Samsung Galaxy S10+ review, 3 months later: The benchmark for flagships

Continual updates have made the Galaxy S10+ a better phone than it was on day one.

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Over the last four years, Samsung adopted a tick-tock cycle for its flagships: the Galaxy S6 introduced a bold new design aesthetic, with the Galaxy S7 building on that design. The Galaxy S8 switched things up again and gave us the Infinity Display, and the Galaxy S9 refined that formula.

So it’s only fair that we see a bold new showcase with the Galaxy S10 series, and Samsung has delivered in spades. The Galaxy S10 and S10+ feature a new Infinity O design that sees the camera module seamlessly integrated into the display via a hole-punch cutout. The design does lead to considerably thinner bezels from the Galaxy S9 series, with Samsung able to cram a larger screen in a chassis that’s thinner and lighter than the S9+.

Samsung is also switching to the latest silicon in the form of a 7nm Snapdragon 855 in North America and China, and an 8nm Exynos 9820 in other markets. There’s also a new camera array at the back that houses three sensors: a 12MP primary camera, 16MP wide-angle lens, and a 12MP telephoto module with 2x zoom. Oh, and there are two cameras at the front with a brand-new Infinity O cutout. Here’s how the Galaxy S10+ is holding up after three months of use.

The one to beat

Samsung Galaxy S10+

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$870 at Amazon



The best Android phone available today.

Three months after its launch, the Galaxy S10+ continues to be the best Android flagship in the market. The display is absolutely gorgeous, you get more features than you’ll end up using, and the camera holds its own against the Pixel 3 and P30 Pro.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ What’s held up

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I got to use a lot of great phones over the course of 2019, including the Huawei P30 Pro, Xiaomi Mi 9, OPPO Reno 10x Zoom, and the OnePlus 7 Pro. The constant across all these phones is that they all use AMOLED displays, with the P30 Pro rocking an OLED screen. But none of them manage to come close to the Galaxy S10+ when it comes to vibrancy or contrast levels.

Samsung Display is the undisputed king of the display market, and it reserves its best panels for Samsung devices. The Dynamic AMOLED panel on the Galaxy S10+ gets significantly brighter on auto than the Note 9 or the S9+, and I didn’t see any issues with sunlight visibility whatsoever. It was a punishing summer here in India, with temperatures going up to 44 degrees (112 degrees Fahrenheit), but the display on the Galaxy S10+ held its own.

Other phones have come close in 2019, but the display on the Galaxy S10+ is still the benchmark.

The high-res panel combined with stereo speakers and HDR10+ rating make the Galaxy S10+ a fantastic device for streaming content on the go. Samsung is the only major player to offer a 3.5mm jack on its flagships in 2019, and while that may all change in the coming months, the Galaxy S10+ is the most feature-packed phone in the market today.

If anything, there’s so much on offer here that it may not all be easily discoverable. I’m still a huge fan of Dual Audio — which lets you play audio on two Bluetooth devices simultaneously. This is particularly useful for me as I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to audiobooks with my wife when we’re walking or jogging and both of us have headphones on. I started using the feature from the Note 9, and it continues to be a great addition for me.

Another feature that makes the Galaxy S10+ stand out is Samsung Pay. The service continues to be excellent, and its ease of use combined with universal acceptance makes it the best digital payments system around. It’s understandable that Samsung wants to use the tech exclusively on its flagships, but I still feel that there’s a lot of potential in the brand licensing it out to other manufacturers.

Coming to the hardware side of things, Samsung is continuing its dual-sourcing strategy where the North American markets and China get the Snapdragon variant of the phone, with other regions getting the Exynos version. I’m using the model with the Exynos 9820, and there’s a lot to talk about.

Unlike the last two generations of chipsets, Samsung isn’t manufacturing the Snapdragon 855 chipset for Qualcomm. Samsung LSI — the foundry that actually makes the chipsets — went with an 8nm node for the Exynos 9820, while Qualcomm opted to go for TSMC’s 7nm node instead.

The Exynos version of the Galaxy S10+ is jsut as fast as the Snapdragon 855 variant.

Another difference is that Samsung overhauled the CPU structure, now using three distinct CPUs in the Exynos 9820. There are two “big” 2.73GHz M4 cores that do the heavy lifting, backed by four Cortex A75 cores at 2.3GHz and four energy-efficient 1.95GHz A55 cores. To make all of it work, Samsung adopted a lot of the same techniques that ARM uses in its DynamIQ design. Without getting too much into the weeds, Samsung made a lot of big changes from last year, and they paid off.

The Exynos 9810-based Galaxy S9+ wasn’t quite as powerful or efficient as the Snapdragon 845 toting version, but that isn’t the case in 2019. The Exynos Galaxy S10+ is just as fast and responsive as the Snapdragon version, and three months later I don’t see any slowdowns whatsoever. Battery life was an issue initially, Samsung fixed that particular problem with software updates.

Continuing on the exhaustive feature list, Samsung continues to offer a MicroSD slot on the S10+ in spite of the base variant coming with 128GB of internal storage. It’s also great to see that all variants have 8GB of RAM as standard, and like previous years you get IP68 dust and water resistance.

