Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Review: The Cream of the Crop
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
It’s no secret that phones have gotten exponentially more expensive over the past couple of years. With the introduction of $1,000 smartphones, it seems that manufacturers can just increase the price of their devices just because everyone else is. That’s fine (people are gonna buy the phones anyway), but they have to justify the added cost by bringing more value to the table.
One manufacturer, in particular, who has also jumped on the $1,000 bandwagon is Samsung. Its new Galaxy S10 Plus smartphone is the company’s first $999 offering of 2019. For that price, you rightfully should have high expectations in terms of what you get out of it. It should have a great screen, great performance, great battery life, great cameras, and lots of extra features that add convenience and pleasure.
With the S10 Plus, you pretty much get this same experience. Nearly every feature of the phone justifies its high price tag. Mind you, it’s not the perfect phone (no phone is), but it at least makes dropping a grand easier.
[We’d like to extend a special shout out to Verizon who was able to hook us up with the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus for review! You can check them out at their website here.]
If you don’t think the Galaxy S10 Plus is completely charming and beautiful, you’re out of your mind. Samsung’s latest flagship is delightful to behold, with a curvy glass design and glossy frame. The company’s gotten really good at design over the years, and the S10 Plus is proof that they know what they’re doing.
In the hand, the S10 Plus is big, and this is something that you’ll have to experience for yourself in a store. Because what’s big for me might be manageable for you, and what might be big for me might be ginormous to you. So if you plan to buy the S10 Plus online, be sure to check it out in a carrier store first to get a feel for it.
For me, I think I’d prefer having a case on the phone. It just feels like I’m gonna drop it if I’m not super-extra careful. And with the curved edges on the front and back, Samsung doesn’t necessarily strive to make the phone easier to hold. Don’t get me wrong, it feels solid and premium, but it’s definitely fragile enough to completely shatter with one drop at the right angle.
Around the rest of the S10 Plus, you get all the normal Samsung stuff like IP68 certification, a microSD card slot, a USB-C port, a headphone jack, dual stereo speakers (which sound great), clicky volume and power buttons (now higher up the body than ever for no apparent reason), and a Bixby key.
That last feature isn’t very welcome by Galaxy users alike, but starting with the S10, Samsung has made it remappable to open basically any app you want. You know, besides another assistant like the Google Assistant or Alexa which are absent from the selection list above. Something’s better than nothing, i guess.
Overall, I’m a fan of the S10 Plus’ design. Despite receiving the phone in a boring black color which collects fingerprints like a magnet, it’s one of Samsung’s best-looking phones to date. Sure, it’s fragile and will probably be covered with cases by a majority of buyers. But Samsung at least knows what it’s doing when it comes to design, and the S10 Plus is no exception.
You know what else Samsung is good at? Making phone screens.
With the Galaxy S10 Plus, the company includes a 6.4-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with a 3040×1440 resolution and 19:9 aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant, contrasts are on point, color tuning is well balanced, it gets plenty bright – there’s really nothing to complain about here. It even comes with Samsung’s signature curvy edges which, admittedly, aren’t very functional aside from guaranteeing accidential palm presses. It looks hot, though.
Samsung makes one of the best (if not the best) smartphone screens on the market, and the S10 Plus is a good example of that.
Of course, this year’s screen is different from what we’ve seen in the past. Instead of including a slight forehead and chin, Samsung nearly eliminates any bezels surrounding the Galaxy S10 Plus’ screen. And instead of opting for a notch to house the selfie cameras, the company uses its new Infinity-O technology.
In the top right-hand corner of the screen, Samsung laser-cut a hole where two front-facing cameras live. The hole is surrounded by the rest of the screen, so content displayed on the screen wraps around the cutout. And thankfully, the cutout isn’t all that big and is about the length of a typical Android status bar.
I prefer the cutout to a typical notch. It’s a lot less intrusive and offensive. It also adds a certain character to the phone that makes the S10 Plus easily identifiable from a distance. And while watching video, you don’t have to worry about missing very much of what’s going on since there’s only a small portion in the upper left- or right-hand corner that’s blacked out.
