Noel Campion finds something for everyone in the annually expanding Galaxy S line of smartphones
In the last few years, we’ve seen iterative updates to the top-of-the-range Galaxy S line from Samsung. This isn’t a criticism though, because each new device was a refinement on what was already an excellent smartphone. I’ve been testing the new Galaxy S10 Plus, that offers an array of new features and hardware that are distinct from last year’s S9.
Prices for the S10 Plus start at €1,019 for the 128GB model with 8GB RAM, going all the way up to €1,619 for the Ceramic Black or Ceramic White variants with 1TB of storage and 12GB RAM or €1,269 for the 512GB option.
Unfortunately, if you want one of the ceramic models there’s no ‘budget’ option in 128GB nor is there an option of 512GB or 1TB in the standard White, Black or Green colours. However, if the ‘standard’ 128GB isn’t enough storage for you, don’t panic, you can still upgrade this afterward with up to 512GB of microSD card storage.
At the launch of the Galaxy S10 line, Samsung was proud to celebrate that this was their 10th anniversary of the Galaxy S line, which launched in 2010.
In that time, the screen has gone from a 4-inch to a 6.4-inch in size. Each year, Samsung tweak their display and the Galaxy S10 Plus has managed to improve again on what was already class leading.
The new display is a 6.4-inch, Quad HD+ AMOLED with tiny bezels with a new hole-punch for the dual cameras to disrupt the flow of the display in the top right corner.
This is the first time that Samsung has produced a display with a notch, or rather a notch of sorts to allow the screen to fill the entire front of the device and it looks gorgeous. There’s still a small chin and despite it housing a speaker grill, the forehead is slightly smaller.
The display is simply stunning and super bright. You still get those beautifully vivid colours and super sharp text along with an incredible 1200nits of brightness at its maximum output.
Samsung calls this display the Infinity-O, which more aptly suits the Galaxy 10 as it has a single camera rather than the S10 Plus’s dual setup. I love big phones and the S10 Plus, despite the small bezels, is big. However, it feels great in my hands and light for its size.
The only issue I’ve had in using it though is that my hand inadvertently touches the edges of the display causing unforced touches. This can be frustrating and annoying but didn’t happen so often that it became a big deal. That being said, it’s the first time I noticed this on a Galaxy device despite all of the edge displays they’ve had.
The hole-punch design, that houses two front-facing cameras are forgettable. By that I mean you forget they’re there very quickly in everyday use. The only time I found it difficult to ignore them is when you zoom in on videos on YouTube or Netflix where they are apparent.
The new dual front-facing cameras now have Live Focus selfies that offer those lovely background blur effects that can be adjusted after you take the shot. You can adjust the amount of blur and add effects like blur spin, zoom or colour point (spot colour). You can also post directly to Instagram from the camera app.
On the rear of the S10 Plus is a new triple-camera setup. This consists of a 12MP wide-angle camera with OIS adjustable f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures from last year’s S9. Beside this are the all-new 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, 0.5x sensor and a 2x, 12MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture. This combination of lenses makes the S10 Plus a killer camera setup offering incredible flexibility. The camera app has also been overhauled to take advantage of the new hardware and makes the process of taking pictures a pleasure. In particular, I love the new ultra-wide angle lens for architectural or landscape photos but equally, I love the 2x zoom for getting close to the action or cropping in on details.
Low light photos look great, but Samsung doesn’t offer an alternative to Huawei’s Night shot or Google’s Pixel 3 Night Sight options. Perhaps this will come in an update at a later date. However, Samsung has upped their AI game and the S10 can now suggest the best compositions.
You also get things like super stead shot, that combines OIS with software-based stabilisation. This makes for a really steady image, but the downside is that the image is massively cropped in and the quality degrades, especially in low light.
The S10 Plus produces some of the best images you’ll get from a smartphone. It also offers some of the best set of video features including 4K at 60fps and super slow motion capture at 960fps.
The new ultrasonic fingerprint scanner on the S10 Plus is found under the display. This is a more convenient placement for most situations, but I had terrible trouble with this initially. I found it totally unusable despite my best efforts it just wouldn’t work reliably.
Eventually, I gave up and just used face unlock and a PIN. However, a couple of weeks later, I decided to give it another go and deleted my original fingerprints and replaced them with new scans. This time they worked and now I find it great. I reckon a recent update fixed an issue, but needless to say the problem isn’t a problem anymore.
The Galaxy S10 Plus comes with a massive 4,100mAh battery that is good enough to keep even heavy users going for an entire day. You still get fast charging and wireless charging, but additionally, you now have Power Share. This allows you to use the S10 Plus as a wireless charging pad for small devices like the new Galaxy Buds. In theory, you could use this to charge another phone but the practice it’s too slow.
For those who still care about it, the S10 Plus has a 3.5mm headphone jack. You also have water and dust resistance rating IP68. You also still get a good stereo sound setup, Dolby Atmos, and a dedicated Bixby button that can be re-mapped. Here in Europe, you get the latest 8 core, Exynos 9820 processor running Android 9 Pie.
While it’s not inexpensive, the S10 Plus has been ten years in the making and is the most refined and complete Galaxy S to date.