Samsung Galaxy S10e review: The best of the bunch?
Benchmark Performance, Imaging, Battery life, and Conclusion
Despite being the cheaper flagship, the S10e uses exactly the same processor as the S10 and S10+. The US and China S10e gets Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 processor, while the rest of the world gets Samsung's new 9820 processor.
The 9820 is an 8nm octa-core chip in a 2+2+4 configuration with two big Mongoose M4 cores clocked at 2.7GHz, two Cortex-A75 cores ticking at 2.4GHz, and four power-efficient Cortex-A55 cores running at 1.9GHz for less demanding applications. For graphics, the 9820 is using a Mali-G76 MP12.
The 128GB S10e comes with 6GB RAM. There's also a 256GB model with 8GB RAM, but unfortunately it isn't available here.
Surprisingly, the S10e outperformed both of its bigger brothers in this benchmark. In terms of actual browsing performance however, there was no noticeable difference between the three phones.
AnTuTu is an all-in-one benchmark that tests CPU, GPU, memory, and storage. The CPU benchmark evaluates both integer and floating-point performance, the GPU tests assess 2D and 3D performance, the memory test measures available memory bandwidth and latency, and the storage tests gauge the read and write speeds of a device's flash memory.
The S10e was only slightly behind the S10 and S10+ here, with all three phones trailing slightly behind Apple's A12 Bionic.
Geekbench CPU is a cross-platform processor benchmark that tests both single-core and multi-core performance with workloads that simulate real-world usage. Geekbench 4 scores are calibrated against a baseline score of 4000 (which is the score of an Intel Core i7-6600U CPU processor).
Again the difference between the three phones was negligible, with the S10e falling slightly behind the S10 and S10+ on the single-core benchmark, but edging past the S10+ on the multi-core test.
3DMark Sling Shot
3DMark Sling Shot is an advanced 3D graphics benchmark that tests the full range of OpenGL ES 3.1 and ES 3.0 API features including multiple render targets, instanced rendering, uniform buffers and transform feedback. The test also includes impressive volumetric lighting and post-processing effects. We're running this benchmark in Unlimited mode, which ignores screen resolutions.
Unfortunately this benchmark has always been a weak spot for Samsung, and that continues to be the case with the S10e falling behind the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, Huawei Kirin 980, and Apple A12 Bionic.
It's worth noting that benchmark performance doesn't always reflect real world experience. I tried out a few games of Asphalt 9: Legends and Shadowgun Legends on the phone and both ran perfectly.
The S10e has the same main 12-megapixel variable aperture f/1.5 + f/2.4 wide-angle lens as the S10 and S10+ (also last year's Note9 and S9/S9+) paired with a 16-megapixel f/2.2 ultra-wide lens.
The ultra-wide lens offers a 123-degree field of view, equivalent to a focal length of 12mm in 35mm film terms, which is extremely wide. In comparison, Huawei's Mate 20 Pro has a 16mm equivalent lens. While the wide lens has OIS, the ultra-wide does not, and it also lacks autofocus. The depth of field is quite generous, but it's something to bear in mind if you're shooting a group of people as the only way to keep them in perfect focus is to move your feet.
Image quality from the wide lens is excellent with great detail retention, sharp focus, natural colors, and no noticeable artefacts or graininess. Even at 100% crop, details remain fairly sharp and there's no over-aggressive processing or smoothing typical of most smartphone cameras.
Despite being higher resolution, the ultra-wide lens isn't quite as good, and there's also some noticeable barrel distortion. The lack of autofocus also means you have to be careful with your focal distance, especially if you're taking pictures of buildings or anything else with sharp lines. There is an option in the settings menu to auto-correct distortion taken with this lens (which is off by default for some reason) but it doesn't fix the problem entirely.
On the front, the S10e has the same single 10-megapixel selfie camera as the S10. Despite only having a single lens, it is actually capable of Live Focus (Portrait Mode) selfies with blurred backgrounds. The background blur is software-generated but it's not too bad overall. Here's a comparison between the S10 and S10+ (which has a dedicated depth sensing camera) Live Focus modes:
Our standard battery test for mobile phones has the following parameters:
- Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
- Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
The S10e has the smallest battery in the S10 range at just 3,100mAh, but thanks to its smaller display and lower resolution, it actually managed to outlast the S10, lasting 13.5 hours.
Like all Samsung flagships, the S10e uses Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging technology, which is actually starting to look a little dated now. It will support up to 15W charging, which means it will charge the S10e from zero to full in about 90 minutes. In comparison, the Mate 20 Pro will go 0 to 100% in 46 minutes.
The phone also supports fast wireless charging (up to 15W) through the Qi 2.0 standard.
Finally, like the S10 and S10+, the S10e supports reverse wireless charging, which means you can wirelessly charge your Galaxy Buds at the same time as you charge your phone. I could also see it being useful if you're on holiday and you want to charge a second phone with wireless charging without having to bring extra cables and adaptors with you. To do that, simply charge the S10e and put the second phone on top of it.
While the S10e is considered the 'budget' model in Samsung's S10 lineup, there's nothing about it that feels cheap. This is a premium phone throughout, with excellent benchmark performance and superb battery life.
After using the S10+ for a week, and then switching to the S10e, the only feature I really missed was the 2x telephoto lens. In every other aspect, I actually found myself preferring the S10e, including its more compact size, better handling and lighter weight. The side-mounted fingerprint scanner is faster, more reliable, and easier to use, and the lower screen resolution didn't bother me at all.
The S10e is the obvious choice for anyone that's a fan of smaller phones, but even if you're not, if you've been thinking about picking up an S10, consider the S10e first. It's S$220 cheaper than the cheapest S10, and the only thing you're really giving up is a 2x telephoto lens. For me, that's a worthwhile tradeoff.