The Galaxy S10+ gets a sizable upgrade on the camera side of things, with a new wide-angle lens joining the primary camera and telephoto lens at the back and a secondary sensor showing up at the front. Samsung lacks the computational photography chops of Google and Huawei, but it still manages to hold its own.

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Like previous Samsung flagships, shots from the Galaxy S10+ have a distinct characteristic to them. The images are saturated, full of detail, and have excellent dynamic range. The dedicated Night mode is a great new addition, and makes an already great camera even better.

Samsung was one of the first Android manufacturers to offer wireless charging on its phones, and the Galaxy S10+ comes with a key upgrade in this area. The phone is the first with Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, which delivers a 12W charge provided you use the $99 Wireless Charger Duo Pad. That’s pretty great when you consider Samsung’s wired charging is still languishing at 15W.

In addition to faster wireless charging, the Galaxy S10+ comes with the ability to wirelessly charge other devices. It’s a nice enough feature to have if you have the Galaxy Buds or one of Samsung’s recent smartwatches, but I haven’t used it all that much considering you’ll have to put the phone face down to charge the accessories.

I also like the direction Samsung is taking with One UI. The interface is much more modern and is designed for tall screens, and barring a few inconsistencies with legacy features, it’s a move in the right direction.

We’ll have to wait and see how Samsung handles platform updates this year, but the brand has been great at delivering monthly updates with software patches and various fixes. The first few updates for the Exynos variant of the Galaxy S10+ were aimed at fixing the battery life, and I now get a day’s worth of usage consistently.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ What hasn’t aged well

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As much as I appreciate the fact that the Galaxy S10+ is thinner and lighter than last year’s S9+, I’m not a fan of the design. The hole-punch cutout does little to increase the screen real estate; if anything, the narrower bezel at the bottom ends up making the difference when reading content on the device.

Another issue is the power button: it’s located higher up on the right side of the phone, and it isn’t possible to reach it with my thumb. I don’t know why Samsung decided to switch the positioning of the power button, but it is an unwelcome change. As an alternative, I now use the double tap gesture to wake the display.

As good as the Galaxy S10+ is in a lot of areas, there are a few design choices that are just confusing.

A continual issue with Samsung phones in 2018 was the location of the fingerprint sensor. It was tucked away next to or underneath the camera array at the back, and that led to a lot of problems. This year, however, Samsung has an in-screen fingerprint sensor instead, with the Galaxy S10 series being the first to feature an ultrasonic module. The ultrasonic sensor is said to be faster and more reliable than optical sensors, but that has not been the case in my usage.

The sensor is just as slow as first-gen optical modules, and the newer optical readers on the likes of the P30 Pro are much better. The Galaxy S10+ also has facial recognition, and while it isn’t as secure as the Note 9 — there’s no iris scanner anymore — it is faster and worked much more reliably.

Samsung continues to trail the pack when it comes to wired charging.

With brands like OPPO pushing 50W fast charging and Huawei offering 40W wired charging, Samsung’s 15W “fast” charging for the Galaxy S10+ feels antiquated. The wired charging is in need of an overhaul, and if the Galaxy A7 and the 5G variant of the Galaxy S10+ is any indication, we’ll soon see 25W charging as standard on Samsung phones. That cannot come soon enough.

Also, battery life on the Galaxy S10+ wasn’t ideal considering the fact that there’s a 4100mAh unit under the hood. Even after the updates, I’m not seeing battery life on par with the Galaxy Note 9. Factoring in the larger battery and the improvements that came with the node shift to 8nm, the S10+ should at least deliver better battery life than last year’s flagship, but that isn’t the case.

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Three months later

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The Galaxy S10+ is Samsung’s most ambitious device to date, and it is holding up very well after three months. The display is the best you’ll find on a phone today, and the device has just about every feature that you’d want from a flagship in 2019. The camera may not be quite as consistent as the Pixel 3, but you get more sensors to play around with. My only quibble is the battery life on the Exynos version — it isn’t quite as solid as the Snapdragon variant.

We’re getting to the point where Samsung starts discounting the Galaxy S10+, making it an even more enticing option. The unlocked model is already $100 off at Amazon, with a few color options selling for $130 off.

The competition has intensified in 2019, and there are plenty of great alternatives to the Galaxy S10+. The P30 Pro in particular stands out because of its ability to match Samsung’s flagship in all areas, but Huawei’s continuing troubles with the U.S. government make it a non-starter right now. If anything, the trade ban directly benefited Samsung, allowing the South Korean manufacturer to pull further ahead of Huawei in global markets.

The Galaxy S10 series also marks the end of an era for Samsung. If the leaks around the Galaxy Note 10 are any indication, Samsung is getting rid of the headphone jack on its upcoming flagship, and that could trickle down to the Galaxy S11 next year. For now though, the Galaxy S10+ is the most feature-packed phone in the market today, and it continues to be an excellent choice as we head into the latter half of 2019.

The one to beat

Samsung Galaxy S10+

s10-plus-render-front.png?itok=A4HkHVPc

$870 at Amazon

The best Android phone available today.

Three months after its launch, the Galaxy S10+ continues to be the best Android flagship in the market. The display is absolutely gorgeous, you get more features than you’ll end up using, and the camera holds its own against the Pixel 3 and P30 Pro.