Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review: 10th Generation Android Greatness

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Impeccable Design And Build Quality

By now we've come to expect nothing short of industrial design excellence from Samsung, and that's not being too generous in our honest assessment. Historically, the company's Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series of devices have offered some of the best feeling, truly premium build quality smartphones in the market. The new Galaxy S10 family, we would offer, is no exception and in many ways elevates Samsung's game even more. Below you'll see some color choices like Prism Black and Flamingo Pink, but the mechanical efficiency and elegance of the Galaxy S10+ we have (in Prism White), is honestly stunning to behold. Not a millimeter is wasted, anywhere.

Galaxy%20S10 Family
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Back In hand

We got hands-on time with every color of the Samsung Galaxy S10 series of devices at the company's Unpacked press preview recently. While Prism Black and Blue appealed to my personal masculine predisposition, Prism White grew on me for its ability to capture ambient color and light. Above you see it pulling in the gray hues of our studio, while below you see it capturing the pink and blue hues of a suburban New England Winter landscape.

samsung galaxy s10 plus in hand
Samsung Galaxy In Prism White Pulls-In And Reflects A Bit Of Its Environment's Hues

Also, you'll note that Samsung's rear tri-camera array protrudes only slightly on the back of the phone, with a thin metal trim ring. For the amount of camera and optics hardware that's fashioned back there, the device really feels balanced. You can lay it flat on its back with zero wobble and that trim ring lifts the phone up just enough to protect the lens glass area. And by the way, though there are higher-end ceramic versions of the Galaxy S10 series, we have an all-glass affair here with our S10+, except for the polished and rounded steel side trimming.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus cameras

In typical Galaxy fashion, the left side edge is home to the Bixby button and a volume rocker, while the right edge houses the power/screen lock button and the top is home to a mic port and combo microSD card and SIM tray. Again, on board the Galaxy S10+ you can configure up to 1TB of storage (for a wallet whimpering price of $1600 or so), with the microSD expansion bringing that up to 1.5TB, if you're hell-bent for the maximum in digital pack rat lifestyle. 

The Galaxy S10 series is also IP68 water and dust resistant, and that rating is further punctuated by the Galaxy S10+'s sturdy build quality as well. But what about that front-facingcamera cutout? Truth told, Samsung seems to be compensating with its default wallpapers and their dark top right corner color pallet, to minimize the impact of its oblong, corner-situated camera array. Regardless, beauty is in the eye as they say, but we're good with this design decision and its visual aesthetic. We get that physics is involved here to a reasonable extent and those cameras aren't going to get their visuals behind a display panel. So, if there has to be a cut out in order to deliver the thinnest bezel possible, so be it -- at least until technology comes along that defies the laws of physics which, ya know, happens all the time in this high tech industry. 
Galaxy S10 Plus top right power button

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus bottom ports
On the downside, you might be thinking we only have a single down-firing speaker port here. And as secondary a concern as external audio might be for most, that still would be a misconception. The top earpiece of the Galaxy S10+ also acts an open speaker port and sound quality is actually decent and reasonably loud, for smartphone external audio anyway. No complaints here and having that standard headphone jack is still a welcomed IO option. Flexibility, as always, is key. 

Samsung Galaxy S10+ 6.4" Dynamic AMOLED Display - There Is None Better

Galaxy S10 Plus display in hand
Samsung Galaxy S10+ - The Best smartphone display in the business currently, period.

Circling back to the Galaxy S10+ display, we won't offer anything but high praise. Sure, if the top, right-mounted camera cutout turns you off, so be it. However, this is easily one of the brightest, most impressive phone displays we've ever seen and the folks at Display Mate seem to agree. Samsung's Infinity-O Dynamic AMOLED display on the Galaxy S10+ is HDR10+ certified, which is similar to Dolby Vision, and can employ dynamic scene metadata to increase color fidelity with digital video content. It's still a 10-bit display, but wow is it bright and punchy, with great contrast and color saturation.  We've compared this display to a bevy of high-end phones, from Samsung's own Galaxy Note 9, to the OnePlus 6T and the LG G7 ThinQ -- nothing offers the same level of brightness, contrast, extreme saturation, and inky blacks or pure whites. For those of you that like to tone things down to a more subdued level Samsung offers two modes, Natural and Vivid, the former of which is much less punchy in its saturation and contrast levels. I tend to enjoy my visuals vividly, but hey, whatever butters your biscuit. The display is also very accurate as well, despite Samsung's blue light reduction technology on board.

