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Display

Samsung’s screens are so good "our competitors are even using them", Samsung brand manager Paul Guzek told TechRadar, an all-too-obvious dig at Apple. It's hard to disagree.

In fact, the Galaxy S10's 6.1-inch 19:9 Super AMOLED display panel looks better than anything Samsung sells its rivals, and it's been crowned the most color accurate smartphone display ever.

It has elegantly curved edges with pixels that spill over the sides, amped-up brightness for better outdoor visibility, and HDR10+ support for superior contrast and color.

There's a QHD+ resolution too, which creates a pixel density of 550ppi, ensuring everything on screen is highly detailed. However, the phone defaults to Full HD+, which looks as good and you probably won't notice a difference on a phone this size, unless you're using it for VR two inches from your face. It also saves battery life by burning fewer pixels.

The new Infinity-O display type is what stands out – for better or worse. Samsung has successfully avoided a notch cut-out at the top of its flagship phones, instead using a laser-cut hole in the top-right corner of the screen to embed the front-facing camera, as on the Honor View 20.

Is a 'punch-hole' camera more or less distracting than a notch? From our time with the Galaxy S10 so far, we'd say less. It sits comfortably to the right in the notification bar, providing plenty of space for the time, battery and connectivity icons, as well as any notifications you may have.

It’s also given Samsung more screen real estate to play with than ever, and don’t let the bigger 6.1-inch screen size scare you off. 

The S10’s dimensions are 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm (and it weighs 157g), so it’s only marginally taller and wider than the S9 with its 5.8-inch screen, and noticeably thinner and a bit lighter.

Those marginal increases in height and width are due to the S10’s screen-to-body ratio of 93.1% (the S9 was 83.6%). The S10 Plus sports that 6.4-inch screen with the same screen-to-body ratio and a nice size if you can handle it. However, if you're wary of false corner touches (especially when typing) due to the bezel-less edges, stick with the normal S10.

Samsung Galaxy S10 review

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Bezel does outline the top and bottom of this display, even if we said it wasn’t big. Samsung’s top speaker still reigns, and there’s a thin but noticeable chin across the bottom; it’s less bezel rather than bezel-less. 

And the fact that the bottom bezel is larger than the top one catches our eye – it may be more distracting than the punch-hole.

There’s little to dislike regarding the new display – if the Infinity-O doesn’t distract day-to-day, and as mentioned we’ll update this review when we have more hands-on time with the S10.

Design

Samsung Galaxy S10 review

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You’re not going to be overly surprised by the rest of the Samsung Galaxy S10 design, though there are a few notable enhancements, two hidden surprises, and an old classic here.

Its thinner aluminum frame is sandwiched between smooth glass, with the back coming in your choice of color: Flamingo Pink, Prism Black, Prism Blue, Prism White, Canary Yellow and Prism Green. Samsung Galaxy S10 colors will vary by region, with the US getting all but yellow and green.

There’s the smallest of camera bumps on the back, housing the triple-lens camera array, while we saw no signs of Samsung’s invisible reverse wireless charging module below this. It’s a particularly clean look in a world of camera bumps and rear-fingerprint sensors.

We had no difficulty activating Samsung’s Wireless PowerShare feature after turning it on via the quick settings notification shade. We placed our Galaxy Buds case on the lower third of the S10 back and the earbuds began charging almost instantly. It even charged our iPhone XS Max.

Samsung laid out two scenarios in which Wireless PowerShare would be helpful: charging a friend’s phone, or charging your Galaxy Buds at night, effectively making your plugged-in S10 a mobile Qi charger pad. Samsung noted, though, that PowerShare won’t work when the phone is below 30%.

Possibly the best bit about the Samsung Galaxy S10 though is its size. As we've already mentioned, it measures 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8mm, and considering the size of the screen is nestles surprisingly well in the palm.

View our Samsung Galaxy S10 hands-on gallery

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It's possible to use the S10 one-handed, with the curved edges on the front and rear helping to give the effect that the phone is narrower than it actually is.

That said, the glass and metal body doesn't offer up a huge amount of grip, so if you're accident prone we'd recommend picking up a case - even if it's just a slim silicon job - to provide extra traction in your hand.

Also invisible – this time around the front – is the fingerprint sensor. While a lot of Android phones have used a rear-facing fingerprint sensor, Samsung stuck with the front-facing physical sensor pad all the way up to the Galaxy S7. 

So the switch to the back felt foreign on Samsung phones – but it’s come back to the front in the S10, this time tucked underneath the glass.

This is an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, different from the optical sensors on the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro, for example. 

Samsung uses Qualcomm-backed tech that’s said to be better, and more secure, by making a 3D scan of your print, plus it'll work if your fingers are wet or cold - two scenarios optical scanners struggle with. 

Samsung Galaxy S10 review

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It works reasonably well, but it's not a fast as an optical fingerprint scanner. You won't be left waiting - it still takes less than a second to read, register and unlock the S10, but it lacks the zip of scanners not embedded in the display.

There also seems to be a slightly higher failure rate too. You need to be precise with your finger placement, and you'll need to apply a little pressure for it to work. It takes a little getting used to, but things do improve.

And here’s a welcomed classic that hasn’t changed since the first S phone a decade ago: the 3.5mm headphone jack. 

Samsung is one of the few phone makers that includes the standard headphone jack in 2019 – and it’s doing it despite introducing the wireless Galaxy Buds and reducing the thickness of the Galaxy S10.

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.