Samsung Galaxy S10 key specs
Dimensions: 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8 mm
Weight: 157 g
Screen: 6.1-inch, 19:9, 550 ppi (1,440 x 3,040)
CPU: Exynos 9820
Cameras: 12MP+12MP+16MP rear / 10MP front
OS: Android 9.0 Pie, One UI
Every year we see a whole host of new Android flagships hit the market – phones from everyone from Huawei to Google to OnePlus – but for many the Samsung Galaxy phones are the ones to beat, and this year it's the Galaxy S10 leading the charge.
This is smaller and cheaper than the Galaxy S10 Plus, and larger and more expensive than the Galaxy S10e – so does that mean it hits the perfect sweet spot of power and price? Or does it fall awkwardly between the other two options in the range?
There's also a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G version, which changes up some of the specs and will be arriving in April.
Here we're going to focus on the Samsung Galaxy S10, set to be one of the most loved and most popular phones of the year. Does it have what it takes to hold off its competitors and claim the title of the best phone of 2019? This is what we thought of the phone after putting it through its paces for several days.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: price, models, and availability
The Samsung Galaxy S10 is available right now to buy in the UK in your choice of white, black, and green – enough colour choice if you decide to opt for this over the Galaxy S10 Plus and the Galaxy S10e.
Go direct to Samsung and you'll pay £799 for the version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Pony up £999 instead and that'll get you the same 8GB of RAM with 512GB of storage. Those are up front prices for SIM-free phones.
Head to Carphone Warehouse and you can pick up a Samsung Galaxy S10 from £39.99 per month with a £99.99 up front payment – that's with 1GB of data a month, and for the 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage model.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: design and build quality
At this point it's been fairly well established that Samsung is capable of making some fantastic-looking smartphones, and the Galaxy S10 is by no means a disappointment in this regard. It oozes style and class from every glass and metal pore, and feels like a luxury product from the moment you pick it up.
Samsung's experimentation with the notch continues with a hole-punch cut-out in the top right-hand corner, known as an "Infinity-O" display in Samsung parlance. We prefer a thicker bezel rather than any notch, but it's really a matter of personal preference.
What can't be argued is the quality of the craftsmanship here – Samsung has once again excelled itself in the way it's managed to put together its flagship smartphone. The new all-screen design pushes the display to the very edge of the handset, leaving almost no bezels whatsoever.
The combination of the Infinity-O design and software tweaks 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.
In fact, it's one of the most compact phones with a screen bigger than 6 inches that we've ever had the pleasure to handle. A whopping 93.1 percent of the front of the phone is taken up with the screen. IP68 waterproofing is here too for peace of mind.
If we were being picky we'd say that the layout and the bulge of the triple-lens camera on the back of the unit isn't the most elegant of solutions, but we really are struggling to come up with anything bad to say about the design and the build quality of the Samsung Galaxy S10. It takes what the Galaxy S9 had to offer and offers a substantial boost in aesthetics.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: screen, hardware, and performance
Samsung has, once again, produced an absolutely brilliant display in the 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen that sits on the front of the Galaxy S10. With a fantastic resolution, stunning vibrancy, and rich contrast, it's undoubtedly one of the best screens we've ever seen on a smartphone. It even makes looking at your emails a pleasure.
You can ramp the brightness way, way up, which hurts battery life but can help in daylight. Viewing angles are excellent too, while the edge-to-edge screen and rounded sides of the display help to add to the immersive feel.
The HDR10+ support helps to boost contrast and colour on the fly, and if you fire up something like Netflix or YouTube then the sharp resolution and rich HDR quality really do shine through. You might even decide to start watching more videos on your phone just to enjoy what the display has to offer – it's that good.
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 – the Snapdragon 855 in this case. Those on shelves in Europe and South Korea have Samsung's own Exynos silicon under the bonnet, and so if you buy the Samsung Galaxy S10 in the UK, it will be powered by the Samsung Exynos 9820.
That's coupled with an ample 8GB of RAM, and in use the Galaxy S10 feels slick and lightning-fast, no matter what the task. Switching between apps is near instant, with even graphics-intensive games firing up in seconds. You'll struggle to find a better-performing Android phone in 2019, and the benchmarks we ran backed that up.
