After hearing far too often that the Galaxy S9 and S9+ were simply a boring update of the previous generation, another year has finally passed, and Samsung once again has presented the new high-end Galaxy S line. After a whole week spent in the company of Galaxy S10+ I am ready to discuss its every aspect in this full review.
- Design and materials
- Fingerprint sensor
- 2D Face Unlock
- 18W recharge
S10+ breaks the $1000 barrier
Samsung's new high-end line of Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ can already be pre-ordered from the manufacturer's official website or through authorized dealers and various major electronics chains. The shipments, however, will start on Friday, March 8.
As for the Galaxy S10+, its starting price is $999 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage version, $1249.99 for the 8GB RAM and 512GB storage version and, finally, $1599.99 for the variant with 12GB of RAM and 1TB of internal storage.
In addition, if you managed to order the Galaxy S10 and S10+ early enough you will receive the company's new free wireless earphones, the Galaxy Buds or a $130 eCertificate. Galaxy S10e, on the other hand, is excluded from the promotion.
It gets better!
Last year, some fans complained that the Galaxy S9 was an aesthetically boring smartphone. However, the numbers never lie - the previous Samsung model was the South Korean manufacturer's high-end device which totaled the most sales.
But this time it's different: the new Galaxy phones have been redesigned, and it seems that the Seoul company has fully addressed the issues that users have complained about loudly. So, in one fell swoop, Samsung has gone from its more "boring" update to the exciting new Galaxy S smartphones, just in time to celebrate its tenth anniversary.
When Samsung decided to redesign its flagship devices it once again tried to get the best screen-body ratio possible. After all, the Galaxy S9 had much larger bezels than many other smartphones released last year, mainly because the South Korean company completely rejected the idea of using a notch - a linear and concrete strategy that I really appreciated.
The story is repeated in 2019, but this time Galaxy S10 sports a screen that extends as close as possible to the outer edges. No more front cameras in the bezels. This time they are behind the screen thanks to punch holes that are cut perfectly. I found this solution very intelligent and much better than the offers from other manufacturers, such as the slider or the notch. Is it the best? It's a matter of taste. Let me know what you prefer in the comments.
Apart from that, the design of the Galaxy S10 is stunning, to say the least, while retaining much of the identity of previous models, making it possible to easily identify the phone at first glance. The curved edges on both the front and back allow for a better grip and the ceramic version I used for this review remained firmly in my hand and hardly ever slipped.
If I have to make a critique, I should mention that I hate the asymmetry of the two upper and lower frames, or the fact that the on/off button has been placed too high, making it difficult to reach. However, on the last point - this is not a big issue because you can wake up the screen by picking up the phone or by double tapping on the screen.
As we've known for some time, the Galaxy S10+ has a huge perforated display that the South Korean giant calls Infinity-O. Of course, the "O" refers to the hole (or holes in this case) that can be found in the upper right corner of the screen and which houses the two front cameras. The goal of almost all smartphone manufacturer at this time is to have almost bezel-less display and Samsung has had to put in work to achieve this goal. Why is that? Because Samsung's screens are simply the best in the world, visually and technologically.
In fact, this year's 6.4-inch screen is exactly what you'd expect: gorgeous. This is a new OLED panel, which Samsung has called Dynamic AMOLED, with QHD+ resolution and HDR10+ support. The latter is a standard in clear competition with Dolby Vision (HDR technology also supported by the latest iPhones) and provides additional metadata for movies and TV programs that support it, optimizing contrast and color in every type of scene.
Samsung also claims that its display can reach up to 1200 nits of brightness, making it ideal for both HDR content and outdoor use under direct sunlight. Of course, the 1200 nits peak are only reached in conditions of extreme direct sunlight. It is not possible to increase the brightness up to this point manually. The screen was also designed to be more "gentle" on the eyes of users and should emit less blue light than before.
The fingerprint sensor doesn't agree with me
One of the novelties of this year is undoubtedly the in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which has the hard task of replacing the traditional rear reader that, to put it briefly, has never shone compared to the competition. For about three years, Samsung has only received criticism for their fingerprint sensors: first the wrong position, thent too slow. Have they gotten it right this year?
The ultrasonic sensor should ensure a fast response, doesn't need the screen to be on to function and, moreover, is supposed to be able to read fingerprints even underwater. On paper, it should perform better than the optical sensors found on other devices, such as the OnePlus 6T, for example. However, the reality is quite different...
