The Samsung Galaxy S10e is like a breath of fresh air in a world of behemoth smartphones with enormous displays. To be honest, we didn’t expect Samsung or any other manufacturer for that matter to release a compact flagship. Especially since even Sony dropped their compact lineup. But here it is – a small flagship phone for a little less than you’d expect from a normal flagship these days.
It’s nice to see Samsung keeping most of the high-end features in this little guy but for around €700, some corners had to be cut. For starters, you don’t get the telephoto lens, the bezels are a tad thicker and the under-display fingerprint has moved to the side frame. If you are willing to live without those, than the Galaxy S10e might be the right choice for you out of all three phones Galaxy S10s.
Samsung Galaxy S10e specs
- Body: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm, 150 grams, metal side frame, Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back.
- Screen: 5.8″ Dynamic AMOLED, 1080 x 2280px resolution; 19:9 aspect ratio; ~438 ppi.
- Chipset: Exynos 9820 Octa (8nm) chipset: octa-core CPU ((2×2.73 GHz Mongoose M4 & 2×2.31 GHz Cortex-A75 & 4×1.95 GHz Cortex-A55); Mali-G76 MP12 GPU.
- Memory: 6GB RAM, 128GB built-in storage, microSD slot support.
- OS: One UI based on Android 9.0 Pie.
- Rear camera: 12MP f/1.5-2.4, 1.4µm, 1/2.55″, PDAF support, OIS + 16MP f/2.2, ultra-wide 104µm, LED flash; 1080p@30/60/240fps, 4K@30/60fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+ support.
- Front camera: 10MP f/1.9, up to 2160p@30fps video recording.
- Battery: 3,100mAh, adaptive fast charging 15W (9V/1.67A).
- Connectivity: Single-SIM, Dual-SIM available in certain markets (hybrid slot); LTE-A, 7-Band carrier aggregation, Cat.20/13 (2Gbps/150Mbps); USB Type-C (v3.1); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac/ax MU-MIMO; GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo; NFC; Bluetooth 5.0.
- Misc: Stereo loudspeakers, wireless charging, reverse wireless charging, IP68 rating dust and water protection.
But don’t mistake the Galaxy S10e for an upper-mid-range device. It’s still a flagship phone with a corresponding price tag although, a lot lower than the S10 or S10+ for that matter. You still get the flawless screen experience – as long as you don’t mind the punch-hole camera – the great camera, powerful Exynos 9820 (or the Snapdragon 855 depending on your region) and tons of proprietary Samsung features.
Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy S10e
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a retail unit so the phone didn’t come in its original box. However, we did receive the proper charger supporting fast charging output of 15W. We also got the AKG-branded buds, which sound great, by the way. It seems that all three Galaxies come with those AKGs. Kudos for that.
Competition in the mid-range might be tough, but the high-end segment has its difficulties too. And the Galaxy S10e doesn’t make it easier for some as well. We can even say it’s a rare beast to some extent – it’s one of the few compact flagships and it doesn’t break the bank too. To be honest, it was quite hard for us to think of adequate competitors, aside from the iPhone XR, which is the main rival here.
However, the Galaxy S10e fills a couple of niches – it’s a decently-priced compact flagship with the essential high-end features at hand. Almost all of its competitors are more expensive but let’s start with the most obvious one.
Samsung‘s answer to the “budget” iPhone XR is definitely the Galaxy S10e. Of course, the iPhone XR is a tad more expensive than the S10e in the US but asks considerably more in Europe or other parts of the world. But if you’ve reached a point where you have to decide between the iPhone XR and the Galaxy S10e, you probably don’t have a single clue on how big your phone should be. Both handsets look similar, but once you hold them in your hand, the Galaxy S10e just feels tiny. Mostly because of the skinny bezels. It’s just way easier to handle.
Battery life on the XR is about the same and raw performance is measurably higher, but that’s all. The S10e impresses with one the best in class AMOLED displays, it has a pretty good ultra-wide camera, while the iPhone XR relies on one unit, and the Galaxy S10e still offers the option to unlock it with a fingerprint. And when you weigh in the factor of ever-declining Android prices, the gap between the Galaxy S10e and the iPhone XR will just grow bigger over time. One would argue that if the iPhone XR is in your price range, the Galaxy S10 is actually the better choice.
But if you are strictly in the Android camp, or more specifically, in Samsung‘s party tent, you should consider the Galaxy S10. The price difference is around €100 (or slightly more depending on your region), but you get the fancy in-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader, a third telephoto camera and a bigger and curvier display.
For a little less, Xiaomi has two offers that can go under the “affordable flagship” label – the recently released Xiaomi Mi 9 and last year’s crowd favorite – the Pocophone F1. The Mi 9, despite being bigger in size and considerably less expensive, is closer to the Galaxy S10e than you’d think – a premium build, great AMOLED screen, long battery life, heavily-customized UI and powerful up to date hardware.
And as for the Pocophone F1, it’s the definition of “affordable flagship.” Although still rocking a Snapdragon 845, it can do almost everything the S10e can but lacks the sharp AMOLED screen and the excellent camera experience. But for the less pretentious users, the Pocophone F1 will save you a couple of hundred dollars.
If you are one of the old-school users looking for something new, and compactness is on the top of your list, you should also consider the Pixel 3 – a powerful stock Android alternative to the Galaxy S10e and depending on the current Google promotions, it can be less expensive or slightly above the Galaxy S10e. There’s also a big “if” with availability – Pixel availability is notoriously limited. But if all is good and you are willing to go with the Pixel, you should consider the bare bones Android experience and the single-camera module. That doesn’t mean it can’t do awesome shots, though.
Surely, there are better value propositions from flagship phones, but the Galaxy S10e packs the latest and greatest and it’s easy to handle with one hand. It has one of the best screens in the industry combined with a stellar camera experience, tons of cool software and hardware features and it’s still rocking that beloved 3.5mm audio jack. It’s one of the most feature-complete flagship devices out there, but there are a couple of things you’d have to deal with.
For example, the One UI might not be to everyone’s taste – it’s heavily-customized, and the navigation has changed a lot since the last Samsung UX iterations, and the high fingerprint reader placement requires too much of a thumb stretch. Even for a phone with this size, unlocking the handset using the side-mounted scanner feels like a chore.
Speaking of displacement, the punch-hole camera is an OCD-inducing design choice. Also, we still think that the hole is better off in the left corner, like the Honor View 20. We are still unsure how screen cutouts are any better than a notch, but we guess we are a step closer to full-screen design with sensors and cameras under the display.
And what’s with the ancient fast charging Samsung? Every other phone maker offers a more advanced fast charging system, regardless of whether proprietary or not.
So this phone is not without its shortcomings. But do we recommend the Galaxy S10e? In a heartbeat. We see it becoming one of the best value high-end smartphones shortly, once the price starts to drop. As long as you don’t care about those over-the-top fancy features like the in-display fingerprint reader, the Galaxy S10e could be your trusty sidekick for years ahead.
- One of the few compact flagships out there.
- Impeccable build quality, premium materials, great colors.
- Outstanding display.
- Stellar camera experience with a few minor exceptions.
- Decent battery life, better than the Galaxy S10
- Fingerprint reader is placed inconveniently high.
- The ultra-wide angle camera needs autofocus.
- The camera Night mode is lackluster.
- Samsung’s fast charging tech is not competitive in speed.