Hands on: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G review

Samsung supersizes the future

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Early Verdict

The Galaxy S10 5G is a smartphone for early adopters – those who are willing to grab a new technology with both hands, and don’t mind paying for the privilege. The huge display is great for videos and gaming, but it may not realize its full potential for months.

For

  • Screen great for video and games
  • Ready for the first 5G networks

Against

  • Likely to be very expensive
  • Difficult to hold one-handed

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G gives us a glimpse of the future. It may not be a game-changing design like the iPhone XS or, indeed, Samsung’s own foldable phone, but what’s on the inside of the supersized S10 5G should have you excited.

It’s not just about the connectivity though, as you’ll also find a huge display, big battery, plenty of storage and four rear cameras rounding out this behemoth of a mobile.

While it was announced alongside the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus and S10e, the Galaxy S10 5G won’t be available in early March with its siblings; instead you’ll have to wait for mobile providers to put their 5G networks live in your region.

It means you’re likely still months away from getting to try out the phone, but we’ve been fortunate enough to get hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to bring you our initial thoughts.

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G release date and price

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G release date is nothing more exact than the expectation of “summer” (potentially sometime between June and September) coming from Samsung.

As for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G price, it hasn’t been announced – but we fully expect it to be sky-high.

Considering the Galaxy S10 Plus starts at $999 / £899 (about AU$1,398) for the 8GB/128GB variant, the S10 5G will almost certainly go for more given its bigger screen, double the storage, four rear cameras and 5G support.

It could get a staggered release around the world too, becoming available as and when 5G networks are switched on, region by region – we’ll update this article with more availability and pricing information as we get it.

Design and display

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G specs

 Weight: 198g
Dimensions: 162.6 x 77.1 x 7.94mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6.7-inch
Resolution: QHD+
CPU: Octa-core chipset
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 4,500mAh
Rear camera: 16MP+12MP+12MP+3D
Front camera: 10MP+3D 

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is a big, big phone, which is unsurprising considering its 6.7-inch display.

That said, at 162.6 x 77.1mm it’s only fractionally wider and taller than the Galaxy Note 9 and Note 8, which had 6.4-inch and 6.3-inch screens respectively, while at 7.94mm the Galaxy S10 5G is thinner than both, despite packing a larger battery.

Take that into account and the Galaxy S10 5G is surprisingly compact for the amount of screen real estate you’ll enjoy. Sure, those with smaller palms will struggle to hold it one-handed, but it’s not as overbearing as you might expect.

It’s no heavier than the previous Note handsets either, tipping the scales at 198g; that isn’t exactly light for a smartphone, but again, considering the size it’s acceptable.

The power key is located on the right of the handset, and is reasonably easy to reach, while the volume rocker sits above the Bixby key on the left, with the latter giving you quick access to Samsung’s digital assistant.

We weren’t able to put the latest version of Bixby through its paces during our hands-on time with the Galaxy S10 5G, as the handset was in airplane mode and was locked, so you’ll have to wait for our full review to find out how it performs.

On the base of the S10 5G there’s a welcome addition to one side of the centrally-placed USB-C port: a headphone jack. The 3.5mm port allows you to plug in your traditional set of headphones without the need for a fiddly adapter that’s easily lost/left at home.

Shifting your attention to the mammoth display, you’ll notice the 6.74-inch, 19:9 AMOLED screen is big, bright and sporting a ‘punch-hole’ camera block in the top-right corner.

It’s the biggest punch-hole on any of the new S10 handsets, making it the most noticeable as well. It technically sits in the notification bar, though, so it’s unlikely to cause an issue during general usage.

The only times we see it potentially getting in the way are during video playback and gaming, although we weren’t able to test either during our hands-on time with the Galaxy S10 5G.

The screen has a QHD+ resolution, providing pin-sharp visuals, and during our time staring at the lock screen and using the camera we didn’t experience any obvious issues with it.

The display also curves over the edges of the handset, creating the familiar, futuristic finish we’ve become accustomed to on Samsung’s flagship phones.

Embedded within the screen is an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, which enables a clean design on the rear of the Galaxy S10 5G – slight camera bump aside – and Samsung claims the scanner will work even if your fingers are wet or cold.

Camera

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is the only S10 handset to boast four rear cameras, and it’s only the second device from the brand to pack this number (the other being the Galaxy A9 2018).

