And to be fair, the Galaxy S10e does make sense given the S10 and the S10+ are more powerful this time with their prices higher than before. With S10e, the company has tried keeping its feet firm in countries like India where price and affordability are key factors driving the sales of a smartphone.
That said, being the smallest and the first flat-screen Galaxy S smartphone in three years, the Galaxy S10e, of course, is not as powerful on paper as it’s bigger screen siblings. But what it boils down at the end of the day is the ‘value’, something Samsung clearly wants to achieve with the Rs 55,900 priced Galaxy S10e. So has S10e managed to punch above its weight? Read the review below.
We got our hands on the Black colour variant, which brings the appealing factor on board and rightfully justifies the Galaxy S line-up’s ‘premium’ tag in terms of looks. Samsung has once again played safe using the tried and tested glass back design with the camera set up in the middle and a metal chassis build. But that’s something you have seen already. What’s new, however, is how compact and ‘perfect’ the size of this handset is.
Samsung Galaxy S10e is the first after the Galaxy S7 (2016) to sport such a form factor and we’re glad the company thought about it. It’s just so much easier to use and even easier to pull it out from your pocket and perform the task single-handedly. Add this with the One UI’s design of keeping the interactive elements towards the lower half of the screen, and you get a commendable device.
While Samsung has done a good job with the S10e’s ergonomics, like any other smartphone, it’s not ‘perfect’ and you will have to sit through the flaws. The fingerprint-laden power button is on the top right corner while the volume buttons are on the top left. Both of them are pretty much inaccessible until unless you re-adjust your hand every time. We did find it bothersome and in an otherwise perfect-sized smartphone, this might be a major downside. Also, since both the volume and power buttons are placed opposite to each other, there’s a good chance of you pressing the other one accidentally.
On the brighter side though, you can swipe down on the fingerprint sensor to see the notification tray. Do it twice and the tray expands to show you all the options. We found it really nifty.
Also, the smartphone has two speakers (kind of) this time. While one is down-firing, the second one (speaker grille placed above the screen) resonates the main, AKG-tuned one. They are loud and pretty impressive in terms of vocals and overall clarity in music.
We’ve already mentioned the glass back panel, which usually makes the entire package look good but not always durable. We didn’t risk dropping our Galaxy S10e review unit but then looking at the materials that Samsung generally uses in its flagship smartphones, it is recommended to use a cover case. Samsung says both front and back sides are protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 5. So, it’s up to you if it worth risking or not. For what’s worth, we did feel the Galaxy S10e slightly slippery without the cover case that it comes without the box.
Hands-down, Samsung’s AMOLED displays have always nailed it regardless of the device. It throws out vibrant, saturated colours while maintaining deep Blacks. We do feel that Reds are a bit garish at times but for the most part, it’s a treat to your eyes. In Galaxy S10e’s case, what’s different this year is the punch-hole display design. Since the past couple of years, the smartphone screen segment has evolved leaps and bounds. As much as within two years we have seen 18:9 screens, displays with full-length notch, waterdrop notch, notch-less screens and screens with an integrated fingerprint sensor.
However, Samsung has followed what can be called as ‘keep calm and deliver the latest tech’ mantra. Until the Galaxy Note 9, the handset maker stayed with 18.5:9 aspect ratio AMOLED screen without a notch, minimizing top and bottom bezels equally. But with Galaxy S10e it directly brought the punch hole display. However, it did keep the notch-laden ‘Infinity U and V’ screens for mid-rangers.
We find punch hole screens more engaging than the ones sporting a notch, specially while viewing content in the landscape mode. The top right corner can be easily ignored. The 5.8-inch canvas doesn’t seem like one when you use the handset. It looks much more compact. We did feel the need to resize the icon as they are standard across the Galaxy S10 and S10+ as well. But all in all, the ‘Infinity O’ screen looks beautiful. We can say that this is the closest Samsung has reached to make the screen bezels on all the four sides uniform. The 5.8-inch Super AMOLED screen packs 2280×1080 pixels and is HDR10+ certified so expect some mind-boggling viewing experience from this one.
