review

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite Review: No Liteweight, this

Getting into Never Settling land onboard a Snappy Dragon

Its name might seem to indicate that it is a slightly lighter version of the Galaxy S10 launched last year, but the Galaxy S10 Lite is a very different phone from that flagship. As we mentioned in our initial impressions of the device, it has a very different design language from the S10 series, coming with a “glastic” back and a rectangular camera unit on the back. It is a reasonably decent looking device but not a dazzler (or dust and water-resistant) like the original S10, but then it does have a special ace up its sleeve – it runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor rather than an Exynos chip. And it comes at a price that is surprisingly affordable by Galaxy S standards.

The big question of course is: how does all this add up?

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: The cameras are very good, but…

The Galaxy S10 Lite has been positioned as a very strong camera phone – “Welcome to the Pro-grade cameras” is its tagline – and to be honest, we think it does the device a bit of an injustice. No, this is not to run down the camera performance of the device. The three cameras – the 48-megapixel main sensor, the 12 megapixel ultrawide and the 5-megapixel macro – turn in a very good performance indeed. And all things considered, we could easily call them among the best cameras we have used in the sub-Rs 40,000 price segment. Colors might have seemed a little less “poppy” by Samsung standards, but we got a lot of detail in still images.

Low light performance was a little mixed though, perhaps because of the relatively smaller aperture (f/2.0 is the largest of the three cameras, which is a far cry from the F/1.8 and f/1.7 apertures we have seen on other cameras). Some images captured light and shade very well indeed, but sometimes we felt that dark shots were “lightened up” too aggressively, giving a slightly yellow shade to them. Samsung had claimed that the main sensor had been mounted on an almost gimbal-like system to give it extra steadiness and well, we must confess that while we could not tell the difference from a regular OIS set up, the video was impressively steady. Slightly better audio quality would have helped, though – there are three microphones on the device including a zoom-in microphone, but the sound quality remains behind what we have seen on the iPhone and even the S10 and Note 10. On the flip side, Samsung has thrown in a number of video editing options, including speed adjustment, options to add subtitles and screen transition effects. This is a phone that clearly has the vlogging crowd in its sights.

[Click here for high-resolution pictures]

The front-facing camera is a 32 megapixel one, and although it does share its contemporaries’ tendency to over smoothen and brighten skin if left on default mode (and even if effects are turned off), it is definitely good enough to stand alongside other shooters in the segment. Portrait mode or ‘Live Focus’, as Samsung chooses to call it, generally turned in good results, even in videos! A few edges do get missed out from time to time, but notwithstanding what the presentations say, we do not expect DSLR level bokeh here! If there is a slight let down, it is in the macro lens, which does allow us to get some very good close-ups but seems to have no autofocus, which is surprising.

At the end of it all, there is no doubt that the S10 Lite possesses formidable camera muscle. But given the level of competition out there, it is not a runaway winner. Others like the Realme X2 Pro and the OnePlus 7T can give it a run for its money, and actually, we think its Lite cousin, the Galaxy Note 10 Lite outperforms it (but that is another review!) In this department. These are definitely very cameras, but as to what makes the S10 Lite really shine, ah… check the next section.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: …the overall performance is the star

For us, the real highlight of the Galaxy S10 Lite was well, its overall performance. The phone’s 6.7-inch full HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity-O display might not be as amazingly brilliant as on its Lite-less counterpart, but it is one of the best in the segment, a clear notch above what OnePlus and Realme offer. The punch hole notch in the center is reasonably unobtrusive but we love the expanse of very good display we got to see. This is a display that is amazing for games and videos, as well as routine web browsing, social networking and the like. The sound department is a slight let down, as there is only one speaker at the base (which is loud enough but nothing special) and the phone has no 3.5 mm audio jack, but then we are entering the wireless earphone era.

Which brings us to the real forte of the phone. The S10 Lite works like a real flagship out there. Yes, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 powering it has since been superseded by the 855+ and the 865, but unless you are someone who is looking to bust benchmarks, the 855 (allied with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB onboard storage, which is expandable to a massive 1 TB) packs in enough punch to handle everything – and we mean everything – that you throw at it. From PUBG and Call of Duty to running multiple apps or dozens of tabs on Chrome, everything runs very smoothly on the S10 Lite, totally contradicting that “Lite” tag attached to the device.

Make no mistake about it, this is very much a heavyweight in the performance department. And it is a performance that can go on for a significant amount of time, thanks to a 4500 mAh battery (bigger than the 4100 mAh one we saw on the S10+), which is capable of seeing off more than a day of normal usage. And it charges very briskly too, with a 25 W charger in the box, and support for a 45W one besides. You can charge the phone from zero to full capacity in a little over an hour, which is very impressive indeed.

Top that all off with Samsung’s relatively less cluttered One UI 2.0 on top of Android 10, with a number of neat touches, ranging from smarter messaging to support for Knox, Samsung’s security layer. No, we still are not the greatest fans of One UI, but it represents a huge leap forward for Samsung and we really appreciate the brand’s endeavor to come up with a feature-rich and yet relatively clean Android UI.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: A sub-Rs 40,000 contender

At its price of Rs 39,999, the Galaxy S10 Lite is a formidable proposition. Yes, there will some spec merchants who will point out that the Lite does not have the sort of cameras and design that the S10 had and there will be others who will say that the Snapdragon 855 is now a little dated. None of that, however, can detract from the fact that the Galaxy S10 Lite is a very good performer. Good enough to make those thinking of investing in “budget flagships” think twice. Samsung has got into the budget flagship pricing zone in the past – most notably with the A-series – but this is the first time it has gone into battle with specs to match and very few compromises. The result is a device that stands out on virtually all parameters – this is not a phone you are going to flaunt, but one that you are going to use. Again. And again. Because it just works. And in our books, that is what flagships are about.

How does the S10 Lite compare with the OnePlus 7T? We will tell you shortly. But as of now, if you are looking at a flagship-level device from an “established brand” (hey, the likes of Xiaomi, OnePlus and Realme together have not got as many years as Samsung has!), the S10 Lite is a magnificent option. Indeed, perhaps even the best one.

Yes, even with the Galaxy S20 series on the horizon.

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Buy Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite on Samsung.com

Pros
  • Smooth performance
  • Very good cameras
  • Excellent display
  • Good battery life
Cons
  • Slightly dull design
  • No dust and water resistance
  • No 3.5 mm audio jack
Review Overview
Build & Design
Performance
Camera
Software
Price
SUMMARY

Samsung has tried to break into the budget flagship segment more than a few times, most notably with the A series of devices. However, the Galaxy S10 Lite represents perhaps its most ambitious attempt to get into OnePlus-land. The phone itself bears little resemblance to the original S10, but its performance could unsettle some people. Pun intended.

4.0