Samsung Galaxy S10e Review

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the cheaper, more colourful sibling to the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus
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Verdict

Like the iPhone XR, the Galaxy S10e takes most of the headline features from its flashier siblings and offers them in a package that’s easier on the wallet. This isn’t a cheap phone – and it’s not trying to be – but neither is it an investment in the same vein as, say, the S10 Plus.

Pros

  • Near-identical feature set to the S10
  • Nice compact size
  • Feature-packed
  • Great display

Cons

  • Faster fast charging would have been nice
  • Fingerprint sensor not great for lefties
  • No lossless zoom might irk some
  • Underwhelming battery life

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £669
  • 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9mm
  • Dual pixel 12-megapixel OIS f/1.5 - f/2.4 AF + 16-megapixel ultra-wide f/2.2 FF camera
  • 5.8-inch, 19:9 (Flat), Full HD+, Dynamic AMOLED+ screen w/ HDR10+ support
  • Dual pixel 10-megapixel f/1.9 AF front camera
  • 6GB/128GB or 8GB/256GB + microSD up to 512GB
  • 3100mAh battery w/ 15W fast wired/wireless charging
  • Exynos 9820/Snapdragon 855 chipset
  • Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
  • IP68 certified
  • 150g

What is the Samsung Galaxy S10e?

Launched as part of a veritable army of S10-branded handsets back in February, the ‘e’ in the S10e’s name supposedly stands for ‘essential’, embodying the phone’s more focussed take on the Galaxy S10 formula.

The Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus and innovative Galaxy S10 5G may be the phones that are appearing on billboards and turning heads but the Galaxy S10e may, in fact, be the most influential member of the lineup.

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera closeup straight

It serves as Samsung’s answer to the likes of the iPhone XR and rumoured Google Pixel 3 Lite; a base-level flagship intended to offer most of the benefits of its more potent top-tier siblings by chopping out some of the more frivolous elements in the pursuit of driving down cost without sacrificing on the core functionality. It’s safe to say that despite the thinking behind the idea of ‘essential’ the S10e still offers an impressively full-featured experience.

The phone packs the same top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 or Exynos 9820 chipset (region specific) as the other S10 phones, like-minded imaging capabilities, complementary hardware and design traits, and other features like fast wireless charging.

Related: Best smartphone 

Samsung Galaxy S10e Price and Release Date

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is available to buy right now, with the phone shipping from March 8. It costs £669 in the UK

 In the USA the Samsung Galaxy S10e starts at $749 for the 6/128GB model, with the 8/256GB version (not available in the UK) costing $100 more at $849.

In the UK all major carriers – EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 – are stocking the phone, alongside Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile. Check out our Samsung Galaxy S10e deals for all the latest news on pricing and the best offers. 

Best Samsung Galaxy S10e Deals

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Save up to £200 with trade-in

The most affordable smartphone of the Galaxy S10 range just got even cheaper with this fantastic trade-in offer from Samsung, which gets you more money for you old phones against the price of the S10e.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Free Pay As You Go SIM Card

Time to use those Argos gift cards to buy yourself one of the most stylish and affordable flagship phones on the market – especially with the Canary Yellow design that can't be found on other Galaxy devices.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – 10GB of data on O2

With just a minor upfront cost to contend with, this amazing contract can get you the S10e for as little as £32 a month. Plus, signing up with O2 gets you plenty of added benefits such as access to O2 Priority.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – 20GB of data on EE

Not only is there no upfront cost to pay here, but you'll also get a free subscription to BT Sport for the entirety of your contract. Talk about a winner.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Design

This is the first time Samsung has released a more affordable version of its flagship series without offering a severely depleted entry such as the “Mini” phones of old. The S10e feels every bit a flagship phone as the regular S10 and S10 Plus.

It has, of course, undergone some changes to reach that lower price but calling them sacrifices seems disingenuous. The curved edges of the cover glass found on every Samsung flagship since the S6 Edge are gone, with a flat 5.8-inch panel occupying the phone’s front instead.

Samsung Galaxy S10e handheld

As such, the bezel around the display is more prominent compared to the other S10 models, not unlike the bezels on the iPhone XR’s Liquid Retina display, albeit notably narrower. Ergonomically speaking, this actually makes the phone easier to hold without the risk of accidental touches on the display, so in a sense, it’s a win.

Instead of an in-display fingerprint sensor, the S10e instead features a more traditional side-mounted capacitive sensor that I preferred to Samsung’s new ultrasonic technology. For one, it’s fast, really fast and unquestionably quicker than the alternative. It’s laid into the power button too, so you can wake and unlock the S10e in a single action, plus the option of gesture support means you can swipe down to reveal the notifications and quick-settings shade in an instant.

