Samsung Galaxy S10e Review: Good Things Do Come In Small Packages

The best Samsung Galaxy S10

The Galaxy S10e is the “budget” Galaxy S10 series smartphone from Samsung. Take what you will from the “budget” label but what has become increasingly clearer over the past few weeks is that it’s the best Samsung Galaxy S10 option to go for.

It just works.

When Samsung announced the Galaxy S10 line the “e” was the one that garnered the least attention at the time. Which was understandable as it did not come with many of the selling points the others did. Put simply, it was not as sexy.

But boring can be sexy too and when you take a moment to take a closer look at the Galaxy S10e, that’s when you really start to appreciate what it has to offer and especially at the price it is offered at.

Take a closer look and you just might be surprised at how it can reshape your perceptions on the Galaxy S10 line. We were.

The Galaxy S10e is now available to buy from Samsung and priced at $749.99 in the US.

All you need and not much else

The thing about the Galaxy S10e is that there’s nothing to pin your colors to and say “yes, that’s why it’s so great.” There’s nothing.

The display is good (come on, it’s Samsung), but not as good as it could be, or yes, the other s10 models. The display is not a major selling point.

The core spec combination is decent by 2019 standards, but again it’s not exactly mind-blowing. You get a minimum of 6GB RAM, 128GB storage, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855.

Yes, it’s a very respectable spec sheet, but again nothing too special in 2019. Arguably, the specs are somewhat run-of-the-mill for a flagship line - even if this is the “budget” version of the phone.

It’s not even that attractive either to be honest. While this is obviously subjective, the objective reality is it adopts a very generic look in smartphone terms. There’s nothing that immediately makes the phone stand out or seem different. There's no niche design features.

That's not to say it's an ugly phone as it's not. It’s just not massively attractive either.

Overall it is a fairly bland looking smartphone with nothing to draw your attention to. Besides the hole punch.

But even this has now been overshadowed by the hole punch on the other models which are larger and more impressive (in hole punch terms). Therefore, even though the hole punch is a thing with this smartphone, and even though it may prove to be an eyesore for some - it is not as much of an eyesore or as eye-catching as it could have been. Even the hole punch is not something that can make this model stand out in the Galaxy S10 crowd.

Nothing stands out, and yet, it has everything you need from a smartphone in 2019. Along with a certain amount of unassuming charm.

What it lacks actually makes it better

It feels strange to say this phone does not have this or that and yet it is better because of those missing features, but in the uniquely weird world of the Galaxy S10e, it’s true.

As someone who usually goes for the bigger phones, the most immediate issue for me personally was the size of the Galaxy S10e. Based on size alone, the standard and + models are certainly more me phones.

However, that was my perception of what my type of phone was with the reality proving to be far different. The more time spent with the Galaxy S10e, the more it became clear the size is only small when drawing comparisons to other phones.

The Galaxy S10e is perfectly suitable for most people, in most instances, and for doing most things with a smartphone.

Yes, if you’re moving from a larger phone then there will be a transitional period but like the phone in general, it's a small transitional period. Especially considering the all-screen design makes the usable space greater than the feel in the hand might suggest. After all, the display does measure in at 5.8-inches which is hardly that small of a size to begin with.

You are also not losing much in the build department in general due to to the same materials in use and the heavy influence of glass. Although not curved, that's unlikely to be much of a loss to many users. It wasn't for this user.

Then there’s the fingerprint sensor and this is probably where the most obvious down-sizing/cost-cutting took place as while the so-called “better” Galaxy S10 models come with an in-display fingerprint sensor, the Galaxy S10e does not. Arguably, that's not something you are going to miss either and certainly if your current phone does not already have one.

While the fingerprint sensor here is not located under the display, it is also not located on the back in an awful and awkward position like some recent Galaxy-branded smartphones. Instead, Samsung has opted to bury the fingerprint sensor under the power button - and it works well in this sense.

That is, it works in terms of the placement, as well as “it works” in terms of it actually working. Which is not something that’s been so kindly noted with the in-display solutions used in the other models.

What’s more, it works a little better than it might have otherwise due to the smaller size of the phone. While the size was initially a criticism, in this instance it acts as a prime example of how the phone just works overall and why it is better to view this particular phone as a sum and not focus as much on the individual parts.

