Despite the onslaught of affordable smartphones made by brands from China and beyond, India continues to have a love affair with Samsung. The Korean manufacturer has been selling its phones in the country for a long time, manufactures many of its devices in India itself, and has a fair amount of goodwill thanks to its excellent dealer and service networks. Therefore, any affordable option from Samsung needs to be taken seriously.
Enter the Samsung Galaxy M10, a smartphone that is incredibly fresh and different from what we've come to expect from Samsung. The company previously shunned the idea of the notch, but the Samsung Galaxy M10 and slightly more expensive Galaxy M20 are the company's first phones to sport this element. While the notch itself might be considered a disruptive design element, the idea of the notch is to allow a screen that occupies more of the front, and that's the look Samsung is going for here. We've put the new Samsung Galaxy M10 through its paces, and here's our review.
The highlight of the Samsung Galaxy M10 is its screen, with its waterdrop-style notch at the top for the front camera. Just above the camera on the top edge sits the earpiece, and the entire thing looks similar to what we've seen on smartphones such as the OnePlus 6T and Oppo F9 Pro. A thin black border can be seen all around the screen, with it stretching almost till the top edge and leaving a narrow chin area at the bottom.
The back and sides of the Samsung Galaxy M10 are plastic, with curved edges and corners. The ports and buttons are all where we expected them to be, and the only thing that really stood out was the speaker grille at the back rather than at the bottom. This was common a few years ago, but now comes across as odd. It also causes audio to be slightly muffled when the phone is lying flat on its back, which can affect how loud the ringtone is.
The top-left corner of the back of the phone has the dual-camera setup and flash, and you'll also see a Samsung logo and some regulatory text. The blue colour of our review unit looked good, but the plastic was prone to picking up fingerprints and smudges.
Something that a lot of users will appreciate on the device is the SIM and external storage tray, which features dedicated slots for two Nano-SIM cards and a microSD card. It's also worth pointing out that the Samsung Galaxy M10 doesn't have a fingerprint sensor, and you only have face recognition as a method of biometric security on the device.
The screen on the phone is a 6.22-inch HD+ resolution ‘Infinity-V' TFT display, named so because of the shape of the notch. Perhaps its biggest issue is the resolution; at 720x1520 pixels, you get a 19:9 aspect ratio but it isn't very sharp. For basic usage, we didn't have too many issues, particularly with apps such as WhatsApp or anything that doesn't rely on heavy visuals.
The Samsung Experience UI looks alright even with the lower resolution, although we could see some grain around the app icons. However, we weren't impressed with the screen when using it with Netflix and simple games such as Subway Surfers.
We also didn't quite like the colours and brightness, and found that things don't look very good at wider viewing angles. Furthermore, the screen appears dull unless you drag the brightness slider all the way to the maximum level. What we did like about the screen was its size, proportions, and edge-to-edge design.
When it comes to specifications, the Samsung Galaxy M10 comes across as a bit disappointing. Under the hood is the Exynos 7870 1.6GHz octa-core SoC, a processor that was first seen on the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016), which was released roughly two and a half years ago.
Fabricated on the 14nm process, this SoC was decent at the time of its launch but hasn't aged as well as competing SoCs from Qualcomm such as the Snapdragon 625. You get either 2GB or 3GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, as well as dual-VoLTE connectivity. Our review unit was the higher variant with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, priced at Rs. 8,990, with the other variant Rs. 1,000 cheaper.
You also get a 3,400mAh battery and a 5W charger in the box. While the battery capacity is acceptable given the price and specifications of the phone, the charger isn't nearly as fast as it should be. During our testing it took a little over three hours to fully charge the device. The phone also uses the dated Micro-USB standard for charging and data transfers. A 3.5mm headphone socket lets you connect wired headphones to the phone.
The Samsung Galaxy M10 runs on Android 8.1 Oreo, with the Samsung Experience 9.5 UI on top. For anyone familiar with the software on Samsung's phones, the Galaxy M10's UI is just what you'd expect. While Samsung's smartphone software has improved of late, there is still a fair amount of bloat to contend with. Preinstalled on the phone are a handful of Samsung's system apps, some Microsoft apps, and Daily Hunt. Not all of these can be uninstalled, which can be bothersome in the long run, especially on the lower variant with 16GB of internal storage.
A couple of interesting aspects include the lock screen Stories feature and the dual-messenger feature. The former shows you different images on the lock screen which often have to do with current events and news (but also a few ads), while the latter lets you have two instances of popular apps such as WhatsApp so you can use two different accounts on the same device.