I can’t tell you whether it’s better than a notch or not, because that decision is totally subjective. I can say, however, that it’s yet another progression toward the imminent future where cameras are placed under transparent screens and bezels are ancient history. I can’t wait for that day. Until then, though, we’ll be stuck with strange cutouts and intrusive notches.
The cutout isn’t the only thing new with the S10 Plus’ screen. For the first time, Samsung is also including an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader. The reader is located in the middle of the screen toward the bottom and is easily accessible without having to shimmy the phone in your hand. It uses sonic waves to reflect the pattern on your finger and see if it matches the stored value.
In practice, the scanner isn’t that good. I’ve had a success rate of around 65 percent in terms of when the scanner identified my fingerprint reader on the first attempt. That’s not very good. Meanwhile, the optical sensor under the OnePlus 6T‘s screen has a success rate of around 85 percent. It’s still not perfect, but it’s better than what Samsung packs.
If you want the scanner to work, you have to press harder on the screen. Simply touching the reader doesn’t work, for whatever reason. In fact, during the setup, if the S10 Plus can’t read your fingerprint, it asks you to press harder. It’s even worse when you try to set it up with Samsung’s pre-installed screen protector which is flimsy and scratch-prone.
Speaking of screen protectors, that’s another problem area for the S10 Plus and its ultrasonic scanner. If you want to protect your phone’s display, you have to find a protector that advertises compatibility with the Galaxy S10’s fingerprint reader. Typical glass or plastic sensors may just block the ultrasonic waves from reaching your fingerprint. There’s one protector from Whitestone Dome that early tests show is compatible, but I haven’t tested it for myself.
It’s a shame that Samsung sucks so bad at fingerprint readers. The company hasn’t had a generation of phones that didn’t involve buyers complaining about the security method. It’s unfortunate that the S10 fell victim to the same practice.
Any phone that costs $1,000 should perform well. Happily, the Galaxy S10 Plus does just that. My review unit came with a Snapdragon 855 processor with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That’s the perfect formula for a well-performing 2019 flagship smartphone. Day-to-day operations are a breeze, and multitasking is a pleasure. The phone’s also great for gaming, especially heavier titles like Asphalt 9. And although I didn’t test it, I’m sure Fortnite runs great as well.
Data speeds were also fantastic. I tested the S10 Plus on Verizon’s network in South Jersey and regularly received download speeds of 75 to 90Mbps and upload speeds between 10 and 20Mbps. For Wi-Fi nerds, the phone also comes with Wi-Fi 6, the latest version of the wireless standard. You can’t exactly take full advantage of it just yet since many routers aren’t equipped with version six, but at least you have it for future-proofing.
Overall, I have no complaints with connectivity, especially with cell service.
Samsung has been a leader in smartphone cameras for quite some time, and every year, it’s managed to slot into the top three in terms of overall quality, right next to the iPhone and Google Pixel. This year, the company does the same thing, just differently.
With the Galaxy S10 Plus, Samsung includes not one, not two, but three rear cameras. There’s a main 12MP lens with a variable f/1.5 to f/2.4 aperture, a telephoto 12MP lens with an f/2.4 aperture, and a new 16MP ultra-wide f/2.2 sensor. The latter is the most useful and versatile out of the three as it gives Galaxy owners a new perspective when it comes to taking pictures with your phone.
As you can see above, each lens produces crisp, bright images. Samsung still does some unnecessary saturation in post-processing, and over exposure is a problem more often than not. But overall, you’ll be pleased by the results you get. There are even manual controls if you want to fine-tune the output image.
Low-light photography, on the other hand, isn’t that hot. Samsung doesn’t include a dedicated night mode with any Galaxy S10 phone, so it’s hard to find an automatic setting that can improve your pictures at night. You can always fiddle with the manual controls, but who wants to do all that?
Google, for instance, works its black magic by including Night Sight on the Pixel 3. Meanwhile, Huawei makes it a priority to ensure its smartphone camera hardware can work well in harsh lighting conditions. The least Samsung could do was include some makeshift night mode that boosts shadows and brightness, anything to make nighttime photography somewhat possible. But alas, no such mode exists, and you may struggle to get a good photo in darker environments. Sigh.
