Samsung's S10 5G Isn't Worth The Extra Cash

samsung s10 5g review australia

We've had to wait a little while for Samsung's first 5G phone, but it's now here.

It has similar specs to the S10+, albeit with a bigger battery and improved camera setup. But the main focus has been on its ability to access a faster network.

But considering the state of 5G right now, and that's when you can actually find it - the Galaxy S10 5G just isn't worth the mark up.

We're Still Frothing Oppo's 5G Shark Fin Camera Phone

Oppo recently entered the 5G game by releasing its Reno 5G in Australia. From its giant display, stunning colour options and pop-up selfie camera, it's one of the more interesting phones we've have seen this year. But this isn't particularly surprising for the Chinese phone manufacturer. It has a penchant for being a bit weird, and we're extremely here for it. But is the wild design choice all that Oppo's latest flagship has going for it? We spent some time with it to find out.

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Just The Specs, Please

The S10 5G has a 6.7-inch curved AMOLED screen with an Infinity-O display, 8GB RAM and 256GB or 512GB storage options. It also has a quadruple rear camera setup (12MP telephoto, 12MP wide-angle, 16MP ultra-wide and Time of Flight) and a dual front facing cameras (10MP selfie cam and Time of Flight).

It sports a 4,500mAH battery with super fast wired charging and Fast Wireless Charging 2.0. As for colours, the 256GB variant will come in Crown Silver and Majestic Black, with the 512GB coming only in the latter. The 512GB model is also only available on a Telstra plan at the present time.


What's Good About It?

Battery Life

Coming in at 4,500mAh, the S10 has the largest battery of the S series.

But while it could go most of the day without technically needing a recharge, it wasn't as good as the Huawei P30 Pro or Oppo Reno 5G.

Part of this comes down to battery efficiency, with both Chinese manufacturers using aggressive battery management systems to extend the lives of the devices.

5G itself also had an impact, with the battery being drained harder as it flitted between 5G and 4G.

That being said, the S10 5G does have fast charge, so you can give it a quick top up if needed. It also supports wireless charging (and wireless power share) which is another point in its favour.

It may not have the best battery on the market, but it's still pretty darn good.


Camera

The S10 5G is the only device in the S10 family to have a four-camera setup at the rear. It has added a Time of Flight (ToF) lens to the already-existing 12MP primary, 16MP wide-angle and 12MP telephoto lenses. There's also a ToF lens on the selfie cam.

When it comes to regular point-and-click shots, you're not going to notice much difference between the S10+ and S10 5G. We have a detailed breakdown of the S10 camera performance from our review earlier this year.

Like the Plus, the 5G variant does a great job in well-lit environments:

It also does a good job of highlighting details if you're wanting to get up close and personal with a subject:

The S10 5G falls over completely when it comes to zoom, losing noticeable detail and quality from 5x and looking like a dog's breakfast once you hit 10x.

This isn't entirely surprising. The Huawei P30 Pro or Oppo Reno 5G are rolling with 10x optical zoom, whereas the Samsung only has 2x.

Here's an example from a recent hike:

And the Sydney Opera House:

Of course, if you don't use zoom much this won't be an issue for you.

The real difference that the 5G model of the S10 brings to the camera is the improved Live Focus. The ToF lens allows for better focus of your subject vs background, and creates an impressive bokeh effect with both the front and rear cameras.

And it really does a lovely job.

Rear Cam:

The real hero here is Matt in the background

Selfie Cam:

My only gripe is that Live Focus can be a little finicky. It can take a few goes to focus properly, and it doesn't like taking photos in quick succession. Taking MANY bokeh selfies in a row, we found only one or two would have the blurred background.

The ToF lens has also helped to improve the night and low light shots. While not as good as the Night Mode on the Huawei P30 Pro or the Pixel 3, it's still pretty good.

These were all dark rooms

Sure, the S10 5G isn't the best camera phone on the market, but it's a solid all-rounder that won't let you down when it comes to capturing beautiful photos under varying conditions - from night shots, to landscapes to selfies.


Display

The S10 5G rocks the same dynamic AMOLED display as the regular S10 and S10+. Not only does it look gorgeous, screen testing expert DisplayMate gave it an insanely high grade.

Looking at anything on it is a delight, but where it really shines is when you're viewing HDR10+ content, especially when the display is capable of pushing over with a display that can push at over 1,200 nits.

Unfortunately, the Infinity-0 display, AKA The Hole, ruins this otherwise stunning effect.

While there isn't a much of a bezel natively on the phone, it creates quite a chunky digital one when you watch Netflix.

The logic is understandable the alternative would be a black rectangular cut out in the top right corner. No thank you.

But it seems counter intuitive to create less screen real estate in one of the situations where edge-to-edge display is most important - while watching stuff on your phone.


What's Not So Good?

It's Expensive

The S10 5G has a $1,999 price tag to buy outright, which is $500 more than the S10+. While there is a 512GB variant available, you can only get it on a Telstra plan.

That's a tall order, even with an improved camera and battery.


5G

5G is tough to review right now because it's still in its early stages.

Still, despite being the most expensive 5G device on the market right, the Samsung S10 5G has the slowest real-world speed results.

We have compared it to the Oppo Rwno 5G, which has garnered the best results, as well as LG's V50 ThinQ 5G and the HTC 5G Hub.

At the top end, we have gotten the S10 5G to hit around 220Mbps, with it generally sitting between 160Mbps and 190Mpbs. But even in our most recent speed tests it was dropping below 100Mpbs often enough to raise eyebrows.

It's important to note that location and other outliers will always impact speed tests. For example, we have seen a fellow journalist get over 350Mpbs on the S10 5G.

However, that is still well beyond the 1.2Gbps it hit during the controlled and isolated speed test conducted at Telstra at launch. And while the performance of Telstra's 5G network isn't the fault of a phone manufacturer, it's disappointing to see these results from the priciest and most renowned brand.


Should You Buy It?

Like we said previously, the S10+ 5G is only available to buy outright (256GB only) or on a Telstra plan. With such a distinct lack of ability to shop around, it's difficult to recommend.

The good news is that it probably won't be that way forever. Optus provided a more solid timeline for its own proper 5G rollout during the Note 10 launch.

Considering that the more niche 5G Samsung device will be available from another telco, we're guessing that the S10+ 5G will be, too.

Hopefully a little healthy competition will help to bring down the price of the handset repayments.

That being said, purchasing a 5G phone in 2019 also means you're paying a massive premium for connectivity that is barely available at the moment.

Sure, 5G is 'free' with Telstra right now, but the speeds leave a lot to be desired compared to what was promised, regardless of which device you're using. Meanwhile, they're all significantly more expensive than their non-5G counterparts.

I'm all for future proofing when it comes to specs, but considering that Telstra is going to start charging $15 a month extra for 5G by the time the service actually works consistently, it leaves a question mark next to the higher price tags.

A larger battery and improved camera are great, but considering how good the S10+ was to begin with, we question the need to drop an extra $500. And trying to find 5G sucks the life out of the battery, anyway.

It may be more prudent to wait for the new slew of 5G devices in 2020 and opt for either the regular Samsung S10+ or even the well balanced S10e for now. Alternatively, wait until the 5G model drops in price when the S11 launches.

Or if you're interested in other brands, the Oppo Reno 5G is the cheapest 5G phone on the market right now. And got the speed results in our tests.

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