The Samsung Galaxy M10 features face recognition, but we found ourselves better off using a PIN or no security at all. The face recognition feature took a few seconds to unlock the phone each time we tried it, and often failed even in good lighting conditions.
With a dated processor, the Samsung Galaxy M10 is disappointing when it comes to performance. Apart from the slow face recognition, there are considerable delays in various other simple functions, such as switching from the camera to the gallery to view pictures we had just shot, reloading some background apps, and quick multi-tasking when we needed to switch between apps. We often even noticed a slight delay in responsiveness to taps within the UI itself, such as in the Settings app.
3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage is now what we'd expect from a sub-Rs. 10,000 smartphone, and Samsung has delivered this on the variant priced at Rs. 8,990. You can run most popular apps, including instant messaging, social media services, and basic games without much trouble once they've loaded up. We did try to run PUBG Mobile on the phone, and the experience was expectedly poor with plenty of performance issues even at the lowest graphics settings.
Putting the Samsung Galaxy M10 through our usual suite of benchmarking tools, we got results that were in line with the dated SoC. AnTuTu produced a score of 64,371, while Geekbench returned a single-core score of 728 and a multi-core score of 3,674. These numbers might have been good enough for a mid-range smartphone back in 2016, but serve as adequate evidence of the Galaxy M10's poor performance in 2019. Even the graphical benchmark tests returned scores that were lower than those of the similarly priced Realme C1 (Review).
We put the Samsung Galaxy M10 through our HD video loop battery test and got a screen time of 14 hours and 29 minutes with a full charge of the 3,400mAh battery. The HD+ resolution of the screen and power-efficient processor can be credited with the good battery life, and we saw a similar level of efficiency even in day-to-day usage.
With basic usage that included having a single SIM card connected to an LTE network, taking a few photos, streaming some Netflix video, and playing a few basic games, the phone easily lasted through the day with plenty of power left to carry through till around noon of the next day. As mentioned, the only drawback in this aspect is the slow charging.
The Samsung Galaxy M10 features a dual-camera setup at the rear, comprised of a 13-megapixel main sensor with an f/1.9 aperture and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. The second camera enables ultra-wide angle photography, and can be selected through the camera app on the smartphone. You also get a 5-megapixel f/2.0 front camera, with both the front and rear cameras capable of recording full-HD video.
The primary rear camera on the Samsung Galaxy M10 isn't bad by any means considering the price of the device, but it isn't very good either. Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy M10 are good at first glance, but looking closely shows some grain and lack of detail. Furthermore, colours are a bit dull, and the photos appear a bit darker than the actual scenes photographed.
The wide-angle camera lets you take some interesting pictures that capture a wider frame, making for good landscape shots over distances. Although the images will still appear a bit dull, the extra room in the frame can add some character to images. However, as is the case with all wide-angle cameras, the edges of the frame will show some warping.
Low-light performance can be alright when shooting macro images and close-ups, but with subjects at a distance, you'll see a lot of grain in the images. Further, brightly lit parts of the image (such as street lights or lamps) tend to get overexposed.
Video looks decent, but the lack of stabilisation means that any video taken while moving will capture all the shakes. The front camera is alright as well, and adequate for video calls or the occasional selfie. On the whole, the camera setup on the Samsung Galaxy M10 is acceptable for the price, but you shouldn't expect too much from this phone.
At Rs. 7,990 onwards, the Samsung Galaxy M10 is among Samsung's most affordable smartphones today. There are some big pros to this device, including its modern design and a battery that will keep the phone going for well over a day with normal usage. Most of all, it's an affordable Samsung phone, which in itself makes this device important.
However, this budget smartphone is far from perfect. The excellent battery life is a result of two big letdowns the HD+ resolution screen and the dated SoC. While the shape and dimensions of the screen give this phone its modern look, the quality isn't quite as good as we'd have liked. Furthermore, performance on this device is below average, and the camera doesn't achieve a lot beyond its key feature of ultra-wide-angle photography.
The Samsung Galaxy M10 is a device for Samsung fans who are looking for a phone with a modern design, but options such as the Realme C1 (Review) and Xiaomi Redmi 6 (Review) are, in our opinion, more rounded devices at around the same price. If you do go for the Samsung Galaxy M10, we recommend that you get the 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage variant.
Are Samsung Galaxy M10 and Galaxy M20 better than budget phones from Redmi, Realme, and Asus? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.