On the front side, exclusive to the S10 Plus are two selfie cameras. There’s a main 10MP f/1.9 lens and a secondary 8MP f/2.2 depth-sensing lens. The latter is mainly there for collecting depth information which helps with portrait mode selfies. Overall, selfies with the S10 Plus are nice and sharp with a good amount of detail, and portraits are pretty accurate albeit not always spot on. It’s good, though.
In terms of video, the S10 Plus ships with the ability to record in 4K at up to 60 frames per second. This is an area I feel Samsung could improve upon, however. Despite being able to shoot in the highest resolution and frame rate currently possible with mainstream consumer smartphones, the overall quality isn’t that great. Stabilization needs work, highlights are over blown, and general sharpness can be a bit aggressive at times. You’ll probably be fine with the video capabilities of the device, but there’s no denying there’s room for improvement.
Like I said before, the cameras are good on the Galaxy S10 Plus. They aren’t leading-class or record-breaking by any means, but they sit comfortably in the third place slot of the best camera phones currently available. Where it does excel is in versatility thanks to its ultra-wide lens. Plus, you’ll be happy with the portrait selfies this device can kick out.
If you’re looking for the best camera on a smartphone, the S10 Plus isn’t it. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be satisfied with it, because I have a strong feeling you will.
Samsung has never offered a stock Android phone, and it won’t be doing so any time soon. However, the company is improving upon its software skin with the Galaxy S10 family with One UI, the replacement for Samsung Experience UI and TouchWiz.
With One UI, the ambition is simple: make things easier to reach with one hand. This involves big headers and content/controls that are shifted toward the bottom of the large display. During my testing, I found Samsung’s tweaks to be sufficient enough that I could use the phone with just one hand comfortably. Mind you, the phone is still big, and tasks will pop up that will require both of your hands. But for the most part, Samsung did really well with accessibility in its new software.
Of course, this is only a small part of what One UI brings to the table. You also get a system-wide dark mode that can turn on automatically at the end of the day, an updated aesthetic with new icons and indicators, bigger text basically everywhere, Smart Popup notifications, and all the other Samsung goodies you’ve come to expect like the Edge panel.
The phone, obviously, also comes with Bixby, but since I didn’t even bother to touch it while reviewing the S10 Plus, I’ll leave you with this: Bixby still sucks and it will suck until Samsung either reinvents it or kills it off completely.
With the Galaxy S10 Plus, One UI is placed on top of Android 9 Pie which includes all the normal features we’re seeing with phones this year. That includes things like Digital Wellbeing, updated system navigation, improved notification management, and better security. Unfortunately, Samsung is still slow when it comes to software upgrades, so I can’t promise you that you’ll get Android Q in a reasonable time. In fact, the S9 didn’t get Pie until earlier this year, so you might have to wait until 2020 for the upgrade. While it’s unfortunate, it’s just how Samsung phones operate at this point.
Speaking of which, Samsung phones also still come with a ton of bloatware, like Samsung’s own calendar and calculator apps that are completely unnecessary. And if you get your phone through a carrier, you get all of their bloatware as well. Most of it can either be disabled or uninstalled, luckily, but it’s still a shame that $1,000 phones in 2019 still ship with a ton of junk you’ll never use.
The battery is one of the strongest areas of the Galaxy S10 Plus. Inside, Samsung packs in a 4,100mAh cell which can easily last me a full 16- to 18-hour day. If your days are typically shorter than that, you probably won’t have any problems stretching into the second day without having to recharge. When you do need to recharge, the company includes its own fast charging tech along with fast wireless charging.
Speaking of wireless charging, I’d like to plug the fact that the S10 Plus also ships with reverse wireless charging. This just means you can flick a switch and place another Qi-enabled device on the back of the phone and begin using the S10 as a wireless charging pad. It’s silly and kind of a gimmick, but it at least works, albeit not very well.
Everything about the Galaxy S10 Plus is good, if not great. You get a fabulous screen, a great design and build, good cameras, great battery life, a great software experience, and awesome performance. What else do you need in a smartphone?
As far as whether it’s worth a thousand bucks, I’d have to say it is. It simply checks all the boxes and virtually leaves nothing to desire. If you’re considering picking this device up, I highly recommend you do so. I think you’ll really be happy.