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Samsung Galaxy S10+ Review

A product of years of perfecting

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This year marks one decade of Samsung Galaxy. And so, coming into 2019, the expectations were very high for the next Galaxy S. But the 10th-anniversary Galaxy is a two-part, two-phone story — one that represents the future and one that represents today.

A refined masterpiece that’s a product of years of perfecting, the new Galaxy S10+ is not mind-blowing or revolutionary. Neither is it perfect, but there’s something so satisfying about a product that’s well thought out and done right, and excellent in every aspect and angle.

There much to love about the Galaxy S10+ and I’m just gonna dive straight in.

After years of trial and error that saw them go from plastic, to leather, to glass, and then many tweaks and adjustments around curved glass, this is the moment that all these years have led up to and it’s glorious.

It’s the perfect mashup between the Galaxy S9 and the Note 9. And I like it. The design ID is still clearly Samsung: curved displays, rounded corners. I can’t quite put a finger on it — maybe it’s because the trim around the phone is more rounded and not as sharp, but whatever these changes are, they’ve made the S10+ a phone that I enjoy picking up. That, for me, is always an indicator of good design.

The official color of my review unit is called Prism White, and it has this pearlescent quality to it that changes from an iridescent blue to pink depending on the light. It’s really beautiful.

Of course the other big change is in front. After avoiding the notch trend completely for a good two years, Samsung’s finally embraced the all-screen display, laser cutting a hole (or two on the S10+) for the selfie cameras. The industry calls it a hole punch; Samsung calls it Infinity-O.

After much deliberation, I think I like this better than the notch. When watching videos, I don’t mind it as much. Maybe because it’s tucked away in one corner instead of in the middle. YouTube videos are usually 16:9 so they’ll have thick black bars on both sides. But you can punch out to fill the screen with a tiny crop.

Apps like Netflix refuse to fill beyond the area where the hole punch is. If it’s really not your cup of tea, you can go into settings and tick “Hide Front Camera” that gives the display a rather large forehead.

Samsung’s default wallpapers are purposely darker in the upper-right corner to hide the hole punch as much as possible. But I say, embrace it. We have been rocking an assortment of cheeky wallpapers that really tell you it’s there. If you want to download any of these, you can check this link. Samsung also has an “Embrace The Cutout” selection of S10 wallpapers you can buy from the Galaxy Themes Store.

It’s not all aesthetics. There’s also some functionality built in too, like when you take a selfie with the timer on, a lighted timer will travel around the cameras giving you a visual countdown, and showing you where to look.

I have many thoughts about smartphone displays, but mainly two of relevance here: One, display tech has gotten so good, that comparing displays requires a lot of nitpicking; and two, tech reviewers like me are so spoiled by the best displays, that we’re sometimes harder to please. But at the end of the day, having a good or great display isn’t what defines a smartphone.

Having said that, when it comes to the creme dela creme of display tech, it really doesn’t get better than this. Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED panel is in a league of its own: color, vibrancy, highlights, shadows, crispness. View-ability outdoors under bright sunlight, gentleness to your eyes when it’s dark — you name it.

Underneath it is an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Two years ago, many had expected Samsung to be the first to introduce an under-display fingerprint scanner, but they didn’t. That honor went to Vivo, followed by the likes of Huawei and OnePlus. But if you ask me, it’s been worth the wait.

The S10’s in-display fingerprint scanner is powered by Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic technology that’s a step up from the optical scanners used in other products. Instead of using a camera under the display to take a photo and determine a match, Qualcomm’s tech uses sonic sound waves to scan your pores and make a 3D image that’s used to identify you.

With the most recent update, I’ve found this tech to be almost as fast as physical scanners, and much, much quicker than current optical type in display scanners. You just have to quickly tap and not tap and hold for a second. If that’s not your cup of tea, face unlock is very fast but it’s not as secure. In fact, I was able to unlock the phone using a video clip on my iPad. Samsung previously offered a more secure iris scan face unlock, but ditched that tech on the S10.

So, if not display, what makes or breaks a smartphone? For me, the two most important things are battery life and camera performance. In these fronts, the S10+ is a big improvement from its predecessor.

I’ve used the S10+ as my daily driver for a couple of weeks now. My use is probably heavier than the average user. I’m always on my phone, watching YouTube videos, scrolling through social media, and taking photos. And because I review other phones, oftentimes when I’m out, it’s also a portable hotspot.

That said, battery life on the S10+ has been impressive. Based on my real world use, most users will get a whole day with more than average use. It’s not as long-lasting as say the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, but it’s noticeably longer-lasting than previous Samsung phones I’ve used.