Just note that its placement high up on the phone’s right side does mean it more naturally accommodates right-handed users’ thumbs; lefties may have a tougher time falling in love with it.

Samsung Galaxy S10e fingerprint sensor

By modern standards, the S10e is a small phone and as a result, easily usable one-handed, without having to over-extend your thumb to reach the top portion of the screen helped by the new interface tweaks that Samsung has implemented for this generation of Galaxy.

The metal frame running the edge of the S10e feels plenty sturdy and blends nicely into the front and back glass, while the whole thing boasts the same IP68 rating as the other devices in the family, meaning you needn’t fear it falling into the sink and suffering any long-term effects.

There’s even a headphone jack here – a trait that’s seemingly unheard of in the modern flagship phone space in 2019 and yet, all of Samsung’s top handsets boast one.

Samsung Galaxy S10e headphone jack

At first glance, you’ll no doubt be drawn to the eye-catching Canary Yellow model I tested. It’s ridiculously bright and unashamedly brash, but it’s different and certainly stands out. I applaud phone makers when they introduce more arresting finishes beyond black and white, and while this particular colourway isn’t for me, its inclusion is welcome.

You can also pick the Galaxy S10e up in Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Green and Flamingo Pink (as a US exclusive).

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Screen

Around the front is a 5.8-inch 19:9 aspect ratio Super AMOLED display with a Full HD+ resolution. That’s slightly fewer pixels than the S10 and S10 Plus (which both sport QHD+ resolutions), or even last year’s Galaxy S9. However, it isn’t something you’ll notice unless you place them side by side, helped by the fact that the standard S10 displays most content in Full HD+ by default.

Samsung Galaxy S10e screen macro

Related: What is HDR10+?

Beyond offering pleasingly vibrant colours, great contrast and exceptional viewing angles, as I’d expect from any top-tier Samsung phone screen, the S10e’s display is smart too. It supports HDR10+ visuals (an open-source standard established by Samsung), meaning select content can be enjoyed with a wider dynamic range of bright and dark elements.

Other established technologies from previous Sammys make a reappearance too, such as always-on functionality that lets you glance at the display while the phone is locked to check on the time or pending notifications. Edge screen lighting alerts you to specific contacts or incoming calls when the phone is face-down using pulsing light.

Night mode warms the screen temperature up in the evenings to make viewing more comfortable and there’s a blue light filter, which for the S10’s generation has been improved to dynamically reduce blue light output without compromising the screen’s colour balance.

Samsung Galaxy S10e front camera macro

Don’t worry, I peeled the nasty plastic screen protector off right after taking this photo – probably should have done it before…

There’s also the matter of the hole-punch camera. Instead of a notch encroaching in from the bezel, as on the likes of the OnePlus 6T, or a thicker top bezel to house such components, as previous Galaxys and the likes of the Google Pixel 3 pack, the S10e employs Samsung’s new ‘Infinity-O’ display.

The camera is set into the display area itself, making for a cleaner bezel and a cleaner design overall. Samsung pulls off a neat trick if you decide to use the phone’s (basic RGB) face unlocking, adding a ring of pulsing white pixels around the camera every time you wake the phone to draw your attention to it.

It has the odd side effect of shifting UI elements like the clock and signal indicators over to the left a bit, but I think I prefer such implementation to a notched screen.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Software

The user interface of Samsung’s S10 family centres around One UI, the successor to both TouchWiz and the Samsung Experience found on older devices. The company actually rolled out One UI to existing Samsung devices ahead of the S10-series’ launch, so I was able to get a taste of what the S1o phones would feel like to use before I had my hands on one.

Now living with One UI on the Galaxy S10e, I can confirm that Samsung’s efforts should be commended. The focus on one-handed operation is smart, making navigation a doddle (plus, there’s still a one-handed mode if you want some extra assistance).

Samsung Galaxy S10e One UI screenshots 1 2 3

Related: Best features of One UI

The aesthetic overhaul is, for the most part, welcome as well; with a clearer notifications pane and settings menu. I’m not a fan of the new app iconography and colour palette but it’s a fresh look the complements the S10e’s more playful proportions and aesthetics.

Despite not featuring the curved edges of its counterparts, the S10e still benefits from Edge Screen shortcuts, letting you swipe in from the side to reveal a customisable menu of apps (including pre-paired split-screen multitasking combinations), favourite contacts, widgets, actions and more – all accessible from practically anywhere within the phone’s interface.

Samsung Galaxy S10e edge screen

One UI also brings gesture-based navigation to the table. I still prefer the single tap action of a button-driven UI experience but if you prefer, you can swap the three typical on-screen keys for swipe-up gestures that leave the interface looking less cluttered.

