Samsung Galaxy S10 review (early verdict): return of the king

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Samsung S10 has a new design, improved camera, bigger battery, faster internals and in-display fingerprint scanner

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T3 Verdict

For the tenth anniversary of its flagship Galaxy S range, Samsung has added a bevy of meaningful changes and improvements to the S10. There's no question this is easily the best smartphone that Samsung has ever built – and that's really saying something. It might even be the best Android smartphone, but we'll need to spend a lot more time with the device before making that call.

Reasons to buy

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    Amazing AMOLED Display

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    Gorgeous Design, Phenomenal Build Quality

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    Triple-Camera

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    One UI Mobile OS Is Great

Reasons to avoid

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    Infinity-O Display Is A Little Unsightly

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    More Expensive Than Previous Samsung Flagships

Samsung Galaxy S10 is the latest entry in the hugely-successful Galaxy S range. From the moment you pick it up the latest flagship, it’s clear that a lot has changed.

That's just as well, after all, Samsung recently lost its crown as T3's prestigious best Android smartphone to the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. We'll have to spend more time with the Galaxy S10 before we make the final call, but Samsung has really pulled out the stops with its latest flagship smartphone. 

And it might just be enough to reclaim the crown. Read on for our Samsung Galaxy S10 early verdict review ... 

Samsung has brought the Infinity-O design that it previewed during its annual developers conference in November last year to the Galaxy line-up.

The new all-screen design allows the display to run to the very edge of the handset, leaving almost no bezels whatsoever – and pushing the speaker grill into a small recess in the border of the smartphone.

As for the front-facing Dual-Pixel 10-megapixel camera, that has been relocated to a small O-shaped cut-out – hence the Infinity-O name – in the top right-hand corner of the display.

Like the first wave of smartphones that used a sweeping notch at the top of their display, this takes some getting used to. Most of the time, the deep blacks on the stunning Quad HD AMOLED panel obscure the small, circular hole so that it noticeable at all, but at other times, like when you launch the default Messages app, which is bright white, the “O” sticks out like a sore thumb.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Review

The bezels are much smaller this year, but the front-facing camera is much, much more noticeable 

The hole-punch in the top of the screen also means the battery icon, aeroplane mode, and a number of other system icons have to be shunted along so that they are close to the middle of the screen, which looks annoyingly asymmetrical.

However, the advantage of the Infinity-O design is clear the second that you hold the Galaxy S10. Despite its monstrous 6.1-inch screen, the handset remains easy to handle one-handed.

That’s helped by the phenomenal new One UI operating system that runs on the handset out-of-the-box. Powered by Android 9 Pie, the new software acknowledges that massive smartphone screens can be tough to use, especially one-handed while walking or squished into the carriage of a train during the morning commute, and sensibly shifts all the interactive elements of the user interface into the lower-third of the screen where they are within easy reach.

At the top of the display, Samsung fills the screen with comically-large menu titles. For those accustomed to older versions of TouchWiz, this is going to take some serious getting used to. But it’s worth it.

The combination of the Infinity-O design and One UI means the 6.1-inch screen on the Galaxy S10 is easier to use and more comfortable to handle and than the 5.8-inch display on its predecessor, despite the Galaxy S10 standing a fraction more than 2mm taller than the S9, too.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Review

As with previous entries in the Galaxy S series, handsets sold in the United States and China are powered by the latest Qualcomm SnapDragon processor, while those on shelves in Europe and South Korea have Samsung’s own Exynos silicon under the bonnet.

As such, if you buy the Samsung Galaxy S10 in the UK, it will be powered by the Samsung Exynos 9820, coupled with 8GB of RAM. Samsung has previously rolled-out a flurry of statistics about how much better its new silicon really is – in the flesh, the Galaxy S10 feels slick and lightning-fast. Switching between apps is fast, with even graphics-intense games firing up in seconds.

According to Samsung, one of the biggest improvements to the Exynos 9820 is power efficiency, which has been improved 40% compared to its predecessor, which powered the Galaxy S9.

Given that Samsung has simultaneously increased the size of the battery to 3,400mAh from 3,000mAh capacity battery in last year’s flagship, the Galaxy S10 could poised to set new records when it comes to battery life endurance. 

