Samsung Galaxy S10e review: A pocket-sized companion

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For Samsung, this year’s affordable flagship is the Galaxy S10e. It’s a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone XR, and offers just about the same Galaxy S10 experience without the eye-watering price tag.

The ‘e’ in Samsung Galaxy S10e stands for ‘essential’, which means it packs almost everything the S10 and S10 Plus have, at a lower price.

The 5.8-inch S10e costs $150 less than the 6.1-inch Galaxy S10. The phone includes dual rear cameras instead of the triple-lens arrangement found on the pricier models, and lacks an in-display fingerprint sensor as well.

I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S10e for roughly seven days. The device is running Samsung One UI version 1.1 on Android 9 Pie. The model in this review is the variant with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the smallest among the new flagship line, but it’s by no means the least impressive. With its relatively compact size, terrific specs and powerful performance, it could be a hit which no one anticipated. However, it’s not without its flaws. Let’s see how it fairs  in our full review.

Positives

  • Great display
  • Headphone jack
  • Extremely fast fingerprint sensor
  • Blazing fast performance
  • One UI is clean and packed with features
  • Capable cameras in most lighting conditions

Negatives

  • Poor low-light camera performance
  • Disappointing battery life
  • Preinstalled Facebook app
  • Fingerprint sensor not great for lefties
  • Samsung’s software update track record is not good

Galaxy S10e Specs

Price Kes. 78,999/-
Display (Resolution)5.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED (2160 x 1080)
Rear Camera(s)16-MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel wide (ƒ/1.5, ƒ/2.4)
Front Camera(s)10-MP dual-pixel (ƒ/1.9)
CPUQualcomm Snapdragon 855; Exynos 9820
RAM6GB, 8GB
Storage128GB, 256GB
microSDYes, up to 512GB
Battery3,100 mAh
ColorsPrism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Flamingo Pink, Canary Yellow, Prism Green
Size5.6 x 2.75 x 0.3 inches
Weight150g
OthersSide-mounted fingerprint sensor
IP68 certified

Design

Although the Galaxy S10e might not be ‘compact’ compared to phones from 5-6 years ago,in today’s market it certainly is. With its 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm dimensions, 5.8 inch screen and weight of 150 grams, it’s fits comfortably in the hand and in the pocket.

I was impressed from the moment I first held the phone in my hands. It’s light, but it still feels solid. As has become typical, the material of choice for both the front and back of the device is glass -Gorilla Glass 5, surrounded by an aluminum frame.

The Galaxy S10e is available in multiple colors ; Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Green, Prism Blue, Canary Yellow and Flamingo Pink. However, at the moment some of them seem to be available only in select regions. For the purpose of this review, I used the Prism Black variant. It might be a tad boring compared to the other more colorful versions but just like some people, i happen to appreciate the simple classic look.

As can be expected from the South Korean manufacturer, the overall design is premium and the craftsmanship impeccable, The side bezels are so slim, they are practically non-existent. Unlike on the bigger Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, however, the display on this is not curved. That might not please some, but we actually prefer it – it makes it easier to see the edges of the screen, and avoids any accidental presses.

On the front, we find the punch-hole which houses the selfie camera, which is tiny and barely noticeable in everyday use. Thanks to its discrete placement, it’s also a much better solution than the notch. On the back, the dual camera protrudes from the frame slightly, which can be a drawback for some, but I never found it to be an issue. Around the left side, you’ll find a volume rocker and dedicated Bixby button directly below it.
And on the bottom, you’ll find a headphone jack — an increasingly rare and valuable feature among today’s top smartphones.

The fingerprint scanner is another major difference between the Essential version and the S10 and S10 Plus. On this device, it’s located on the right hand side, merged with the power button. It’s convenient and easy to use. Unlike the ultrasonic sensor that can be found on the rest of the S10 line, it works without a hitch.

It even offers fingerprint sensor gestures – by swiping up or down on it, you can open or close the notification panel, which I found quite handy. To enable the gestures on your S10e, go to Settings > Advanced features > Motions and gestures >  Finger sensor gestures.

Even though the fingerprint sensor is really fast, there are some downsides to it:

  • It  is located on the right side of the phone, meaning left-handers will probably have trouble reaching it with their index fingers.
  • It’s located a bit too high for my liking  (I’ve had to adjust the way I pick up my phone so I can ensure I’m able to reach it every time.)
  • Finally, you need to make sure to cover the entire sensor with your fingerprint, not just a portion of it. It’s harder to get used to than you’d think.

