Samsung Galaxy S10e Review: Finally, A Great Small Phone

by John Nieves  March 1, 2019

We review the smaller Galaxy S10e!

While everyone’s focused on Samsung’s top-tier Galaxy S10 Plus and are salivating at the idea of fondling the Galaxy Fold, I’ve been enjoying my time with the Korean company’s smaller Galaxy S10e. The Galaxy S10e joined OPPO’s R17 Pro in my pocket during our coverage of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and I found that there’s certainly something to be had using a smaller flagship that bigger, taller phones just can’t match.

It feels like an updated Galaxy S7

The Galaxy S10e feels drastically different from its more expensive brethren. It’s considerably smaller and doesn’t use a curved Super AMOLED panel, instead settling for a more traditional flat panel that flows into the metal frame.

Despite being smaller (and cheaper), Samsung hasn’t skimped out on the build quality of the phone. Gorilla Glass 5 still covers the back and front of the phone, and the rear glass curves into the frame for better ergonomics. The S10e is still water resistant, possessing an IP67 rating. The triple rear cameras have been downgraded to two, with Samsung nixing the 2x optical zoom.

Samsung also nixed the in-screen fingerprint scanner for the Galaxy S10e, opting instead to put it on the power button on the side to keep the rear nice and clean. Some people may not like that particular decision because of their negative experiences with side-mounted fingerprint scanners, but in Samsung’s eyes, a unified design aesthetic takes top priority over user comfort.

And it’s not like the fingerprint scanner is a bear to use – we found it quick, fast and accurate, with very few misreads during our time with it.

The left of the phone holds the volume rocker, with the Bixby button right below it. The SIM tray is on the top of the phone, while the bottom holds the speaker grille, USB Type-C port and more importantly, the 3.5mm jack.

The smaller size of the Galaxy S10e made it easier to hold and manipulate one-handed, and for once, my thumb was able to reach the majority of the display without having to adjust my grip. The fact that Samsung didn’t have to compromise on the screen size of the S10e too much for that will definitely be appreciated by people who have smaller than average mitts.

Smaller screen, but just as good

The Samsung Galaxy S10e has a smaller Super AMOLED display than its bigger brothers, coming in at just 5.8-inches. Like we mentioned earlier, there’s no on-screen fingerprint scanner to be had here, and Samsung downgraded the resolution from QHD to just full HD+, or 1080 x 2280.

But aside from that, the underlying tech for the display is still there. It’s still the same Dynamic Super AMOLED panel as its brothers, and still has that HDR10+ capability that makes everything on the screen deeper and more vibrant. Everything just looks better on the S10e’s display, as small as it is.

As for that hole punch camera, well it does get a little getting used to, but like on other phones we tested that had a similar notch, we tend to forget that it’s there after a while. We gather that’s a different story for the S10 Plus since the hole is considerably bigger thanks to the dual front cameras but for the S10e, the hole punch isn’t a big deal.

Exynos 9820 isn’t going to please everyone

Samsung’s always used two kinds of processors for its flagship smartphones, and we’ve always gotten their homebrewed Exynos processor for devices sold in the Philippines. Their new batch of flagships are no exception: the S10e comes with their Exynos 9820 processor, while US customers get Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855.

Some potential users are complaining about the fact that the Exynos 9820 is slower than the Snapdragon 855, at least according to the outfits who were able to put the two processors against each other. While it is true that the Exynos 9820 is slower than the Snapdragon 855 thanks to its 8nm manufacturing process compared to Qualcomm’s 7nm process, in the end, it’s not really that big of a deal.

Processors have improved to the point that it’s very difficult for a regular user to feel the difference between one flagship processor and the next without the use of benchmarks. While the Snapdragon 855 version is technically superior, it’s almost impossible to feel any real-life impact between the two chipsets.

In its time with us, the S10e felt incredibly fast and fluid and did everything we asked of it and more without faltering.

Two cameras instead of three, but you’re not losing out on much

The Galaxy S10e has two cameras instead of the three on its bigger brothers. Thankfully Samsung nixed the 2x optical zoom camera instead of the much more useful ultra-wide camera.

Aside from the omission of the 2x zoom lens, you’re getting exactly the same cameras as the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus on the Galaxy S10e: 12-megapixel primary camera with f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture; 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera; with Dual Pixel, Dual OIS, 960FPS Super Slo-Mo video, 4K HDR10+ shooting at 30FPS/4K shooting at 60FPS.