While that’s the hardware specs, on the software front you get the usual set of features including Blue light filter, ability to force apps to open in full screen, edge lighting, Always-on display and much more.
Yes, many may agree that a flat screen smartphone doesn’t fit as a ‘flagship sibling’ and that Samsung could’ve used a curved edge screen like what’s there in the S10 and the S10+. However, after using it for days, we can confirm it as one of the best flat-screen smartphones in the market right now.Performance
If you are spending Rs 55,900 on a smartphone that is also a sibling of the flagship of the year, you expect it to perform flawlessly even if it’s not as powerful. And the Galaxy S10e doesn’t disappoint. Like the Samsung Galaxy S10 and the S10 Plus, this too uses the prowess of Exynos 9820, which works in conjunction with Mali-G76 GPU. Adding this powerful combination with 6GB RAM simply makes the smartphone indomitable in the given segment if not less. If you think you need extra 2GB of RAM you can either go for the Galaxy S10 or the S10+. However, we still think that 6GB should be sufficient enough to implement most tasks.
With that kind of serious tech, it’s difficult for the Galaxy S10e to backstab you while you are working on heavy apps simultaneously or even using them with split screen and streaming content in PiP mode. You can get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 version from the US and other select countries but for end users, there will hardly be a noticeable change. We feel the device is meant to just set up and forget once out of the box. Also, the 128GB inbuilt storage is not an issue since you get microSD card support, something which is rare in high-end smartphones these days.
While that was for the hardware, Samsung’s user interface, OneUI is also a talking point here. Being fairly new, the Android 9 Pie, based OneUI is the most mature level of interface Samsung has right now and for the most part it does justice. We did mention above how OneUI works in tandem with the small screen and a compact form factor. But that’s not all. In addition to the interface design, OneUI is feature-rich and level of customisation you can do with the notifications panel, lock screen display and more can sometimes be overwhelming. There’s also gesture-based navigation now, which is easier to use once you get a hold of it. Personally, we liked the ‘dark mode’ or what Samsung calls ‘Night Mode’.
Gaming gets better this time with Gaming Tools that control your calls, notifications, audio and other game features. As for heating, the issue isn’t really a part of the equation here given the high-end spec list and the advanced heat pipe cooling system, which is also there in the S10. The S10+ uses the better vapour chamber cooling system.
While all these get a thumbs-up from us, Bixby stays the black sheep with Galaxy devices. We still find Google Assistant as the best assistant out there and Bixby is ‘galaxies’ away from reaching there. Sure, it does a good job in handling local contents and placing it on a single screen but we do feel it’s not at it’s ‘the best’ version yet as the experience still feels lacking.
If you’ve haven’t already noticed, the Galaxy S10e has one less camera at the back as compared to the Galaxy S10 and the S10+. The dual rear camera setup excludes the telephoto lens but retains the 12MP wide-angle lens powered by dual pixel, AF and OIS features. It also has a pixel size of 1.4um, FOV of 77-degrees and dual aperture tech switching between f/1.5 and f/2.4. The second camera is the 16MP Ultra wide camera that has a pixel size of 1um, FOV of 123-degrees and f/2.2 aperture. While these metrics sound powerful enough to deliver exceptionally good images, in real life use they were not that impressive.
While the images shot during daylight are crisp and vibrant, we found the handset at times over sharpening the subject. Of course, that’s not visible until unless you zoom and see it. In addition, the overall colour tone in images is warm, something that makes the resulting image appear far from true-to-life. You may also find the camera boosting the skin tone more towards yellow at times. But that’s something you won’t mind. To a regular user who wants the ‘Instagram’ material, the images look great.
