Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Reassuringly expensive
Samsung bags another winner
There's never been a better time to be a smartphone fan. Companies such as Google, Huawei, OnePlus and more are all operating at the top of their game, producing beautiful and powerful devices that are overflowing with features.
Samsung is no exception to this, and the company's newest flagship is its most advanced yet. The Samsung Galaxy S10 includes a triple-lens camera, a gorgeous edge-to-edge display and more features than ever before - and after its slightly underwhelming predecessor, it looks like a real breath of fresh air.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Design
It's hard to deny that the Galaxy S10 looks every inch the premium device. With its attractive chrome-effect trim and sleek Gorilla Glass 5 back, it oozes sophistication. The real showstopper, of course, is its edge-to-edge display. The S8's screen stretched all the way to the bottom, thanks to the loss of a physical home button, but now the company has gone one better and eliminated the strip at the top of the screen, too.
It's done this by using a pinhole camera cutout, rather than the popular notch, and we have to say that it's a rather clever design. The result is a phone that looks absolutely breathtaking. It's very similar in appearance to the Galaxy Note 9, but it feels like a much more refined version, with what few rough edges there were sanded off.
It's available in a range of six colours - by far the most diverse range of options we've seen on a mainstream phone since the iPhone 5C - including green, blue, yellow and pink. Our review model came in the 'Prism White' colour, which has an appealing pearlescent sheen to it - although, as with most glass-backed phones, it picks up fingerprints like crazy.
The S10 comes in with a slightly lower weight and thickness than its predecessor, but it's got a slightly larger footprint. This, combined with a larger screen-to-body ratio, means that it actually feels even larger in the hand than the S9 did. Despite being the smaller of Samsung's two flagships, the S10 still feels like a big phone, and the 6.1in size feels borderline unwieldy at times. Truth be told, we'd prefer more of a gap between the S10 and S10+ in terms of screen size, with the regular S10 set at around 5.5in.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Display
With that having been said, the display does look amazing. Samsung has been an industry leader in display technology for years, so this should come as no surprise, but it's impressive all the same. The S10 uses Samsung's signature curved-edge AMOLED panel, with a 1,440 x 3,040 resolution across 6.1in for a total pixel density of around 550ppi.
Technical quality is flawless, with a near-perfect sRGB coverage of 99% and flawless colour accuracy. The scorching peak brightness of 1,024cd/m2 ensures you'll never struggle to make out what's on your screen, either. As you'd expect, support for the latest HDR10+ technology is also present and correct, so HDR video content looks absolutely phenomenal - although HDR10+ content is still somewhat thin on the ground.
What this boils down to, unsurprisingly, is that the display looks absolutely phenomenal. It's about as good as you're going to get on a smartphone. Other devices might have higher resolutions, but a 4K screen on a smartphone is both unnecessary and, in most cases, not as high quality as this one. Samsung even allows you to tweak the white balance of the screen, so perfectionists will be happy too.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Specs and hardware
We've said this before but at this point, talking about the hardware and performance of flagship devices is all but irrelevant. Any modern flagship is basically guaranteed to be more than fast enough to keep up with anything you care to throw at it, so the performance is kind of a moot point.
If for some reason you are interested, however, the European version of the Galaxy S10 features Samsung's own Exynos 9820 SOC, an 8nm octacore CPU backed with 8GB of RAM. Performance is excellent, with Geekbench 4 tests indicating that the S10 is roughly on par with the S10+, outpacing both the Google Pixel 3 XL and the Huawei P30 Pro, and nipping at the heels of Apple's iPhone Xs with a single core score of 4,462 and a 10,299 multi-core score.
It's even fast enough to power a full desktop environment through Samsung's DeX feature (which we'll cover in more detail later on), and we're confident in saying that if Android had the ability to run full-fat Adobe Photoshop software, we'd have few problems using it as our sole device.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Battery life
While hardware performance may be a moot point when it comes to flagships, battery life most certainly isn't. As devices get slimmer and more powerful, the toll on their batteries gets more and more extreme, so power efficiency is critical if manufacturers want to ensure a full day of charge.
To that end, Samsung has squeezed in a 3,400mAh battery - a roughly 10% increase over the Galaxy S9's battery capacity. It's also clearly put some work into optimising how the phone uses that capacity, as evidenced by its result of 17hrs 44mins in our battery tests.