Bixby, the black sheep of the Samsung smartphone experience, is still a feature here on the S10e, paired to a dedicated hardware button on the phone’s left side or a swipe right from the phone’s main home screen but things are at least a little different this time.

Samsung Galaxy S10e One UI screenshots 4 5 6

Like elsewhere on the phone, the Bixby UI has been cleaned up and as before you can see a bevvy of cards relating to your calendar, the weather and other services you might have connected to, such as Facebook and Spotify.

You can interact with Bixby via text or voice and it can technically carry out any number of actions with simple instruction, however, in practice, the experience still feels lacking compared to the likes of the Google Assistant.

Bixby Routines is a decidedly welcome addition that integrates an ‘If This, Than That’ automation workflow into the mix that you can use to schedule certain behaviours for your phone based on the time of day, location or some other trigger. Depending on who involved you’re willing to be, once set up, this feature does at least have some notable time-saving qualities.

Related: Galaxy S10 Tips & Tricks

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Performance

It’s great to see that the S10e’s lower price doesn’t render it a lesser handset, particularly when it comes to performance. Instead, the S10e is powered by the same 8nm Samsung Exynos 9820 chipset (or the 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 in markets like the US) as the rest of the S10 line.

Paired with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, this is essentially the most powerful and up-to-date hardware you’ll find in an Android phone right now and the benchmarking scores reflect its capabilities.

Samsung Galaxy S10e Geekbench 4 scores

The 6GB RAM model I tested consistently scored only fractionally lower than the larger S10 and S10 Plus we’ve already put through the typical bevvy of benchmarks, and collectively they shadow the top-scoring members (namely the latest iPhones) very closely.

Samsung Galaxy S10e Antutu scores

Samsung Galaxy S10e 3D Mark scores

In practice, the S10e feels as fast, fluid and responsive as you’d expect any top-tier flagship would and should. Dropped frames when gaming and general stutter just aren’t part of the equation here and the phone even boots pleasingly quickly. While it’s hard to discern any benefit right now, the included Game Launcher performance controls should help ensure your favourite titles stay snappy even after a year or two of S10e ownership as well.

128GB of internal storage, plus microSD expandability means most users will unlikely run the risk of filling the phone up and in the US you also have the option of a model of S10e that packs in 8GB of RAM and double the internal storage.

Related: What is Dolby Atmos?

Audio quality in calls in nothing out of the ordinary, albeit wholly serviceable, while the phone also boasts stereo speakers and Dolby Atmos support with headphones. Using the AKG-tuned loudspeakers, considering its size, the S10e offers surprisingly good stereo separation, while the effect of Dolby Atmos can be heard on any headphones, better quality buds or cans will always make for a more immersive experience.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Camera

On the rear of the S10e is an optically stabilised 12-megapixel sensor that can shift between an f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture to let more light in when required. This feature was first introduced on the Galaxy S9, making a difference when shooting in really dark environments such as bars or dimly lit restaurants. However, there’s no dedicated low-light shooting mode here (like Night Sight on the Pixel phones, for instance) and that feels like an odd omission.

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera closup angled

It’s the same sensor that heads-up the camera on the larger S10s, so most of your shots make use of the same hardware no matter which phone you opt for. The S10e then deviates from the pack, with a lone secondary sensor in place of two additional cameras, as on the back of the standard S10, S10 Plus and S10 5G.

Unlike the Galaxy S9 Plus or Note 9, the secondary sensor isn’t at play to grant you lossless zoom. Instead of a telephoto offering, Samsung has instead opted to give the S10e an ultra-wide-angle 16-megapixel fix-focus camera. Whether you prefer having lossless zoom or this super-wide lens falls to a matter of personal preference but in practice, I’ve enjoyed the arresting landscape shots it’s allowed me to take.

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample natural lighting

When switching between the standard (above) and wide-angle (below) cameras, I noticed a narrower dynamic range from the latter. Both sensors are capable of capturing great photos in all manner of conditions, though

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample natural lighting wide

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample mixed lighting

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample artificial lighting night

Using the wide-angle camera helps add drama to shots

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample artificial lighting night wide

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample low light

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample night

It’s amazing how much more light and detail the main sensor can capture when using that wide f/1.5 aperture in low light, compared to the wide-angle sensor

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample night wide

Related: Best camera phone

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample macro

The S10e’s main camera is great for macro shots, although the scene detection can be a little heavy-handed when tweaking colour saturation

There are some impressive technologies at play when snapping with the S10e, including Shot Suggestions, which use AI and the phone’s already capable scene detection to recommend the best framing when lining up a potential photograph.

As someone who takes snaps on smartphones on an almost daily basis, I feel pretty comfortable with composition but for those who don’t feel confident with mobile photography, this feature looks like a competent means of getting to grips with the fundamentals of framing.

