Having already been treated to no fewer than three Galaxy S10 devices in 2019 - the S10+, S10 and S10e - Samsung has taken it upon itself to introduce a fourth at CES 2020: the Galaxy S10 Lite.

The obvious question: has the Korean manufacturer lost its marbles? With such variety within the range already, and with Mobile World Congress not long away, does it really make sense to try and find yet another angle for this range ahead of the expected S20 launch?

Where does the Lite fit in the S10 range?

  • 6.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, 1080 x 2400 resolution
  • Colour options: Prism White, Prism Black, Prism Blue
  • Dimensions: 162.5 x 75.6 x 8.1mm / Weight: 186g

First thing's first: what's different? The Lite slots into the range above the S10e, because it offers more cameras, a larger screen, and bigger battery capacity. Indeed, the Lite is larger than any other S10.

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However, look over the Lite's specs compared to the 'normal' S10 and you'll probably be left baffled: both offer full-fat Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processors, the Lite has the larger screen of the two, and a more enticing camera proposition. In that regard, the so-called Lite is only really trumped by the S10+ model.

In short: the Lite's position makes the Galaxy S10 range all the more convoluted. Where it fits doesn't make a great deal of sense. Plus, watering down the flagship range from Samsung is just, well, confusing from a buyer's point of view.

But that's not to say the S10 Lite is a write-off. Far from it. Samsung knows how to make phones, with the Lite showing just that. Its reflective rear catches light as if textured, looking the part. The screen is large and of ample resolution, with rich colours and deep blacks. The camera unit crams in a 48MP main (to produce 12MP output using its four-in-one method), which is appealing for an apparently mid-level device. It operates fluidly and is hard to really pick apart for any major one thing it gets wrong.

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Oddly, however, there's no 3.5mm headphone jack. Normally we wouldn't call that into question, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite, which launches alongside this phone, does include one. Which doesn't seem like joined-up-thinking, if you ask us.

Performance

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB / 8GB RAM
  • 4,500mAh battery capacity, fast-charging
  • Android 10 OS; One UI 2 software

Because the Lite is larger than any other S10 model, it's got more room to cram in more battery. That was the biggest complaint about the other S10 models, with the S10+ being the only one we found to really last the distance. The Lite's 4,500mAh is way beyond the standard model's 3,400mAh, or even the S10+'s 4,100mAh. That will likely solve the biggest complaint many had about the flagship models.

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On the power front, as we've mentioned, the Lite isn't really all that 'light'. Inside is the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, just as you'll find in any other S10 model, which unhinges the product name a little really. Even the 6GB/8GB RAM (region dependent, we believe) is hardly lightweight.

Of course, we need to run this phone through its paces before we'll know how it holds up, as the demo units at Samsung's CES 2020 stand were in demo mode and certainly not representative of daily use. Nonetheless, the Android 10 software, coated with Samsung's UI 2 skin, was fluid in use and didn't leave any major irks over this phone's potential.

Cameras

  • Triple rear camera system:
    • 48MP, f/2.0, 26mm equivalent, Super Steady OIS (optical stabilisation)
    • 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide)
    • 5MP dedicated macro
  • Front-facing camera: 32MP, f/2.2, 25mm equivalent

The Lite's camera unit is where the Lite both trumps and recedes from its other S10 cousins. If there's one part of this phone that we're less sure about, it's the rear camera bump's design. That and the massive font used to scribe "Super Steady OIS" onto that unit, just to make sure you know that it's got optical stabilisation that's, um, both super and steady. Having used it, it seems fine, but plenty of other phones deliver OIS camera units. 

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On the one hand, that 48MP main sensor can capture a lot more resolution than the standard S10, although its default method - which uses four pixels and combines them into one, for optimum detail, colour and sharpness - will deliver a 12MP result, which is the same physical size as the other S10 models.

On the other hand, the presence of a standard and ultrawide camera don't give the Lite the same degree of versatility as the S10+ and its zoom lens - the Lite doesn't have any optical zoom, only a dedicated macro lens. And having used various macro lens options we're not convinced they're worth the bother - the one on the Honor 20, for example, is poor, and other makers don't seem to be able to convince us otherwise yet.

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The front-facing camera is also a step beyond its S10 cousins, with a 32-megapixel resolution outshining those more premium devices. Great, yet another oddity about a so-called 'Lite' device.

First Impressions

Taken on its own merit and the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite is an accomplished phone with solid specs. But when you line it up against the rest of the S10 range, it just gets confusing: the Lite is larger than all the others, has a greater battery capacity than any of them, an equally heavyweight Snapdragon 855 processor as the other three, and even some features than the 'not-Lite' models lack, such as the main 48MP camera unit.

It's interesting to see Samsung take a turn in direction to try and offer flagship spec phones for a cut of the price, just as Chinese manufacturers are showing their capabilities at delivering cheap-yet-impressive handsets (Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo being three notable ones). But doing it in this way, and at this time, just convolutes an already overpopulated range.

We would happily live with an S10 Lite, no doubt, but being aware of the other three S10 models makes its namesake and position simply confusing. Savvy consumers will surely think the same? Perhaps its success will come down to the £579 price point.