The S10+ comes with a fast charger that can get you from zero to 100 percent in just over an hour and 40 minutes. There’s also reverse wireless charging, a feature we first saw on the Mate 20 Pro last year. While it’s cool to be able to charge another phone on the back of yours, charging is a slow trickle at best and is really just designed to charge smaller accessories, like Samsung’s new wireless buds or a Qi-compatible smartwatch.

Those who’ve watched my videos over the years know I prefer a zoom lens to wide-angle, but three weeks traveling with the S10+ have changed that. This phone has three rear cameras, featuring both an ultra-wide angle and zoom lens. I love that I don’t have to pick between the two, and to be honest, when you’re traveling, nothing beats an ultra-wide.

Whether you’re shooting outdoors or indoors, the S10+ shoots beautiful photos. But it isn’t the low-light champ it used to be. If I were to nitpick, the phone has the tendency to favor highlights, so photos are sometimes unnecessarily brighter than they need to be — sometimes almost overexposed.

There’s a new AI-based Scene Optimizer that can can adjust settings based on what it thinks is best for a shot. I leave it off because the phone does a good job otherwise. But it needs to be turned on for Night Mode to work. You know the long exposure night shot that we’ve seen on many phones recently? It’s on the S10, too. But, there’s a catch.

The phone has to think the scene needs night mode and it chooses to turn on. But oftentimes, it doesn’t think night mode is warranted. It can be frustrating, and would have been nice to get a button to turn it on when you need it. Maybe Samsung can fix this in an upcoming update.

My review unit is the S10+ which means instead of one front camera, there are two. The other is mainly for measuring depth. Even though there’s a toggle that makes it seem like there’s a second wide-angle camera, this is not the case. The other just crops in closer. I don’t like selfies taken with the S10+. I think they are too soft. I don’t mind a good skin softening filter that I can turn on or off. On the S10+, it doesn’t even look like that. It looks too soft, almost blurry.

Where the S10’s cameras do a great job at is shooting video. It is the first of its kind to support HDR10+ video capture. Of course, you need a display that supports it, and that does not include the S10. Video stabilization is great, however.

There’s plenty else to like about the S10+. I really like the changes they’ve made to their UI. One UI is cleaner, simpler, and well thought-out. Dark Mode is great and it helps save battery, too. My only peeve is the way the app drawer works. You swipe up to reveal it, but have to swipe to the left to see your second page of apps.

It’s backed up with the highest of specs. Including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chip here in the US and Samsung’s Exynos 9820 elsewhere in Asia. There’s still a headphone jack, support for up to 1TB of external storage, and water and dust resistance. Of course it’s all not sugar plums and unicorns.

Apart my from camera complaints, I’m not a fan of the power button being so high up. And speaking of buttons, the dedicated Bixby button can finally be reassigned to something else — except Google Assistant, which is a bummer. Bixby is a con in and of itself. I’ll leave it at that.

Is the Samsung Galaxy S10+ your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for one of the best Android phones that you can get almost regardless of where you live, the Galaxy S10 is on top of our list. Some might argue that many of its new features have been seen before on other smartphones; that’s true, and that doesn’t look good on Samsung’s report card as an innovator.

However, in some cases, while late, Samsung has gone out and done it better. And while objectively, the Galaxy S10+ isn’t the best at anything, it’s so well balanced a smartphone, that it’s hard not to recommend. It does things right, and does things good. From where it stands at this point in the year, it’s set a high bar for the rest of the industry to follow.

Undeniably, the Galaxy S10+ deserves the GadgetMatch Seal of Approval. If you’re in the market for a new Android smartphone and are willing to shell out the US$ 1,000 asking price, then we give you our blessing.

For Samsung fans wanting to save a few hundred bucks, I’d consider the more affordable Galaxy S10e which we’ll review separately. You can also avail of a trade-in offer from your carrier. T-Mobile, for example, is offering up to US$ 390 off for qualifying phones including the Galaxy S8 and S9. That brings the price down to a more reasonable US$ 605.

If that’s still a lot to pay, check out the OnePlus 6T if you’re in the US. And if you’re elsewhere in the world, I’m also a big fan of the new Xiaomi Mi 9.

Reviews

Apple Watch Series 6 Review

Is it worth every penny?

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The Apple Watch Series 6 offers more than just being a “luxurious timepiece”. Over the years, they’ve pioneered in what a true smartwatch can offer. From the ability to track your runs, cycles, and swims, as far as reading heart rate and even ECG. This year, the Watch Series 6 has a new SpO2 sensor that can read blood oxygen levels within the reach of your wrists.