The primary camera still has that variable aperture feature that allows it to switch between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the amount of light available. You can also toggle it using the Pro settings in the camera’s UI.

The 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera meanwhile, has a wide 123-degree field of view which Samsung says approximates what human eyes see.

As far as image quality goes, the photos are freaking’ great. Dynamic range is excellent, and the camera doesn’t struggle when you’re taking photos in low-light situations.

We have some gripes though – the wide-angle camera doesn’t have stabilization, so you’re going to struggle with shaky photos when you’re shooting in low light. Barrel distortion is very apparent in the wide-angle lens, which is annoying, but it’s just something you kind of live with, to be honest.

Samsung has also improved the AI capabilities of the Galaxy S family as a whole with the camera now capable of recognizing up to 30 scenes and adjusting the settings accordingly. There’s also this great new feature called best shot, where the phone analyzes a scene to determine the best composition of a shot.

Best shot won’t make you a master photographer (you’ll still have to show some semblance of composition) but if you already have the basics of photography down, the best shot feature helps immensely with the quality of your shots.

Samsung also added a new Super Steady video recording mode that stabilizes video to almost GoPro Hero 5 Black levels. It’s pretty impressive, a feature that budding mobile photographers will appreciate immensely.

Respectable battery life from a small phone

The Samsung Galaxy S10e comes with a 3100mAh battery, which is a few hundred mAh smaller than the ones in its bigger brothers. We were a little concerned just how long the battery of the Galaxy S10e would last us with regular use, but we shouldn’t have worried. Our PCMark battery benchmark for the Galaxy S10e put the battery life right around 9 hours on a single charge, which is just enough to get you through the day.

Just like its bigger brothers, the Galaxy S10e has fast charging, as well as wireless charging and reverse wireless charging capability. The latter won’t be too much help for other phones that have wireless charging since its small battery means it won’t have a lot of charge to spare.

Verdict: Buy it if you’re tired of big, expensive flagship phones

Samsung’s Galaxy S10e packs many of the same features as its bigger brothers at a lower, more palatable price point. While it loses a third camera, in-display fingerprint scanner and a curved screen, the phone’s smaller size, cheaper price tag and uncompromised performance make it perfect for people who are tired of large, ungainly smartphones that have high price tags.

It’s not as affordable as the offerings from Samsung’s Chinese rivals, but it is still loads cheaper than the full-size Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus and is the only relatively compact flagship available to buy nowadays.

The Galaxy S10e is priced at Php 39,990.

Samsung Galaxy S10e Specs

  • Samsung Exynos 9820 octa-core processor
  • Mali-G76 MP12 GPU
  • 6GB RAM
  • 5.8-inch 1080 x 2280 resolution Dynamic Super AMOLED Infinity-O display, HDR10+
  • 128GB expandable storage, via microSD
  • Dual rear cameras: 12-megapixel primary camera with f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture; 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera; with Dual Pixel, Dual OIS, 960FPS Super Slo-Mo video, 4K HDR10+ shooting at 30FPS/4K shooting at 60FPS
  • 10-megapixel f/1.9 front camera with dual-pixel autofocus, 4K video recording
  • Dual SIM
  • 3G, LTE, WiFi 6
  • Fingerprint scanner, facial recognition, heartbeat sensor, IP68 certification, USB Type-C port, Bixby AI, 3D Emojis
  • 3100mAh battery with fast charging and wireless charging
  • Android 9.0 Pie (One UI)

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    This is very misleading and should not come from you guys: “While it is true that the Exynos 9820 is slower than the Snapdragon 855 thanks to its 8nm manufacturing process compared to Qualcomm’s 7nm process”

    Come on. You know better than that.

    TIL a 5.8″ display is small. *looks at OG Galaxy Note, Note 2, Note 3, Note 4, Note 5* How did we ever watch videos or play games or read text on those tiny screens? Sheesh…

    One-handed usability is basically completely gone thanks to the lack of bezels. Need to reach a corner while holding a drink in one hand or towing luggage behind you at the airport? Too bad. You get to stop, put down what you’re holding, and use your other hand. Hooray for form over function! You got what you wanted guys, no bezels, congrats!!

    “Finally, a great small phone”…. Really? This is small for you? And you haven’t touch the Sony compacts and the iPhone SE before? This review reeks of bootlicking.