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera UI screenshot Best Shot

As for the phone’s front-facing setup, like the standard S10, the S10e makes use of a single 10-megapixel sensor. It takes nice selfies and doesn’t trouble you with overtly details beauty controls.

Features like face and palm detection help find focus and snap without having to fumble with the phone too much and switching to Live Focus adds virtual bokeh (background blur) and a gamut of other creative features into the mix.

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample selfie live focus

Live focus adds an adjustable level of background blur but the default makes for a pleasingly balanced result

Samsung Galaxy S10e camera sample selfie colour point

Colour Point mode lets you drag a slider to incorporate more colour into a scene based on depth

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Battery life

The S10e is home to a 3100mAh battery, plus support for Qi charging and Wireless Powershare. This fancy new tech allows you to use the S10e’s battery to charge up other Qi-enabled devices such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds.

Samsung Galaxy S10e back on table right

The capacity sounded a little small on first impressions, considering handsets from the likes of Huawei and Xiaomi are now arriving on the market boasting 4000mAh+ cells without breaking a sweat. Paired with that Full HD+ resolution, however, the phone will offer up a day of general use without trouble.

I ended most days at around 30 percent charge and on average saw around four hours of screen-on time. Throw in 15W fast wired and wireless charging and this slightly underwhelming longevity can be nullified.

Speaking of fast charging, while the inclusion of the tech is a big green tick mark against the S10e, it’s not particularly fast, fast charging. Samsung was once amongst the head of the pack with regards to the technology but the likes of OnePlus’ then Dash Charge (now known as Fast Charge) quickly eclipsed then and more recently players like Motorola and Huawei have also entered into the space with solutions that offer up to 55W of power delivery.

Best Samsung Galaxy S10e Deals

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Save up to £200 with trade-in

The most affordable smartphone of the Galaxy S10 range just got even cheaper with this fantastic trade-in offer from Samsung, which gets you more money for you old phones against the price of the S10e.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – Free Pay As You Go SIM Card

Time to use those Argos gift cards to buy yourself one of the most stylish and affordable flagship phones on the market – especially with the Canary Yellow design that can't be found on other Galaxy devices.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – 10GB of data on O2

With just a minor upfront cost to contend with, this amazing contract can get you the S10e for as little as £32 a month. Plus, signing up with O2 gets you plenty of added benefits such as access to O2 Priority.

Samsung Galaxy S10e – 20GB of data on EE

Not only is there no upfront cost to pay here, but you'll also get a free subscription to BT Sport for the entirety of your contract. Talk about a winner.

Why buy the Samsung Galaxy S10e?

Samsung has a funny definition of ‘essential’. The Galaxy S10e is absolutely jam-packed with functionality and feels as capable and as premium as any other top-tier phone on the market.

Aspects like its display and performance serve as standout reasons to opt for the S10e over other high-end offerings out there right now but this looks to be one of the best ‘small’ phones you can get your hands on.

There’s also a lot to be said for the price/performance balance Samsung has struck with the S10e too. At £669, it’s £130 cheaper than the base standard Galaxy S10 and if all you’re really losing is a few pixels, lossless zoom and some extra battery capacity, for me that seems like a trade-off worth making. Not to mention it’s only the S10e that you can nab in the eye-watering Canary Yellow or Flamingo Pink.

Samsung Galaxy S10e front on table left

It’s hard to draw direct comparisons with the S10e as a use case, as there just aren’t many powerful phones that are as small as this available right now. Sony’s Xperia Compact line has been shelved for the time being meaning price has to be the driving factor for comparison.

The forthcoming Xiaomi Mi 9 comes powered by the same Snapdragon 855 as the S10e and features a more robust triple camera arrangement. While a UK price isn’t yet confirmed, based on its European pricing it looks as though it’ll undercut the Samsung by a healthy amount. However, you do lose out on some key traits that only the Galaxy offers – namely its compact form, water resistance and headphone jack.

OnePlus current flagship, the OnePlus 6T, still has a lot of draw and boasts superior fast-charging, but again now water resistance, a larger footprint and last year’s chipset number its days, despite being more affordable.

Apple’s iPhone X and iPhone XS both share in the Galaxy S10e’s 5.8-inch display size and as such boast remarkably similar dimensions overall. The obvious caveat is that both still cost considerably more than Samsung’s newest handset, not to mention iOS is a very different beast to the Android-powered One UI on the S10e.

Verdict

Like the iPhone XR, the Galaxy S10e takes most of the headline features from its flashier siblings and offers them in a package that’s easier on the wallet. This isn’t a cheap phone – and it’s not trying to be – but neither is it an investment in the same vein as, say, the S10 Plus.

Thanks to Vodafone for providing us with this Galaxy S10e for review.

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