Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review

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Hype killer?

by David Phelan Mar 5, 2019 at 10:22 AM

  • Tech review

    83

    Highly Recommended
    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review
    SRP: £899.00

    What is the Samsung Galaxy S10+?

    The Samsung Galaxy S range of flagship smartphones has been going for years and the latest model is the tenth anniversary phone. Actually, it’s one of four Galaxy S10 handsets: Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and the 5G-compatible phone coming later, cleverly called the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

    The S10+ is the larger sibling of the S10, while the S10e is a more affordable phone with fewer bells and whistles. Almost everything mentioned here about the S10+ also applies to the smaller S10, with the main exceptions being the twin front-facing cameras on the larger phone - it's a single one on the smaller - as well as the battery life and price.

    Recent Galaxy S phones have sort of looked pretty similar. Not this time, as the phone has a strikingly updated look and is stuffed with lots of new features, such as a fingerprint sensor buried in the phone’s display, a cut-out in the screen to reveal the front-facing camera (or cameras) and triple rear cameras.

    Oh, and two-way wireless charging so you can not only charge your Galaxy S10+ on a Qi-compatible wireless charging pad, you can recharge your friend’s wireless-charging-compatible handset, even if it’s an iPhone, just by holding the two handsets together.

    Design

    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Design
    It looks strikingly different from last year’s Galaxy S9, but it’s still very recognisably a Samsung phone. By that I mean there’s a screen that slopes down at the long edges, framed by a metallic antenna band which is shaped to match. The rear of the phone slopes up in a symmetrical way. Also similar is the way the screen has gracefully curved corners and noticeably thicker bezels at the top and bottom of the handset.

    This time, though, those bezels are thinner, especially at the top. The cameras in the S10+ are buried in the display, peeping out from the top right corner. This means the screen covers more of the front of the phone, and means the new phone has a bigger screen (6.4in) than the S9+ (6.2in) but on a phone that is not as tall as last year’s model. It’s a touch wider than the S9+, but essentially these phones are about the same size.
    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Design
    The big change in design comes when you turn the phone over. The back of the S9+ had two cameras mounted vertically, with a flash, a heart rate sensor and a fingerprint sensor just below the camera lenses.

    Now, all the elements sit horizontally. There are three cameras sitting side by side, with the flash and heart rate sensor alongside.

    Because there’s no fingerprint sensor on the back, there’s no chance of accidentally smudging the camera as you blindly fumble to unlock the phone. The lack of a fingerprint sensor on the back gives a cleaner, smarter look to the phone.

    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Design
    Because the camera unit stretches almost all the way across the phone, it’s a stable surface to type on, unlike some phones which have the cameras clustered in one corner for instance, which tip as you press the display.

    Overall, it’s a very attractive handset, the most stylish and classy-looking phone from Samsung yet. I’ll go further: this is one of the best phone designs around, from any brand. Not just the look, which is tremendous, but the feel. The 19:9 screen ratio makes it an easy fit in the hand and the joins between Gorilla Glass 6 display, the glass back (that’s Gorilla Glass 5) and the polished aluminium chassis in between is butter smooth.

    Combine that with the curved edges in every direction and it becomes especially tactile. You can roll it through your hand as though it were a polished worry stone.

    There is a deluxe version with a ceramic instead of a glass back, available in the larger storage capacities (512GB or a remarkable 1TB built in). However, most people will likely choose the all-glass version which has 128GB storage.

    Oh, and one other thing, the new Galaxy S10 range all come with a headphone jack – unlike many rumours had suggested. This sits, as it did on the S9, on the bottom edge of the phone.

    This means Samsung is almost the only company to still include this connector on its flagship handsets.

    Display

    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Display
    The display is key to what makes the S10+ interesting. It’s a Samsung AMOLED special, with the bright, vivid colours that edge towards over-saturation which we’ve come to expect from the company.

    Samsung has been doing OLED screens on its phones longer than rivals and it repeatedly makes eye-poppingly good displays. This is arguably the most attractive display Samsung has built – and that’s saying something.

    There’s the brightness – at 1,200 nits against last year’s 1,100 nits, making it easy to read on even the brightest days, and Samsung says there increased colour accuracy here.

    The resolution is very high. It’s 1,440 x 3,040 pixels. Actually, it’s the same on both the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the S10+, meaning the pixel density is slightly lower on the larger screen. However, as this is still 526 pixels per inch (ppi), it’s still astonishingly sharp. Since you ask, the smaller phone has a 551ppi screen. Note that in order to save energy, Samsung sets the screen resolution to 2,280 x 1,080 by default.

