Hands on: Samsung Galaxy S10 Review

The Samsung Galaxy S10 looks gorgeous, packs an in-display fingerprint sensor, alongside taking a new approach to the notch. But it is it enough?

First Impressions

Having spent an hour with the Samsung Galaxy S10, I’m excited to spend more time with it. It’s far from a reinvention for the series, and I’m slightly disappointed the main camera hasn’t seen an obvious update, but there’s plenty here regardless.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £799
  • 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm
  • 157g
  • 6.1-inch, 19:9 (Edge), Wide Quad HD+, Dynamic AMOLED+
  • Dual Pixel 12-megapixel OIS f/1.5 - f/2.4 AF + 16-megapixel ultra-wide f/2.2 FF + 12-megapixel telephoto OIS f/2.4 AF rear, Dual Pixel 10-megapixel f/1.9 AF front cameras
  • 8GB + 128GB or 8GB + 512GB - microSD up to 512GB (all versions)
  • 3400mAh
  • Octa-core 8nm processor

Marking the tenth anniversary of easily the most iconic series of Android phones around, the Galaxy S10 is the latest flagship phone from Samsung. It joins the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S10e in the new lineup. There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which is brand’s first foldable phone.

Considering the numerous leaks to which we’ve been privy over the past few months, there’s little here that’s actually surprising. Nevertheless, we’re in no doubt that with the Galaxy S10 Samsung has one of the best Android phones of 2019 on its hands. It look simply gorgeous, packs an in-display fingerprint sensor, alongside taking a new approach to the notch.

For those who like their handsets bigger still, there will also be a 6.7-inch screen-toting 5G version of the S10 called the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. This won’t be available until summer, and will likely command a much higher price.

Watch: Galaxy S10 vs S10+ vs S10e

Samsung Galaxy S10 Price and Release Date

You can pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S10 right now, with the phone shipping on March 8. If you pre-order it now you’ll be able to snag yourself a free pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds. These are Samsung’s new completely wireless earbuds and they can be charged via the Wireless Powershare feature on the new phones. 

Prices in the UK start from £799 for the 128GB model and £999 for the 512GB model. In the US it’ll cost $899. That pricing means it is $180 or £60 more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S9 when it launched in February 2019. Another way of looking at it is that it’s £200/$100 cheaper than than the iPhone XS.

In the UK it looks like all major carriers – EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 – are stocking the phone, alongside Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile. Check out our Samsung Galaxy S10 pre-order deals for all the latest news on pricing and the best offers. 

Samsung Galaxy S10 Pre-order Deals

Samsung Galaxy S10 with free Samsung Galaxy Buds worth £139

Claim a free pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds worth £139 if you pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S10 before April 7th.

Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB Black – 60GB of data on EE with free Samsung Galaxy Buds

A great deal with nothing to pay upfront for the brand new Galaxy S10. This pre-order deal also includes the Samsung Galaxy Buds.

Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB Black – 30GB of data on O2 with free Samsung Galaxy Buds

If you're willing to pay a small upfront then this deal takes your monthly cost right now. You also have the chance to win a £1000 Currys PC World gift card on top of the free Samsung Galaxy Buds.

Samsung Galaxy S10 – Screen

Just as the plentiful leaks suggested, the Samsung Galaxy S10 sports what the Korean giant is calling an “Infinity O” display. The “O” refers to the new hole-punch camera, which sits inside the top-right corner of the display. This has allowed Samsung to reduce the thickness of the bezel at the top even further. This is the most full-screened Samsung phone yet, although I’m still not convinced it’s necessarily better.

In previous incarnations, the display was completely free from distractions. In Samsung’s current device your view is obstructed somewhat by the cutout when watching full-screen content. I’m sure given time you’ll get used to it, as you would any notch, with it eventually fading into the background; but it feels like an answer to a problem that didn’t exist in the first place.

The 6.1-inch (up from 5.8-inch on the S9) display is, as you’d expect from Samsung, gorgeous. It’s an OLED panel with a quad-HD+ resolution, sloping edges and HDR10+ support – just like Samsung’s high-end QLED displays. HDR10+ is a competing standard to Dolby Vision (the HDR tech supported by the latest iPhones) and it gives extra metadata to supported movies and TV shows, making them look, in theory, even better than regular HDR10.

Samsung also claims the display will be able to reach an impressive 1200 nits of brightness, making it ideal for both HDR content and for outdoor use in bright situations. Samsung reps couldn’t confirm whether you’ll be able to manually up the brightness all the way to its peak (a feature LG introduced with the G7), or whether it will jack up automatically in certain situations. I’d wager it will be the latter, since previous S-series phones have normally been around 600 nits normal use.

Related: Best smartphone

samsung galaxy S10

The screen has also been designed to be kinder on the eyes, with less blue light emitted than before.

The final trick packed inside the display is an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. Replacing the traditional physical sensor on the rear, this slightly more futuristic method requires a hefty press on the lower portion of the display to spring into life.