The first three cameras are identical to the triple-sensor setups on the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, with a main 12MP variable-aperture camera, a 16MP 123-degree ultrawide snapper, and a 12MP telephoto lens – you can read more about these three cameras in our Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus hands-on reviews.

It’s the fourth camera on the Galaxy S10 5G which is the most interesting: a hQVGA 3D depth-sensing camera, also known as a time-of-flight camera.

Time-of-flight (TOF) cameras aren’t new, and we’ve seen them used by Apple in the iPhone X onwards, while the LG G8 ThinQ is also confirmed to pack this type of sensor.

What TOF provides is detailed, accurate depth sensing, which is helpful for face recognition, 3D imaging, VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). Combined with 5G network speeds in this handset, the technology opens up a vast array of new VR and AR experiences which simply aren’t possible on 4G phones.

It can also help to optimize the photos taken by the other cameras, providing better background blurring in Samsung’s ‘Live Focus’ portrait mode. 

What’s more, you also get a hQVGA 3D depth-sensing camera on the front of the phone, alongside the same 10MP camera found on the other S10 handsets. If you’ve not been keeping up, that takes the total camera count on the Galaxy S10 5G to six.

The Galaxy S10 5G we got hands-on with was secured with a screen lock that Samsung wouldn’t let us through, but we were able to jump into the camera app from the lockscreen.

It’s easy to use, and jumping between the main lens and the wider sensors is quick and easy thanks to an on-screen toggle. Moving all the way to the ultra-wide sensor, we were impressed by just how much of our surroundings the Galaxy S10 5G was able to see.

Shutter speeds were fast, and the Live Focus background blur mode provides a live blur effect before you hit the shutter button, which does an excellent job of separating your in-focus subject from their background.

We weren’t able to fully test all six cameras on the S10 5G during our limited time with the handset, however, so you’ll have to wait for our in-depth review to see how they perform.

Battery

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G comes with a huge 4,500mAh battery – which, when you think about it, isn’t a surprise.

There’s that massive QHD+ display to run, along with a heap of power under the hood and 5G connectivity – all things that will take their toll on the battery.

Samsung claims the Galaxy S10 5G will be able to last for 24 hours on a single charge, but you’ll have to wait for our full review to see if that’s the case.

The S10 5G can be charged wirelessly, with support for Samsung Fast Wireless Charging 2.0 technology enabling you to top it up in an efficient manner. 

Like the other S10 handsets, the S10 5G also comes with Wireless PowerShare, which lets you wirelessly charge other Qi-compatible devices (including iPhones!) by placing them on the rear of the Samsung.

This means you can plug the S10 5G into the mains via a cable, and then effectively use it as a wireless charging pad for other devices, such as the Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Buds, and other phones you or your friends/family may have.

It isn’t an overly fast way of charging other devices, but it does mean you only need one power outlet and charging cable.

Specs and performance

There’s plenty of power crammed inside the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, with a high-end octa-core processor joined by 8GB of RAM to keep Android 9 Pie ticking over nicely.

As we’ve mentioned, we weren’t able to unlock the Galaxy S10 5G we got hands-on with, so we are unable to assess how this particular phone performs.

That said, it’s the same power setup as in the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, two handsets we were able to use more extensively, so the differences between them should be minimal, and Samsung’s Android overlay should provide a smooth, slick experience, with fast load times and no sign of lag.

You also get a generous 256GB of storage inside the Galaxy S10 5G, and if that still isn’t enough space for all your 5G downloading habits there’s a microSD slot supporting cards up to 512GB in size. 

Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G probably won’t take the world by storm, but it lays important foundations for the future of mobile.

Its huge screen, and abundant power and storage, will likely appeal to power users keen to get aboard the 5G hype train as early as possible, but for most consumers the standard S10 and S10 Plus represent better buys.

Even if 5G does come to your region this year, the likelihood is that coverage will be limited to major cities, while as we’ve mentioned this handset (and others like it) will be expensive, as will the 5G plan you’ll need to commit to in order to make the most of its 5G capabilities.

It’s going to be at least a year before 5G becomes anything like widespread, with consistent coverage and speeds, and by then there will be newer 5G phones on the market.

Not only that, but by the time the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G hits stores later this year we may already be seeing discounts on the rest of the S10 line.

All images credit: TechRadar

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.