Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Samsung's pocket superstar impresses in almost every way

Almost all the power of the bigger phones packed into a more compact package

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Samsung Galaxy S10e Review

T3 Verdict

The best sub-6-inch smartphone you can buy today, with top-level components, a beautiful-looking AMOLED screen, and a stylish design. You miss out on some of the bigger storage options and a third camera lens around the back, but we think the sacrifice is worth making if you want to save some money (and some room in your pocket).

Reasons to buy

  • +

    Compact, stylish design

  • +

    Save yourself some money

  • +

    Packed with power

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    No optical zoom

  • -

    Still relatively expensive

  • -

    One UI has its quirks

Samsung Galaxy S10e key specs

Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm

Weight: 150 g

Screen: 5.8-inch, 19:9, 438 ppi (1,080 x 2,280)

CPU: Exynos 9820

RAM: 6-8GB

Storage: 128-256GB

Battery: 3,100mAh

Cameras: 12MP+16MP rear / 10MP front

OS: Android 9.0 Pie, One UI

Just as Apple did with the iPhone XR, Samsung has sprung a new, cheaper model on the world with its annual flagship refresh – the Samsung S10e is the most affordable of the new S10 phones, behind the standard Galaxy S10, the Galaxy S10 Plus, and the Galaxy S10 5G model.

It might not cost as much as the other phones in the S10 range, but does it represent better value for money? Or would you be better off spending more to get more options and features? We've been testing out the Galaxy S10e for almost a week now, and so can give you a considered verdict.

We'll explain how the Galaxy S10e differs from other models in the family, and give you an idea of why you might or might not want to make it your next smartphone upgrade.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: price, models, and availability

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

 Samsung Galaxy S10e 

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is available to buy right now in a choice of distinctive colours – white, black, green and yellow, at the time of writing in the UK. The 6GB RAM and 128GB storage option is the one on offer in the UK, though some regions will get the option of 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage.

The price is £669 direct from Samsung, putting it £130 lower than the starting price of the Galaxy S10, and £230 lower than the starting price of the Galaxy S10 Plus. That's a substantial saving, and we'll explain further down why you might think it's worth it.

The Galaxy S10e is available from a variety of retailers and carriers as well of course. If you head over to Carphone Warehouse, you'll find the phone on offer for £36.99 per month with an upfront cost of £49.99, for example – that gets you 30GB of data a month on EE together with unlimited minutes and unlimited texts.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: design and build quality

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Samsung has been making nicely designed, well-built smartphones for years now, and the Samsung Galaxy S10e follows that tradition – don't make the mistake of thinking that because the Galaxy S10e is cheaper, it's cheaply put together.

New this year for Samsung is the hole-punch, Infinity-O display, and it looks perfectly fine, even on the smaller display of the S10e. Around the front we've got thin bezels and carefully moulded glass, and around the back there's a shiny but grippable casing that looks great too (the stylish selection of colours help here).

We're big fans of the design of the Samsung Galaxy S10e and if Samsung has been skimping on materials in order to keep the price down then it doesn't show – at first and indeed second and third glances this looks just as premium as the S10 and S10 Plus.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

It's a little bit thicker than the standard S10 (measuring 7.9mm rather than 7.8mm), but you're hardly going to notice that unless you're lining them both up in a lab. Also, while he edges of the device are rounded, the display stays flat rather than being curved as it is on the more expensive S10 phones.

That might not please some, but we actually prefer it – it makes it easier to see the edges of the screen, and avoids any accidental presses. As far as design and build quality goes, we're only talking about minor differences.

The big difference here is of course the size, with the S10e screen measuring 5.8 inches compared with the 6.1 inches of the S10 and the 6.4 inches of the S10 Plus. That gives you less space for your apps, but means the S10e is more pocket-friendly.

The smartphone is also rated IP68 for water and dust resistance, which means it can withstand a swim in 1.5 metres of water for half an hour – you don't have to be afraid of it taking a quick dunk but it won't survive a week at the bottom of the ocean.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: screen, hardware, and performance

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Even by Samsung's standards, the Dynamic AMOLED screen on the front of the Galaxy S10e is something special. It might be smaller and a lower resolution (1080 x 2280 pixels) than the other S10 phones, but it still looks fantastic: deep and vibrant colours, deep blacks, and excellent brightness and contrast are the order of the day.

That smaller screen means less of everything on screen, whether it's a message conversation or a webpage. It might really get on your nerves, if you're used to something with a bigger screen, or it might not bother you at all, if you're just glad to have a device that can be used easily in one hand.