    Like recent Samsung Galaxy phones, it has an always-on display which will show time, date, battery charge and more in white-out-of-black display when the screen is off. This does reduce battery life, too, but not by much.

    With the display on, though, colours are very bright even in what Samsung calls Natural mode. Flip it to Vivid and, oh boy, this screen is eye-searingly colourful. It looks sensational.

    And I haven’t even got as far as HDR10+.

    This is the first phone to support this standard, so that it offers great contrast and colours. The smaller S10 does this as well. Since a screen this big is just about enough to watch a movie on, this matters. Netflix also looks great, especially with HDR content which really shines.

    Although, of course, there is the small matter of the hole in the screen, which is not, I’d suggest, what the filmmaker had as part of their original vision!

    This is the first Samsung phone with a hole in the screen, put there, as mentioned, to allow the camera to look through. Samsung had previously eschewed the notch cut-out which was popularised by the Apple iPhone X and copied elsewhere pretty much ever since.

    The hole-punch design here, which Samsung calls the Infinity-O display, works well, and way better than I feared it might. How noticeable is it? I’d say it remains more noticeable than the notch on the iPhone, which vanished from my conscious awareness after a few days' use, but most of the time it’s not overbearing. For apps such as YouTube, which is installed on the phone, it’s carefully configured so that you have a slender bar on the display to hide the camera, though you can expand the image to fill the screen if you prefer. At which point the camera does become rather conspicuous.

    Fingerprint sensor

    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Fingerprint sensor
    This is a revelation. It’s not the first in-screen sensor. I’ve tried three phones with this technology, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the OnePlus 6T and the Xiaomi Mi8 Pro. Of the three, the OnePlus had a slightly faster unlock than its rivals and, I think, the Samsung.

    But this is by far the best in-screen fingerprint sensor on a smartphone I’ve come across. It’s not faster than the sensors mounted on the backs of phones, I grant you.

    But I hate those fingerprint sensors which you struggle to locate on the back of the phone without looking. They work well but not quite all the time.

    This has literally never failed to recognise my thumbprint, even when I have come at it from an angle.

    And while it’s not the fastest, it has the best design, with a gentle and appealing ripple-on-water animation accompanying the unlock. It feels intimate and personal, as well as looking just great. It uses a different technology from rival sensors. This is an ultrasonic fingerprint system which makes a 3D scan of your finger.

    There is a downside: it doesn’t work with all screen protectors, which is a shame. Notwithstanding, this is a sensationally good feature.

    Cameras

    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Cameras
    There are three rear cameras on the S10 and S10+. Like several other phone manufacturers, the primary purpose is to offer what is effectively optical zoom by having lenses with different focal lengths. Here that works out as being a wide lens (1x), telephoto lens (2x zoom) and an ultra-wide lens, something new to Samsung, which offers 0.5x as the wide lens. Or to look at it another way, if you see the ultra-wide as 1x, the wide is 2x zoom and the telephoto 4x zoom.

    The three lenses make for real versatility. Flicking between them on screen brings this home clearly as the image swaps from wide landscape to regular landscape to portrait.

    The telephoto and wide cameras are 12MP sensors, and there’s a 16MP sensor on the ultra-wide.
    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Cameras
    The multiple focal lengths are also there to create portrait mode effects, where the subject is in pin-sharp focus and the background artfully blurred. This is something that the S9 did well, so it’s no surprise that the S10+ can manage it well, too.

    There are special effects in portrait mode, or Live Focus as Samsung calls it. As well as the regular blur there’s zoom and spin which basically just changes the pattern of the background blur. The fourth is called Colour Point and showers full colour on the subject while turning the background into monochrome.

    The S10+ (though not the S10) has dual front-facing cameras, too. One is a 10MP sensor, the other 8MP, which works as a depth sensor to create those Live Focus portraits. Quality is good, though low light is a challenge even with those two lenses.

    As for video, the HDR10+ capabilities stretch to filming, too, and there is video stabilisation, though only digital, not optical, on the rear camera.

    Wireless charging

    Two-way charging is the future. You can pep up a friend’s dying mobile from your Samsung Galaxy S10 or S10+. It’s a very cool feature which is great to show off.

    It’s simple to use: from the home screen, swipe down from the top of the display, swipe to reveal the full list of shortcuts and tap Wireless PowerShare. Then put the phone face down on the table and put your friend’s phone face up. It feels a little bit magical when the other phone starts charging.