I’ve used a few phones that feature this tech, and to put it simply, they’re quite poor. Both the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro suffered slow scanners that often demonstrated issues identifying my fingerprint. Hopefully, Samsung’s implementation is slicker. In addition, the setup process is quite fiddly, taking a good couple of minutes. This is longer than the few seconds it would take to get a more traditional sensor up and running. Nevertheless, once it was up and running, the S10’s sensor did a good job at recognising my digit.

Unlike the Galaxy S9, there’s no iris scanning in the S10. That biometric solution was obviously deemed too bulky to fit inside the Infinity O notch and ditched entirely. I’m not going to mourn its loss at all; if you’re a fan of facial-unlocking then note that there is an option here that uses the camera instead.

Samsung Galaxy S10 – Performance

Screen aside, the rest of the design feels familiar. Present and correct are the super-smudge-attracting glass on the rear of the device, USB-C along the bottom edge, and even a headphone jack. The S10 is a delicate phone that remains hard to hold for extended periods, as a result of its sharp edges. While I’m aware that Samsung is a firm fan and has every faith in this design, I think more could have been done.

Samsung loves to ship its devices with the latest and greatest internals and, predictably, the S10 is no different. Powering the range is an unnamed 8nm chipset that has pretty much been confirmed as the Exynos 9820. In the US, this is likely to be switched up for the Snapdragon 855.

The S10 comes with the now standard 8GB of RAM, rather than 4GB, and you can choose between 128GB or 512GB of storage. MicroSD support remains, as does Qi wireless charging and an IP68 water-resistance rating.

Related: Best Android phonessamsung galaxy S10 fingerprint

Samsung Galaxy S10 – Battery life

Battery life on the Galaxy S9 was hardly what we’d call great, so it’s nice to see Samsung fit a larger cell inside the S10. The 3400mAh battery isn’t the largest on the market, though, so it will be interesting to see how well it performs.

Oddly, there don’t appear to have been any obvious improvements to charging speeds here. With numerous phones now supporting USB-C PD or higher-wattage chargers, the S10 feels almost outdated with its Adaptive Fast Charging which seems to still be based upon Quick Charge 2.0.

One welcome update is Wireless Powershare, which enables you to charge other Qi-enabled tech by placing it on the S10. You can use the tech to charge other phones – the iPhone XS, for example, but it’s likely to be more useful to quickly top-up the power of accessories such as the new AirPod-rivalling Galaxy Buds. Charging a phone via Powershare will likely be just too slow.

Samsung Galaxy S10 – Software and One UI

All new entries in the Galaxy S series ship with the Android 9 Pie and One UI. This is Samsung’s reinvention of its tired TouchWiz and Samsung Experience launcher. Now, even though the design is notably different to that which came before, it still looks very Samsung.

Related: One UI features

There’s a focus on being able to use apps with one hand, and much of what you interact with has been pushed down towards the bottom of the screen. The camera UI has a very iOS-feel to it and there are AI-based elements too. The whole system is meant to learn your behaviour and open frequently used apps quicker. Whether this will actually work remains to be seen.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Pre-order Deals

Samsung Galaxy S10 with free Samsung Galaxy Buds worth £139

Claim a free pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds worth £139 if you pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S10 before April 7th.

Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB Black – 60GB of data on EE with free Samsung Galaxy Buds

A great deal with nothing to pay upfront for the brand new Galaxy S10. This pre-order deal also includes the Samsung Galaxy Buds.

Samsung Galaxy S10 128GB Black – 30GB of data on O2 with free Samsung Galaxy Buds

If you're willing to pay a small upfront then this deal takes your monthly cost right now. You also have the chance to win a £1000 Currys PC World gift card on top of the free Samsung Galaxy Buds.

There’s a system-wide dark mode, too, which looks great on the OLED display.

Samsung Galaxy S10 – Camera

Addressing the camera right at the end of this review might seem odd, but the reality is that it feels like the area on which Samsung has spent the least amount of time. Or at least this was the impression I got during my demo of the phones.

Related: MWC 2019

samsung galaxy S10 camera

You get the same optically stabilised 12-megapixel main sensor of previous devices on the rear. It can shift between f/1.5 and f/2.4 to let in more light in certain environments and it uses dual pixels for faster focusing. It was a good camera last year, but right now it isn’t even in the same league as the Google Pixel 3.

However, you do get two further cameras on the back of the S10. A 12-megapixel f/2.4 tele sensor for getting closer to subjects and helping with portrait modes, and a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera for cramming more into the shot. It’s a trio of sensors reminiscent of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and it should provide plenty of variety when shooting.

I’d have liked a bigger focus on the main camera, and unless there have been software improvements aplenty, it will likely lag behind the iPhone XS, Google Pixel 3 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

Having spent an hour with the Galaxy S10, I’m excited to spend more time with it. It’s far from a reinvention for the series, and I’m slightly disappointed the main camera hasn’t seen an obvious update, but there’s plenty here regardless.

A ’hands on review’ is our first impression of a product only - it is not a full test and verdict. Our writer must have spent some time with the product to describe an early sense of what it’s like to use. We call these ‘hands on reviews’ to make them visible in search. However these are always unscored and don’t give recommendations. Read more about our reviews policy.