Unfortunately, that’s not something we were able to test during our brief time with the Galaxy S10, but we’ll be putting the handset through its paces at a later date for a full in-depth Samsung Galaxy S10 review.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Review

Samsung Galaxy S10 review: camera

Finally, the biggest change to the Galaxy S10 is the camera. Last year, Samsung introduced a secondary sensor to bring the bokeh-touting Live Focus photographs first introduced with its Galaxy Note range to the Galaxy S9. With the Galaxy S10, Samsung has increased the number of rear-mounted sensors again, benign the total to three.

This triple-camera system includes a 12-megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and a variable aperture that can switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4, as well as a new 16-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide sensor and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with f/2.4. This enables 0.5x wide-angle shots, the same as seen on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, as well as 2x optical zoom.

Both modes are really easy to access with a single tap on a small pop-up that appears in the default camera mode. Samsung has fitted its smartphones with some impossibly gimmicky features in the past, but these new additions feel genuinely useful.

From tourist shots of ancient architecture and towering skyscrapers, the 0.5x zoom means you won’t have to keep retreating away from the subject to get the ideal shot, and the 2x optical zoom is likely to be popular with those who take photos at concerts and want to give the impression they were in the front row, whilst simultaneously avoiding the squeeze.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Review

There’s also Live Focus shots, which adds an adjustable artificial bokeh-style blur to the background behind the subject. Samsung has also added a number of additional effects to this feature, including one that renders the background in greyscale, leaving only the subject in colour. Another new mode add a swirling blur effect around the centre of the photo. These are fun, but feel noticeably more forgettable than the ultra-wide and zoom features.

Samsung Galaxy S10 review: other features

Samsung has also ditched the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner that appeared on previous entries in the Galaxy S range. Instead, the biometric sensor has been relocated to underneath the edge-to-edge screen on the front of the handset. According to the Seoul-based company, this new sensor is much more reliable than solutions from competitors since it records every single ridge in your print.

To do this, the ultrasonic scanner creates a three-dimensional mould of the fingertip by bouncing soundwaves off the skin through the display. Samsung says this means the reader will continue to work in tough weather conditions, including heavy rain, which is handy for UK buyers.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Review

We haven’t had the chance to test the ultrasonic scanner, but will be sure to put those claims to the test in the future. However, we’ve always been in favour of a front-facing fingerprint scanner – not least because it means you can unlock the phone and authenticate secure apps when the handset is resting on your desk without having to pick it up.

Contrary to the rumours, the 3.5mm headphone port remains intact on the Galaxy S10e – so there’s no need to throw-out your wired cans or cough-up for dongle. The smartphone is also rated IP68 for water and dust resistance, which means it can withstand a swim in 1.5metres of water for half an hour. Obviously, we didn’t get a chance to test that at the Galaxy Unpacked event, but given Samsung’s track record, we have no reason to doubt the claims.

Samsung Galaxy S10 will be available with 128GB and 512GB of built-in storage, although both models include the ability to increase the storage with an additional 512GB via the MicroSD card slot. Galaxy S10 will be available in Prism Green, Prism White, Prism Black, and Prism Blue.

Samsung Galaxy S10 prices start from £869.

Pre-orders are available today direct from Samsung, with the first handsets dropping through letterboxes on March 8, 2019. Customers who pre-order the device will get a free pair of Galaxy Buds thrown-in, too.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Review

Samsung Galaxy S10 review: our early verdict

For the tenth anniversary of its hugely-successful Galaxy S smartphone range, Samsung has added a glut of meaningful changes and improvements to its flagship phone. Granted, we've seen many of these features before – from the Infinity-O design debuting on Samsung's own mid-range Galaxy A8s, to OnePlus embedding its own fingerprint scanner in the display and Huawei offering the ability to use its smartphone to wirelessly charge other Qi compatible devices – but everything feels a little more refined, less gimmicky in the Galaxy S10.

There's no question this is easily the best smartphone that Samsung has ever built – and that's really saying something. It might even be the best Android smartphone, but we'll need to spend a lot more time with the device before making that call.