Samsung Galaxy S10e first impressions: Value-packed flagship device with no compromises

The Galaxy S10 range is everything you expect. In every aspect, the Galaxy S10 in better than its predecessor. You get a better processor, better camera, more storage, more RAM, there are even more variants to choose from that differentiate beyond just storage space. You now get a value option – the Galaxy S10e.

The Galaxy S10e is the entry-level variant of the range but by no means should you discount it for being entry-level. Almost everything about it is top-rate. Here are my first impressions of the device.

Processor and storage options

The Galaxy S10e packs the same Exynos 9820 processor as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ with the option of 6GB or 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB or 256GB of on-board storage. The Galaxy S10e feels just as fast and snappy as its bigger brothers.

That wonderful display

The 5.8-inch display also features the same technology as the Galaxy S10 and S10+. The Dynamic AMOLED panel is Samsung’s most advanced display yet, which means you get the same 1,200 nits brightness, the same improved colour accuracy, the same improved contrast ratio and the same HDR10+ rating – a first for a mobile display.

Apart from being the smallest panel in the Galaxy S10 range (5.8in vs 6.1in on the Galaxy S10 and 6.4in on the Galaxy S10+), the Galaxy S10e pushes a Full HD+ (2160×1440) resolution instead of Quad HD+ (3200×1800) resolution on the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ but reduction in screen resolution is imperceptible.

If any, the viewing experience on the Galaxy S10e is virtually identical to the Galaxy S10 and S10+. The display is just as good and enjoyable to use especially when watching movies. Where the Achilles heel on the iPhone XR is the sub-par 720p display, you won’t be penalised with for getting the Galaxy S10e when it comes to viewing experience.

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The only problem I have with the display is that it’s not curved. Now, there are many of you out there that like a flat display and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I personally feel that a curved display, even a slight 2.5D curve makes a device feels more exquisite. Samsung is a pioneer when it comes to curved displays, so I don’t think its much of a problem for the Galaxy S10e to feature a curved display. I think the decision for a flat display driven by costs savings more than anything. Having said that, it’s not really a big deal. The display is stunning otherwise.

Capable camera

Even in the camera department, Samsung was careful to make sure that you don’t lose out on anything with the Galaxy S10e. On the front, you get the same 10MP f/1.9 front camera as the Galaxy S10. Out back, there’s the dual-camera unit featuring a 12MP f/1.5-f/2.4 variable aperture camera with optical image stabilisation and a 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera with a 123° viewing angle, both of which are the same as the ones on the Galaxy S10 and S10+.

The only thing missing is the 12MP 2x telephoto camera which is available on the two more expensive versions of the Galaxy S10. However, I personally don’t think not having a telephoto lens is a big deal because there’s just less need to zoom in for a good picture in day-to-day use. The ultra-wide-angle lens is much more practical and usable in real life.

On first impressions, the camera on the Galaxy S10e is immensely capable. It has an ultra-wide-angle lens, shoots selfie videos in 4K and has a super smooth steady shot especially for video. It also comes Scene Optimiser which is like Huawei’s AI mode.

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Scene Optimiser offers 30 different modes (Face, Baby, Person, Dog, Cat, Food, People, Beaches, Sky, Mountain, Sunset, Sunrise, City, Snow, Waterfall, Watersides, Scenery, Stage, Vehicles, Drinks, Flowers, Trees, Greenery, Animal, Shoes, Backlit, Indoor, Text, Clothes, Night view) and is enabled automatically depending on the scene that you’re taking a picture of. It is not as extensive as you would get with competitors but perhaps it doesn’t have to be.

However, I’ll have to save my final judgement to when I get more time with the device. What I really like about the new camera app on the whole Galaxy S10 range is this feature called Shot Suggestions. The feature applies AI and machine learning algorithms based on the analysis of over 100 million high-quality photos to provide an easy to use guide for that ideal photo composition. It’s a great tool for newbies and seasoned photogs alike.

The only thing I found missing is a dedicated night photography mode like Huawei’s Night Mode and Google Pixel’s Night Sight. There were rumours about Samsung introducing a dedicated night mode called Bright Night in the Galaxy S10 but as we know now, that’s just a rumour. It would be a nice addition though.  

That side-mounted fingerprint scanner

My brief time with the Galaxy S10e has been a delightful one however I have one problem — the side-mounted fingerprint scanner. I’m perplexed as to why Samsung decided to opt for side-mounted fingerprint scanner instead of a rear mounted one like the Galaxy S9. The scanner is fast and accurate, no problems there but the button placement is too high that I have to significantly alter my grip to unlock the phone. For such a well-thought-out device, this seems like a misstep for me, an unnecessary change.

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I would be more than happy for the Galaxy S10e to have a rear mounted fingerprint scanner instead of this side mounted one. Could this be another cost-cutting measure to keep costs down? I believe so. But again, this is a not a major pain and one that shouldn’t mark down the Galaxy S10e experience.

Fan favourite features

Where competitors are removing the headphone jack and expandable storage options, Samsung has bucked the trend in honour of its fans. The Galaxy S10e continues that tradition by retaining the headphone jack and expandable storage option via Micro SD (up to 512GB). The Galaxy S10e is also IP68-rated for water and dust resistance.

These features may not mean much to some (cough, cough Apple users) but its a huge gesture from Samsung, a small yet meaning full note to its fans as it to say — “hey fans, we hear you”.

Samsung has retained the headphone jack, expandable storage and IP68 rating for the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ as well.

At the end of the day…

The Galaxy S10e has all the makings of a very good mobile device. While I will have to save my final judgement for when I have more time with the phone but even my brief encounter with the device I’m left thoroughly impressed. From its flagship processor to its flagship cameras, there’s very little compromise with the cheapest variant in the Galaxy S10 range. You don’t lose out on anything for choosing the Galaxy S10e.

What I like…

Amazing Dynamic AMOLED display

Compact form-factor

Flagship Exynos 9820 processor

Flagship feature set

Competitive price for the specs and features

Variable aperture lens

Ultra-wide-angle lens

4K selfie videos

Super smooth stabilised video

What I don’t like…

Side-mounted fingerprint scanner difficult to reach

Flat display

No dedicated night mode