Samsung Galaxy S10e review: a bona fide compact flagship that 2019 badly needed

Rating: 9.1/10

Pros:

  • The small form factor is a refreshing change
  • Wide angle lens continues to exist
  • Side-mounted fingerprint scanner is blazing fast

Cons:

  • Subpar battery life
  • Heats up after long gaming sessions

Introduction:

When the Galaxy S10e reached our office, I immediately tweeted this out as my first impressions of the phone:

 

Just like the phone, I am going to keep this review compact — as per Mr. Phone standards — because most of what I’ve said about the Galaxy S10+ in my review, is true for the S10e as well. For example, the software, the cameras, and the performance, are mostly similar to the entire Galaxy S10 range. 

But the big questions here are:

  1. Is the S10e better than the OnePlus 6T?
  2. Are the tradeoffs worth considering the S10e over the more expensive S10/S10+?

Keep reading to find out. 

Samsung Galaxy S10e: smaller but better

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is undoubtedly compact and handy. Coming from an S10+, the S10e feels diminutive in comparison. But I can tell you this, by reducing the size and shrinking the bezels Samsung has created the perfectly-sized smartphone. It is only ever so slightly bigger than the Nexus 5, which has a 5-inch display by the way. The Galaxy S10e has a 5.8-inch display in comparison. I am bringing the Nexus 5 into the equation because my friend and photographer Vinay Arvind tweeted to me, “That Nexus 5 was to me, the perfect form factor: the Goldilocks size for phones.”

I couldn’t have said it any better. That line captures my feelings exactly. 

Now, with this form factor one-handed usage becomes easy. And, the chances of it slipping out of your hands are slim because your palms will contour around the physical dimensions of the phone with consummate ease. At 150g, it is also fairly lightweight with great weight distribution. Overall, at the risk of sounding repetitive, the S10e is the perfectly-sized phone. 

The design differences, when compared to the Galaxy S10/S10+, includes a flat display on the front. I prefer flat displays to curved ones because it eliminates ghost touches. But the Dynamic AMOLED 19:9 panel has a lower FHD+ resolution. Although, I am not really complaining because it is still crisp, bright and includes support for HDR10+. For all practical purposes, a pixel density of 438ppi is more than enough for human eyes. 

Moreover, Samsung has dropped the Ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner for a side-mounted one on the power button. Trust me, physical scanners have gotten so good over the years that it makes in-display scanners look bad. To add to that, the side-mounted scanner on the S10e is one of the fastest ones you will ever use. Additionally, it is super fun to just pull down the notifications panel by swiping down from the side. 

 

Another tiny design compromise is that you get Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and the back. Whereas, you get Gorilla Glass 6 on the S10+. What does this mean for the end user? Not much, just that the S10+ will be better at resisting drops. But as far as weatherproofing goes, the S10e has the same IP68 certification as the S10+. 

There are a couple of design decisions that irk me. But they are very minor niggles at best. Firstly, the chin is bigger than the top bezel. And secondly, the USB Type-C and 3.5mm ports are not aligned with the speaker at the bottom. 

Overall though, the Galaxy S10e is the compact phone that 2019 needed very badly. Additionally, to add a little bit of differentiation, Samsung has swapped the transparent case from the S10+ for one that trips my trypophobia every time I look at it. 

Samsung Galaxy S10e: skips the telephoto on the rear and the depth sensor on the front but you won’t miss either

As for the cameras, the S10e goes for a dual camera set up on the rear instead of the triple camera setup on the S10/S10+ combo. So what do you lose out on the S10e? The telephoto camera. And honestly, it doesn’t really matter because the S10+’s 12MP telephoto camera is average at best. That said, the 16MP wide-angle camera is present on the S10e and that is the game changer in my opinion. I think Samsung really thought this through. 

As far as photo quality is concerned, you can just head over to my review of the S10+ for a detailed analysis. Here are a few salient points though:

 

  1. The default camera app is laid out beautifully and very easy to manoeuvre. 
  2. Shots in daylight are crisp and detailed with a slight hint of over-sharpening and boosted colours. The bigger problem is, however, the phone tends to over-expose scenes unnecessarily. Don’t forget to reduce the exposure in bright scenes. 
  3. The wide-angle camera is excellent. I absolutely love the added perspective you get in landscape shots. 
  4. Portrait effects are okay at best. I doubt I’d ever use it. 
  5. The low light performance is nowhere close to the Pixel 3 or the Mate 20 Pro. 
  6. The S10e can also shoot HDR10+ video out of the box. The video recording quality, the stabilisation, and the sound quality are all excellent. 

 

By the way, if you want to check out how the S10 range of phones compares against the current crop of flagships, we have a handy video for you. The only difference is that you don’t get the telephoto camera. Let me know if you want the S10e’s camera specifically compared against other phones. 

Samsung Galaxy S10e: battery life takes a hit

The S10e has the same Exynos 9820 SoC like its siblings. Therefore, there is not much of a difference in performance and benchmark scores. But, one thing I noticed while testing PUBG using Gamebench, is that the GPU struggled to keep consistent frame-rates and the phone touched 40-degrees. The phone did feel warm to the touch after a 1-hour session. 

The S10e I tested, had 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There is a higher variant with 8 gigs of RAM and 256GB of storage. You can further expand the storage space to 512GB using the hybrid SIM slot. This is more than sufficient in the cloud era, in my opinion. 

The one area where there is a perceptible compromise is in the battery life of the S10e. The 3100mAh battery lasted me a max of 10 hours on a single charge, which included a screen-on-time of 4 hours. You can stretch it a little by switching off Edge Lighting or Ambient Display. And, using the bundled 15W charger I could charge the phone from 0 to 100 in under 1 hour and 30 minutes.

For some odd reason, I’ve been noticing major call drops on the S10e and the S10+. Don’t know why that is happening, though. Having said that, the sound quality of the earpiece is great. 

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy S10e?

The Galaxy S10e is undoubtedly the best compact Android phone in the market right now. And, at the starting price of around Rs 55,000, the phone is not very expensive either. Do you know why I say that? Because the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition touched 50k too.

Continuing that line of thought, let’s see how the S10e stacks up against the competition. 

OnePlus 6T

I know the OnePlus 6T is much cheaper than the S10e but a lot of folks will look at this comparison. As far as the design is concerned the S10e is definitely more ergonomic and refined. Moreover, I prefer the in-display camera compared to the waterdrop notch. The AMOLED panel is better looking on the S10e. The cameras are better too. You get wireless charging+reverse charging. A more powerful processor. You get the drift…the price difference is totally worth it. The Galaxy S10e is better than the OnePlus 6T in more ways than one. But yeah, Oxygen OS and the performance on the OnePlus 6T is incredible. 

Also read: OnePlus 6T review: aggressively marching towards the future

iPhone XR

Ever since the S10e launched many comparisons were being made to Apple’s iPhone XR. Both the phones come in funky colours, are smaller, and affordable. The S10e is evidently more compact, more cost-effective, and has all the goodness of Android. But the battery life is better on the XR and so is the performance. That said, the S10e has a better display. Honestly, this is a tough comparison because we are talking about picking between iOS and Android, and most of the times it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. All pun intended. 

Keeping all the technical analysis aside, the Galaxy S10e truly won my heart because cute, little phones like this one are a rare commodity. And when compared to the S10/S10+, you really aren’t losing out on much.

 

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?