“Here’s what we make of Samsung’s smallest and cheapest Galaxy flagship – the S10e”
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is – by far – the most intriguing smartphone launched in 2019 so far. I say this, because unlike most Android flagships, the handset doesn’t ship with a big display or tout an in-display fingerprint sensor. The S10e (first impressions) doesn’t offer a triple-camera array at the back like its pricier siblings either, nor does it ship with a capacious battery. But, what it does bring to the table is a compact footprint that’s unlike anything else on the market, especially in the premium flagship space. Therefore, if you were tempted to buy the S10e for its price, then don’t. You’ll want to buy the flagship for its size. Here’s why.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1440 x 2280 pixels|
|CPU||Dual core, 2.73 GHz + Dual core, 2.31 GHz, Samsung Exynos 9 Octa|
|Internal memory||128 GB|
|External memory||Up to 512 GB|
|Capacity||3100 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Primary camera||12 MP|
|Secondary camera||10 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie|
Design and Display
Coming from the OnePlus 6T (review), the design of the Samsung Galaxy S10e comes as a breath of fresh air. While both the devices feature all-glass bodies and therefore offer a comparable in-hand feel, the S10e’s compact frame makes it a godsend for one-handed usage. And, in my humble opinion, that’s the smartphone’s USP too. Simply put, there’s no other smartphone in the market which is as compact and as powerful as the S10e. You could make an argument for the Pixel 3, but even Google’s flagship towers above the S10e in terms of size by some margin – and that’s with a smaller, 5.5-inch display!
Suffice it to say, I’ve really enjoyed coming back to a pint-sized smartphone. I didn’t realise how much I missed having all the information on the display within my thumb’s reach, or not letting my phone take up all the space inside the pocket of my jeans. At the expense of sounding like a broken record, I’ll reiterate – if you’ve longed for a compact Android flagship, then the S10e is where your money’s at.
Although the Galaxy S10e is Samsung’s most affordable superphone, the company has spared no expense in the design of the handset. In fact, barring its compact size, the S10e is identical to its pricier siblings in terms of design and has been styled using the same premium materials. The smartphone features glass on both the front as well as the back, coated with layers of Corning Gorilla Glass for protection against scuffs and scratches. The two glass panes are held together by an aluminium frame which is a tad-bit thicker on the S10e, primarily because the device doesn’t ship with a dual-curved display akin to its brethren.
Now, the absence of curves on the front of the device takes away from the S10e’s ‘wow’ factor, but I don’t mind the change all that much. In fact, thanks to the handset’s thicker trim, the S10e is much more comfortable to grip in the hand. Moreover, I didn’t have to worry about accidental palm touches as much on the device either. So, I feel that buyers opting for the S10e will get the better part of the bargain. Other than that, the S10e ships with a stereo speaker setup which gets audaciously loud.
There’s even a headphone jack at the bottom, which to my knowledge, is only found on Korean flagships now. And finally, much like the S10 and the S10+ (review), the S10e comes with support for wireless charging (and reverse wireless charging) and features IP68 certification. So, you can take it to your next Goa trip and get some incredible shots by the sea – or in it.
While all that’s good and dandy, the best design element on the S10e is undoubtedly the smartphone’s capacitive fingerprint sensor, which unlike its siblings’ ultrasonic, in-display sensors, is blazingly fast and extremely accurate. The fingerprint scanner on the Galaxy S10e has been positioned underneath the power button on the right-hand trim of the device and it’s a joy to use. The unit unlocks the smartphone in a jiffy, lines up perfectly with my thumb, and it even brings down the notification tray when you swipe down on it.
And, for when you want to unlock the smartphone without lifting it up, you can use the face unlock feature to get into your home screen seamlessly. The software recognised my face nine times out of ten and it even works well in lowlight situations.
As much as I love the design of the phone, there are some issues I have with the build of the S10e. First and foremost, if you’re a leftie, then you might struggle to authenticate your fingerprints on the smartphone’s sensor as it’s mounted on the right-hand side of the frame. In this case, you might want to register the index finger of your left hand on the scanner. Secondly, the back of the smartphone smudges really easily, so you’ll have to wipe it down every now and then to keep it nice and shiny. Lastly, the S10e is quite slippery, so you might want to use the bundled case which comes with the device.
