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Samsung’s Galaxy S10e might not be quite as impressive as the rest of the lineup, but its lower price offers a tempting proposition
- Cheapest S10
- Doesn’t scrimp on performance
- New design is stunning
- Wait a few months for a price drop
- Camera software could be better
Samsung has pulled the trigger slightly earlier than usual this year and its trio of new Galaxy flagships are already out in the wild. Both the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus represent Samsung’s biggest leap forward in recent years, but these phones share a major drawback: they’re both absurdly expensive.
Thankfully, this isn’t something that the Galaxy S10e has to worry about. The smallest of the three is also the cheapest, although it’s still a flagship smartphone in almost every respect. If funds are a little low, and you’re keen to pick up one of Samsung’s latest smartphones as soon as possible, this is where your wallet should be headed.
Samsung Galaxy S10e review: What you need to know
You might have guessed already, but the Galaxy S10e is Samsung’s answer to the iPhone XR. Cheaper than Samsung’s other two flagships, the S10e has a few key differences, but is otherwise practically identical to its siblings.
For starters, the S10e’s screen is slightly smaller and is lower in resolution. All of Samsung’s new Galaxy phones share the same primary and ultra-wide camera sensors on the back, but the S10e lacks the third 2x optical zoom lens and there’s no fancy in-display fingerprint reader, either.
Otherwise, all of the phones are singing the same tune. Despite costing less, the S10e shares Samsung’s latest top-end mobile chipset, the Exynos 9820, which is built using a smaller, 8nm fabrication process and offers vastly improved speeds. The phone also includes 128GB of onboard storage, which can be expanded via microSD.
Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Price and competition
While Samsung’s other smartphones cost a pretty penny, the Galaxy S10e is much easier on the wallet. As it stands, Samsung’s cheapest Galaxy phone costs £669, which represents a £120 saving on the Galaxy S10, and is at least £230 cheaper than the Galaxy S10 Plus.
The Galaxy S10e also beats Apple’s iPhone XR when it comes to price. Samsung’s key rival is charging £749 for its cheapest iPhone with half the internal storage, which can’t be expanded like the S10e.
That’s not too shabby, but things begin to look a little less positive when you start looking at the rest of its Android opposition. The soon-to-be-released Xiaomi Mi 9 offers a Snapdragon 855 chipset, triple camera arrangement and a larger screen at a huge saving of £169.
Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Design and key features
Unsurprisingly, the S10e looks almost identical to its siblings. It’s a little bit smaller than the regular Galaxy S10 – the screen is 5.8in across the diagonal, rather than 6.1in – but it still incorporates the same silver-tinted edging and wide range of colours. In fact, the Galaxy S10e has an exclusive paint job, although this new “Canary Yellow” colour won’t be to everybody’s taste.
However, there’s no doubt that these new Galaxy phones are Samsung’s best-looking handsets to date, with the firm finally bringing aesthetics into line with their exorbitant price tags. The elegant-looking Galaxy S10e is achingly attractive, its small size fits nicely in the hand, and layers of Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and rear of the phone ensure that its lavish looks are well protected against drops and scrapes.
One thing I didn’t like, though, was the phone’s over-tendency to pick up smudges on the rear panel. Perhaps this is more noticeable with the lighter-looking “Prism White” model I was sent to review, but the back of the phone was difficult to clean, no matter how many times I tried to brush off the grease.
Still, the phone’s physical particulars remain unchanged from the rest of the lineup. There’s a USB Type-C charging port at the bottom, with support for Samsung’s 15W Fast Wireless Charging 2, while a power button is sensibly placed on the right edge. A dedicated Bixby button (which can be disabled) sits on the left along with the volume rocker, and it’s nice to see that the 3.5mm headphone jack has reappeared alongside the solitary speaker grille on the bottom of the phone.
Unlike the S10 and S10 Plus, the Galaxy S10e doesn’t include an under-display fingerprint reader for secure unlocking. Instead, the sensor is embedded in the power button, as with Sony’s recent smartphones. I much prefer this unlocking arrangement as it’s where my thumb naturally sits when holding the phone.
Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Display
The Galaxy S10e is fitted with Samsung’s new Dynamic AMOLED screen, which is Full HD+ in resolution, as opposed to the S10 and S10 Plus’ screen resolution of Quad HD+. That’s certainly not a bad thing, though: this is still Samsung’s best display yet and it also supports the HDR 10+ standard for the first time. This allows for a far better viewing experience, with increased dynamic range when watching movies and playing Android games.
The numbers don’t lie when it comes to technical testing, either. Using our X-Rite display colorimeter I measured an sRGB colour gamut coverage of 95% on the phone’s default “Normal” display profile, with a total volume of 96%, which is very, very good. Meanwhile, the phone’s “Vivid” mode is closer to the DCI-P3 colour space and much better suited for video playback.
Likewise, the Galaxy S10e’s automatic brightness mode is as dazzling as ever, capable of reaching a maximum 987cd/m² with a torch aimed at the phone’s top-mounted light sensor. And with this being one of Samsung’s impressive AMOLED panels, screen contrast is effectively perfect at a measured infinity:1.
Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Performance and battery life
Like the rest of this year’s flagships, the S10e features an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor – although UK models come equipped with Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 equivalent – paired with 6GB of RAM. This new octa-core mobile chipset is built using an 8nm fabrication process, with two powerful cores clocked at 2.73GHz, a further two clocked at 2.31GHz and four clocked at 1.95GHz. There’s also only one storage option available in the UK, at 128GB, although this is expandable via microSD up to 512GB.
These beefed-up innards translate to an effortlessly speedy experience overall and provide benchmark results that rival the very best in the business. As you can see from the Geekbench 4 single and multi-core CPU tests below, the S10e is just as powerful as its pricier Galaxy-labelled siblings, and manages to stand its ground quite nicely against the Snapdragon 855-powered Xiaomi Mi 9.
Samsung has also teamed up with Unity – the game engine that powers most Android games – to help improve gaming performance. We didn’t manage to spot the benefits during testing, as the S10e seemed to perform just as well as the others in our suite of GFXBench tests, but the overall gaming experience is remarkably fluid. You shouldn’t run into any issues when running the latest titles from the Google Play Store.
Likewise, the Galaxy S10e uses a vapour chamber cooling system to help increase the phone’s efficiency when running processor-heavy applications. This is good because the phone’s internal 3,300mAh capacity battery is frankly rather small. Nonetheless, the Galaxy S10e was still capable of reaching a lengthy 17hrs 50mins on a single charge.
Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Camera
The Galaxy S10e’s camera specifications are largely similar to what went before. On the back of the phone, there’s an identical 12-megapixel camera with a dual aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4. Like last year, the way this works is that the camera automatically widens the aperture once the lighting conditions hit below 100 lux, allowing much more light in than usual.
It proved to be a very effective shooting arrangement last year, but in 2019 there’s also a secondary, 16-megapixel wide-angle lens with an aperture of f/2.2 sitting next to it. A single 10-megapixel in-display selfie camera can also be found in the top right of the screen, which doesn’t include the second depth-sensing unit located on the S10 Plus. I do like the bright light that chases around the perimeter of the circular selfie camera whenever it’s activated.
Niceties aside, how does the quality of the S10e’s images hold up under scrutiny? Well, as you might expect from one of Samsung’s top-end pocket diallers, picture quality is impeccable, with accurate colour rendition and heaps of detail no matter the lighting conditions.
The wide-angle sensor also does a good job of squeezing more objects into the frame and the phone’s “Live Focus” shooting mode is particularly impressive, allowing you to adjust the amount of background blur before you capture an image.
That’s not to say the entire experience is flawless, however, as Samsung’s camera UI is still quite fiddly. The phone’s HDR and resolution toggles, for instance, aren’t immediately accessible and are instead tucked away in the long list of camera settings.
As for video, the S10e is able to shoot stabilised footage at 4K resolution, but only at 30fps. In order to capture silky-smooth footage at 60fps, you have to drop the resolution down to Full HD. Regardless, the S10e has the ability to record lovely-looking HDR 10+ clips and can capture 12 seconds of 720p slow-motion footage at 960fps.
Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Verdict
The Galaxy S10e might initially be the least impressive of the family, but in the areas that matter most, it’s equally as formidable. You’ll spot a few compromises here and there but, considering the S10e is the cheapest of the three, the fact that it still brings top-end flagship specifications to the table is frankly mind-boggling.
However, even if it doesn’t cost as much as the others, Xiaomi’s offering remains top dog for flagship affordability. At £499, the Mi 9 is just as feature-packed and, while it might not have the same initial appeal as one of Samsung’s latest budget beauties, it represents stonkingly good value for money.
Still, if you’re absolutely dead set on picking up one of Samsung’s latest handsets, this is undoubtedly the phone I’d recommend. What’s more, if you’re willing to hold fire for a few months, you might begin to see the Galaxy S10e’s price plummet quite dramatically as interest in the Galaxy Note 10 begins to heat up towards the tail end of the year. As such, I’d say the Galaxy S10e is the perfect phone for patient wallets.
Samsung Galaxy S10e specifications
- Processor-Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9820 (2×2.7GHz, 2×2.3GHz, 4×1.9GHz)
- Screen size-5.8in
- Screen resolution-2,280 x 1,080
- Pixel density-438ppi
- Screen type-Dynamic AMOLED
- Front camera-10-megapixel, f/1.9
- Rear camera-12-megapixel, f/1.5-2.4, 16-megapixel, f/2.2
- Dust and water resistance-IP68
- 3.5mm headphone jack-Yes
- Wireless charging-Yes (15W)
- USB connection type-USB Type-C
- Storage options-128GB
- Memory card slot (supplied)-microSD (up to 512GB)
- Cellular data-4G
- Dual SIM-Yes (shared with microSD)
- Dimensions (WDH)-142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm
- Operating system-Android 9
- Battery size-3,100mAh