Samsung Galaxy S10e review: Flagship At A Flagship Killer Price

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The Galaxy S10e may be the smallest among the new Galaxy S10 lot, but it’s got the guts to stand toe-to-toe with the tallest of giants out there and give them, a major run for their money

Written By Saurabh Singh | Mumbai | Updated On:
Photo by Saurabh Singh

Flagship killers are great. That’s not to say that they are no-compromise devices though. You know what’s even better – a flagship at a flagship killer price. Because then, it’s a win-win for everybody. That’s precisely what the Samsung Galaxy S10e is. It may be the smallest among the new Galaxy S10 lot, but it’s got the guts to stand toe-to-toe with the tallest of giants out there and give them, a major run for their money. 

At the same time, the Galaxy S10e also makes a strong case for compact flagships – which, let’s face it, are fast diminishing. Which means the Galaxy S10e is also your only bet, if you’re somehow still into small phones. 

The Galaxy S10e’s got all the thrills of its older siblings, minus the frills of their more expensive price tags. Sort of like the iPhone XR. But while the iPhone XR was launched in India at a starting price of Rs 76,900, the Galaxy S10e costs Rs 55,900 – and even though the iPhone XR has received a whopping Rs 17,000 price cut in India recently (bringing its price down to Rs 59,900), the Galaxy S10e still manages to beat it to the punch with its much more exhaustive feature set. 

Photo by Saurabh Singh

While the Galaxy S10e does cut some corners to achieve its relatively more affordable price tag, in the grand scheme of things, all its apparent compromises add up to become its main selling points. But you’ll have to give the Galaxy S10e a fair chance to prove its mettle (and this will probably take time) - you’ll have to resist being bedazzled by the shiny Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. Unless a bigger screen and a bigger battery are your priorities, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider the Galaxy S10e. 

While the Galaxy S10e does cut some corners to achieve its relatively more affordable price tag, in the grand scheme of things, all its apparent compromises add up to become its main selling points

The Galaxy S10e has the same glass and metal sandwich design as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+, but it has a flatter bezel (there’s also slightly more bezel than what you get in the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+). Which means visually, the Galaxy S10e isn’t as striking as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. Ergonomically though, it works wonders for it – it won’t be wrong to say that the Galaxy S10e is about function over form. This has two big advantages.     

Samsung is really pitching its Galaxy S10 phones as the ultimate content consumption devices – the same reason why it had to punch a hole in their screens to offer more screen real estate. The curves on-board the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+, as glorious as they may seem, serve no real-world purpose when it comes to content consumption. If anything, the curves come in the way of enjoying a seamless viewing experience. There is almost always a hint of distortion/discoloration where Samsung’s Infinity display melts into the frame in the case of the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ – that is not the case with the Galaxy S10e. 

Photo by Saurabh Singh

Secondly, a flatter screen ensures the Galaxy S10e doesn’t feel as fragile as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ - although, its Corning Gorilla Glass 5-based body is susceptible to the occasional scuff or two (the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ use Corning Gorilla Glass 6) which is where the bundled TPU case comes in handy.  

Speaking of display, the Galaxy S10e uses the same class-leading ‘dynamic’ Super AMOLED panel as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ - it is also HDR10+-ready, which is a simple way of saying, supported content from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will look even more cinematic on the phone. The Galaxy S10e easily has the best smartphone display ever at its price point – and the most colour accurate too. It may not have a picture perfect QHD+ resolution as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+, but because the Galaxy S10e is a 5.8-inch phone (the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ are 6.1-inch and 6.3-inch phones respectively), its FHD+ resolution won’t leave you asking for more. Samsung, for some reason, does not let you manually tweak the Galaxy S10e’s screen resolution like in the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. 

Photo by Saurabh Singh

The Galaxy S10e also does not get an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ - which is a blessing in disguise really. The Galaxy S10 in-display fingerprint scanner hasn’t been a very pleasurable experience for me so far – it is way slower and more finicky than what Samsung will have you believe – to the extent of being frustrating. Software updates could change that, but again, I can’t stress enough – a physical fingerprint reader is always appreciated.  

And the Galaxy S10e is your only bet (among the Galaxy S10 lot), if you’re still into all of that. It comes with a conventional fingerprint scanner which is embedded into the power button on the right – the positioning will take some time getting used to, but at least you get the option here. It’s fast, it’s accurate and it also lets you conveniently pull down the notification menu by a gentle swipe gesture – all perks, if you ask me. 

Photo by Saurabh Singh

Another perk is the phone’s core hardware – it is the ditto copy of the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. Unsurprisingly then, the Galaxy S10e is one of the fastest Android phones that money can buy right now – this is true for even the Exynos 9820-based Galaxy S10e that Samsung is selling in India (the phone is powered by an even more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 in the US). 

