Review in progress: First five days with Samsung Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10+

(From left) The Samsung Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10+ smartphones, featuring Samsung's latest Exynos 9820 octa-core processor, the latest Android 9.0 Pie mobile operating system, Wi-Fi 6 support, IP68 water and dust resistance, and Samsung's Infinity-O d
(From left) The Samsung Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10+ smartphones, featuring Samsung's latest Exynos 9820 octa-core processor, the latest Android 9.0 Pie mobile operating system, Wi-Fi 6 support, IP68 water and dust resistance, and Samsung's Infinity-O display.PHOTO: SAMSUNG

It seems like Samsung has thrown every feature available into its latest flagships, the Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10+.

The S10 smartphones, which will be launched here on March 8, are relatively similar to one another in design, featuring Samsung's latest Exynos 9820 octa-core processor, the latest Android 9.0 Pie mobile operating system, Wi-Fi 6 support, IP68 water and dust resistance, and Samsung's Infinity-O display.

This display has a hole-punch camera design, in which a tiny hole is made near the corner of the screen to accommodate the front-facing camera, thus obviating the need for a screen notch. It is also the first display certified to support the HDR10+ standard for great high dynamic range (HDR) quality.

While the S10 smartphones look like their S9 predecessors from the front (bar the hole-punch), they look like the Samsung Galaxy Note9 phones from the rear, with their cameras arranged in a horizontal orientation.

The rear fingerprint sensor found in the S9 and Note9 is gone. Instead, the S10 and S10+ comes with an embedded ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display, while the S10e has a side capacitive fingerprint sensor.

Other smartphones use in-display optical fingerprint sensors that recognise a 2-D image of your fingerprint. But an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor here recognises a 3-D image of your fingerprint, which is thus more secure and less susceptible to spoofing.

However, you cannot just place your finger or thumb anywhere on the display to unlock the screen. Instead, the display will show you where to place your finger, which is near the bottom of the screen.

  • TECH SPECS

    SAMSUNG GALAXY S10e

    PRICE: $1,078

    PROCESSOR: Exynos 9820 (Quad-core 1.9GHz, Dual-core 2.7GHz, Dual-core 2.3GHz)

    DISPLAY: 5.8-inch Full HD+ Dynamic Amoled, 2,280 x 1,080 pixels, 438 PPI pixel density, HDR10+ certified

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 9.0

    CAMERA: 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 12MP f/1.5 - f/2.4 wide-angle (rear); 10MP f/1.9 (front)

    MEMORY: 128GB (microSD expandable up to 512GB); 6GB RAM

    BATTERY: Non-removable 3,100 mAh

    WEIGHT: 150g

  • SAMSUNG GALAXY S10

    PRICE: $1,298

    PROCESSOR: Exynos 9820 (Quad-core 1.9GHz, Dual-core 2.7GHz, Dual-core 2.3GHz)

    DISPLAY: 6.1-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic Amoled, 3,040 x 1,440 pixels, 550 PPI pixel density, HDR10+ certified

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 9.0

    CAMERA: 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 12MP f/1.5 - f/2.4 wide-angle, 12MP f/2.4 telephoto (rear); 10MP f/1.9 (front)

    MEMORY: 128GB (microSD expandable up to 512GB); 8GB RAM

    BATTERY: Non-removable 3,400 mAh

    WEIGHT: 157g

  • SAMSUNG GALAXY S10+

    PRICE: $1,398 (128GB), $1,798 (512GB), $2,198 (1TB)

    PROCESSOR: Exynos 9820 (Quad-core 1.9GHz, Dual-core 2.7GHz, Dual-core 2.3GHz)

    DISPLAY: 6.4-inch Quad HD+ Dynamci Amoled, 3,040 x 1,440 pixels, 522 PPI pixel density, HDR10+ certified

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 9.0

    CAMERA: 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 12MP f/1.5 - f/2.4 wide-angle, 12MP f/2.4 telephoto (rear); 10MP f/1.9, 8MP f/2.2 RGB Depth (front)

    MEMORY: 128GB/512GB/1TB (microSD expandable up to 512GB); 8GB/12GB RAM (1TB model only)

    BATTERY: Non-removable 4,100 mAh

    WEIGHT: 175g (Prism White/Black/Green), 198g (Ceramic White/Ceramic Black)

I found that this ultrasonic fingerprint sensor takes time to get used to. Most times, I was able to unlock the screen almost instantly. But occasionally, it takes a few tries. I figured you need to press with the right amount of pressure, not too hard and not too soft.

The entry-level model of the series, the S10e, uses a capacitive fingerprint sensor sited at the power button on the right side. This old-school method feels more reliable so far, as there are no instances when it did not recognise my fingerprint. Unlocking the screen is also instantaneous.

In terms of handling, the S10e easily beats the other two models. I found that I always have to stretch my thumb to access the power button on right side of the S10+, while having to curl my thumb to touch the fingerprint sensor with the S10. The size of the S10e - it has the smallest display in the series - is just perfect for one-hand operation.

But the S10e does not have the curved edges of the other two models. It also lacks the rear triple-camera system found in the S10 and S10+ as well as the front-facing dual-camera system found in S10+.

In essence, Samsung has added an ultra-wide-angle camera to all three models. For the S10 and S10+, this new camera goes with the wide-angle and telephoto cameras found in S9+ to make a rear triple-camera unit. For the S10e, it partners the wide-angle camera for a rear dual-camera unit.

This ultra-wide-angle camera provides a 123-degree point of view, so you can include more into a frame. But while images have more coverage, I cannot help but notice the clear distortion to the horizon in some of the photos taken. I will need more testing on that, as there are times when no distortion is present.

A new addition with the camera app is the shot suggestion feature. When activated, the camera app will provide on-screen indicators for you to frame your photo better.

In addition, the scene optimiser can better recognise and more accurately process different scenes. For example, when you are taking photos of a page in a book, it will recognise it as text and automatically switches to scan mode for a better shot of the page.

In general, photos shot with the S10 smartphones are sharp and detailed, with fairly accurate colour reproduction. But as you might expect from Samsung smartphone cameras, the photos tend to be slightly over-saturated and vivid when auto HDR is turned on.

Like the S9+, the S10 smartphones are able to take Live Focus shots, whereby the subject is in focus but the background is blurred or have the bokeh effect.

But Samsung has added different bokeh effects apart from the usual blur effect. You can now select three more bokeh effects, including spin, zoom and colour point. Spin and zoom provide a nice sense of movement while colour point looks like vignetting.

These bokeh effects look far more natural than some over-the-top bokeh effects, such as heart-shape bokeh, offered by some smartphone makers.

I will be putting the S10 smartphones through their paces this week.

Check out the March 6 issue of The Straits Times Life Tech section for a more in-depth review.