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Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite review: Lite means might

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
579
inc. VAT

The Galaxy S20 may take the limelight, but the S10 Lite will fit 90% of your requirements at nearly half the price

Pros 
Good looking
Great screen
Powerful
Excellent camera
Cons 
Some strange cuts from the S10
No headphone jack
Cheaper Snapdragon 855 phones available
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When Samsung unveiled its all-singing and all-dancing family of Galaxy S20 smartphones, something was sorely missing: an S20e. The Galaxy S10e was a budget version of the S10, but no equivalent is present for the S20, with prices starting at a lofty £799.

So maybe that’s what the S10 Lite is supposed to be: a big, powerful phone that’s for those that want 90% of the Samsung flagship experience without the price tag. Only the S10 already had a ‘lite’ version in the S10e – so why was there a need to make things ‘liter’ still?

It’s kind of a moot point as the S10 Lite is a belter of a smartphone, and while you’ll no doubt soon be able to do better for the price, as things stand it’s an excellent compromise for those that want the Samsung-flavoured earth, but don’t want to pay that much.

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Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: What you need to know

To confuse things further, the Galaxy S10 Lite is actually 18.5% heavier than the S10 – weighing 186g to the original’s 157g. That’s hardly surprising as it’s actually quite a bit bigger: a 6.7in handset that’s actually a closer match to the S10 5G in terms of dimensions, eclipsing even the 6.4in S10 Plus. Whichever member of the S10 family you compare it to, though, it’s unsurprisingly familiar.

Familiar, but not identical. For one thing, we’re treated to regular Qualcomm Snapdragon chips in Europe this time around, not dealing with the Samsung Exynos equivalent. In this case, it’s Qualcomm’s fastest processor of 2019, the Snapdragon 855, backed by 6GB of RAM which is 2GB less than in the S10, and the same as you’ll find in the S10e.

There are still three cameras on the back – one more than on the S10e – but they’re of a different specification to those you’ll find on the rest of the S10 family. The screen drops down to 1080p, too, and wireless charging – a feature on every other member of the S10 clan – is dropped, as is the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: Price and competition

In other words, the S10 Lite is a bit of a strange fish. But one thing it has going for it is the price and at £579, it’s certainly competitive, at least when it comes to other Samsung phones. The S20 family ranges from £799 all the way up to £1,399 for the 512GB S20 Ultra, making the S10 Lite seem an absolute bargain in comparison.

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But is it, really? Given it’s very similar to last year's flagships, they’re a slightly better comparison. The S10 can now be picked up for around £600 if you shop around, and the S10e goes for even less – especially if you opt for the disgusting banana yellow colour like I did. Better yet, Samsung is selling the equally brilliant A90 5G for under £400, which is an absolute steal.

If you’re prepared to look beyond the church of Samsung, there are other great Android-based options for under £600 at the time of writing. In no particular order, they are: the Google Pixel 4 (£500), the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro (£291), and the OnePlus 7T (£549). All of these use the same Snapdragon 855 processor as the S10 Lite, so you can be sure of a similar bang for your buck – even if you are essentially paying for last year’s bang with this year’s buck, now that the first 865-powered devices are emerging.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: Design

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite is a great-looking device, provided you’re happy with your phones being on the bulky side. The 6.7in screen is a looker, but it takes some getting used to, even if you have big hands like me.

The display dominates the front of the device, with bezels that are mere millimeters thick all the way around. There isn’t a wide iPhone-like notch, with the front-facing camera housed within a pinhole at the top in the middle like the Note 10 and S20 series – a move from the right-hand side where it lives on the other S10 phones.

So far, so good, but flip it over and you see Samsung has committed the same design faux pas as the iPhone 11 and Pixel 4. There’s an ugly rectangular camera block in the top left, which looks especially out of place on the white handset we were sent. Still, with no fingerprint reader on the back (it’s in-display, like the S10 family except the S10e) it does look very clean and feels nice in the hand despite its plastic back.

That plastic design does mean that wireless charging is a casualty from the previous generation – even the S10e can be charged without wires. Also gone, for some reason, is the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the plus side, the 128GB of internal storage is expandable via microSD – or you can use the same slot for a second SIM card.

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Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: Screen

If you’re looking for ways of making a smartphone cheaper, the screen is always a good bet. You simply make it smaller, lower resolution or both. Here, Samsung has bafflingly gone in two directions: at 6.7in, it’s 0.3in larger than the S10 Plus, but it’s also reduced to 1080p which is the same resolution as the 5.8in S10e.

If you understand screen tech, the consequences of this are obvious: fewer pixels per inch (ppi). The S10 Lite has 394ppi, making it notably less sharp than both the S10 (550ppi) and S10e (438ppi).

Still, even on a screen this size it looks absolutely fine. Better than fine, in fact, because if there’s one thing Samsung consistently makes, it’s an excellent screen. Even on phones a fraction of the price of the S10 Lite.

Like its siblings, this is one of Samsung’s Super AMOLED panels, meaning it has effectively perfect contrast and it covers 97% of the sRGB colour gamut with a volume of 103%. In other words, it’s up there with the best of them, although the only fly in the ointment is that it’s not the brightest we’ve ever seen, only reaching a peak measured luminance of 342cd/m2 when set manually. Shining a torch on this to simulate the sunshine of summer ups this to 483cd/m2, mind, so it should be fine whatever the conditions.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: Performance

Typically, Samsung puts a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor in its US models, and relies on its own Exynos chips for models shipped elsewhere including the UK. For unknown reasons, this time around the UK model of the S10 Lite comes with a Snapdragon 855 processor, backed by 6GB of RAM.

