Samsung's S10+ is sexiest, best Galaxy yet: review

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 04 2019 10:57 AM

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Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

Samsung's Galaxy S10 Plus in 'prism green' color.ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- "Sexy" was a car enthusiast colleague's first reaction when he held Samsung's Galaxy S10+ for the first time. With subtle curves, an emerald tone yet understated paint job and the tiniest of bezels on a huge screen, it's gorgeous to look at.

It's the culmination of a design language that started with the Galaxy S6 range in 2015, when Samsung swapped cheap plastic and faux leather for glass. The world's largest smartphone maker also skipped the notch trend and crammed the front facing cameras into a hole cutout on the upper right corner of the screen. 

The S10+ also packs the best available innards for an early 2019 flagship, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 or Exynos 9820 depending on the market, 8 gigabytes of RAM, base storage starting at 128 gigabytes. In a first for a Samsung flagship, the S10+ has 3 cameras on the rear and 2 on the front. 

The S10+ is primed to go against the Huawei P30 Pro (we'll post a comparison soon) and late 2018 flagships like the Apple iPhone XS Max and Samsung's own Galaxy Note 9. We went hands on with the S10+ for a week for this review. 

DEFINITE STANDOUT 

With the "Infinity O" cutout, the S10+ stands out in a sea of smartphones that adopted the huge cutout started by Apple in 2017 with the iPhone X. It melts into Samsung's pre-installed wallpapers and is easy to ignore, especially when viewing in landscape with the phone's chin to your left. 

The "prism" finishes are also subtle. On the white version, the shiny metal frame almost makes the S10+ look like a silver iPhone XS when viewed from the side. The Bixby button lives for a third generation of S phones, for better or for worse. 

Audiophiles will be happy to note that Samsung is still a holdout for the 3.5 millimeter headphone jack, located at the bottom, left of the charging port. This despite heavy marketing for the company's Airpods competitor, the wireless Galaxy Buds.

A pair of AKG-tuned earbuds come in the box, as well as a hard clear plastic case. We wish Samsung included a soft case instead which is easier to put on and off and provides protection to the bottom of the phone, which is left exposed in the hard case. 

A plastic screen protector also comes pre-installed on the S10+'s 6.4-inch screen. Samsung makes the best smartphone panels and this one is no exception, with a resolution of 3040 x 1440 and 522 pixels per inch, more dense than 458 on the iPhone XS Max.

The curves on the side are more subtle compared to the S9, giving the S10+ a more rectangular instead of a pebble shape. From a design stamp, the curved sides now serve the purpose of making it appear that the display is floating in the hand. 

The edges of the screen can get too sensitive, however. There were times I thought the phone froze, when a portion of my palm was touching the display, preventing it from recognizing my thumb. This happened even with "accidental touch protection" was turned on in the settings.

For a huge phone, the S10+ feels lighter in the hand compared to the iPhone XS Max or the P30 Pro.

WELL-ROUNDED CAMERA

Samsung placed triple cameras on the S10+, allowing wide angle shooting, which is present on Huawei's P30 and Mate 20 series and absent from Apple's iPhones.

The camera interface is clean and easy to navigate. However the scene optimizer function is a bit slow and we found ourselves waiting for the blue pinwheel to stop spinning before the S10+ recognizes a scene.

Still, the S10+ takes bright and clear photos. Colors pop without looking too saturated, especially when taking food photos.

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A spread of Thai food is shown in this photo taken using the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News
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A close up photo of a mojito is shown in this photo taken using the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

The night mode brightens up evening shots, though lacking the detail on similar camera modes on the P30 Pro and the Google Pixel 3 XL.

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Office buildings are shown in this photo taken using night mode on the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Indoor and outdoor shots capture a great amount of detail, like in photos of Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris and the giant yellow bear centerpiece at the Doha Airport in Qatar.

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The Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris is shown in this photo taken using the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News
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The giant yellow bear at the Doha Airport in Qatar is shown in this photo taken using the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

The wide angle view however can get too distorted especially when shooting from a low point of view or when tilting the phone upwards.

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Office buildings at night are shown in this photo taken using wide angle mode on the Samsung Galaxy S10+. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

BUILT FOR GIANT SCREENS

The Galaxy S10+, S10 and S10e are the first Samsung phones with One UI over Android 9 Pie out of the box. The South Korean giant's overlay aims to navigating large screens easier by moving more controls to the bottom of the screen.

It's a cleaner aesthetic with round corners that absolves Samsung from the loud and garish Touchwiz skin in past handsets. The space-themed icons on S18 and S9 lines are gone, replaced by flat and simple ones still shaped like a "squircle."

Samsung is allowing gesture-based navigation, a welcome change, though swiping from the left side of the screen to go back as in other phones feels more natural instead of swiping upwards from the bottom sides on One UI.

Returning to the home screen from the app switcher, which is activated by swiping from the bottom center, will require another swipe up from the bottom center instead of just tapping on any portion of the screen.

SNAPPY PERFORMER

As expected from a premium phone from 2019, the S10+ breezes through tasks with ease. It remains to be seen how much of the speed it retains as it ages.

The S10+ addresses our biggest pain point with its predecessor, the S9. It's 4,100 mAh battery is more than enough to last a full day of heavy use.

The stereo speakers are loud and coupled with the nearly bezel-less display makes for a very immersive viewing experience. You will likely miss it when switching to phones that don't have this feature.

Samsung hyped the in-display fingerprint sensor, which was spotty in our initial tests, but improved greatly when we added a scan of the same finger but at a different angle.

It's a pity that despite two cameras on the front, the S10+'s face unlock feature is for better selfies not a more secure face unlock.

VERDICT: BEST GALAXY YET

Samsung needs the Galaxy S10 line to be a hit in order to jump start slowing sales and keep China's Huawei in the number 2 position and the S10+ is a step in that direction.

The Galaxy S10+ has the best display on a smartphone wrapped in a sexy yet understated shell. While not as feature packed as the competition, it has an excellent camera. It also has more than enough power for a day's worth of browsing, typing and streaming.

The S10+ is not a two-day phone, but it can last comfortably until the end of the day without having to whip our a power bank.

The S10+ is a solid choice for those looking for an Android phone that just works and works well. Consumers looking for more niche hardware, like photography or gaming, can look elsewhere.