The portraits shots on the other hand, have definitely improved since the Galaxy S9. We tried a lot of shots using the ‘Live focus’ mode and every time the performance was satisfactory is nothing less. It’s not as perfect as the Pixel smartphones but still comes close. As for the low light performance, we have mixed reactions as the handset, despite having a large 1.4um pixel size is not able to hide the noise completely and still makes night shots look a bit dull, specially the dark sky. But in artificial light conditions, it performs really well, balancing the colours and the highlights.
Three major ‘Intelligence’ features powering the camera are Screen Optimiser, Shot suggestions and Flaw detection. These three worked well most of the times. We did see Flaw Detection failing to notice the person blinking in a single person shot. You may not even need all three of these in most cases but it’s appreciable to make its way in the Galaxy S10e anyway. And for those thinking about the third, telephoto camera, which is present in Galaxy S10 and the S10+, we didn’t really feel like missing out on much without it. Also, Samsung says that you do get 0.5x optical zoom and up to 8x digital zoom if that helps.
The front-facing 10MP camera boasts of Dual Pixel AF, pixel size of 1.2um and FOV of 80-degrees with f/1.9 aperture, all of which work well for selfie lovers. Of course, it’s not the most natural looking selfie as it softens your skin and makes you look fairer with default settings, something which can be controlled if you tweak around a little bit. What’s good news is that the front camera supports wide angle view but unfortunately misses out on the details and the wide-angle view is also not a considerable one.
Finally, the camera user interface, although appearing cluttered with several buttons and functions on either side of the screen, makes them easy to access. There’s a floating shutter button as well that makes it easy to click selfies. It could’ve been appreciable if the UI was cleaner while keeping the basic features on screen.
Samsung Galaxy S10e’s 3100mAh battery may sound just enough to get the job done, in our usage, it didn’t. The smartphone did take a couple of days to learn the usage pattern, leaving us with some hope that the device might just end up having enough juice to run for 10 hours on an average. But on mixed usage, which includes everything from watching videos to playing PUBG and working on couple of apps simultaneously, our review unit delivered around 5-6 hours. That is not impressive given the amount you are spending for a smartphone that is still powerful if not anything less.
That said, the handset is great for you if you are a light or an average user. On light use, which had us limited to checking our emails, streaming music for hours and browsing through social media apps, the smartphone gave us a total of 10 hours on an average with 5-6 hours screen on time constantly.
It is worth adding that the ‘Adaptive power saving’ feature is switched off by default so we’d recommend you to switch it on once the handset has been set up to avoid unwanted battery drain. The feature comes in addition with three usual modes of Optimised (default), Medium power saving and Maximum power saving. The latter two cut the background app tasks, Always On display and limits the CPU speed up to 70% or more. These do come in handy in crucial situations.
So what’s the gist with the Samsung Galaxy S10e? What’s the reason behind Samsung introducing this third smartphone in the flagship line up this year? After analysing the pros and cons of this Rs 55,900 smartphone, we can surely say that Samsung has aimed to deliver the ‘essentials’ of Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10+ at a price that is supposed to keep the handset maker’s feet firm in certain markets and is comparatively easy on your wallet. You don’t get all the features in this one but you do get what Samsung thinks people will look for if they are not in a mood to spend over Rs 60,000.
You get a brilliant screen, a well-performing processor, average battery life, decent cameras and a whole lot of software-based features, which if you think about, don’t sound such a bad deal as a package. What, however, is the takeaway here is that Samsung has managed to deliver a much-required compact-sized powerful smartphone, something we were dying to see ever since the Sony Xperia ‘Compact’ smartphone series. The device, although having some flaws, keeps the key features intact and something customers would love to use.
And in case you are a OnePlus 6T, Poco F1 or an Asus Zenfone 5Z user, for Rs 55,900 you get a way better AMOLED screen, amazing form factor and a feature-rich user OneUI. It’s not the ideal option if you plan to move on from Samsung Galaxy S9 or the Galaxy S9+ but for those sporting older Galaxy models or any smartphone from 2017, this could be it.