I mainly mention this as a curiosity, because it makes precious little difference in terms of performance. The S10 Lite performs a little better in multi-core tests, but a little worse in single-core ones making it a dead heat over all. Unsurprisingly, it’s also a perfect match for other Snapdragon 855-powered devices, including the OnePlus 7T, Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro and Google Pixel 4

Of course this is a chip that has now been replaced by the Snapdragon 865. But that doesn’t mean that the 855 is worthless – it’s still extremely powerful, and will likely be more than enough for the duration of a two-year contract. To emphasise the point, look how it copes with the pretty intensive gaming tests:

But while there may be essentially nothing to separate the phones in the tests above, the S10 Lite has one almighty trump card up its figurative sleeve: battery life. The 4,500mAh battery keeps that big old screen going and going.

As you can see, with the S10 Lite lasting 23hrs 50mins in our test, it leaves all rivals in the dust. Most astonishingly, it lasted nearly double the time of the Google Pixel 4.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: Camera

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite comes equipped with three cameras. There’s a 48-megapixel f/2.0 main lens (the rest of the S10 had variable apertures on 12-megapixel lenses), supported by a 12-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide sensor and a 5-megapixel f/2.4 camera for macro shots.

Predictably, the results are good. In fact it’s a virtual dead heat between the S10 Lite and my own S10e in shots around South London. Zoomed in as they are below, both capture plenty of detail on the weather vane and the brickwork around it. It’s marginally better on the S10e, with moss on the tiles coming into focus, but you have to look extremely closely to notice, and it’s hard to believe you’d feel too short changed.

Indoors, it fairs even better with crisp, clear images with good colour accuracy and fuzzy noise kept to a minimum:

Indeed, compare it once again to the S10e and it's pretty clear that the S10 Lite has the advantage. Both are undeniably good, but the S10 Lite has markedly less murky noise and brighter, more punchy colours.

 

The macro camera is good, too. It’s a bit of a pain to get to – you have to swipe along the menus at the bottom of the camera until you hit “more” and then select “macro” – but it’s hard to argue with the results if you want to take extreme close-ups.

It’s arguably not as useful as the telephoto lens that the original S10 and S10 Plus had, but it’s an improvement on the S10e which only had two lenses. And in any case, at least it’s a clear dividing line: if you prefer to take distant photography, get an S10. If you want to take your photos extremely close for whatever reason, then the S10 Lite can’t be beat.

The front-facing camera is a 32-megapixel affair with a f/2.2 aperture. It takes pretty good pictures, with a wide range of filters if you like. As ever with vanity cams like this, the beautification effects are only going to fool the most gullible of people, though they are at least gently applied by default – the pic on the right shows the horror show when everything is maxed out.

Finally, the S10 Lite’s video-recording abilities are a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have the option of recording at 16:9 in three resolutions (720p, 1080p or 4K), using the full display at 2,400 x 1,080 or making a 1:1 video at 1,440 x 1,440.

But on the other, while footage is detailed, it’s let down by the fact that stablisation isn’t available for the 1:1 footage, 4K video or 60fps at 1080p. We know the Snapdragon 855 processor is capable of better than this, so it’s a real shame. Indeed, my S10e offers stabilisation for all 1080p footage – and it also has the option of recording 60fps 4K video, which is something conspicuous by its absence on the S10 Lite.

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Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite: Verdict

In short, there’s nothing at all wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite. That is, unless you consider a phone using a processor that was until three months ago the best around to be a drawback. It really isn’t. The S10 Lite is fast, good looking, has a wonderful screen and takes great pictures.

And yet, fast as the Snapdragon 855 is, by using it Samsung does open up unflattering comparison to older phones that have now come down in price. At £579, the S10 Lite is more expensive than the current going rate for the Pixel 4, the Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro and the OnePlus 7T. And that’s not even considering the price you can get an S10, S10 Plus or S10e for now.

In other words, you’ll be immensely happy with the S10 Lite – but you might be equally happy with any of the others I just mentioned. And your wallet would feel a bit heavier, too.

Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite specifications
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 855 (1x2.84 GHz Kryo 485 & 3x2.42 GHz Kryo 485 & 4x1.78 GHz Kryo 485)
RAM6/8GB
Screen size6.7in
Screen resolution1,080x2,400
Pixel density394ppi
Screen typeSuper AMOLED
Front camera32MP, f/2.2
Rear camera48MP, f/2.0; 12MP. f/2.2 (ultrawide); 5MP, f/2.4 (macro)
FlashLED
Dust and water resistanceIP68
3.5mm headphone jackNo
Wireless chargingYes
USB connection typeUSB-C
Storage options128GB
Memory card slot (supplied)Yes (shared SIM)
Wi-FiWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band,
Bluetooth5.0, A2DP, LE
NFCYes
Cellular data4G
Dual SIMShared with microSD
Dimensions (WDH)162.5 x 75.6 x 8.1 mm
Weight186g
Operating systemAndroid 10
Battery size4500mAh

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