After a slightly longer setup process than that of traditional sensors (one and a half minutes at most), the Galaxy S10+ sensor was working well during my initial tests, but was not able to convince me in my daily. It kept failing to recognize my fingerprint multiple times. I tried to reconfigure everything several times, but I can assure you that the result is always the same. Recently, Samsung pushed a major software update, which mentioned fingerprint sensor problems, but, despite this, I continue to find it slow and inaccurate.
I know, this fingerprint sensor story seems like a personal struggle and it probably all stems from the fact that my expectations were higher. However, other colleagues from other tech websites are also experiencing the same kind of problem, which is why it's safe to say that it's not an isolated issue. However, American colleagues seem not to have this problem, probably thanks to the presence of the Snapdragon 855 (just a reminder, the S10 fingerprint sensor is a Qualcomm technology). Of course, this is just an assumption.
But at the same time, let's not despair! We just entered in March and, if all goes well, Samsung could improve this aspect with the upcoming updates. The consequence of this problem was the immediate activation of the second (and last) biometric system, the 2D Face Unlock. Yes, you read it right, it's still 2D, but despite that, it recognizes my face immediately and I don't have to get frustrated when trying to unlock the phone.
What about the iris scanner? It's gone. Unlike the previous generation, the Galaxy S10 has completely eliminated this sensor, as there is no longer enough space for it. We are not sure that this is the exact reason - it's also likely that it wasn't seeing that much use in the first place. Did you use it on your S9? Share your experience in the comments.
One UI: I didn't want anything else
As for the software on board, we already knew almost everything about One UI (based on Android 9 Pie) thanks to participating in the Beta on our Galaxy S9 and Note 9. This year's devices are the first to come out of the box with the new user interface and operating system . There's little to say: I love it, especially because Samsung has used so many elements that are reminiscent of stock Android and Google's Material Design.
The new icons have caused some controversy, but honestly I think they are much more beautiful than those of the previous version, but it is still a matter of taste. Apart from this, the new software level implementations mainly concern some features that fans have asked for, such as a double tap to awaken the screen, a system level Dark Mode and gestures that can replace the navigation bar.
The notification bar is one of the most redesigned elements. With your first swipe from top to bottom, you can read the notifications and see a single row of quick toggles, while a second swipe extends it by bringing the quick toggles to the bottom of the screen. This way you can comfortably reach them using the device with one hand.
Even the recent apps screen has been completely redesigned using the native Android Pie solution. No more cards to browse vertically in archive style - you now navigate open apps horizontally.
Bixby, despite being the familiar voice assistant, has been updated. Now, in addition to knowing how to speak more languages, you can remap its dedicated button. From the settings, you can choose which app to open by pressing the button once or twice. Of course, it is not possible to deactivate Bixby completely - it will always be activated with a long press on the button. Was that a good choice? Yes, definitely. A compromise has been reached!
For all the information about One UI, you can read my dedicated article in which I tell you all about my experience with the new Samsung interface.
Power is never lacking
Leaving behind the few problems I encountered, let's move on to the most interesting things. Every new generation of the Galaxy S line has gotten us used to the best available hardware under the hood. The Galaxy S10+ is no exception.
The new SoC, the Exynos 9820, is responsible for supplying the power, built with an LPP (Low Power Plus) production process at 8nm. It is accompanied by 8 GB of RAM and internal storage of either 128 GB or 512 GB, once again expandable via microSD up to a further 512 GB. The specs, but also the available colors and materials used for the smartphone's construction will change according to which variant you choose. Let's sum it up like this:
- The 8/128 GB version is available with a rear shell made of glass in Prism Black, Prism White and Prism Green colors;
- The 8/512 GB and 12 GB/1 TB versions are available with a ceramic back body in the Ceramic White and Ceramic Black colors.
Contrary to what I might have expected, we received the 8/512GB variant in Ceramic White, and my colleague (and roommate) knows how happy I am with this wonderful surprise, right Luca?
Apart from the colors and materials, whatever variant you choose will deliver the maximum power you'd expect from a flagship. There is no lag or performance issues. I also must add that the smartphone never heats up too much, thanks to the ceramics, which are better than glass in that regard. From a performance point of view, there's very little to say - the Galaxy S10 is fast in everything it does, from switching between apps to managing heavy games. I couldn't ask for any better.
In addition, AI also comes into play through the Intelligent Performance feature, thanks to which the Galaxy S10 automatically optimizes the CPU and RAM usage, constantly monitoring the temperature of the device, to ensure a longer battery life. Intelligent Performance is also able to learn about your daily use - it can load apps in the background that you'll use later in the day for a faster start up.