We loaded up as many different apps as we could and played a few laps of Asphalt 8, and the Samsung Galaxy S10 coped without breaking a sweat (or a hint of extra heat). Android phones can have a problem with lag, but we wouldn't expect the Galaxy S10 to be one of them, even after a few years of use.
From scrolling through long websites to editing photos, the Galaxy S10 runs at a very speedy clip, which can of course be very useful when you're trying to track down a nearby restaurant or fire up the camera.
The question is whether the extra money you'll pay over a mid-range phone is worth the extra performance you're going to be able to get from the Galaxy S10. After a few days of use, we'd say so – though of course you have to make your own judgement call on that. The RAM and processor packed in here are certainly more than capable of coping with everything a phone needs to do in 2019.
GeekBench 4 benchmarks – Samsung Galaxy S10
Compute score: 10,182
Battery score estimate: 2,631
If you want the very best performance a smartphone can offer in 2019, and you're prepared to spend money to get it, then the Samsung Galaxy S10 definitely fits the bill. If you're more of a lightweight phone user, you probably don't need all of the power the Galaxy S10 offers up.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: camera system
Samsung phones have earned a strong reputation in the camera department over the last few years, but the jumps in quality and innovation have been getting smaller each year. It's the same story with the S10, which offers a noticeable but not huge improvement over what we saw with the S9.
What we do have is an extra sensor: last year, Samsung introduced a secondary sensor, and with the Galaxy S10, the number of rear-mounted sensors increases again, bringing the total to three.
This triple-lens system comprises 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 (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 – 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. In both cases, photo quality seems to be retained very well.
Other new features are more forgettable, like the Live Focus that can adds an artificial bokeh-style blur, a partial greyscale filter, or a swirling blur to the background behind your chosen subject. Fun, but not really essential.
As with its predecessors, the Galaxy S10 is capable of taking some really nice smartphone shots, rich in colour and contrast, and well balanced in terms of darker and lighter areas. A scene needs to get seriously underlit before the rear camera on the S10 starts to struggle, and even then you can often come away with something usable.
The supplied camera app comes packing some optimisations and processing features that we weren't particularly impressed with: it did take us several goes to work out how to take portrait and night shots properly, but perhaps that's more our fault than Samsung's.
If you need a smartphone camera that's going to give you great results almost every time just by pointing and shooting, the Galaxy S10 passes with flying colours. If you need to dig deeper and take more control over your shots, the Galaxy S10 can do that too.
It's not a perfect camera system though, and doesn't really raise the bar for phone photos – it just keeps it at a very high level. We'd say even with a single lens, the Pixel 3 phones have the edge, especially in low light shots, for the time being.
Selfies from the 10MP front-facing camera are good – better than good, in fact. Whether you're using the front or the back camera, focus is grabbed in a snap, and photos are taken in an instant.
Choose to buy the Samsung Galaxy S10 and you're going to get snaps that are an upgrade on the photos taken with almost every other camera out there, even if it's not quite at the top of the ladder. Add in all the photo modes and extra tricks on board, and it's another big tick in the positives column for the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: battery and audio
Battery life is a crucial consideration for every smartphone purchase, with just about a day's use possible from a full charge on most modern-day smartphones. The Galaxy S10 doesn't really vary from that, with a 3,400mAh battery packed in.
That's a decent-sized battery, but the S10 has a bright, big, high-resolution screen, which takes its toll on battery life. In our standard battery test – an hour of Netflix on maximum brightness and 50 percent volume – the S10 dropped from 100 percent to 87 percent.
That's fine, but not game-changing, and it's worse than (for example) the Xiaomi Mi 9 – but then the Mi 9 doesn't have such a quality display, so it's all about compromises. If eight hours of constant Netflixing between charges is enough for you, the S10 will do just fine.
According to Samsung, one of the biggest improvements to the Exynos 9820 is power efficiency, which has been improved 40 percent over the predecessor that powered the Galaxy S9. We never got to the evening worrying about battery life dying before bedtime, but it's possible that with particularly heavy usage you might need a top-up.
