Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review: A killer phone, except for one small thing

The Galaxy S10 Plus is fantastic. Its 6.4-inch AMOLED screen, all-day battery life, wireless power-sharing feature and three rear cameras are stellar, and the S10 Plus is the only one of Samsung’s four new Galaxy S10 phones to have a 1TB storage option and a ceramic finish for the 512GB and 1TB models. The S10 Plus may be one of the first smartphones for 2019, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it will remain one of the best premium choices for most buyers, despite increasing pressure from competing devices and the flood of 5G and foldable phones we already know will come. As always, keep in mind that our product ratings are subject to change as we do more testing and software updates are released.

While it may not be as exciting as the contortionist Galaxy Fold or Huawei Mate X, the S10 Plus is a phone you can buy today, without emptying out your bank account or waiting for 5G networks to kick in. Make no mistake, at $1,000 for the 128GB model, $1,250 for 512GB and a cool $1,600 for the 1TB storage option (!), it’s a costly device. (It starts at £1,099 in the UK and AU$1,499 in Australia.) But even the most expensive version is still hundreds less than April’s $1,980 Galaxy Fold, and you won’t pay more for 5G service as you would on the Galaxy S10 5G, a phone whose undisclosed price will be even more than the S10 Plus on account of a larger screen, additional 3D cameras and of course, 5G capability.

I haven’t had a chance to test the Galaxy S10 5G (I did go hands-on, though), and I’m waiting for the Galaxy S10 ($900) and “value” S10E ($750) review units to arrive on my desk, so bear in mind that I’ll have to hold off any final comparisons until after I can test those other S10s. I’ll also continue to update this review with more impressions as I continue to use the phone long-term.

The S10 only saves you $100, however, and loses a second front-facing camera, a little screen space and a little battery life. That doesn’t sound like a terrific savings on paper. I’m interested in the S10E as a value proposition, although it’s even smaller and outfitted with fewer cameras. That should help guide you, but if you’re on the fence over which of the S10 phones you want, I suggest you hold off until those reviews are in.

Read: Four new Galaxy S10 phones, here’s how you tell the difference

As for comparisons with other phones, I wouldn’t update from the Galaxy S9 Plus, but I would from any older Galaxy phone. The bottom line is that you have more general flexibility with camera shots on the S10 Plus than with the Pixel 3 ($789 at Walmart). Night mode is one exception, and both the Pixel 3 and Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro ($989 at Amazon) have dedicated night modes that easily outpace the Galaxy S10 Plus. If nighttime photography is a make-it-or-break-it feature for you, you may want to wait for next month’s Huawei P30 Pro, October’s (likely) Pixel 4, or cross your fingers that Samsung might push out a software upgrade.

Low-light shots aren’t a deal breaker for me, especially when weighed against the Galaxy S10 Plus’ other benefits, but being able to match those other night modes would make the S10 Plus the undisputed champion across the board.

As it stands now, the S10 Plus is an excellent device that I’d be happy to use every single day — and I think you’d feel the same way, too.

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The Galaxy S10 Plus is bigger than the S10 and S10E.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Lovely to look at, but a slippery devil

Samsung is partial to glossy finishes that reflect light in unusual ways. My review unit is the 128GB version in Prism White, and it definitely reflects iridescent shades of pale blue, mint and pink in the light. This color is nice and subtle. Flamingo Pink, Canary Yellow, Prism Green and Prism Blue are bolder — there’s Prism Black as well.

Right away I noticed that the S10 Plus has a tendency to slip out of hands and off surfaces, especially if they’re not perfectly level. It’s shot out from between my fingers numerous times, usually landing on my purse, a table or my lap. It also slid off my nightstand, a couch, a chair, but has emerged unscathed so far. I like to review phones the way they emerge from the box, but I’m going to want a case for this one.

Brilliant display, but, O, that ‘notch’

The Galaxy S10 Plus has an Infinity-O “notch” that’s really a hole cut in the display to make room for two cameras. Its oval shape attracts more attention than the single lens of the Galaxy S10 and S10E, but I’m not really a stickler about notches anyway. 

More to the point is the…

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