But does all of that make up for a fancy price tag? Why is the Apple Watch a worthy investment for your health?

You can head on to our Apple Watch Series 6 review by clicking the link here.

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Huawei Mate 40 Pro Unboxing and Review: Last of its Kind

Hopefully not

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Every year, Huawei’s Mate series dominate the smartphone world with hosts of new features.

This October, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro finally made its way out of the limousine. As usual, it’s packed with the latest and greatest internals minus the full Android experience. Albeit, you still get support for AppGallery and other existing Huawei services.

With all that mind, is it still worthy to invest your money just to buy this smartphone?

You can watch our Huawei Mate 40 Pro review by clicking this link.

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Infinix Note 7: Best underrated budget phone?

Does size matter?

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The underrated brand, Infinix, is coming in with a perfect phone for when you’re strapped for cash. Infinix has consistently released great phones that deliver every bang for your buck and their recent release is no exception. What’s the latest addition to their great line-up? The Infinix Note 7

Show us what its got

The Infinix Note 7 is a dual-sim budget smartphone with a 6.95-inch HD+ and Corning Gorilla Glass display. It’s decked out in three different colors: Forest Green, Aether Black, and Bolivia Blue. Despite being encased in plastic, the Infinix Note 7 looks and feels premium. Just be more forgiving when the phone looks heavily smeared with your fingerprints — most phones tend to do so.

The phone features and specifications aren’t necessarily what people would view as technologically new or revolutionary. But, with phones on the same price range, this one delivers on all fronts of functionality, affordability, and durability. The phone has loud dual speakers, a great battery life, and reliable performance that makes it a stand-out in with its price tag.

Bang for your buck

The Infinix Note 7 is powered by a Helio G70 Processor paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. If you’re worried about storage, the phone has a dedicated microSD card slot. But, note that the phone has more than enough space to run apps on the Google Play Store without much of a hitch.

The Infinix Note 7 doesn’t falter on features when tested. The phone didn’t stutter or struggle when putting it through the stress test of scrolling, unlocking, and opening and closing multiple apps. On top of that, the Infinix Note7 has a 5000mAh battery that makes your daily grind of work and play look easy.

For gaming, the phone didn’t seem at all bothered with Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Genshin Impact, and Among Us. And, with the amount of storage the phone had, I’d downloaded all the games I wanted with reckless abandon. The phone held up to its dependable battery life too, despite a full day of work and play.

Does size really matter?

The Infinix Note 7 is big for a phone. Facts. If anything, it’s a love child of a phone and a tablet. With its 6.95-inch HD+ display and dual speakers, the phone makes watching Netflix or playing games an overall immersive experience. Despite Infinix sticking to HD+ on a bigger display, it doesn’t really impose on all the great features the phone has.

Remember: the Infinix Note 7 has a good price tag of PhP 7,990. If you’re asking it to feature 2k or 4k resolution, that good price tag isn’t even remotely ideal on top of the other features the phone comes with.

Is the cake a lie?

No, just misunderstood. Hear me out here: The Infinix Note 7 features a quad-camera set-up with a 48MP primary shooter, a 2MP macro lens, 2MP depth lens, and a 2MP dedicated video camera. On the front, the phone has a 16MP selfie camera. These specs can sometimes come misunderstood since Infinix does say the phone features a quad rear camera set-up. The phone technically features three with the fourth as its dedicated video recording camera.

Sunset view

Boop the snoot

The Inifinix Note 7 performed really well even with little lighting. I tried to photograph a dim sunset and most phones would often scrap some details in photos to compensate with the lack of lighting. That wasn’t the case for this phone. With a phone at its price point, it greatly outperforms phones in the same category quite easily. The phone delivers on detailed selfies with it 16MP in-display front camera and doesn’t struggle to focus using either rear or front cameras.

Strawberry and granola on yoghurt

it me

The phone doesn’t seem at all bothered with taking detailed photos. Sometimes the contrast can be a bit much but again, seeing a budget phone like the Infinix Note 7 perform well under tough circumstances that can just be from being nit-picky.

Is this your BudgetMatch?

If you need a phone to get you good shots and get you through a long day of non-stop work and play while delivering good photos overall, this is the phone for you. There’s nothing to complain about with this phone besides Infinix being utterly underrated for the quality of phones they put out. The Infinix Note 7 is a great phone for your daily grind if you’re looking for a phone that delivers on functionality, efficiency, and durability. It even delivers on good quality shots!

The Infinix Note 7 costs PhP 7,990 (US$ 165).

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