Although, If you buy the Galaxy S10e, there’s no doubt you’re going to need a case. It’s so slippery.

Screen and Display

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.

The S10e has great viewing angles, sharp contrast and great color representation, especially when it comes to black. You can even choose between two screen modes in the settings – Vivid and Natural.

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.

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.

There’s also the matter of the hole-punch camera. Instead of a notch encroaching in from the bezel, the S10e employs Samsung’s new ‘Infinity-O’ display.

As mentioned earlier, the Galaxy S10e doesn’t have curved display edges, but interestingly  still offers Edge gestures and Edge apps. Im sure none of you will use this much because even I didn’t really find myself using them much. Although, this could be a point in the device’s favor for those who are used to them.

One thing that I enjoyed quite a lot, was the edges of the display lighting up when receiving a notification. As the days of the classic LED notification seem to be behind us, this ia an interestingly smart and fun solution.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy S10e comes running Android 9 Pie (along with One UI) out of the box, which means you can take advantage of all that Google’s latest mobile OS has to offer – digital wellbeing tools, better notification management, improved battery management and so on.

One UI is the successor to both TouchWiz and the Samsung Experience found on older devices. The aesthetic overhaul is, for the most part, welcome as well; with a clearer notifications pane and settings menu. The first thing you notice is the scaling. UI elements on the S10e are large and in your face by default, with big text, an emphasis on squircles and most interactions placed near the bottom of the display on every menu to maximize reachability.

Camera

The Galaxy S10e packs two cameras on the back — one 12-megapixel primary sensor with a variable aperture of either ƒ/1.5 or ƒ/2.4, and another 16-megapixel sensor mated to an ultrawide lens with a 123-degree field of view. On the front is a 10-megapixel, ƒ/1.9 lens.

All of those cameras are also present in the S10 and S10 Plus, though those phones add a telephoto lens to the back as well with 2x optical zoom, which the S10e lacks. The S10 Plus also has a secondary depth sensor on the front of the device for more accurate bokeh effects in selfies.

When it’s sunny, they take great photos that capture everything in stunning detail, with true to life colors. They also do so quickly. You don’t have to be a photography pro to capture beautiful shots that will get you a lot of likes on social media! Of course, as the sun went down, so did the photo quality, but not significantly.

Unlike older Samsung devices, the scene optimizer on the S10e is enabled by default and is included in all modes rather than having its own separate mode. It supports over 30 modes, including Scenery, Stage, Vehicles, Drinks, Flowers, Trees, Greenery, Clouds and more.Samsung has packed in a variety of features and tricks on the software side, including a scene analyser that tells you when it thinks you’re framing your shot in the best way (which can be switched off if you find it annoying). There are also a wider choice of scene modes to pick between, if you need some extra help beyond the automatic settings.

Battery

The 3,100mAh battery packed inside the Samsung Galaxy S10e will easily see you through a day, perhaps because of that smaller, lower-resolution screen. I typically had around 15-20 percent left by bedtime after a full charge in the morning. Though don’t forget this is a brand new phone, so you can probably expect that to go down over time.

Recharging is quick with up to 15W fast charging (and 15W wireless charging), which isn’t the fastest-wattage charging on the market, but it gets the job done. And you might need to top up a bit more often if you’ve got other wireless devices. This is because the S10e can now charge them itself thanks to a new feature: Wireless PowerShare.

The Wireless PowerShare feature is simple: turn it on, place the second device on the rear cover of the S10e, and wait. Sadly, wireless charging speeds are still slow, so you’ll have to leave your Samsung phone alone if you want to transfer battery power to another device. It’s something you might have thought would get cut from a more affordable model, but we’re glad that it’s been retained.

Price and Availability

If you’re after a compact phone this year, this could well be your best option. You can spend as little as $750 on the Galaxy S10e. although this is if  you opt for the version with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The device costs $100 more if you go for the model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

The Galaxy S10e is available now from Samsung.com, Safaricom and Airtel outlets, Jumia Kenya and other retailers. Depending on where you purchase the device, you’ll be able to pick it up in Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Blue, Prism Green, Flamingo Pink, or Canary Yellow color options.


Thanks to Samsung Kenya for providing us with this Galaxy S10e for review.