THE GALAXY S10+ is arguably Samsung’s most important smartphone to date.
As the standout of the firm’s 10th anniversary Galaxy lineup, Samsung is no doubt hoping that the device – with its super-sized punch-hole display, triple cameras and in-display fingerprint scanner – will help it to fight off increased competition from Chinese OEMs such as Huawei, who are starting to bite into Samsung’s once-dominant share of the market.
Thankfully for Samsung, it’s pulled it off. The Galaxy S10+ isn’t just it’s most important smartphone yet; it’s also the best.
Design and displayAs we were quick to decipher after an early fondle with the Galaxy S10+, it’s undoubtedly a gorgeous-looking handset.
Thanks to its Infinity-O display and under-screen fingerprint sensor, the handset’s 6.4in OLED panel stretches and curves around the front of the device; it’s striking to look at, and the handset’s bezel-dodging 93.1 per cent screen-to-body ratio puts most notched Android flagships to shame.
Samsung isn’t the first to market this a ‘punch-hole’ display cutout – Honors View 20 takes that crown – but it’s the first to do so on an OLED panel. While we found the so-called holepunch often unwittingly caught our attention during our first couple of days with the S10+, we soon forgot it was there; if only we could say the same about the notch on our iPhone X.
We’d gladly take Face ID over Samsung’s in-screen fingerprint scanner, though. The ultrasonic sensor is supposedly reliable and harder to spoof than the 2D sensors found on the likes of the OnePlus 6T, but it’s nowhere near as convenient. While the target area for your finger lights up on the latest OnePlus flagship, the Galaxy S10+ doesn’t offer such an assist, which means it often took a bit of fumbling – and swearing – before we managed to unlock the device.
It’s worth noting that the sensor isn’t compatible with most screen protectors, either, though Samsung does include a compatible one in the box.
Clunky fingerprint scanner aside, the screen itself is among the best we’ve tested. The Galaxy S10+ makes use of Samsung’s new ‘Dynamic OLED’ display technology, which delivers punchy colours, deep blacks and insane levels of brightness; the S10+ can up its brightness to up to 1,200 nits in dazzling sunlight.
The screen offer a QHD+ resolution but it’s set to full HD+ resolution out of the box, for power saving reasons. We never found the need to increase the resolution, but the option is there for when watching 4K movies or shoving the smartphone in a VR headset.
Around the back of the device, you’ll find Samsung’s tried-and-tested glass panel accented by aluminium edges. The design, while nothing new, still feels as luxurious as it did with last year’s Galaxy S9, and we’re fans of the new pearlescent colour options; we tested the Pearl White model, which appears to transition from white to blue depending on how you hold the device.
The Galaxy S10 has a USB-C port at the bottom, and, surprisingly, a 3.5mm headphone jack to facilitate the bundled AKG headphones. IP68 certification is on offer too, which means the S10+ will withstand water up to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. Thankfully, we haven’t put this to the test.
Performance and softwareHere in Blighty, the Galaxy S10+ shops with an 8nm Exynos 9820 chip, rather than the Snapdragon 855 on offer to US buyers. While some benchmarks have shown that Samsung’s homegrown chip struggles to match Qualcomm’s latest and greatest in terms of performance, we noticed no issues. Day to day use feels smooth and responsive, and the handset showed no signs of stuttering during gaming, even after extended periods.
When benchmarked using GeekBench, our review model – which packs 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – earned itself a single-core score of 44,84 and a multi-core score of 10,478. As you’d likely expect, that puts its performance above that of the OnePlus 6T and last year’s S9+, slightly better than Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro and below that of Apple’s flagship iPhone XS.
Software-wise, the S10 series is Samsung’s first to launch with its One UI, which sits atop Google’s Android Pie OS. While you’ll still find the same overabundance of pre-installed and duplicated apps when you first switch on the device, but it soon becomes clear that Samsung has managed to scale-back and refine its Android experience.
The skin is a huge improvement over Samsung’s TouchWiz UI of old; While there’s still something oddly toy-ish about Samsung’s app icons, One UI is more lightweight and easier to navigate thanks to its focus on one-handed use, with frequently used items pushed down towards the bottom of the screen. You can ditch traditional, er, screen-tapping in favour of gesture controls too, though it’s still a little clunky and a far cry from Apple’s gesture-based UI.
Naturally, Bixby remains correct and present though Samsung now allows the physical key to be re-programmed to launch another app. We were quick to switch ours to Twitter, natch, as while Samsung has improved Bixby so that the AI helper can understand a wider range of more complex queries, it’s still glitchy and proved far less reliable than Google Assistant.
CameraThe Galaxy S10+ sports a triple rear camera system; a 12MP main lens, a 12MP telephoto lens and a 16MP ultra wide angle snapper.
Thankfully, the camera is just as impressive in the real-world as it sounds on paper; in decent lighting, the Galaxy S10+ is capable of producing sharp, detailed, dynamic images that look like you’ve spent 30 minutes tweaking in Photoshop. The ultrawide lens is good fun too, and manages to cram an impressive amount of detail into its elongated images.
The software lets you easily switch between the three cameras with a tap or a simple pinch and zoom on the viewfinder.
The S10+ starts to struggle when it comes to low-light scenes though. While it produces sharable images, better than our iPhone X, it’s lacking compared to the Pixel 3 and Mate 20 Pro, thanks to their respective night side and night modes.
Around the front of the S10+ On mix for a dual array consisting of the 10MP lens and an 8MP F2.2 aperture lens for depth-sensing, which allows for decent self-shot portrait pics and other selfie wizardry, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Battery lifeAnd this is where things go downhill. While reviewers in the US have lauded the handset’s battery as one of its standout features, the Exynos model we tested didn’t far quite so well.
We found we had to re-juice the smartphone after around four to five hours of constant screentime; some reviews claim the Snapdragon 855 model makes it through around 30 hours before showing signs of wanting.
While this doesn’t make up for the handset’s lacklustre battery life, it does offer support for both wireless and reverse wireless charging for the first time, letting you juice other devices – such as Samsung’s new AirPod-rivalling Galaxy Buds – on the backside of the device.
In shortThe Samsung Galaxy S10+ isn’t perfect, but it isn’t far off either. If you can look past the handset’s clunky fingerprint scanner and disappointing battery life, the smartphone – albeit expensive – is the best Android smartphone you can buy right now.
The goodBest screen we’ve tested, decent performance, great cameras, premium design, Samsung’s UI has been improved.
The badIn-screen fingerprint scanner is fiddly.
The uglyBattery life is disappointing.