review

Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review: Android’s Mighty Achilles, Complete with Heel

Simply the most premium Android out here

When it comes to Greek mythology, Achilles has a special place. He is considered the ultimate warrior, the son of a marriage between a God and a mortal. Incredibly brave, skilful with a number of weapons, he was almost unbeatable in the field of war, but he had his share of imperfections – he was believed to be arrogant in terms of temperament, and it was believed that his heel was fatally vulnerable (as per some legend, he was killed when an arrow struck him there). Everyone wanted to have Achilles in their army, such was his might, and yet everyone was wary of fighting alongside him because he could be harsh and unpredictable.

He cannot be controlled,” a Greek king is believed to have muttered when Nestor (who was known for his wisdom) advised him to include Achilles in his army.

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It has been almost a month since we have been using the Samsung Galaxy S10+, and the feeling we have is akin to that of a Greek general having fought alongside Achilles. There is a lot of awe and amazement, tinged with just a hint of frustration.

Samsung throws the design and spec kitchen sink…

For, there is just so much that is stunningly brilliant here. We had talked about the design and spec sheet in detail in our first cut of the device. To summarise and refresh your memory – the S10+ is the biggest and most powerfully specced of the first wave of S10 devices from Samsung. And well, it comes across as a top-notch premium Android device in terms of design, right from the curved glass, Infinity O AMOLED display that gently plunges over the sides and puts bezels to the sword, to the prism-effect back off which light reflects in different shades and patterns (we had the white unit and it looked incredibly good). For a phone with such a large display (6.4 inches) and packing in a 4100 mAh battery, it is incredibly compact (just 7.8 mm thin) and lightweight (175 grams). It remains dust and water resistant and comes with an IP68 rating.

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And well, being part of the iconic Galaxy S series, it comes with extremely high-end hardware (Exynos 9820 chip, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB storage expandable to 512 GB, was our model – and there is a 12 GB RAM and 1 TB variant too), three rear cameras (16 megapixel ultrawide, 12 megapixel telephoto and 12 megapixel sensor with alterable aperture), two front cameras (10 megapixel and 8 megapixel), a big 4100 mAh battery that not only supports quick charging that can also wirelessly charge supported devices placed on the back of the phone. There have been no corners cut anywhere – the phone has a special under display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, dual stereo speakers with support for Dolby Atmos, every connectivity option you would want in a modern Android flagship, and yes, even a 3.5 mm audio jack. Even the software – a point of criticism in Android phones in the past, has been made leaner and cleaner.

…with telling effect

The result of all that hardware and design goodness is a phone that is borderline phenomenal in terms of performance. Enough has been written about how good the displays on Samsung’s flagships are, and yet every new edition makes us scrabble around for new adjectives. We will keep it simple – in terms of brightness and colors, the S10+ has a terrific display, perhaps the best we have seen on the Android side of smartphones. Yes, the iPhone XS has more realistic color, but hey, if you want to feast your eyes on a display, make it this one.

Then there are the cameras. A manually alterable aperture, an ultra wide angle, a telephoto lens – the S10+ has all three. The result is a camera set up that is tailored to take just about any kind of shot you would like to take – from wide landscapes to close-ups to portraits (oh yes, there is a Live Focus mode for those who like to blur out backgrounds). The fact that all three cameras also have very high-quality sensors means that you are likely to get some outstanding shots in terms of detail and color. We got some really eye-popping snaps out of the cameras, and while the Pixel 3 might still be the Lord and Master of detail and low light mode with its single camera, there’s no doubt that the Galaxy S10+ runs it very close in those departments, and pretty much more than matches it in others. We are looking at a camera set up that is as good as any out there – it is smooth, speedy and borders on the brilliant in normal light conditions. In ultra wide mode, it is perhaps simply the best camera we have seen on a phone. Period. Video is quite superb too, although just a notch below that of the iPhone XS/XS Max.

(Click here for uncompressed Full Resolution versions of the below camera samples)

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A performance warrior

Of course, all that top-notch hardware onboard means that the S10+ is right in the beast zone when it comes to handling high-end games and multi-tasking. Be it the insane non-stop action of the Asphalt racing series or the tranquility of Alto’s Odyssey, the combination of that brilliant, edge to edge display and some excellent sound from those speakers means that you will get an unfettered, smooth experience. Yes, the phone did show signs of heating up when the going got really hectic but it seldom reached alarming dimensions. It hardly needs to be mentioned that the phone is capable of handling dozens of apps and multiple open Chrome tabs at the same time. In terms of performance, this is a flagship through and through.

