A Closer Look at Samsung’s Creme de la Creme
There’s a saying that goes “the cream rises to the top” and it’s been awhile since we’ve been super pumped about a flagship from Samsung. While we’ve always thought that their previous flagships were good, they’ve been somewhat overshadowed by other brands in the fast-moving pace in the tech industry.
For the tenth iteration of their S series device, Samsung bursts out back into the light with the trio of S series devices unanimously getting two thumbs up from the team. John has already written a review for the S10e, so its time to take a look at the biggest of the three (and the one with the most bells and whistles) to see if it’s worth the spend.
Classic and Timeless Looks
Not much has changed in the design department of Samsung flagships but that ain’t a bad thing because the brand has already achieved a certain level of polish to their devices. Yes, you might not have some of the flashier gradients that we see on other phones out in the market but, just like classic pieces that one might find in your wardrobe, the S and Note phones have a quiet elegance that make them somewhat timeless.
However, if you are the type to rock your device without protection (in which case, we applaud you for your bravery) and looking for a bit more pizzazz or a visual pop, our review unit that you see in the photos is in Prism White that has a bit of a pearlescent effect that takes on different hues depending on how light hits it. This blends well with the chrome frame of the phone that’s also present in the Prism Green color variant with the Prism or Ceramic Black versions of the S10 Plus having a more monochromatic look.
As is the case with their previous releases, the curves on the display helps a ton with ergonomics to help give you a better handle on the phone and makes it nestle comfortably in the hand when it comes to usage though if you have petite digits, you might want to consider the S10 or S10e as an alternative.
An Excellent Display As Always
We’ve said this time and time again. Samsung flagships have one of the best displays out in the market and that remains true with this year’s S series devices.
The S10 Plus has the biggest display of the bunch, all of which have Dynamic Super AMOLED panels, at Quad HD+ resolution. The display is HDR10+ certified so if you like to binge watch Netflix shows on your phone after a long day, you’re sure to have an enjoyable experience with this phone. Just make sure it doesn’t fall on your face if you nod off but that’s the case with all phones anyway.
The audio from the phone also sounds incredibly good with its stereo output with Dolby Atmos. We still prefer using our headphones though, which you can totally do because they’ve retained the 3.5mm jack. Good job keeping that analog port alive, Samsung.
The Indiscreet Infinity-O
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room — the Infinity-O part of the display AKA the punch hole.
If you jump into Samsung’s website, they say that they’ve discreetly tucked the camera away with precise laser cutting and, while their workmanship cannot be denied, the punch hole housing the two front cameras on the S10 Plus aren’t very discrete at all and in some ways is even more intrusive than the notch. Will we get used to it eventually? Maybe. The cute wallpapers that make use of the cameras as Wall-E’s eyes are cute though so there is that.
One of the things Samsung was able to do because of the punch hole display was push the bezels of the phone further on all sides but more noticeably on the top and bottom of the device. Since they’ve been rocking a curved display for awhile now, this gives a more immersive experience than what we’re used to seeing from them.
A Great In-Display Fingerprint Scanner
Yup, Samsung has finally done away with having physical fingerprint scanners (except on the S10e, of course) and has adopted the use of an In-Display one to help you unlock your device. Compared to what other brands are rocking, you’re getting an Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner that uses sound waves to detect the ridges of your fingerprint.
We found the placement just right for using your thumb if you’re holding the phone one-handed. You will have to get used to where the sweet spot as that’s where most of the misreads from our time with the phone came from but it was a pretty small margin of error.
Fast, Zippy but Not for Everybody
The brain of 2019’s S Series of phones (and most likely the next Note device’s as well) is Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 chipset. On the S10 Plus, this is paired with an generous 8GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage.
In the time we’ve spent with the device, we’ve had no complaints about its performance and its been extremely snappy. We’ve used it to juggle multiple apps for work and the system really holds its own even when faced with graphically intensive games like AxE: Alliance vs Empire.
You are getting a lot of hustle and muscle out of the S10 Plus’ processing package but I will echo John’s sentiments in his S10e review — the Exynos 9820 isn’t going to be for everyone. If you’re the type who gets that gnawing feeling that you’re not going to have THE very best performance at your finger tips then Samsung flagships — at least in our neck of the woods — aren’t going to be for you.
It really is hard to feel if you are going in blind without knowledge of benchmark scores and breakdowns of technical experts though.
A Versatile Set of Shooters
At this point, you might have already seen our sample images from the S10 Plus that Lea took while she was in San Francisco. Scenery and setting aside, we think they’re incredible output from the three cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. The dynamic range is excellent, the sharpness is great, colors are pretty much on point, and low-light images come out really good too.
