The most succinct way of describing Samsung’s new S10 5G flagship phone is the S10 Plus Plus. Samsung have taken all the recipe ingredients that made the S10+ an excellent phone and modified several hardware aspects including the cameras and adding 5G capability to enhance it further.
Since that’s the case we suggest you first read my colleague Duncan’s excellent review of the S10+ and then follow up with my review explaining the differences between the S10+ and the S10 5G.
Unboxing and Specifications
Inside the box you’ll find your new S10 5G phone, a 25 Watt fast charger, AKG earphones and the usual warranty and quick start paperwork.
The top left of the phone there is a volume rocker and Bixby button. On the right-hand side there is a power button. On the bottom you’ll find the good old trusty headphone jack, USB-C port and speakers. On the top there’s a SIM card slot. The review model I tested is single SIM without microSD support. It’s unclear whether Samsung will release an S10 5G model in Australia that has dual sim support.
Design language is the same aluminium frame around a nearly bezel less body covered in gorilla Glass 6 on the front and back. Samsung has used the same top-notch HDR10+ Dynamic AMOLED screen technology and screen resolution in the S10 5G 6.7″ as the S10+ 6.4″. The only difference is the S10 5G is slightly larger and has more front camera sensors, so the Infinity-O cut out at the top right corner is larger.
|Samsung Galaxy S10+||Samsung Galaxy S10 5G|
|Release date||March 219||June 2019|
|Screen technology||AMOLED||Cinematic Dynamic AMOLED|
|Resolution||3,040 x 1,440||3,040 x 1,440|
|Rear camera||12MP 1x + 12MP 2x + 16MP Wide + TOF 3D|
|Front camera||10MP + TOF|
|Chipset||Exynos 9820||Exynos 9820|
|Core config||2x 2x 4x||Octa-core 2x2.73 GHz Mongoose M4 & 2x2.31 GHz Cortex-A75 & 4x1.95 GHz Cortex-A55|
|MicroSD||Yes, up to 512GB||No|
|Battery||4,100 mAh||4,500 mAh|
|WIFI standards||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax|
|Android OS||Android 9.0||Android 9.0|
|Vendor skin||One UI||One UI|
|Dimensions||157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm||162.6 x 77.1 x 7.9 mm|
Mostly the same, with a few differences
The S10 5G has the same Android 9.0 Samsung One UI as the S10. The S10 series is the first set of Samsung phones where I’ve felt the default UI and launcher were fast and useful enough that I didn’t need to change to Nova Launcher.
Speed is plentiful as the S10 and S10 5G both have 8GB RAM and the same Exynos 9820 chipset, Octa-core CPU and Mali-G76 MP12 GPU.
The cameras are mostly the same sensors and specifications between both phones. The S10 5G adds time of flight (TOF) depth sensors to the rear and front camera set.
For unlocking I still don’t trust any phone’s face unlock feature to be secure. The S10+ and S10 5G both have an ultrasonic finger print sensor which does a good job and I trust it won’t be hacked easily.
The biggest difference between the phones is 5G capability and this is implemented differently in the USA to the rest of the world.
The S10 5G Australian version has an Exynos Modem 5100 which supports sub-6GHz 5Ghz spectrum and enables download speeds of up to 2Gbps which is about 1.7 times faster than Samsung’s best Exynos 4G modem. The American S10 5G has a modem that only supports higher Ghz mmWave (millimeter Wave) spectrum bands.
This means you definitely shouldn’t grey import an American S10 5G to use in Australia because it will only be able to access 3G/4G spectrum here. Similarly if you take your Australian 5G phone to the USA on holidays you won’t be able to roam on to their 5G network, only 3G/4G.
The S10+ has a non-removable 4100 mah battery compared to the S10 5G’s 4500mah battery capacity. In practical terms both phones last a similar length of time since the S10 5G has to power a bigger screen and more power hungry first generation 5G radio. Used with all my usual heavy use all day both phones could last being away from home for 10 hours and still end up with 20 or 30% battery left.
The biggest screen and battery capacity come at a cost of weight. The S10 5G at 198gm is 23 grams more than the S10+ and the difference is notable, I need to hold it with 2 hands to feel comfortable.
However if you’re used to the Note series the Note 8 and 9 weigh almost the same as the S10 5G so you won’t have any issues.
The S10+ and S10 5G are both capable of Fast wireless charging 15W and Power bank/Reverse wireless charging 9W. However the S10 5G supports wired Fast battery charging 25W (USB Power Delivery 3.0) which is much faster at filling the huge battery than the S10+ wired Fast battery charging 15W.