The size makes it all that bit more easier to use the fingerprint sensor in its current position, without it being awkward or an exercise in finger yoga, and this is regardless of whether you're holding the Galaxy S10e in your left hand and using your index finger to unlock, or your right hand and using your thumb.

It is convenient, responsive and most importantly - reliable.

It is quite possible that some users with smaller hands will disagree with this point, but coming from a larger phone to the Galaxy S10e, the placement of the fingerprint sensor and the overall size of the phone works extremely well together. If it was any larger at all using the fingerprint sensor would prove to be an issue but in its current form, the placement feels just right.

The same can be said for most of the one-hand use-cases and features on offer. The phone's general size makes it super easier to navigate regardless of whether you are using one or two hands.

The takeaway here, is this is not a small phone at all. Yes, it is compact, but the Galaxy S10e is one of the best examples of how "compact" and "small" are not interchangeable.

The things the Galaxy S10e is missing are either unneeded or actually take away from the compactness of the phone and that matters due to the size proving to be one of the main real selling points in a world where consumers are far too often told you need a phone this big.

You don't.

Mostly, you get what you get with the other S10s

When you account for the differences and how they impact (positively or negatively) on the user experience, the rest of what you are left with is pretty much identical to the other Galaxy S10 models. If you want a greater understanding of that wider Galaxy S10 experience then you should check out our main Galaxy S10 review which covers both the standard Galaxy S10 and the Galaxy S10+.

The reality is, while the differences are what most people are likely to focus on when making an S10 purchase decision, beyond the marketing selling points, there's far fewer differences between the models than you might expect. On core specs and experience, it is neither better nor worse than either of the headline models.

Opting for the e model does not mean you are getting a lesser product, just a lesser price and that’s an important distinction to note. Especially as this even applies to many of the high-profile areas, such as the cameras.

Yes, the Galaxy S10e comes with one less rear camera (also one less front camera compared to the S10+) but the main cameras are what matter and they are universal across the models with the S10e featuring the same main and ultra-wide sensors as the other two.

There’s no doubt the added telephoto sensor does offer more advanced features, but for most users in everyday situations, the quality on offer with the S10e camera setup won’t be that different to the others. Acting as yet another example of just how much more alike than different the three S10 models really are.

You can check out a few more camera image samples here or find out more about how the whole Galaxy S10 line performs in the camera department in our main Galaxy S10 review.

Perceptions matter, but not always for the right reasons

To be clear, if you buy this phone tomorrow expecting it to change your world then you’ll be greatly disappointed in what you get. It won’t live up to any lofty expectations.

But the opposite is equally as true. With no one really having any grand expectations of the Galaxy S10e in the first place, and assuming this is simply a cheaper model that has had its corners/features snipped to keep costs low, the Galaxy S10e exceeds expectations in almost every way.

With perceptions having been so low to begin, therein lies the Galaxy S10e's true strength. As anyone who picks up this phone will find very little to complain about without making a bigger deal than they need to out of the smaller things.

Yes, the battery capacity is lesser than what many might want and this does mean the daily levels of battery usage are impacted to a degree. However, it was not noticeable bad during the review process. The phone itself is less-demanding than the sibling models and therefore the difference is somewhat negligible. The battery is sufficient for purpose and the capacity is not something alone that should dissuade any consumer from taking a closer look at this phone.

Relative to the phone, this is not a low-capacity battery.

Yes you should buy the Galaxy S10e

If you are in the market for the best on-paper smartphone from Samsung then go for one of the others.

If you want the absolute most-bleeding-edge technology then go for one of the others.

If you want all the best bits of the Galaxy S10, brought together in a very reliable package, then go for the Galaxy S10e.

That’s without even taking into consideration the fact this is the cheapest model - what many assumed to be the only selling point and only a selling point if you disregard you are technically getting less for less money.

The truth is, the lower price point with the Galaxy S10e is a bonus, not the purpose. A big bonus, but a bonus nonetheless as this really is the best Galaxy S10 model for everyone. It just works.

In every way, it works.

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About the Author
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John Anon

Editor-in-Chief
John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]