As a refresher, you’ve got a 12-megapixel main camera with a variable aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4; something we’ve seen on their recent flagships prior to the new S series. You’ve got a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera with 123-degree field of view to mimic what our eyes can see. Lastly, you’ve got another 12-megapixel camera at f/2.4 that has 2x optical zoom.
To be honest, we didn’t use the 2x optical zoom all that much. I personally take the few extra steps to frame my shots if needed but it’s good to know that it’s there and you have image stabilization if you need it. Having an ultra-wide angle lens is great for giving you more expansive landscape photography and the ability to fit in more people without having to back up is a nice tough too. Sammy also included a bit of lens correction to prevent excessive amounts of barrel distortion but it still noticeable in some cases.
Aside from the usual AI scene detection, you’re also getting the Best Shot feature that suggest better framing your photos. Now, it’s not always the case, but sometimes it does get things right with the composition to give your a really great photo.
Live Focus for both the rear and front cameras are still there to give you that software assisted bokeh but they’ve added several effects to it as a simple way to separate themselves from the pack and it’s a pretty good way to add some spice to your photos.
The video aspect of the cameras have also been improved upon as well with Super Steady video to give you really smooth output on if you want to share videos with your friends. It’s almost as good as the HyperSmooth tech on the GoPro Hero 7 Black. Relax, we said ALMOST.
The cameras are definitely more of a total package this time around.
A Battery that Lasts
One of our major concerns with the S10 Plus was its battery life. After all, the Note 9 promised us a lot of lasting power with its 4000mAh battery but it disappointed when we used the phone as our daily driver. Thankfully, these concerns were put to rest after spending more time with the phone.
Its 4100mAh battery clocked in at 12 hours and 15 minutes in our battery benchmarks and translated really well in real-world scenarios too. We only needed to top up about a day and a half after fully charging the phone, which could have been slightly extended if we didn’t have to make sure that we had enough juice to get home.
Speaking of topping up, this is the area that we wish Samsung had pushed it a little more with their flagship offerings. Brands like Huawei and OPPO have been releasing charging tech to make sure that you don’t have to hug a wall for too long but Sammy has chosen to go with your regular fast charging that’ll take a little over an hour and 30 minutes to go from 0 to 100%. Of course, they may be playing it a little safe given a boo-boo with one of their flagships from a couple of years back.
One thing that they added on this year’s S series is reverse wireless charging. Not only can you charge your device by plopping it on a Qi charging pad but, much like the Mate 20 Pro, you can juice up another device by putting it on the S10 Plus while you’re out and about. It’s a feature that’s good to have in case you need it but it isn’t a must-have in our books.
Verdict: Is It the Best of the Bunch?
The Exynos 9820 provides a snappy experience, the dynamic Super AMOLED Display is a treat for both media consumption and getting work done on-the-go, the cameras are superb, and the lasting power of the phone has been greatly improved from previous flagships. If we’re being honest, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before but the overall package definitely impressed the heck out of us. Sure, people will have an aversion to the Infinity-O (AKA, the punch hole) but we’ll get used to it; just like we did with the notch… eventually.
The major pain point for most consumers out there (and from what we’ve seen in our comment section) is the price of the phone itself. After all, dropping Php 55,990 on this variant of the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is no joke so penny pinchers who are looking for a flagship experience are mostly likely going to take a hard pass on this one.
However, it’s been awhile since we’ve been really hyped about a flagship from the Korean company and we think that Samsung has knocked it out of the park with the release of this year’s trio of S series devices. Yes, you have more than the usual two options to choose from with the S10e providing the most value but, if you really want all the bells and whistles the brand has to offer at this point in the game then look no further than the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Specs
- Samsung Exynos 9820 octa-core processor
- Mali-G76 MP12 GPU
- 8GB/12GB RAM
- 6.4-inch WQHD Dynamic Super AMOLED Infinity-O display, 3040 x 1440 resolution, dual curved edge, HDR10+
- 128GB/1TB expandable storage, via microSD
- Triple rear cameras: 12-megapixel primary camera with f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture; 12-megapixel telephoto camera with f/2.4 aperture and 2x optical zoom; 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera; with Dual Pixel, Dual OIS, 960FPS Super Slo-Mo video, 4K HDR10+ shooting at 30FPS/4K shooting at 60FPS
- Dual front cameras: 10-megapixel f/1.9 main camera; 8-megapixel f/2.2 wide-angle camera; dual-pixel autofocus, 4K video recording
- Dual SIM
- 3G, LTE, WiFi 6
- GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
- Ultrasonic Fingerprint scanner, facial recognition, heartbeat sensor, IP68 certification, USB Type-C port, Bixby AI, 3D Emojis
- 4100mAh battery with fast charging and wireless charging
- Android 9.0 Pie (One UI)