Alex Kidman was the tech and telco editor at Finder and is now a freelance technology writer. He's been a technology writer with experience spanning more than 20 years, writing and editing at Gizmodo, CNET, PC Magazine, Kotaku and many more. Alex has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New England and a serious passion for retro gaming.
Side-mounted fingerprint sensor can be tricky to hit
Bixby button is an annoyance
One of the most common questions we hear from consumers is around why you just can't get a good, powerful but above all small smartphone any more.
Sure, there's the Pixel 3 (and now the Pixel 3a), but beyond Google's in-house efforts there's really not that many options. Samsung's Galaxy S10e joins the crowd of smaller-sized handsets, providing plenty of power and a generally decent camera, although like its larger siblings, battery stamina is a genuine concern.
Bright and clear 5.8-inch display
Single hole-punch front camera
Side-mounted fingerprint sensor
Samsung persists with the Bixby button
The Galaxy S10e features a similar design to the Galaxy S10, with a single "hole-punch" style camera design sitting on the upper right-hand side of the Galaxy S10e. It's also available in Australia in the same colour range, with a choice of Prism Black, Prism White or Prism Green. I've tested with the Prism Green variant, and it's a genuinely nice colour. We don't see too many green handsets land here in Australia, so it also stands out nicely in the premium space.
The Samsung Galaxy S10e features the smallest display screen of the Galaxy S10 family at just 5.8 inches compared to the Galaxy S10's 6.1 inches and the Galaxy S10+'s 6.4-inch display. It's rocking a full HD+ resolution with a 19:9 aspect ratio. That's not as , which isn't quite as sharp as its more-expensive siblings but is still quite respectable. It does mean that, unlike its bigger siblings there's no punching around resolution choices to enhance visuals or save battery life.
The Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ both feature in-glass ultrasonic fingerprint sensors, but that's not a feature you'll find on the Galaxy S10e. Before you panic and figure that Samsung's left it in the rear-mounted-always-smudges-the-lens position as with the S9 series, I should point out that it's instead borrowed a trick from Sony. Sony's fingerprint sensors used to be side-mounted on the power button, and that's what the S10e does.
It's a solution that works, but it did take me quite a while to get used to where it was, and it's definitely slower and infinitely less cool than unlocking the phone with your finger on the front screen.
Samsung is increasingly going it alone with its dedication to including a full 3.5mm headphone jack in its phones. On the Galaxy S10e you'll find it at the bottom of the phone, next to the USB C charging port. While the power and fingerprint sensor rest on the right hand side, on the left you'll find volume buttons and Samsung's own Bixby button. That's used to invoke the Bixby assistant, and like the other Samsung phones it's been place on, Samsung is rather keen that this is all it'll do. Almost inevitably, you will hit it when you don't want to. If you're like me, you'll probably also swear at Bixby when you do.
16MP/12MP Dual-camera array at the rear is decent, but not great
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the lowest-cost member of the Galaxy S10 family, and apart from screen size, the chief way it's kept costs low -- or if you're cynical, kept the best goodies for the higher-priced models -- is by giving it a lesser camera solution.
Where the flagships get triple (ultra-wide, wide and telephoto) lens arrays at the rear, the Galaxy S10e simply gets a dual lens set. At the rear of the Galaxy S10e you'll find a 12MP f/2.4 - f/1.5 wide lens and a 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens.
While it's not quite as fancy as the Galaxy S10 or Galaxy S10+, it's still a nice combination of lenses that gives you scope for some sharp photography choices. You do get access to the rest of Samsung's array of photographic modes, such as Live Focus, which can be very handy, and AR Emoji... which isn't.
Samsung Galaxy S10e Sample Photos
Exynos 9820 gives great performance for such a small phone
Expandable storage gives it flexibility
One UI launcher is great
There's a tendency for phone makers who do produce smaller smartphones to keep them cheap by dialling down the power you get. While the S10e model we see in Australia does only have 6GB of RAM, compared to the 8-12GB of RAM found in the S10 and S10+ ranges, it's running the same Exynos 9820 processor as its bigger siblings. There is an 8GB/256GB storage model, but that's not being sold here in Australia officially.