Captain Marvel HDR Movie Clip
Heroes, Nobel Warrior Heroes...

And no, even in full screen movie mode, in our opinion the Galaxy S10's laser-cut, oblong camera punch hole doesn't get in the way enough to squawk about. We prefer it over a traditional notch, though if you want to completely eliminate it you can, which will place a thick bezel strip at the top of the phone. That said, we definitely prefer Samsung's Infinity-O ultra-thin bezel design in its standard setting and can't see users running it any other way really. In any event, in short, there are other flagship Android phones that have high quality HDR displays like Samsung's Galaxy S10+, but this is the best smartphone display we've seen thus far, hands down. 

Galaxy S10+ - Of Fingerprints And Buds

Galaxy S10 Ultrasonic Fingerprint scanner

Unfortunately, we didn't quite have the same experience with Samsung's new under-glass, ultra-sonic fingerprint scanner that's built into the new Galaxy S10 series. Part of our reservation here is personally subjective and related to ergonomics. We find that placing an index finger on the back of a phone is a more natural position for a fingerprint scanner than the front face of a device is. That said, we applaud the efficiency, cleaner lines and innovation, so we'd be willing to live with a front-mounted scanner and adapt to its positioning. Unfortunately, though we registered fingerprints a number of times, the phone never unlocked as quickly or consistently as we'd have liked, sometimes rejecting thumbprints repeatedly. The technology is definitely more secure, however, and some users will live with the occasional hiccup -- requiring a pattern draw or other backup authentication measure -- in an effort to maintain a higher level of security. Perhaps we like living on the edge, but with the Galaxy S10, we'd just assume work with its less-secure facial recognition for faster, more convenient access to the phone.   

Galaxy Buds

Finally, there's Samsung's Galaxy Buds. These optional little nodules of acoustic accompaniment retail for $129, but if you pre-ordered a Galaxy S10 or S10+ by 3/7/19, they could have been a toss-in gift for you from Samsung. As far as wireless buds go, they fit great, are very light and comfortable, and stay put in your ear even with heavy physical activity in the gym or on a run. They also come with rubberized adapters to shape them better to differing ears sizes as well. And finally there's touch control here for skipping tracks, answering an incoming call or turning up the volume with just a tap. Power and battery life-wise, 15 minutes of quick USB-C or wireless charging gets you nearly 2 hours of play time, while a full charge is claimed to run up to 6 hours. The wireless charging case we showed you on the previous page, however, also has its own built in battery than can recharge the Galaxy Buds, and bring total, untethered playtime to around 13 hours. We found in practice that our Galaxy Buds offered plenty of battery life for multiple 1.5 hour excursions to the gym.

Acoustically, as we briefly mentioned earlier, Samsung's Galaxy Buds sound pretty solid, though somewhat thin on bass response compared to my personal favorite pair of Bose SoundSports or SoundSport Free wireless buds. Honestly though, that's a tall order and I'm bit of a earbud snob. Nothing sounds as rich and full to me as my SoundsSports. Then again, at least Samsung's Galaxy Buds don't cut out on occasion like the Bose wireless buds can be prone to do. Mids and highs with the Galaxy Buds are spacious and accurate, and noise cancellation is excellent, as the Buds make a good seal with your ear. In fact, they isolate so well that it might be disconcerting for some folks that are used to hearing the world around them a bit as well (not me, blissful in my own little world, thanks). Regardless, enabling Samsung's Ambient Sound feature, that we'll cover next in the software section, does a nice job of letting some of the outside world back in.

Related content