Hands on: Is the Samsung Galaxy S10 worth the money?

The S10 phones will officially go on sale on March 8th, but preorders are already open

The new  Galaxy S10+. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The new Galaxy S10+. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

 

While the Galaxy Fold may have stolen the show, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is more likely to be the phone that ends up in your pocket. That’s because not only is it cheaper – though not by much, if you go for the top end S10 Plus – but also it has an actual date for launch in Ireland.

So is the S10 worth the investment?

The phones

Samsung has gone for a three-pronged attack on the market with the S10e, the S10 and the S10 Plus. That gives you an option for a more budget friendly phone by cutting back on the bells and whistles – the S10e – or the budget-busting S10 Plus, which offers a 1TB version that will set you back €1,619.

The one thing that strikes you when you pick up the phones is how light they are – even with the bigger S10 Plus. It’s not exactly insubstantial, but it means your pockets won’t be dragged down by the phone. Drawback: at some point, you’ll think you’ve lost the device.

Looks-wise, there isn’t a massive difference from the S9 in terms of the casing. The S10 and S10 Plus still have the curved screen – the S10e is flat – although the Infinity O display makes the new phones stand out.

Best move? The Samsung S10 family keeps the earphone jack. In a world where phone makers are ditching the 3.5mm connection in favour of USB C or Lightning, the fact that Samsung is still holding on either makes it in tune with its customers or slightly quaint. I can’t quite decide.

The display

As mentioned, the S10 and the S10 Plus have the curved dynamic AMOLED screen, while the S10e has the flat screen. In terms of size, the S10e display is 5.8 inches, while the S10 is 6.1 inches and the S10 Plus is 6.4 inches. The default resolution is Full HD+, but the S10 and the S10 Plus can be pushed up to Wide Quad HD+ in the settings.

Will you notice the difference? Only if the phones are side by side.

Where you will see the difference is in decision by Samsung to forgo the notch to accommodate its camera and phone earpiece. Instead the company has punched a hole out of the screen - using some very precise engineering that Samsung went into in detail at the launch - so there is no need for a notch.

There is also some new technology for the fingerprint reader, with Samsung building an ultrasonic reader into the screen. Instead of having to feel your way around the back of the phone to unlock it, you will simply put your finger on the glass display - for the S10 and S10 Plus, at least.

The camera

Speaking of cameras, there are some slight differences between the handsets. The S10e, as the cheapest phone of the bunch, gets a dual camera - a wide angle 12 megapixel lens, and an ultra wide 16 megapixel camera. On the front, there is a single 10 megapixel selfie camera.

The S10 gets the triple camera, which includes the telephoto lens for close up shots, and puts it head to head with Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro. The single front facing camera is the same as the S10e. Meanwhile, the S10 Plus has the same triple camera set up on the rear of the phone, but doubles up on the front-facing camera, adding an 8 megapixel camera.

Samsung has also brought AI into the picture to automatically choose the best settings for your shot. I had some opportunity to try it out at the event, and so far so good, but will put it through a proper run when the review unit is in my hands.

Video seems good too; the phone has digital stabilisation technology to smooth things out. Both front and rear cameras can shoot in ultra high definition, and the rear camera can also shoot in HDR10+, which will give you brighter colours, darker blacks and an all-round better shot.

The battery

This is where smartphones have been trying to raise their game.

Obviously a brief hands-on event is no indication of how the phone will perform in the real world - or how it will cope once we load the phone up with all our apps - but the numbers give an indication.

The S10e has the smallest battery of the lot at 3,100 mAh. The S10 bumps it up to 3,400 mAh, while the S10 Plus will have a whopping 4,100 mAh battery built in. That should, in theory, give you all-day use without having to charge, but it will depend on what you are doing with it.

That big battery also has an added advantage: you can use it to charge other wireless devices.

That is something that Huawei introduced in its Mate 20 Pro, and it has got me out of a jam or two in the past. The feature can also be used to charge the new Galaxy Active watch and the Galaxy Ear Buds - AirPod rivals that come with their own charging case.

The inside

The S10e may be the least expensive phone of the bunch, but it doesn’t scrimp on the essentials. It comes with 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of built in storage.

If you need more - and it’s possible - you can expand that by up to 512GB with a micro SD memory card.

The S10, meanwhile, bumps the RAM up to 8GB and offers a second 512GB version to users, plus that microSD slot. Naturally, the Plus has the top specs, offering a 128GB version that comes with 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB phone that bumps the RAM up to 12GB.

The chip across the three phones will be the Exynos octa-core 8nm processor.

In the limited lab-like environment, the phone was fast. But like the camera and the battery, a good test run is needed. Samsung seems fairly confident that it will pass muster though.

The price

The trend for flagship smartphones to edge towards that €1,000 mark and above isn’t showing any sign of abating.

The S10e is the least expensive option at €769; the S10 starts at €919 and bumps up to €1,269 for the 512GB version. The S10 Plus is the real budget buster though. The phone starts at €1,019 for the 128GB version, but the 1TB version will cost you over €1,600.

If you want the extra space, get ready to dig deep in those pockets.

The launch

The important question is: when is it coming?

The preorders for the S10 phones have already opened on Samsung’s site, and the phones will officially go on sale on March 8th.