In an attempt to keep the costs of the S10e down, Samsung has cut corners (no pun intended) in the display department too. Ergo, while the S10 and S10+ ship with sharper QHD+ displays, the S10e offers a modest 5.8-inch, full HD+ panel. That said, the panel on the S10e also features a punch hole to accommodate the selfie camera, akin to the displays on the bigger models which, in my opinion, is substantially less intrusive than a traditional notch. A fringe benefit of the same is that you’ll have a lot of fun using quirky wallpapers to hide the notch on the S10e. If you’re into that, then do check out Hidey Holes wallpaper app, which has a massive selection of creative walls designed specifically for the S10 lineup.
I have no complaints about the quality of the display either. It’s on par with the panels on the bigger variants in terms of quality and brightness, and I honestly didn’t notice the difference in resolution all that much. What’s more, since the display also comes with support for HDR 10+, you’ll be able to enjoy select content on the device with a wider range of colours. You’ll also get some nifty tools like an Always-On display and Edge lighting with the device, which will alert you about incoming calls or messages even when the phone is face down.
The Samsung Galaxy S10e uses the same sensors to capture photos as its bigger siblings. However, unlike the S10 and the S10+, the device doesn’t feature a telephoto shooter at the back and relies on a 12MP shooter with a variable aperture of f/1.5 or f/2.4 and an ultrawide 16MP sensor with a 123-degree field of view. For selfies, the device gets a 10MP f/1.9 aperture lens on the front.
Although the S10e is a capable shooter, it’s just not in the same ballpark as the latest iPhones or Google’s Pixel 3 duo. In fact, on some occasions, my OnePlus 6T managed to capture a scene with more details. Over the years, Samsung has lost its mantle as the best camera phone maker to a host of other brands and I was hoping that the company’s 10th anniversary flagships could turn the tables in its favour.
That being said, the S10e is not a bad shooter per se. In fact, unless you are pixel-peeping for details on the device, you’ll be content with the shots you take with the smartphone. I’ve summarised my experience with the smartphone’s cameras below, so take a gander.
1. As has been the case with Samsung’s flagships for many years now, the S10e captures photos which look rather pleasing to the eyes which can be attributed to the smartphone’s image processing. During the day, shots I took with the device exhibited peppy hues, which might not gel well with photographers who prefer more realism in their shots. However, since I like my pictures to be a tad bit over saturated, I wasn’t opposed to the photos that came out of the smartphone’s sensors.
2. The images I took with the device when the sun was out appeared sharp and had ample amount of details too. The dynamic range was flawless, and the smartphone managed to expose tricky shots evenly too. In fact, during my time with the device, I rarely ever had to dial the exposure up or down manually. Suffice it to say, if you don’t like to fiddle around with camera settings and want a phone which just takes beautiful photos, then the Samsung Galaxy S10e will not disappoint you.
3. I was particularly impressed with the smartphone’s focus tracking feature, which allowed me to capture some of the nicest macros of flowers in my garden. You see, even when it was windy outside, the smartphone didn’t lose focus on the petals of the flowers which allowed me to come away with gorgeous close-ups which were rich in details and colours.
4. Overall, daylight shots appeared surreal through the lenses of the S10e. Be it capturing a cloudy sky, or a sunset or taking a picture of your friends, the S10e’s cameras will seldom make you wish you had a better camera phone. The only issue I faced during my time with the device was that the ‘scene optimizer’ took a while to detect the scene and change the camera settings accordingly.
5. As I mentioned previously, the smartphone ships with a wide-angle sensor which does well for the most part. While the photos didn’t show any major fisheye effect, I noticed that they were stretched vertically. Regardless, the shooter did manage to capture a wider scene, and unlike the ultrawide shots from most other cameras, the S10e’s had a healthy amount of detail in them too.
6. Daylight selfies on the device look really good and at times, even outperformed the higher-resolution sensor on the OnePlus 6T. But, you’ll want to turn off the beautifying features else you’ll risk looking like a really sick patient. Portraits taken in the dark are about as serviceable as you’d get with other top phones.
7. As for lowlight photography, the Galaxy S10e is simply put, one of the best smartphones out there. In fact, barring the Pixel 3’s night sight, the smartphone managed to get away with a more presentable shot than most other Android (and iPhone) devices at night. There was minimal noise in the photos, which is expected from the smartphone’s f/1.5 aperture lens.
