Business Technology

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Samsung's Galaxy S10+ is all about incredible screen

Tech review: Samsung Galaxy S10+

Samsung’s new Galaxy S10+
Samsung’s new Galaxy S10+
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

It's all about the screen. I thought the biggest thing I'd appreciate about Samsung's new Galaxy S10+ was the third ultrawide-angle camera on the back. But after a week using it, the biggest upgrade turns out to be its display.

Samsung has increased the screen-to-phone ratio to 93pc, very nearly the entire front of the handset. It means you get a gorgeous, super-high definition 6.4-inch screen in a frame that fits more easily in your pocket and is slightly easier to operate one-handed.

Samsung has done this in two ways. First, the fingerprint reader is now no longer a button (either front or back) but sits 'ultrasonically' under the screen. Second, Samsung punched two small holes in the top right hand of the display for the cameras, rather than having them sit up there separate to the screen.

While some may crib about the flow of the display being disrupted (when watching a video, for example) because of this 'punched' hole, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. And we need to mention the quality of that screen. It's pretty incredible. Technically, it has a maximum brightness of 1,200 nits, which makes it really robust in outdoor sunshine. But the colours positively sizzle on this device. (If you're trying one out, pick any HDR video on YouTube to see what I mean.)

It looks gorgeous too. Physical aesthetics are an underrated feature in phone design. Apple has always understood their importance with devices like the iPhone 4 and the metal on the iPhone Xs. Here, the overall look and feel of the S10+ is gorgeous. The back of the phone comes in a choice of either ceramic or 'prismatic' finishes. My test model is the latter, giving off a pearlescent hue.

This is also the lightest large-screen phone I've used in some time. That matters, too, especially when you carry it in a pocket. (The S10's corners are also more rounded than, for example, its Note 9 device. This is helpful in not shredding pocket lining.)

Long-time readers will know that I value a phone's cameras highly. The S10+ adds something hugely useful - an ultrawide lens. That means you can now shoot at the regular (26mm), 2x optical zoom (52mm) and new ultrawide (12mm) focal lengths. And at any point in-between.

The quality and resolution of those rear cameras (12 megapixels except for the 16-megapixel ultrawide lens) is exceptional. DxOMark, which is used as a metric for phone camera quality, rates the S10+ camera at 109, its joint-highest.

If I have one slight niggle, it's that the 12mm ultrawide lens may actually be a little too wide: in my testing so far, the photos from it aren't quite as sharp as the 16mm ultrawide lens on Huawei's Mate 20 Pro. I also miss a proper HDR night mode, which Huawei's top cameraphones have, as well as Google's (otherwise bland) Pixel 3.

But otherwise, this is a top cameraphone. Samsung has added a second front-facing camera to add nice depth of field to selfies.

The Galaxy S10+ has one of the biggest batteries on the market, at 4,100mAh. In general, this has seen me through a heavy day's usage, although Samsung's power optimisation isn't quite as good as Apple's - the Xs Max, which has a much smaller battery, lasts almost as long with the same usage patterns. That said, under the hood is a very beefy engine with 8GB of Ram in my test unit. While mine has 128GB of storage, it actually comes with up to 1,000GB of internal memory, expandable to a whopping 1,512GB if a memory card is added. There is also a constituency that will be delighted that Samsung has decided retain the 3.5mm headphone jack.

If I was to pick a downside, it's that Samsung has ditched facial recognition as a primary unlocking mechanism. This is a pity as, on the S9 and Note 9, it had just become somewhat reliable.

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