And it absolutely can be used with one hand – if you don't like the trend towards bigger and bigger phones, the Samsung Galaxy S10e could be the handset for you. That more compact screen, and the thin bezels, means this is easily gripped in one hand.

Samsung Galaxy S10e

We watched numerous Netflix and YouTube videos, breezed through some photo albums, and surfed across our favourite parts of the web, and every time the display was a joy to use, as you would expect from a Samsung AMOLED panel in 2019. The 1080p resolution is more than enough for a 5.8-inch display, and there's support for HDR10 content too.

Under the hood is the same processor in the S10 or S10 Plus: the Snapdragon 855 or Exynos 9820, depending on your region. That's paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, or 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and a memory card slot is available for adding even more room.

While the S10 and S10 Plus offer more powerful configurations (up to 12GB of RAM and 1TB of storage space in the case of the S10 Plus), the Galaxy S10e is still a very, very powerful phone. You're going to struggle to find anything faster than it in 2019, which isn't bad for what is supposedly the lower end model in the S10 family.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Don't forget that a smaller screen and a lower resolution means fewer pixels to push. Apps and menus zip by on the Samsung Galaxy S10e, and it had no problems coping with the games we played on it – from intricate puzzlers to high-octane racing games.

As we've said, if you're used to a bigger display, then the more compact keyboard and lack of room for your Twitter timeline or Spotify playlists might start to grate. However, once you get used to it, the smaller size is fine – and you certainly won't complain if you're coming from a handset of similar dimensions.

The extra RAM available on the S10 and S10 Plus phones might come in handy for really big apps and really demanding multitasking, but honestly the Galaxy S10e is going to do you proud and remain responsive for years to come. Just like the iPhone XR, it's not the performance levels where the S10e cuts corners to keep the prices down.

GeekBench 4 benchmarks – Samsung Galaxy S10e

[CPU test]

Single-core: 4,446

Multi-core: 10,173

[Compute test]

Compute score: 10,369

[Battery test]

Battery score estimate: 2,672

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: camera system

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

The camera system is one of the areas where the Samsung Galaxy S10e gives you less than the Galaxy S10 or the Galaxy S10 Plus. You only get a dual-lens rear camera rather than a triple-lens setup – the 12MP+16MP camera system is still capable of taking some impressive snaps, but you miss out on extras like the 2x optical zoom available on the other S10 models.

You get the same bokeh blur Live Focus mode that's on the S10 and S10 Plus, but the lack of a third sensor means the depth calculations and overall effects aren't quite as polished – though that's perhaps something you're not going to worry about unless you're planning to show off your snaps in an exhibition.

We liked taking photos with the Samsung Galaxy S10e. The shots it gets are bright and clear, and the shutter speed and focus are quick – it really is a question of pointing and shooting when you've got the Samsung S10e in your pocket.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

As with just about every smartphone out there, the problems start when the light goes down. The S10e can't capture low light information as well as the S10, and is quite a way behind something like the Google Pixel 3. There is a Bright Night feature that tries to make software adjustments, but we found it rather hit and miss.

This is still a top-level Samsung phone, and with that in mind you can still get some decent night time shots if there's a bit of light around and you can keep the phone still for a second or so. However, it's not going to set new standards for mobile photography in low light conditions, far from it. If you can live with that, then you might consider the savings you make on the cost of the S10e worth it.

The lack of any optical zoom is a disappointment, but you have to make compromises somewhere if you're making a more affordable S10. The ultra-wide angle lens that's in the rear camera of the S10e (and the S10 and S10 Plus) is really useful though, letting you take a virtual step back from a scene to fit more in the picture.

Samsung has packed in a variety of features and tricks on the software side, including a scene analyser that tells you when it thinks you're framing your shot in the best way (you can switch it off if you find it annoying). There are also a wider choice of scene modes to pick between, if you need some extra help beyond the automatic settings.

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Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is certainly capable of taking some great shots.
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Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample

The ultra-wide angle lens fits so much in the frame.
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Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample

Close-ups are great too, fitting in plenty of colour and clarity.
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Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample

Despite only having two lenses rather than three, the shots the S10e gets are still impressive.
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Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample

Artificially processed night time shots can be hit and miss.
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Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample

Stick to the auto mode and the S10e does fine in low light situations.

All told, the dual-lens camera on the Samsung Galaxy S10e doesn't disappoint – it just doesn't hit the heights of some of the best flagships of 2019. We'd say it's at least on a par with and in many cases better than the flagships of 2018, including the Galaxy S9, so that's something to consider if you're thinking of upgrading.