AKG has done its job
When it comes to audio, Samsung has passed the ball to experts in the field: AKG. The Galaxy S10+ boasts a stereo speaker system consisting of a main speaker and a headset capsule hidden between the top frame and the display. When you hold the phone horizontally, each speaker is able to manage the respective channel, but, of course, the one at the bottom is sharper, this is undeniable.
Both in terms of power and sound quality, I can only say one thing: excellent! Thanks to AKG's experts, Samsung has been able to further improve the sound experience, ensuring clean sound even at maximum volume.
Speaking of which, the volume level is very good, among the best in its class and did not make me miss LG's BoomBox technology. Even the most demanding audiophiles will have difficulty finding something wrong with the audio output of the Galaxy S10+.
A satisfying wide angle
This year Samsung has upped their game in the photographic sector by upgrading the Galaxy S10 and S10+ with three rear cameras. We already know the first two sensors very well (main sensor + telephoto lens), but an ultra wide-angle 16MP, which offers a field of view of 123 degrees, has also been added to the mix. This sensor is not optically stabilized, but don't worry - as you'll see, it produces incredible results.
The other two cameras are practically the same as those on the S9+ and Note 9. The main module uses a 12MP Dual Pixel sensor (1.4 micron, autofocus and variable aperture) with optical stabilization, while the 2x telephoto optical zoom lens contains a stabilized sensor with autofocus capability.
The real work in terms of photo quality is done by the software. Samsung has expanded the range of scenarios that its scene optimizer is able to recognize, reaching a total of 30 scenarios. Digging through the settings you can also find the Bright Night mode that was mentioned multiple times in leaks of the camera app. It should improve performance automatically in low light conditions. However, if you thought that Samsung would implement a feature similar to Google's Night Sight or Huawei's Night Mode, you'd be disappointed. It's not there.
A completely new feature is the Shooting Suggestion Tool. Your smartphone can analyze the scene, suggesting the right framing and alignment to follow. It's useful, but sometimes too intrusive and unable to understand what we really want to photograph. It's a good attempt, but needs improvement.
On the front, the Galaxy S10+ sports two cameras - one dedicated to shooting, the other reserved for depth of field detection, so you can create those great bokeh effects.
For more information about the Galaxy S10+ cameras, I invite you to read the dedicated camera review in which I have explored all the possibilities offered by the manufacturer.
Leave the powerbank at home
As spectacular as the cameras and display are, this year there's something new to add to the Galaxy line's list of advantages: battery life. Finally, I no longer have to worry about having a powerbank or a charger always at hand!
Five hours of active screen on a single charge, even six hours when Dark Mode is activated. It's not just the 4100 mAh module that gives this smartphone fantastic battery life, but also the new SoC and the AI help and software optimization it provides.
Samsung claims an overall battery life of more than 24 hours, although this depends on how you use your smartphone. Thanks to Digital Wellbeing, I can tell you that I unlock my smartphone at least 150 times every day and I receive about 1200 notifications, especially from the various messaging services, but also from the emails I continuously receive on my five Gmail accounts, which are always synchronized.
When I get home in the evening I tend to watch YouTube videos while I relaxing on the couch, or I challenge online opponents in Dragon Ball Legends. The battery is recharged on time every morning just after the first hour of work. Morale of the story: the Galaxy S10+ is able to handle the typical use I just described, while ensuring a minimum of 24 hours of overall autonomy - a result that I could never have achieved with last year's device.
Is there anything to complain about battery-wise? Of course, it wouldn't be me if I didn't find something to nitpick. Samsung may have improved battery life but forgot to do the same for its fast charging technology. It once again supports up to 18W of power. Samsung, it's 2019, you know that, right?
The only charging that has been improved is the wireless one, which Samsung calls Fast Wireless Charging 2.0. In order to take advantage of the new wireless charging technology, you will need a charger compatible with it, such as the Wireless Charger Duo presented during the Unpacked event. It is already available for purchase on Samsung's official website for $119.99. Suck on that Apple!
To respond to Huawei, however, Samsung has also given the new Galaxy S10 family the ability to charge other devices via reverse wireless charging, calling this feature Wireless PowerShare. It is a function that we are likely to see more and more in the future, since it comes in handy for charging accessories like Bluetooth headphones.
Samsung Galaxy S10+ technical specifications
Is it worth buying?
If the Galaxy S9+ was perceived as an S8+ with an extra camera, you can't say the same again this year. The Galaxy S10+ also has one more camera than the previous generation, that's true, but improvements in every respect (both hardware and software) are undeniable.
Whether you own an S8 or an S9, it makes little difference. After trying each of the devices in this series I can say with absolute certainty that the generational leap is here. The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is my new main device. Try to get it out of my hands if you can!