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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Distinctive hole-punch design
Beautiful AMOLED display
Cheaper than the S10
No QHD+ display
Awkward fingerprint sensor location
No 2x zoom camera
The Samsung Galaxy S10e is almost as impressive as its pricier siblings, and it won't hurt your wallet quite as much in the process.
Samsung flagship Galaxy S10 is a big, beautiful, and premium-feeling smartphone that can compete with Apple's best, but $899 is a lot of money to spend on a smartphone. That's why the Galaxy S10e exists. This phone is a little bit smaller and trims back a couple of features, but it also has a lower $749 price tag. While hardly cheap, it puts the S10e closer to the expected Samsung flagship price point while keeping many of the most appealing features intact.
The Galaxy S10e is not as impressive of an overall package as the core Galaxy S10, but it is still a very compelling handset given the lower price.
Samsung's smaller Galaxy S10e is visually similar to the Galaxy S10 and extra-large Galaxy S10+, but there are some key differences.
Aside from being a tiny bit shorter and narrower than the Galaxy S10, the most obvious distinction is that the Galaxy S10e's screen is completely flat, whereas the S10 and S10+ curve along the right and left sides. Flat screens used to be the norm for Samsung's Galaxy S line, so some longtime Samsung fans might actually prefer this change. Between the flat surface and the large screen size, the Galaxy S10e has a silhouette similar to the Apple iPhone XS.
Without the curved screen, the side bezel around the screen looks a bit larger, and the Galaxy S10e doesn't seem quite as sleek as the standard S10. However, the hole-punch display—which has a little hole cut out in the upper-right corner for the front-facing camera—still lends this phone a distinctive allure that stands out in the premium smartphone market.
The Galaxy S10e has the same colored glass options as the Galaxy S10, with reflective Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Green, and Prism Blue options. There's also a bold Canary Yellow color that's only available on the S10e, but it sadly hasn't been released in North America as of the time of this writing.
It's probably the best 1080p panel you'll find on a smartphone today.
The left side of the phone has the volume rocker and a dedicated button for the Bixby voice assistant, and the USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone port are on the bottom. On the right side you’ll find the power button, which also doubles as a fingerprint sensor. This is a significant change from the in-display sensor seen on the larger Galaxy S10 models.
For the most part, the Galaxy S10e’s sensor is an upgrade: it’s significantly faster and more accurate than the in-display version on the Galaxy S10 we tested. However, the positioning is a bit awkward—if you pick up your phone with your right hand most of the time, it's well-placed for your thumb. But if you use your left hand, you’ll have to stretch your index finger to reach the sensor, which bogged down what should be an effortless process.
Like the other Galaxy S10 models, the Galaxy S10e is IP68-certified for dust and water resistance and is rated to survive submersion in up to 1.5 meters of water for a maximum of 30 minutes.
The Galaxy S10e is offered with either 128 GB or 256 GB of internal storage. This can be expanded using a microSD memory card (up to 512GB).
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Setting up the Galaxy S10e was a very easy process. Once we inserted a SIM card, we just had to hold the power button for a couple of seconds and the phone turned on. From there we just followed the on-screen prompts, which included reading and accepting agreements, connecting to a Wi-Fi network (optional), choosing whether or not to restore from a backup and/or transfer data from another phone, and signing into Google and Samsung accounts.
The Galaxy S10e has some slightly downgraded specs and features compared to its pricier counterparts, but it certainly doesn’t compromise on processing power.
The Galaxy S10e has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 system-on-a-chip inside, which is currently the most high-end Android smartphone processor out there. It doesn't quite match Apple's own A12 Bionic chip (which powers the newest iPhones), but it still packs a punch and has a fair bit more power than last year's Snapdragon 845 chip.
Paired with 6 GB RAM in the base model we tested (there's also an 8 GB version with 256 GB storage), the Galaxy S10e flies through any and all processing demands, whether you're streaming media, rapidly switching apps, or playing demanding mobile games like Asphalt 9: Legends and PUBG Mobile.
While you sacrifice some screen resolution with the Galaxy S10e, you just might make up for it in performance.
Our benchmark testing bears this out, too. The Galaxy S10e had a PCMark Work 2.0 score of 9,648, which is one of the highest we've recorded for any of the latest smartphones. It even beats the Galaxy S10's score of 9,276, which may be due to the Galaxy S10e's lower-resolution screen.
GFXBench's resource-intensive Car Chase benchmark test ran at 39 frames per second, almost double the Galaxy S10's score (21fps) on the higher-res screen, and matched the same 60fps mark on the T-Rex benchmark. This goes to show that while you sacrifice some screen resolution with the Galaxy S10e, you just might make up for it in performance.
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We saw stellar speeds on Verizon's 4G LTE network, with most testing results falling in the same 30-40Mbps download range that we've seen from other recent smartphones. We also had a few tests that landed in the 58-63Mbps range, which is higher than usual in our testing area (about 10 miles north of Chicago).
We're not sure why the Galaxy S10e hit those higher marks on multiple tests, but we're not complaining. Everything felt swift in our day-to-day usage, whether we were surfing the web, streaming media, or downloading apps.
The Galaxy S10e is also compatible with 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz Wi-Fi networks.
The Galaxy S10e has a great screen, even if it is slight lower-resolution than the Galaxy S10. Here, you get a 5.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen at 1080p resolution. It's punchy and vibrant, with excellent contrast and brightness. It's probably the best 1080p panel you'll find on a smartphone today, and during typical usage, we didn’t notice much difference from the Galaxy S10's screen.