In terms of storage the S10+ allows you to expand your storage with a microSD card whereas the S10 5G doesn’t.
The S10+ also has wider choice of internal storage capacity (128GB/512GB/1TB) compared to the S10 5G which starts of at a generous 256GB but the only other option is 512GB.
5G speed tests in Sydney’s CBD
I have conducted plenty of speed tests and generally used the S10 5G for web browsing, calls messaging etc in the Sydney CBD during the last few weeks.
My conclusions from this are that as expected 5G only works outside. Initial low download speeds less than 100 Mbit/s are improving now to regularly hit 300+ Mbit/s. However these are still well within the capability of a high end 4G phone. Upload speeds have been no different than 4G so far.
Expecting to hit the Telstra lab 5G test speeds of over 1 Gbit/s in real life conditions is completely unrealistic, especially since as far as I can tell many of the 5G enabled towers only have 1 gigabit of 5G backhaul (some have 3Gbit).
Telstra is constantly tweaking their 5G networks so we can expect performance to improve over time and the coverage will obviously expand beyond the very small areas covered currently.
Camera Example Photos: Day, Night and TOF
Like the S10+ the S10 5G also has ultrawide, normal and 2x zoom lenses. The difference is added TOF sensors which are supposed to improve night photography focusing and help differentiate the foreground from the background when you use live focus for photos and videos.
Jason explained how TOF works quite well in a previous Ausdroid article. The TOF sensors in the S10 5G can also do the same tricks measuring distances, lengths etc once you run Samsung’s Quick Measure app and have Google’s ARCore software installed.
Where better to test the S10 5G night time capability then the recent Vivid Sydney lightshow event.
I don’t use my phone for videos very often but here’s an example of a nighttime 4K video shot using the S10 5G during Vivid Sydney. To view it in 4K you’ll have to select the quality level once you press play.
Photos taken in “Night” mode definitely had more detail and less digital noise than standard automatic mode photos, though they’re still some way off from beating a Full Frame SLR or APS-C digital camera.
For day time photos that aren’t selfies or using Live Focus the camera results for the S10+ and S10 5G should be exactly identical as they share the same hardware and sensors for ultra-wide, normal and 2x zoom.
If you’re constantly zooming note that no Samsung phone to date has an optical zoom of more than 2x. The S10 5G cannot compete with the high end Huawei 5x and OPPO 10x optical zoom.
That aside I found that the ultra wide, normal and 2x zoom cameras on the S10 performed admirably during my month away on holiday. I mostly use the phone on auto and found the Scene Optimiser was quite effective at changing the camera settings by itself to better suit the subject being photographed.
Since it’s been unusually rainy in Sydney on the days when I’ve been walking around the city testing the S10 5G, here are some photos I took with the S10+ in Spain and Portugal recently.
Are the differences between the S10+ and S10 5G worth paying for?
When it was first released many people expected the S10 5G and the other few initial 5G devices to be noticeably faster in day-to-day use for data transfer. That has proved to be unrealistic.
The more realistic expectation of 5G is to compare it with your home Wi-Fi network. 4G is like 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, a lot of devices are using it and it can be congested at times. 5G is like 5 GHz Wi-Fi, a lot fewer devices will be using that frequency so it should be much more reliable and less congested.
So if you’re in the market for a Samsung high-end phone should you buy the S10+ or the S10 5G?
If you buy the S10 5G it will give you less congested network access if you’re in a Telstra 5G coverage area during the next year or two. Realistically that’s around the core of Australia’s major cities. You won’t be seeing much 5G out on the road between Australia’s urban centres anytime soon.
The S10 5G will also get you Samsung’s current fastest wired charging capability at 25W and TOF camera sensors to improve your selfies and live focus photo/video. Depending on the individual these features will be must haves or don’t really care, it’s up to you.
The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is currently exclusive to Telstra which is selling it bundled with it’s new plans. Judging by the total phone cost over the payment period, it’s likely the S10 5G will cost about $2000 once it’s available for outright purchase soon.
If you live and work near a city CBD, must have the latest and best and are willing to pay for it or your boss is, then buy the S10 5G. Otherwise the S10+ will cost you about $500 less. The S10+ base model has 128GB storage on-board but it can be expanded via MicroSD card. The S10+ is also a excellent phone and will serve you well for the next two years while the 5G network gets built out.
Samsung has allowed Ausdroid to retain this review device to monitor improvements in Telstra 5G coverage over time