Bear in mind that we were testing a brand new phone, so battery life is likely to degrade over time. The bottom line is that despite the increase in battery capacity over the Galaxy S9, you're not going to be able to change your charging habits with this.
What you do get is wireless charging and fast charging, as with previous Samsung Galaxy phones. The Galaxy S10 can get a full recharge in as little as an hour and a half using the bundled, wired charger, and you've got the option of wireless too. Reversible wireless charging is supported as well, so you can juice up other devices on the back of the S10 (provided you have 30 percent or more charge left on your phone at the time).
We were definitely impressed with the stereo speakers on the Galaxy S10. No smartphone is going to be able to compete with a Sonos speaker or Apple HomePod for filling a room with high-fidelity audio, but the S10 is perfectly fine for the odd tune, regular podcast listening, and movie dialog – even at high volumes.
Having watched a few television show episodes on the Galaxy S10, we came away very satisfied with the audio performance. Just be careful where you put your hands when watching, as the speakers are easily muted. As an added bonus, the S10 keeps the 3.5 mm headphone jack as well.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: software, security, and OS
Samsung recently revamped its Android software under the new label One UI, and we like it a lot: 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.
With that in mind, it sensibly shifts all the interactive elements of the user interface into the lower-third of the screen where they're within easy reach. The phone is already a compact one considering its 6.1-inch screen, and the One UI interface really helps.
It's not quite the best take on Android we've ever seen (hello OnePlus), and it won't necessarily get updates as fast as other handsets (hello Pixels), but it's an improvement over Samsung's previous attempts to build on top of Google's source code.
Admittedly the bundled apps aren't particularly great, but they're easily replaced by Google's own – even down to the digital assistant (Google Assistant vs Bixby). Menus are clearer and easier to get around, and you've got more layout and theme customisation options than you get with stock Android.
For security, the biometric sensor has been relocated to underneath the edge-to-edge screen on the front of the handset. Samsung says this sensor is much more reliable than solutions from competitors since it records every single ridge in your print, and it should work in a variety of tough weather conditions.
It's actually a breeze to set up and worked well in our tests, though it's not quite as responsive as the fingerprint sensors we're all used to – that goes for speed as well as reliability.
We wouldn't say it's a major issue but you might have to have a second attempt at unlocking maybe one time in five. Whether that's worth the convenience of having a sensor on the front and not having to get your face into view is your call – but we do prefer a fingerprint unlock to a face one.
This tech is going to get better over time but we found it perfectly usable (and better than the in-screen fingerprint sensors we tested last year). You do still need a relatively firm press for the time being.
Samsung Galaxy S10 review: verdict
For the 10th anniversary of its iconic Galaxy S smartphone range, Samsung has added some genuinely useful improvements and refined just about everything on its flagship phone. It's easily the best smartphone that Samsung has ever built, and is going to take some beating in 2019.
Granted, we've seen many of these features before – the Infinity-O design (debuting on the Galaxy A8s), the fingerprint scanner (the OnePlus 6T), the reversible charging (Huawei Mate 20 Pro), but everything feels a little more polished and less gimmicky here.
If we're being picky then some areas are very good rather than best-in-class – battery life and low-light camera performance among them – but it's difficult to think of another smartphone that gets so much right in such a brilliant all-round package.
The screen, design, and performance are all truly top notch, and with One UI Samsung has an operating system it can be a lot more proud of (though you might still be waiting a while for future updates to roll out).
For the time being at least, the biggest rivals to the Samsung Galaxy S10 are the Galaxy S10 Plus and the Galaxy S10e: you can spend a little more for a bigger phone or a little less for a more compact one. For a lot of people though, we think the Galaxy S10 will be the perfect mix of features, performance, and price.
Is it the best Android phone you can buy at the moment? Despite one or two caveats, we'd say it is, and it's a really close call between this and the 2018 iPhones for the best smartphone on the market full stop. What the S10 gets right it gets very, very right, and that's enough to make up for a few minor disappointments.
- Best Samsung Galaxy S10 deals available right now
Many thanks to Vodafone for supplying a device for review. Vodafone's full Samsung Galaxy S10 range can be viewed on its official website.