Samsung-One-UI

Finally, there is the software and battery, two traditionally slippery points for the Galaxy S series. The S10+ is on very firm ground here. The 4100 mAh battery will see through a day of hefty use, charges very fast (we could charge the entire battery in well under two hours) and can also wirelessly charge certain devices that are placed on its back (although the speed is rather sluggish). Finally, there is the matter of software. Samsung’s One UI is a big step for the brand towards clearing up its rather cluttered Android UI. Yes, there is still app replication – Samsung has its own apps for mail, web browsing, notes, assistant (good old Bixby) and calendar, in spite of Google’s own options being available. But by and large, the UI looks cleaner and less intimidating. No, it is nowhere near perfect – the notifications panel by default has three panels, the camera app is way too complex (people still get confused at how and settings remains a bit of a minefield to make your way through – but unlike in the past, you do not get dazzled by bright hues and animations and all sorts of colors. The S10+’s UI is much more restrained and understated than Samsung’s past UI efforts and while we do not see it threatening the near-Stock-like experience of the likes of Oxygen OS (from OnePlus), it has the potential to go alongside the likes of EMUI and MIUI, especially if Samsung is consistent with its updates.

With a few chinks in the armor

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All of which should make the S10+ everything that you could wish for.

Well, it is.
Almost all the time.

For, while there is no doubting the sheer high level of brilliance the S10+ delivers across a number of fronts, it also cannot be denied that it stumbles at times too. Indeed, the excellence of its performance on most fronts tend to make its shortcomings even bigger than they are. The under display fingerprint scanner is the biggest sinner, being shockingly inconsistent, often asking us to place our fingers on it again and again, and sometimes asking us to “press harder”. Software updates have improved the scenario, but it still remains very sluggish – we are increasingly using face unlock for unlocking our device. The double punch hole notch is also a matter of contention. Yes, some people are making innovative wallpapers around it but its being located in the corner pushes the battery and network notifiers towards the center of the top and almost clutters it up – a notch in the center pretty much acts as a divider between the time and network/battery notification areas. But that could just be us – we incidentally totally love how the area around the notch glows when Face ID is working. The double notch also inevitably collects dust around it, on the display protector’s edges.

Similarly, the cameras though magnificent when in full flow can act a little oddly. Sometimes two shots taken one after the other look different. Sometimes colors that did not seem to exist come into the picture (we have seen yellow become light blue a tad too often) and well, we are still not convinced by Samsung’s low light handling (unlike some modern flagships, there is no dedicated night mode). It does cut down the noise but also seems to affect detail by smoothing out noise, making some part of the picture appear almost blotch-y. And while that display is magnificent, its tapering over the edges meant we accidentally kept triggering off apps while holding the phone – putting a case on it solved matters, though.

Are these deal breakers? Not by a mile. But their presence is irritating.

Very much the premium Android benchmark device!

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It is not perfect. It has flaws. Flaws which some might consider fatal considering the price point of the S10+. Our advice, however, is simple: if you want a premium Android device, this is definitely the one to go for.
By a country mile. It has everything. And then a bit more.

There will be those who will warn you about its shortcomings, and they are right to do so because whatever the S10+ is, it is certainly not the portrait of perfection. But we do think that its virtues outweigh its vices. By a margin that is massive. Yes, people will point to the likes of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Pixel 3 XL in striking range, and also point out that looming on the horizon is the camera-muscle-laden Huawei P30 Pro. There will be those who will say that the OnePlus 6T delivers a comparable performance on most parameters at a much lower price. All that is true. What is ALSO true, however, is that on a pure one to one basis, the S10+ is downright impossible to match in the Android world – that cocktail of display, cameras, design, and performance is a potent one. None of its shortcomings are dealbreakers. Not remotely.

Yes, Rs 73,900 is a stiff price tag but you are getting a lot for that money. A package that really cannot be easily matched. So should you buy the Galaxy S10+? If budget is not an issue and you want one of the most well-balanced Android flagships out there, definitely. Yes, you will have moments of frustration with it. But you will have far more moments of wonder.

Just for the record, Nestor’s reply to the Greek kind who was worried about Achilles was:

You do not control Achilles. You unleash him.

Ditto the S10+.

Buy Samsung Galaxy S10+

Pros
  • Eye catching design
  • Excellent display
  • Very good cameras
  • Superb performance
  • Good battery life (reverse charging too)
Cons
  • Fingerprint scanner is moody
  • Double punch notch can look odd
  • Can heat up a little
  • Cameras can be a little inconsistent
Review Overview
4.14
Overall Score
Build & Design
Performance
Camera
Software
Value for money