For comparison’s sake, the Galaxy S10 has a slightly larger 6.1-inch display with a QHD+ (1440p) panel. The difference is really only apparent up close, but it's that slight improvement that makes the Galaxy S10's screen one of the very best on any smartphone today. The S10e comes close, but it's just not quite as crisp. It feels silly to complain about such a slight difference, but Samsung's flagship Galaxy S phones have had QHD screens for years now. Compromising on this spec, when the Galaxy S10e is more expensive than the Galaxy S9, is a bit disappointing.
If you plan on using the phone with the Gear VR virtual reality headset shell, the drop in resolution will surely be more noticeable once the screen is right in front of your eyes.
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With a small speaker grate on the bottom of the phone and another in the earpiece above the screen, the Galaxy S10e delivers strong audio playback. Music sounds pretty clean and crisp coming from the phone, and it gets both louder and fuller-sounding if you activate the Dolby Atmos software option.
The call quality was great on Verizon's 4G LTE network, whether listening through the receiver or switching to speakerphone.
The Galaxy S10e only has two back cameras—and we say "only" because the other Galaxy S10 models have three. Ultimately, the reduced lens count makes for a less versatile camera setup on the Galaxy S10e, and we were disappointed by the omission of the 12-megapixel telephoto camera (f/2.4) which provides the 2x optical zoom on the other S10 models.
So which lenses does the Galaxy S10e have? Here, you get a 12-megapixel main wide-angle camera with a dual-aperture functionality that can automatically shift between wide f/1.5 and narrow f/2.4 settings depending on the amount of light where you are shooting. You can also manually switch between them in the Pro shooting mode.
That camera is paired with a 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera (f/2.2), which is a unique and fun feature. This lens allows you to “zoom out” and capture a lot more of your surroundings in frame without having to take several steps back.
As for the missing 2x optical zoom camera: most dual-camera setups, including recent iPhones and some past Galaxy models, have this kind of secondary camera for getting a closer look at a scene. It feels like a more useful everyday shot option than the included ultra-wide-angle lens, and purely digital zooming just degrades your shot.
The Galaxy S10e is a good compromise if you want super high-end features at a more palatable price point.
This curious omission makes the Galaxy S10e a less-robust shooter, but the dual-camera setup here still impresses.
The photo quality was great. Our shots were colorful and vibrant, with great detail and strong dynamic range. The results were slightly punchier than the Apple iPhone XS Max, but not to the point of looking unnatural or overly-processed. Nighttime shots delivered decent detail but couldn’t quite match the clarity and lighting boost of the dedicated night modes on the Google Pixel 3 and Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
The Galaxy S10e also doubles as a very powerful video camera, with the ability to capture rich, super-clear 4K footage at 60 frames per second, or dip down to a lower resolution and benefit from features like auto-focus and video stabilization. It also has a really impressive Super Steady mode for action-heavy scenes, as well as multiple slow-mo recording options that are a lot of fun to play with.
The Galaxy S10e has a 3,100mAh battery pack, which is a slight improvement over last year's Galaxy S9 (3,000mAh battery) and a small step down from the Galaxy S10 (3,400mAh battery). Ultimately, it'll give you a strong day's usage, much like the standard S10.
On an average weekday—without using battery-stressing games and apps for long periods of time—we would typically end the day with about 30-35% battery. Pushing it harder with games and streaming media took us down to 15% or lower, so if you're a very heavy user, be prepared to provide an afternoon top-up charge.
Luckily, the Galaxy S10e has wireless charging to deliver an effortless battery boost. It also has the same PowerShare feature as the larger models, which lets you put another wirelessly-rechargeable phone against the back of the device to share some of your charge. This feature can also be used with Samsung's Galaxy Buds and Galaxy Watch Active devices, which is likely to come in handy when you’re on the go.
The Galaxy S10e runs the most recent version of Google's operating system, Android 9 Pie, and Samsung's new One UI skin is a step up from previous renditions. It's a cleaner, simpler approach that's focused on usability, making it easier to find features and navigate menus.
It's still Android at its core and still has the feel of a Samsung skin, but the company has taken a lighter and more thoughtful touch here. The Bixby personal assistant has even added some new tricks, like customizable routines that the phone should perform in certain daily contexts.
At $749 for the base model, the Galaxy S10e is still a pricey smartphone. But it's $150 less than the Galaxy S10 and $250 less than the Galaxy S10+, which makes it feel like a better value. It does provide a lot of power and functionality without hitting the $1,000 mark.
There are cheaper flagship-level phones that sacrifice a bit of power and some features, like the $579 OnePlus 6T, but the Galaxy S10e is a good compromise if you want super high-end features at a more palatable price point.
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The Galaxy S10e feels like Samsung's response to the iPhone XR: both are lower-priced alternative to the brands’ most expensive flagship phones. The Galaxy S10e and iPhone Xr both retain enough of their flagship DNA to be worthwhile, and reach that lower price by tweaking the design, trimming off a back camera, and lowering the screen resolution. Fortunately, neither compromise on the powerful processor within.
The iPhone XR offers some advantages, like better app and game selection, smooth software, and excellent gesture-based navigation. But it feels like you get better hardware with the Galaxy S10e. The Samsung’s screen is much higher-resolution, you still have two back cameras to work with, and it still has the headphone port that Apple kicked to the curb long ago. Both are strong phones, but the Galaxy S10e feels less trimmed down than the iPhone XR.
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Trimmed down, but still terrific.
The Samsung Galaxy S10e sacrifices a few perks and cuts down on screen size and resolution, but it’s still a strong flagship that's designed to turn heads. If you’re craving the latest and greatest in smartphone technology but want to save a little scratch in the process, the Galaxy S10e is a very worthwhile alternative.