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Hands on: Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite review

An even more budget flagship

What is a hands on review?
Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite
(Image: © TechRadar)

For

  • Lower-cost flagship specs
  • Larger battery is a serious advantage
  • Macro lens is neat

Against

  • Debatable overlap with S10e/A-series
  • Uncertain value

If the Samsung Galaxy S10 was a bit pricey for you, the phonemaker has an alternative: the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite, a trimmed-down version with a few surprising extras that justify releasing another 'affordable flagship'.

It’s a bit of a strange move, given that Samsung released the Samsung Galaxy S10e last year as a lower-priced yet slimmer-featured version of the S10. But it looks like Samsung is pitching the Galaxy S10 Lite at a slightly different audience: one which wants flagship size and speed at an even lower price, and is willing to compromise a bit more to get there.

That compromise is one of timing - the S10 Lite, conceivably, is to pack last year’s specs into an early 2020 phone that might be quickly surpassed when the new Galaxy S11 line comes out. Even so, the S10 Lite packs enough flagship goodies to earn the right to be a Galaxy S-series phone.

Price and release date

Pre-orders for the S10 Lite have now gone live in the UK costing £579. That means it a decent amount lower than the S10e making it a more viable 'cheap' handset from Samsung. Other countries are likely to follow soon with pre-orders.

However, judging by the UK, you can expect to pay a decent amount less than the S10e which launched at a retail price of $749 / £669 / AU$1,199 / AED2,699. 

The bigger question will be which countries the phone will launch in, which Samsung also hasn't announced. If, as we suspect, there's a version of the phone with a Snapdragon 855 chipset, that suggests the phone will come to the US, as Samsung phones released there typically use Snapdragon processors.

It's possible there will also be a version of the device with an Exynos chipset, likely the Exynos 9820 as in the Galaxy S10, and that this version will come out in European countries; then again, it's also possible that the handset will use a Snapdragon chipset worldwide, as is the case with budget Samsung devices such as the Galaxy A series.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design and display

The S10 Lite goes even further in the direction of 'affordable flagship' with its design, which is less premium than the existing S-series phones. 

Aside from being larger than the S10 and even the S10 Plus (it's actually the same size as the lesser-spotted S10 Plus 5G), the S10 Lite’s most notable difference is that it swaps the horizontal rear camera strip for a solid rectangular lens block, a la the Google Pixel 4.

That 6.7-inch AMOLED screen is crisp, and large for an S-series phone, though it’s only Full HD+ resolution (2400 x 1080). Like the S10e, the S10 Lite ditches the pricier S10 phones’ curved ‘waterfall’ edges for a flat screen.

The front is also broken up by a punch-hole for the front-facing camera, but it’s much smaller this time around, and it’s in the center of the display rather than at the top-right. 

All in all, the phone looks like a simplified version of last year's Samsung S10 Plus, but with a few luxury touches filed down, resulting in mid-range phone looks.

Cameras

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite does have three cameras in its rear suite, but instead of adding the telephoto lens that the S10e was missing, the new phone goes in a different direction, offering a 5MP Macro lens for up-close photography (flowers, bugs, and so on).

This positions the S10 Lite even more as a device developed in response to feedback from consumers who conceivably want to shoot wider and closer-in, not from further away. 

The main lens has been boosted to a 48MP shooter with Super Steady OIS, too, but don't let that impressive-sounding megapixel count fool you – the size of the individual pixels here may well be smaller, negating any potential benefit.

The front-facing camera has been upgraded to 32MP, though we’ll have to see whether that translates into sharper photos.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Performance and battery

The Galaxy S10 Lite packs respectable specs that nonetheless won’t outdo the flagships of 2020, which is fine for its intended audience. 

It packs what we believe to be the Snapdragon 855 chipset that's featured in the top Android phones of 2019. 

Likewise, the 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage should be fine for watching movies, playing games, taking photos and browsing the internet. 

The real standout here is the battery: it's an impressive 4,500mAh, which outdoes even the S10 Plus’ 4,100mAh capacity. 

This isn’t necessarily due to technological improvements given that the S10 Lite is a physically larger phone, but any larger capacity is better.

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Early verdict

It’s hard to tell whether the Galaxy S10 Lite’s combination of new features and big-phone appeal will be worth the price without knowing the, er, price. There’s also the question of whether the upcoming Galaxy S11 series will get its own affordable ‘e’ version, which could undercut a lot of the S10 Lite’s appeal if the two phones come with a similar price tag.

But Samsung’s efforts to bring the S-series flagship specs to a broader audience by trimming some of the flashier elements could pay off, especially in markets that shy from the skyrocketing price tags of the top-tier Samsung handsets. The S10 Lite looks like it could be pitched as a capable phone that's priced to rival the cheaper beastly flagships coming out of China, yet retains the Samsung brand’s polished reputation. 

It's also, however, a phone with an appeal that overlaps that of the S10e and the higher-specced Samsung Galaxy A-series of phones. We anticipate that the S10 Lite's identity will be embodied by its large size and lower cost, but unless Samsung strategically chooses to limit regional availability of its two 'lite' phones, the S10 Lite, as good as it is, might get lost in the mix.

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What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.