Not only is that more than three hours longer than the S9 managed, it's only an hour shy of the S7 Edge's battery life, which remains the high-water mark for Galaxy phones. It outlasted the iPhone Xs by a good five hours or so, although it couldn't quite match the P30 Pro's score.
Not only does it have an excellent battery life, the Galaxy S10 is also packed with a host of useful charging-related features, including 15W fast-charging (available via both wired and wireless chargers) and wireless power sharing. This clever trick allows you to use your S10 as a power bank, using its remaining battery to charge other devices. It only works over wireless connections, sadly, but it's a feature that's very handy to have in case of emergencies.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Camera
While that edge-to-edge display might be the most eye-catching feature, the Galaxy S10's real crowning glory is the camera. It's a triple-lens setup, including a 16-megapixel wide-angle lens and a 12-megapixel 2x telephoto lens, as well as the 12-megapixel dual-aperture lens carried over from last year's S9.
This setup produces outstanding results, with excellent capturing of detail and great exposure. The long-distance zoom capabilities can't quite match up to the P30 Pro's outstanding 5x optical zoom and colours could look a little more natural in some cases, but overall the camera is among the best we've seen on a smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Ports and features
Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy S10 is also brimming with extra features in addition to those already covered. Long-running Galaxy features like IP68 waterproofing and expandable storage via microSD card both make a return, and they're joined by new features like an 'ultrasonic' in-display fingerprint reader, which works with the facial recognition to provide biometric authentication capabilities.
Frankly, we're not convinced by its effectiveness. We frequently found that it was slower and less accurate at reading our digit than the previous physical sensor, and a lack of physical feedback makes it hard to press without looking. For our money, the facial recognition is a much quicker and easier method of unlocking the device.
Elsewhere, there's two Dolby Atmos-powered stereo speakers, as well as Samsung's superb DeX Mode feature, which allows you to plug your S10 into a monitor or docking station via USB-C and use it in a desktop layout with a mouse and keyboard - although you can also use the phone itself as a touchpad with an on-screen virtual keyboard.
This is one of our favourite features, and a huge differentiator for business customers. It essentially means that, assuming you don't need to use and specific Windows-apps software, you can deploy an S10 to your staff as a do-it-all device. It works superbly, and is more than fast enough to handle multiple concurrently-running apps in desktop mode.
Something we're less keen on, however, is the return of Samsung's Bixby digital assistant, complete with the physical button on the side of the device to activate it. Bixby simply isn't as powerful as the Google Assistant (which the S10 also supports) so there's no real reason to use it. We also repeatedly found ourselves pressing the button by accident and inadvertently activating Bixby, which rapidly became annoying.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: Verdict
Aside from the substantial blip that was the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung's track record for producing stand-out devices is rather exemplary. As such, it comes as no surprise that the Galaxy S10 is an absolutely superb phone. It's got a cracking camera, it looks amazing and it's capable of replacing your desktop as a work device. There's really very little to dislike about this phone, apart from a couple of minor quibbles like the Bixby button.
On the other hand, it is decidedly expensive, coming in at almost 800 after tax. This is thrown into stark relief by the Google Pixel 3a, which offers an absolutely superb experience for a fraction of the cost. The new OnePlus 7 is also significantly cheaper, although we won't know how well it compares to the S10 until we've had it in for review. You're definitely getting your money's worth with the S10 - we can say with confidence that neither of those devices feel as premium as the S10 - but there are cheaper options that can deliver a broadly similar level of technical capability.
With that being said, however, it's still the nicest phone we've tested this year, and the most impressive phone Samsung has produced to date. If you can stump up the cash, this is one of the best phones you can buy.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 is a refinement of the formula that brought us the outstanding S9 and Note 9 devices. It’s gorgeous to look at, satisfying to use and hits just about every mark. It might be expensive - but it’s worth every penny.
|Processor||Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9820 (1x2.84GHz, 3x2.41GHz, 4x1.79GHz)|
|Screen resolution||3,040 x 1,440|
|Screen type||Dynamic AMOLED|
|Front camera||10-megapixel, f/1.9|
|Rear camera||12-megapixel f/1.5, 12-megapixel f/2.4, 16-megapixel f/2.2|
|Dust and water resistance||IP68|
|3.5mm headphone jack||Yes|
|USB connection type||USB Type-C|
|Storage options||128GB, 512GB|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD (up to 512GB)|
|Dual SIM||Yes (shared with microSD)|
|Dimensions (WDH)||150 x 70 x 7.8 mm|
|Operating system||Android 9|
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