    When you separate the phones, the Samsung turns off charging soon after to save energy.

    Even if you don’t feel generous to others, if you have the new wireless-chargeable Samsung Galaxy Buds, you can charge these by placing the case on the back of the phone.

    The Buds are Samsung’s answer to Apple’s AirPods and they are neat little earbuds which fit the ear well and are easy to connect. Being able to charge them on your phone is a masterstroke.

    Performance

    Samsung always includes fast, capable processors in its Galaxy S phones. European versions have the Exynos 9820 Octa, an 8-nanometre (nm) chip made by Samsung. In the Americas and China it's a 7nm Qualcomm chip, the Snapdragon 855. It’s still rare to find 7nm processors, which are better than chips with larger transistors because they are more power-efficient and can fit onto smaller surfaces.

    Whatever the science, this is a very fast phone which does the simple things instantaneously, like launching apps, say, and the tougher things like power-hungry games, video playback and so on, very quickly, too.

    The S10+, though not the smaller S10, has a cooling system designed to make long gaming sessions more efficient and comfortable, it’s claimed. I never found the phone getting hot or slowing down, even when playing for longer than was strictly necessary.

    Samsung has introduced a whole new interface to replace the previous system (its iffily-named TouchWiz system). This is much better, as is the name, One UI. Everything has been improved, from the elegantly simple app icons to the layout. I find the app icon shape itself, a round-edged square, just a little jauntier than I’d like, but it’s not bad.

    I have one issue. It’s just too easy to move apps around when you don’t mean to. There’s a dock of apps at the base of the screen, you know, like on an iPhone. I have accidentally swiped the internet browser out of the dock more times than I can count, just by lingering my thumb on it for a fraction of a second too long, and then struggled to find where I left it.

    Bixby, Samsung’s answer to Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, is on board here and is much improved. It’s still no match for Alexa or Siri but has a perky, realistic voice (though she sometimes sounds a bit stroppy). Bixby needs to improve further but is gradually becoming more usable.

    Battery

    This is the biggest battery for an S series phone, with 4,100mAh capacity, just a little bigger than the 4,000mAh cell in last autumn’s Galaxy Note 9.

    The result is a phone that easily lasts a full day and I had no anxiety that it would run out when I still needed it.

    I didn’t change the phone’s display resolution from the default to the higher rate except when I was watching video. The higher-resolution display would deplete the battery faster.

    Overnight charges are still suggested because it is unlikely to last two full days.

    Availability and price

    Both the Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+ go on sale on Friday 8 March. Pre-order either phone and you can snag a free pair of Galaxy Buds, normally £139. The S10 costs £799 for the 128GB model, £999 for one with 512GB capacity.

    The S10+ costs £899 with 128GB storage. If you fancy the ceramic finish back, that costs £1,099, and comes with 512GB storage.

    Find the best deals on our comparison page.

    Overall, it’s a very attractive handset, the most stylish and classy-looking phone from Samsung yet. I’ll go further: this is one of the best phone designs around, from any brand.

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    The Good

    • Swish design
    • Classy display
    • Two-way charging
    • In-screen fingerprint sensor

    The Bad

    • Expensive
    • Camera cut-out will divide opinion
    You own this Total 1
    You want this Total 1
    You had this Total 0

    Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review

    It may have been upstaged by the reveal of the Samsung Galaxy Fold when it was announced, but it’s the Samsung Galaxy S range which will be what sells. The Galaxy S10+ is likely to be the big seller for Samsung this year, and it deserves to be.

    The design is stylish, classy and highly appealing – a return to form for the Korean company. The display is the very best Samsung has made, great for watching video so long as the twin camera slot doesn’t interfere. Screen quality is strong for colour, contrast and sharpness. And the fingerprint sensor buried in it is tremendous.

    This is a powerful phone that is fast and responsive, with the latest processor and plenty of storage capacity. The operating software has had an attractive makeover, too.

    The cameras are quick and deliver strong results in almost every situation and the multiple cameras make for a very versatile snapper.

    Innovations like the two-way wireless charging are also excellent. This is easily the best Galaxy phone yet and puts Samsung back in the vanguard of Android phones, though it doesn’t come cheap.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £899.00

    The Rundown

    Design

    9

    Usability

    8

    Display

    10

    Call and Signal Quality

    8

    Email, Browsing, Calandar, Contacts

    8

    Operating System

    8

    Media support

    9

    Camera

    9

    App support and functionality

    8

    Build Quality

    9

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    9

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