There really isn’t a lot that we didn’t already know about before going hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. A solid month of leaks and a steady stream of information hasn’t left much to the imagination, but that doesn’t mean the devices have no surprises.

For starters, although we’ve seen plenty of renders and clean press images, they don’t really match the experience of using the real thing. It’s not like marketing material is ever going to showcase any negatives or features in a less than positive light.

The Galaxy S line has always been at the forefront of Samsung’s smartphone line and it would be foolish to think that the Galaxy S10 and S10+ would be any different. There is no doubt that these devices are the most ‘different’ in recent years.

Having seen the Galaxy S and Note line converge somewhat with the release of the S8 and Note 8 respectively, the S10 and S10+ have moved away from this older design and into an era of display cutouts for the very first time. The biggest question is are these devices the ‘droids we’ve been looking for'(ward to)?


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Design and Hardware

While we have had plenty of looks at the hardware via leaks, renders, videos and more, it’s another matter to get the devices in your hands. I can’t honestly say they feel a great deal different to the Galaxy Note 9 for instance, but Samsung does know how to put a glass sandwich design together and has perfected it over several iterations.

If you have ever owned, held, or even seen a Samsung Galaxy device in the S8-plus era, then you will feel right at home. The width and size make it much the same when in the hand, but the display really does make the most of the minor footprint alterations. Samsung is doing its utmost to maximise the display experience without massively increasing device footprint, so that means only minuscule forehead and chin protrusions.

As you would expect, the S10 feels well put together even despite the majority being glass construction. The fit and finish is top-tier. No part of the device feels like any corners have been cut or cheaped out on. Fit and finish is one area that has had a seismic shift in half a decade since the release of the mostly plastic Galaxy S5.

Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+ design and hardware

I personally do like the aesthetic appeal of the punch-hole display camera cutout, but it does change the overall UI and user experience. What I mean is that because of this off-center display cutout, the status bar icons have to shift to the left.

The other downside is that the right positioning of the camera means selfie-taking is slightly altered and although it isn’t exactly a massive issue, it’s definitely worth noting. Like I have said, my personal opinion is that this looks better and is much less prominent when watching videos in fullscreen. But I can definitely understand why people would prefer a notch or would prefer a centrally positioned punch-hole camera too.

Credit where it’s due, the entire package on both the S10 and S10+ leaves you wanting very little. The inclusion of the headphone port is almost like giving the middle finger to the entire industry. If only as we see plenty of excuses that it “has to go” for the sake of other internal tech. Samsung keeps proving the industry wrong time and time again simply by letting us plug wired earbuds into our smartphones without the need for a dongle. I’m of the opinion that they deserve kudos for that.

Software

One UI is by no means a triumph, but it really does help shed the image of “Samsung lag” on older devices  — at least in my day-to-day experiences with it installed. It absolutely flies thanks to the combination of the Snapdragon 855 chipset and by being backed up with a minimum of 6GB of RAM. That’s not to say the S9 and Note 9 are slow because they have a slightly older processor, far from it, but this is the most powerful Android-powered phone on the market right now and the software helps back that up.

Samsung Galaxy S10 front and back

Where the software differs from older handsets is with the addition of in-display fingerprint reader hardware. From the lockscreen you’ll instantly notice a fingerprint icon. This works as a visual cue as to where to press your finger or thumb to unlock the S10.

I was unable to really test this for myself at the launch event due to the short amount of time with each handset, but having seen the tech demoed by Samsung reps, it looks to be on par with the other in-display readers already on the market. That’s not to say that in-display readers are actually any good because in my experience, they are usually pretty poor.

Camera

The Samsung Galaxy S10 camera has a few neat tricks up its sleeve but at a launch event, it really is difficult to give this even a basic test or trial. The new modes though include that new night mode — Super Night Shot.

Arguably one of the most interesting introductions to the new camera hardware is that wide angle lens. That said, the entire camera package should open up a greater array of photography and videography even over previous Samsung smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy S10 camera

The introduction of a stabilized 4K front-facing selfie camera really is intriguing, but not something I feel that I will take much advantage of.

One interesting piece of camera hardware that persists is that of the gimmicky dual aperture mode that we saw on the S9 and the Note 9. I’m sure that there are some people reading who use the hardware in Pro mode on those aforementioned devices, but I honestly can’t say I have used the Note 9 in anything other than Auto Mode during the time I’ve been using it.

Initial Verdict

Well, what can you say other than the Samsung Galaxy S10 will likely be one of the phones to beat in 2019. The hardware internally is exceptional, while the external hardware is impressive if a little iterative. Ultimately, it boils down to preference as to whether you’ll be a fan or not.

I will vouch for One UI being a huge step in the right direction for usability. I can’t pass judgement on the camera experience, but the tools are in place to make this the best camera experience on a Samsung smartphone.

The biggest problem is that if you have bought a device in the past 12 months, then I genuinely don’t think the Galaxy S10 or the S10+ is the quantum leap that justifies the pretty hefty price-tag. If that is a concern, the cheaper but still more than capable Galaxy S10e might be the ‘droid you’ve been looking for.’

Alternatively, you could wait for the insane Galaxy S10 5G, which looks to be one of the most stacked handsets to ever be announced.

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