As you can see from our sample shots, colour reproduction and detail is good, and you're going to be able to grab some really nice shots for social media or showing off to friends and family. Yes, there are phones with better cameras out there on the market at the moment, but they tend to cost more too.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: battery and audio

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

The 3,100mAh battery packed inside the Samsung Galaxy S10e will easily see you through a day, perhaps because of that smaller, lower-resolution screen: we typically had around 15-20 percent left by bedtime after a full charge in the morning, though don't forget we were using a brand new phone, so you can probably expect that to go down over time.

In our usual and rather rough battery test, where we play an hour of Netflix at maximum brightness and 50 percent volume, the Samsung S10e battery level went down from 100 percent to 89 percent. That was better than the S10's 87 percent, and means you could get around ten hours of Netflix bingeing in before the battery died completely.

If you really push the Samsung Galaxy S10e to its limits in terms of playing videos, blasting loud music, and firing up GPS mapping every ten minutes, then you probably will have to start hunting for a charger before bedtime; but for day-to-day use this isn't going to have you worried about where the next charge is coming from.

Fast charging and wireless charging are both supported on the S10e, and Samsung has included reversible wireless charging too, so you can drop smaller gadgets on top of the phone to juice them up – it's something you might have thought would get cut from a more affordable model, but we're glad that it's been retained.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

When it comes to audio performance, we found podcasts, music, and dialog from movies and TV shows came across really clearly, even at lower levels – this isn't a phone you're going to have a problem hearing, and the stereo speakers no doubt help here.

If you're looking to crank up the volume with some music or a podcast while you're doing the daily chores or getting ready in the morning, again the Samsung Galaxy S10e fits the bill nicely: ramp the volume up to the maximum and it can easily fill a room with sound. It's not the best audio we've ever heard from a phone but it's more than adequate.

As with the other S10 models that Samsung has pushed out this year, the 3.5mm headphone jack gets retained, which means you can carry on using your existing wired headphones if you want to.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: software, OS and security

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

The Samsung Galaxy S10e comes running Android 9 Pie out of the box which means you can take advantage of all that Google's latest mobile OS has to offer – digital wellbeing tools, better notification management, improved battery management and so on.

With Android Q already in testing, Android 9 Pie won't be the latest OS for much longer, so you will be relying on Samsung to push out the next update fairly swiftly if you want to stay up to date. The good news is that the redesigned One UI that Samsung now applies on top of Android is a pleasure to use.

 After years of trying to get the balance right between functionality and flair, Samsung's latest stab at an Android overlay manages to hit the sweet spot. It adds some extra features on top of Android (like a high-performance gaming mode and a video enhancer) without becoming too cluttered or busy.

Samsung Galaxy S10e reivew

Samsung Galaxy S10e

One of the best new features in One UI is the way the menus extend towards the bottom of the screen, making one-handed operation much easier. It's not as important on the 5.8-inch screen of the Galaxy S10e, but it's still useful.

 Something else it has that standard stock Android doesn't have (yet) is a proper dark mode, which works across all of Samsung's included apps (the calendar, calculator, email app and so on). These bundled apps vary in terms of quality but it's easy enough to ignore them or swap them out for the Google equivalents.

As for security, besides the usual PIN and pattern unlock methods, there's a capacitive fingerprint sensor built into the power button on the side, which we found quick and easy to use. At this point we think it's a better bet than in-screen fingerprint sensors (which can be hit and miss), though obviously it might be less convenient if you're left handed.

Samsung Galaxy S10e review: verdict

Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Let's get down to brass tacks: the Samsung Galaxy S10e looks like a premium device, feels like a premium device, and has premium-level internal components packed inside. It's compact, powerful, and very appealing... so why would you pay more? Because you like a larger screen, perhaps, or you want the best camera money can buy.

Why would you pay less and get the S10e? Because you prefer smaller screens, maybe, or because you don't think the extra screen real estate and camera capabilities of the S10 and S10 Plus are worth the extra cash. There's no objective way of rating the S10e against the other phones in the range – it's a question of personal preference.

What we can tell you is we loved our time with the Samsung S10e: it's a brilliant little phone with a lot of nice touches and a mobile OS that Samsung doesn't have to be embarrassed about any more. It's still an expensive phone of course, but not quite as expensive as the high-end flagships.

When you weigh it up against the other phones we've seen and are likely to see during the course of 2019, it certainly holds its own in terms of performance and design, and won't let you down with battery life, software, or camera quality either. If you're after a compact phone this year, this could well be your best option.

Many thanks to Vodafone for supplying a device for review. Vodafone's full Samsung Galaxy S10 range can be viewed on its official website.