S10 still represents the very pinnacle of smartphone technology. It moves things on in design, drawing level with Apple in terms of pure aesthetics, while simultaneously introducing a wealth of welcome new additions.
Without question, the S10 is a formidable Android phone. The question that remains, however, is whether or not pundits think all of these improvements are worth the increased cost. This is a heck of a lot of money to pay for any smartphone, no matter how impressive it may be, but it’s absolutely worth the upgrade. This is Samsung’s biggest leap forward in years.
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