The Galaxy S10e, in fact, feels slightly faster than the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ in some cases - that’s possibly because it has lesser pixels to drive in comparison. One caveat is that Samsung is only offering the Galaxy S10e in 6GB RAM and 128GB storage configuration – which is a bummer considering that it is offering a host of RAM/ROM options in the case of the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+.  

Photo by Saurabh Singh

Like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+, the Galaxy S10e also gets Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, IP68-certification and micro-SD expansion. The Galaxy S10e keeps the headphone jack, and stereo speakers too, although I must say, they sound tinny in comparison to what the Galaxy S10+ outputs. 

Software inside the Galaxy S10e is also the same as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ - which is Android 9 Pie-based One UI. It is cleaner, smoother and much more user friendly – although its big, cartoonish icons may need some time getting used to. What’s really impressive is that even though Samsung hasn’t necessarily cut down on fancy animations (and there are still many duplicate apps), the whole user experience still feels faster than any of its past software iterations. Hopefully, it holds up – and hopefully Samsung shows the same intent with updates as well. 

Photo by Saurabh Singh

I am optimistic about that, as I am optimistic about the Galaxy S10e’s cameras. As opposed to the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ (which come with three rear cameras), the Galaxy S10e has two cameras on the back – it has the same primary 12MP wide (77-degree field of view) sensor with variable f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture and dual pixel OIS camera as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. There’s also a 16MP ultra-wide (123-degree field of view) sensor with f/2.2 aperture and fixed focus, again same as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. The Galaxy S10e lacks the 12MP telephoto sensor found in the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ - so unless you’re into shooting 2X zoom photos, you’ll probably not be missing out on much. 

Camera quality is at par with competition, if not downright the best. Samsung seems to be using new algorithms so all-round results are warmer and more pleasing to the eyes with great dynamic range as well. The Galaxy S10+ photos are true to life, especially in abundant light. But metering issues still exist – the Galaxy S10e photos almost always end up being overexposed no matter the lighting conditions. Wide-angle shots taken with the Galaxy S10e have noticeable distortion/fish-eye effect, but the wider perspective if fun, nonetheless.  

The Galaxy S10e has a built-in night mode – Samsung calls it Bright Night. But it’s different from Google’s and Huawei’s take in that it can’t be manually enabled to pump out brighter, more detailed low-light photos. Rather, Bright Night is an automatic feature that kicks in on its own, but only in very challenging conditions – when the intensity of light is exceptionally low. But then, nothing beats a manual night mode – and I am happy to report, the feature is now rolling out through a software update (on all the Galaxy S10 phones).   

It still seems a work in progress and there is still a lot of room for improvement, but it’s nice to see Samsung listening to customer feedback and coming out with the feature in the first place. The night mode in the Galaxy S10e entails in brighter, more detailed photos – but Huawei’s P30 Pro does it better. 

The Galaxy S1Oe further has the same 10MP primary front camera with support for 4K video recording as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. It can shoot good-enough selfies with lots of detail in good light but low-light selfies (and portraits) are nowhere close to what you get on the Pixel 3.  

The Galaxy S10e is a Galaxy S10 for everybody – while the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ are designed for those willing to splurge

Last but the most important aspect – battery life. The Galaxy S10e has the smallest battery of the lot (it is 3,100mAh), but you can say its smaller screen and lower resolution seemingly justify this. They do, but, only ever so slightly. Battery life is not the Galaxy S10e’s strong suit – especially if you’re a heavy user. If that be the case, this is a phone that you may have to charge twice a day. Moderate usage should carry you through a full working day though. Like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+, the Galaxy S10e also supports fast wireless charging and PowerShare reverse wireless charging (which means the phone will be able to act as a wireless charging mat for other Qi compatible devices like smartwatches and smartphones). 

Photo by Saurabh Singh

Samsung Galaxy S10e: yay or nay? 

The Galaxy S10e is a high-end phone like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. But unlike the Galaxy S10 (which starts at Rs 66,900) and Galaxy S10+ (which starts at Rs 73,900), the Galaxy S10e costs just Rs 55,900 – and that is its biggest selling point. The Galaxy S10e is a Galaxy S10 for everybody – while the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ are designed for those willing to splurge. 

Here’s a full disclosure – I use an iPhone XR as my daily driver, and I haven’t felt the need to upgrade to an iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max. Samsung’s Galaxy S10e is similar – only, its aggressive price makes it an even more attractive proposition over the iPhone XR. The Galaxy S10e packs almost everything that its higher-end and more expensive siblings bring to the table, and all the things that it is conservative about (in order to cut costs) also seem to work in its favour. The Galaxy S10e is a phone destined to give the upcoming OnePlus 7/OnePlus 7 Pro a tough fight – OnePlus should be nervous.

Also Read:  Review: The Samsung Galaxy S10+ Is The Best Android Phone That Money Can Buy Today

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