In international markets the Exynos 8920 is replaced by the Snapdragon 855, but here we're long used to seeing Exynos equivalents. They're typically not quite as fast, although we've previously seen better battery life out of the Exynos variants. Without both to test, however, that's not yet clear.
What is clear is that the combination of the Exynos 9820 and that smaller display gives the S10e plenty of grunt when it's needed for applications. Despite its smaller RAM quantity, it actually hopped ahead of its bigger siblings in benchmark tests. Here's how it compares using Geekbench 4's CPU test:
And here's how it stacks up with 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test.
The end result is one of the nicest small phones I've used in a long while, and a serious challenger to the Google Pixel 3 for the title of best small phone handset. Samsung's also made strides in its own interface work, with the new "One UI" interface nicely polishing up some of Android's rougher edges. As with any launcher there will be some who'll love it and some who will find pure Android better, but it's a long way ahead of the inconsistency you see out of launchers such as Huawei's EMUI or Oppo's ColorOS.
3,100mAh battery disappoints
Supports fast charging and wireless charging
The smaller size of the Galaxy S10e doesn't give Samsung a lot of room to move when it comes to packing in batteries. The 3,100mAh sealed battery in the Galaxy S10e isn't exactly small -- but it's a far cry from the battery inclusions we see on many phones.
In theory, that shouldn't matter, because our past experience with Exynos-based phones is that they deliver top notch battery life. It's a factor that's led to prior generations of Samsung phones having market-leading battery endurance.
Except not this year. The Exynos 8920 might be powerful, but it's also powerfully thirsty when it comes to its battery needs.
Here's how the Samsung Galaxy S10e compares using Geekbench 4's battery test:
Like the other S10 phones, there's scope for the Galaxy S10e to last a day, and my experiences using it day to day do back that up, but you've got to be careful the later you get, especially if you've been using it extensively. It's a massively disappointing black mark against the Galaxy S10e, especially because previous generations of Samsung phones have been so good at this very matter.
That smaller battery does mean that the Galaxy S10e at least charges up quickly from a cabled connection. It's also PMA and Qi-enabled for a slower wireless charging connection if that's your style.
Samsung's also offering up its "Wireless Powershare" reverse wireless charging feature in the Galaxy S10e. This lets you use the battery in the phone as a Qi charger for other devices. It's a cool trick, but like all wireless charging it's very slow. It also uses far more power than you send to the other device, thanks to the inherently lossy nature of Qi charging. Given the small battery capacity of the S10e, the single best use of this is overnight when it's plugged in itself, because you can charge other small Qi-enabled devices with it.
The battery life isn't great, but this is a good option if you want a smaller but still powerful handset.
There's little doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S10 and especially the Samsung Galaxy S10+ are the stars of the Galaxy S10 family, with the Galaxy S10e being much more the utilitarian model.
It's also true that all 3 phones have dropped the ball somewhat when it comes to truly satisfying battery life.
However, by delivering top-notch performance in a small form factor at a price lower than its counterparts, the Galaxy S10e manages to pull itself ahead of its siblings in a straight-line value sense. It's not quite as fancy -- but for most phone buyer's it's more than powerful enough, and it's super easy to carry around too.
Samsung Galaxy S10e: Alternatives
If you're keen to stay within the Samsung Galaxy family, you could step up to the Samsung Galaxy S10. You'll pay more, but in return you get much better camera quality, as well as a larger display.
Samsung Galaxy S10
Samsung's Galaxy S10 features an in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor and a pin-hole selfie camera, providing more room for its 6.1-inch screen to shine. Get yours now from Amazon Australia.
If the size of the S10e isn't to your taste, it's worth considering the Samsung Galaxy Note9. While officially it carries a price tag well above that of the Galaxy S10e, we've seen plenty of models selling for comparable prices, thanks to the Note9's slightly older status. It won't hurt either that the Note9 has truly superb battery life.
If you're not tied to the Samsung brand, the single best competitor at the same price point as the Samsung Galaxy S10e right now is the exceptional Huawei P30. It has much better battery life, and a considerably more powerful camera array as well.
Built for photography
Sleek, powerful and equipped with Huawei's market-leading camera technology, the P30 is an impressive addition to the premium smartphone space. Get yours now.
But no word yet on when we'll be able to Fold our phones Down Under. Read more…
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