Everything considered, the S10e is a fantastic pocket shooter but, it still cannot hold a candle to Google’s marvellous software processing. But then again, which phone can?
Performance, Battery life, and Software
Powering the smarts on the Samsung Galaxy S10e is the company’s latest 8nm, Exynos 9820 octa-core processor which works alongside 6GB of RAM and 128GB of built-in, user-expandable storage. Unfortunately, the company has reserved the higher RAM and storage models for the bigger S10 models, so if you’re looking for a bit more grunt under the hood, you might have to look there. That said, the performance on the S10e is quite good, and the handset only faltered when I was playing intensive titles on it.
During my time with the device, I didn’t run into any CPU bottlenecking. Applications opened in the blink of an eye and multitasking was rapid on the device as well. Moreover, thanks to Samsung’s refined One UI software, system gestures and animations were rendered seamlessly on the device too. My only gripe with the smartphone’s performance is that the Mali GPU which comes with the Exynos SoC isn’t as powerful as its Adreno counterpart. Consequently, there were some frame drops when I was playing PUBG at the HDR preset on the device. The game stuttered when I was jumping in and out of windows or when I was interacting with in-game items like boosters or first aid kits.
What’s more, the smartphone doesn’t handle thermals very well and after just one Classic game of PUBG, the handset’s temperature spiked quite high, making the aluminium frame rather hot to the touch. The rise in temperature could have something to do with the handset’s small chassis as the CPU has lesser space to dissipate the heat but it just made the experience of gaming on the phone that much worse. Consequently, I relied on my OnePlus 6T whenever I felt the urge to knock down some chicken dinners.
The battery life on the Samsung Galaxy S10e has been a mixed bag for me. The handset is fuelled by a 3,100mAh battery which, on some days, lasted me the entire day on heavy usage. I’m talking multiple hours of browsing pages on Instagram and Facebook, constantly texting friends on WhatsApp, clicking photos, listening to music and streaming videos on Netflix. On others, the handset struggled to deliver 3.5 hours of screen on time when I followed the same usage pattern (more or less). That said, after using the device for a week, I was averaging close to four hours of SOT with the phone, and it helps that the handset charges rapidly too. Therefore, as long as you’re not taking the phone on a day-long flight, you should be content with the smartphone’s battery life.
As for software, the Samsung Galaxy S10e boots the company’s One UI on top of Android Pie. And, for the first time, I haven’t missed the near-stock skin on my OnePlus 6T. The UI onboard the S10e is minimalistic and it features some nifty tweaks too, such as the ability to turn on a system-wide dark theme and use customised Edge panels to quickly launch two apps simultaneously in multiwindow mode. Then, there’s the option to customise the device further by choosing from a plethora of themes, icon packs and my favourite bit – setting a personalised edge lighting pattern which glides along the edges of the display to signal oncoming notifications.
Samsung has also introduced gesture-based navigation with its latest UI, which works well for the most part. The software offers users gesture hints, which will tell you where to swipe up to toggle the back, home, and multitasking actions. My only gripe with this navigation system is that whenever I pulled up the multitasking tray, the software automatically shifted to my last used app. Therefore, I had to wait for the animation to render before I could switch between apps, which after a while, started to get on my nerves. Barring that minor inconvenience, Samsung has done a mighty fine job with the One UI for which it deserves a pat on the back.
The Samsung Galaxy S10e retails for Rs 55,990 and for the price, it’s not the most inexpensive flagship in the market. It’s clearly not the best performing smartphone either and while the device’s cameras are good, they’re not in the same vein as Google’s Pixel lineup. That said, it’s hard not to recommend the device to buyers who’re tired of using supersized phones.
The S10e offers a form factor which is unlike any other in the market. Moreover, besides trimming the size of the flagship, Samsung is offering buyers of the S10e the same flagship experience as they’d get with the bigger S10 or the S10+. Consequently, if you’re in the market for a power-packed flagship which is relatively light on the wallet and considerably light in the pockets, then there’s no better phone than the S10e. If you aren’t bothered by big-screen phones and don’t want to spend a bomb, then you might find better deals from brands like OnePlus and LG. But, they might not have the same charm as owning a top-tier smartphone from Samsung.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Unique, compact design
- Excellent display
- Capable cameras
- Streamlined software
- Gaming performance not up to the mark
- Battery life could’ve been better
- Thermal management issues