Samsung Galaxy S10e review: the cheaper one
The Galaxy S10e is Samsung’s attempt to offer a flagship smartphone experience in a smaller body and at a lower cost, which mostly works.
The formula is simple: take the same processor, reduce the memory a little and squeeze it into a smaller, less complicated body.
The AMOLED screen is only 5.8in on the diagonal, only FHD+ and only flat, not curved at the edges. Whether any of those are downsides depends on your view of curved screens. The display isn’t visibly worse than the S10, and it still has the hole-punch notch through which the selfie camera pokes.
The display is covered in last year’s Corning Gorilla Glass 5, not 6 as fitted to the regular S10, so it might be a little less scratch resistant or prone to smashing on impact.
With rounded metal sides and glass front and back, it looks fairly simple in design terms. Get it in prism white or canary yellow and it’ll stand out from the crowd. The S10e is easy to hold onto at only 69.9mm wide and 142.2mm tall, which makes it one of the smallest flagship phones on the market alongside Google’s Pixel 3.
In reality it doesn’t feel all that smaller than the S10 because it’s only 0.5mm narrower and 7g lighter.
There’s the lesser-spotted headphone socket in the bottom, next to the USB-C port, and the phone is water resistant to IP68 standards: 1.5m depths of up to 30 minutes.
Screen: 5.8in FHD+ AMOLED (438ppi)
Processor: Samsung Exynos 9820 or Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM: 6GB of RAM
Operating system: One UI based on Android 9 Pie
Camera: rear dual camera, front 10MP selfie-camera
Connectivity: dual sim, LTE, wifi, NFC, Bluetooth 5, wireless charging and GPS
Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
The Galaxy S10e has the same processor – the Samsung Exynos 9820 in the EU or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 in the US – as the larger, more expensive Galaxy S10 and S10+.
The cheaper phone has only 6GB of memory compared with 8GB, but most will likely not notice, as performance was pretty much the same. Only on occasion would an app have to reload when brought back from the recently used apps list.
That means the S10e is as fast and fluid as most of the competition, even if it doesn’t quite manage OnePlus 7 Pro-levels of speed.
Battery life on the S10e was a disappointing 25 hours between charges, the same as the regular S10. With the always-on display (AOD) setting off, the phone would last from 7am on day one until 9am on day two, which might be enough to get you into work.
That was while browsing and using apps for five hours with plenty of push messages and emails, watching 60 minutes of offline video, shooting about five photos a day and listening to about five hours of Spotify using Bluetooth headphones.
You will likely have to charge it before a night out so it’ll get you home the other side. Charging is pretty slow too, taking 95 minutes to fully charge via cable and similar via 15W wireless charging. Wireless powershare works well, but is fairly slow – fine for charging a set of headphones.
Samsung One UI
The Galaxy S10e runs the same new One UI version of Android 9 Pie as the rest of the S10 line, and is a big improvement on previous versions of Samsung’s customised Android experience.
Most of the changes have been made to make using a large phone easier, but given the smaller size of the S10e, they’re less of an improvement. Still, everything looks good and works well. The only area where Samsung is clearly behind the curve is the gesture navigation. Its swipe pads work fine but are harder to reach and less fluid than the competition. I ended up sticking to the traditional navigation buttons.
You’ll get about three years of software support from Samsung, but Android version updates will be slower than some of the competition, meaning Android Q will likely only arrive in excess of six months after its release.
Fingerprint scanner in the power button
Unlike the rest of the S10 line the Galaxy S10e has a traditional capacitive fingerprint scanner built into the power button. It’s fast, accurate and lines up with roughly where your right thumb rests on the side of the phone where you would normally push the power button.
But it’s harder to use in your left hand. I found that it was placed too high up on the right side to comfortably hit it with my left index finger in a natural position taking several attempts to unlock the phone.
If you’re left handed and want to use a fingerprint scanner, think twice about the S10e.
One of the areas where the S10e is inferior to its more expensive siblings is in the camera. There is only two cameras on the back, not three. Still, the main 12-megapixel camera is joined by the 16-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera, leaving zoom to pure digital, which is noticeably worse than the S10 or S10+.
That means the S10e is capable of capturing some really good standard and wide-angle shots, with good detail and colour range. It certainly isn’t the best camera on the market, but it keeps up with most of the competition short of the zoom.
The selfie camera is excellent; so is video capture. And there are plenty of modes, including manual “Pro” mode and a dedicated Instagram camera, to play with.
The S10e is really nice to just fiddle with in the hand, more so than the larger S10
The phone comes with a screen protector pre-installed
The stereo speakers are pretty good
There’s a Bixby key on the left side which can safely be ignored
The Samsung Galaxy S10e costs £669 in white, black, green or yellow.
With the Galaxy S10e Samsung has mostly managed to condense what is good about its 2019 flagship S10 line into something smaller and cheaper.
It’s full of good, but not quite the best features. The screen is great, the camera is good but has no optical zoom, the fingerprint scanner is fast but awkward for left-handers and while performance is great, battery life is a bit weak.
The S10e’s £669 RRP isn’t that cheap either, when companies such as OnePlus offer better specifications in similarly built phones for £169 less. With the regular S10 already available for similar money, but with a better camera and in-display fingerprint, the S10e becomes less palatable.
But the Galaxy S10e is a good phone, which will be even better when bought on a deal. If you hate curved screens but want a top-end Samsung, then this is the phone for you.
Pros: great screen, hole-punch notch, wireless charging and powershare, good camera, good performance, good software, good haptics, headphone socket, microSD card slot, dual-sim option
Cons: battery life could be better, relatively slow charging, low-light performance not as good as rivals
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