Samsung Galaxy S10e review: ‘Small’ phones are back

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Super fast performance • Reliable physical fingerprint reader • Fun ultra-wide secondary camera Bixby button only partially customizable • Wireless PowerShare feature was slow Samsung's Galaxy S10e costs less and has virtually every feature the S10 and S10+ have, including one they don't: a physical fingerprint reader that works really well. ⚡ Mashable Score 4.75 As much as much as I like Samsung's bigger and pricier S10+ — it's only a couple of complaints shy of perfect — the smaller and cheaper Galaxy S10e, which starts at $750, is a better phone. I missed nothing from the S10+ after testing the S10e for a week. If anything, I'm super annoyed that Samsung blessed the S10e with a fast and reliable fingerprint sensor and saddled the S10 and S10+ with an inferior in-display fingerprint reader. I'm calling it now: small phones are back! Well, small for 2019, that is. SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S10+ review: The new stuff is good, but not always bettter ..

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Super fast performance • Reliable physical fingerprint reader • Fun ultra-wide secondary camera

Bixby button only partially customizable • Wireless PowerShare feature was slow

Samsung's Galaxy S10e costs less and has virtually every feature the S10 and S10+ have, including one they don't: a physical fingerprint reader that works really well.

⚡ Mashable Score
4.75

As much as much as I like Samsung's bigger and pricier S10+ — it's only a couple of complaints shy of perfect — the smaller and cheaper Galaxy S10e, which starts at $750, is a better phone.

I missed nothing from the S10+ after testing the S10e for a week. If anything, I'm super annoyed that Samsung blessed the S10e with a fast and reliable fingerprint sensor and saddled the S10 and S10+ with an inferior in-display fingerprint reader.

I'm calling it now: small phones are back! Well, small for 2019, that is.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S10+ review: The new stuff is good, but not always bettter

I get the appeal of larger phones: bigger screens, bigger batteries, and more cameras. But I miss small phones badly.

Apple's iPhone XS and Google's Pixel 3 were the only two small phones that didn't scrimp with a slower processor or less storage or an inferior screen.

And now there's the Galaxy S10e, and it is superb in every way.

No less feature-packed than S10 and S10+

The S10e's glass back shimmers and reflects different colors.

The S10e's glass back shimmers and reflects different colors.

Despite its size, the S10e is nearly as feature-packed as the S10 and S10+, with the same luxurious prismatic glass and metal design.

It's nice to have a bigger screen, but bigger phones are harder to use with one hand. The smaller S10e is easier to hold and pocket. The phone is slippery and picks up fingerprints like any glass device, but let's stop pretending like this really bothers us.

There's no escaping the Bixby key, but at least you can now customize it.

There's no escaping the Bixby key, but at least you can now customize it.

No dongle needed here!

No dongle needed here!

Samsung's smallest S10 has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, same 64GB of internal storage, same microSD card slot for storage expansion, same IP68 water and dust-resistance, same fast wired charging, same faster wireless charging, same headphone jack, same stereo speakers, and same new Wireless PowerShare feature for wirelessly charging accessories like the Galaxy Buds. The S10e also runs the same version of Android 9 Pie with Samsung's fabulous One UI interface.

Does the hole punch bug you?

Does the hole punch bug you?

With so much being the same, you're probably wondering what is different? They really boil down to four key things, none of which are dealbreakers in my opinion.

The first is the screen: It's smaller at 5.8 inches, compared to the 6.1-inch and 6.4-inch screens on the S10 and S10+, respectively. The S10e's display is also flat on the edges as opposed to generously curved on the larger models. And of course the screen's resolution is Full HD+ (2,290 x 1,440) instead of WQHD+ (3,040 x 1,440).

The S10e's display is no less stunning than those on the S10 and S10+.

The S10e's display is no less stunning than those on the S10 and S10+.

But even though it's smaller and the resolution isn't as sharp, the screen is by no means inferior. The Dynamic AMOLED display with hole punch in the upper right corner is every bit as bright and vibrant as the screens on the S10 and S10+. And the screen still reduces the same amount of blue light as the other models.

The bezels surrounding the display will no doubt be the point of many heated discussions between tech nerds, but they're thin enough to not bug me. Besides, the non-curved edges are actually a plus since they register fewer false touches from my palms. Really, there is nothing to not like about the screen.

Don't worry, the S10e's battery can go the distance.

Don't worry, the S10e's battery can go the distance.

The S10e also has a smaller battery: 3,100 mAh versus 3,400 mAh (S10) and 4,100 mAh (S10+). But don't let its capacity fool you. I got very good battery life from the S10e. Most days I easily powered through email, Slack, Twitter, Instagram, and Spotify, and still had anywhere between 15-20 percent battery life. On heavier days, I topped off the S10e via fast wireless charging at work and had no problems making it late into the night.

For the most part, the cameras are the same on the S10e as on S10 and S10+. On the front is a 10-megapixel camera with f/1.9 aperture that's also capable of recording video in 4K. On the back, there's a dual camera system with a 12-megapixel "main" shooter with variable f/1.5-2.4 aperture and optical image stabilization (OIS) and a second 16-megapixel ultra-wide shooter with f/2.2 aperture and no OIS.

The S10e has the same wide and ultra-wide cameras as the S10 and S10+. It doesn't have a 2x telephoto camera, though.

The S10e has the same wide and ultra-wide cameras as the S10 and S10+. It doesn't have a 2x telephoto camera, though.

The only camera missing from the S10e is the 12-megapixel 2x telephoto lens on the S10 and S10+. But take it from a guy who shoots tons of smartphone photos and videos (I've nearly filled up my 512GB iPhone XS with new photos and videos) when I say an ultra-wide camera is way more useful than a telephoto lens.

Ultra-wide photos still look a little soft compared to shots from the main camera, but they're more than suitable for posting to Instagram or Twitter. Plus, it's a lot of fun to shoot ultra-wide photos and videos. Previously impossible to capture photos are now easily possible — lens distortion be damned — with the ultra-wide camera.

I found no significant differences in image quality between the S10e's cameras compared to the S10+, so definitely check out our in-depth camera shootout between the S10+, iPhone XS Max, Pixel 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and OnePlus 6T for comparison photos.

Sorry, but until in-in display fingerprint readers get faster and more reliable, physical ones beat them every time.

Sorry, but until in-in display fingerprint readers get faster and more reliable, physical ones beat them every time.

I saved the best for last. The key difference on the S10e is its physical fingerprint reader. It's embedded in the power button and is… so, so much better than the literal hit-and-miss in-display fingerprint reader in the S10 and S10+.

I still feel right in the middle of the back of a phone is the best place to put a fingerprint reader — your index finger falls right there very naturally when picking up a phone and it doesn't matter if you're a lefty or righty — but I'll gladly take the S10e's fast and responsive sensor over the wonky one on the larger S10 models any day.

Smaller is better this time around

You don't need to pay more to get a lot with the S10e.

You don't need to pay more to get a lot with the S10e.

When I reviewed the iPhone XR, I declared it "the iPhone" for most people — the Goldilocks of iPhones — because it made so few compromises despite being cheaper than the iPhone XS and XS Max.

The S10e is the perfect parallel to the iPhone XR. It's the least expensive new Galaxy S10, is feature-packed, and costs hundreds less. The physical fingerprint reader even makes it superior to the S10 and S10+ in my opinion.

Honestly, I struggled to find anything to dislike about the S10e. It feels more complete than the S10 and S10+. I pray that small phones don’t become an anomaly.

At a time when smartphone prices are rising, it's fantastic to see companies like Samsung squeeze so much value into less expensive devices.

WATCH: Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S10s

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