The Samsung Galaxy S10+ with 128-gigabyte storage is expensive, but you can spend even more if you get a 512 GB model ($2099) and the one terabyte variant sets you back $2599.

With Apple's iPhone Xs Max uhh, maxes out at $2799 for 512 GB storage which can't be expanded like the Galaxy phones that can add another 512 GB with microSD memory cards.

If you want to spend more than that, Samsung's got you covered with the Fold that's not available yet in New Zealand, and which will go for US$1980 or NZ$2895 which will no doubt become a figure closer to four grand after GST and other costs are added.

Then there's not yet available Galaxy S10+ 5G that works with the latest and greatest cellular technology, adds a bigger screen and time-of-flight cameras front and back for 3D depth sensing.

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It'll cost more than S10+ because of the added features and it's a little odd to think that the pricey phone I have isn't close to being top of the range.

Nevertheless, the S10+ is every millimetre a premium smartphone that's very nicely put together. There's Gorilla Glass 6 for the front, and Gorilla Glass 5 for the back, which on my device was had a prismatic white finish, achieved with nano-film. Maybe a bit over the top, but it does look very stylish.

Samsung's stubbornly clinging onto the 3.5mm phone jack, instead of outputting audio via the USB-C jack or Bluetooth only. Dolby Atmos support means you get good sound from the S10+ without earphones, but a pair of wireless Galaxy Buds (bundled with the preorder of the phone currently) are probably worth getting for music, movies and gaming enjoyment.

Fire up the S10+ and you'll see a stunning curved dynamic Infinity-O AMOLED display that measures 6.4-inches diagonally, and can be set to a very high 3044 x by 1440 pixel resolution. By default though, the S10+ display runs at a lower 2280 by 1080 resolution, and in both cases you get a 19:9 ratio.

The display covers most of the phone and is HDR10+ certified with fantastic colours and two million to one contrast ratio. Also, it emits 40 per cent less nasty blue light (yeay!).
Samsung's put an ultrasonic fingerprint reader into the display so there's no bezel at the bottom of the device (or a scanner at the back, thank goodness). It works pretty well, and I switched to using only fingerprint biometrics as Samsung's facial recognition unlocking isn't as secure as Apple's variant and doesn't work very well in the dark.

The new layout places emphasis on voice command. Photo/Juha Saarinen.
The new layout places emphasis on voice command. Photo/Juha Saarinen.

There's no notch to squeeze in scanners and sensors on the S10+, but the twin front cameras have a little hole cut for them in the screen. Port hole? Punch hole? Either way, the cut-out isn't too noticeable in my opinion.

Faster tech that you can't use yet

We get the Exynos 9 chipset and not the Qualcomm 855 one because of the modems in them not being suitable for NZ. There's either 8GB of RAM for the 128GB and 512GB storage models, or 12 GB of RAM with the 1TB device.

Every year phone makers cram more powerful chips into their devices, and the 64-bit Exynos has eight cores, two of which that can run as fast as 2730 MHz. Another two run at up to 2314 MHz, and a further four cores top out at 1950 MHz. They drop the speed to as low as 442 to 507 MHz and turbo up and down to save battery and keep cool.

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That got a bit geeky sorry, but all those megahertzy cores mean the S10+ is rather quick as Geekbench 4 and other benchmarks showed. Apple's Xs Max A12 Bionic is still a bit ahead overall, and quite a bit in graphics, but Samsung's new system memory is really super fast.

It's not quite an apples for apples comparison, but processor in the S10+ is around 10 per cent faster than the 3.1 GHz Core i5 part in my 13-inch MacBook Pro on most tasks.
In practice it means that the S10+ never runs out of breath with any application, be it games, augmented/virtual reality, browsing, taking photos and videos. Then again, nor does its predecessor, the S9.

Battery life in my relatively short period of time testing the S10+ has been rather good.

The power management which Samsung says uses artificial intelligence to learn which bits of the device you use and switch off the rest works well; even with heavy use, the S10+ lasted well over a day before the 4.1 Ampere-hour battery needed a top up.
Charging is quick through the USB-C port. I didn't get a Wireless Duo Charger pad, which can handle a phone and a digital watch at the same time. You might not need a pad though, as the S10+ has a Qi-standard Wireless Powershare feature that means you can charge a watch or another phone by placing it on the back of the device.

Except it doesn't work quite right yet. I plugged in the S10+ with USB-C for fast charging, and plonked an iPhone Xs Max on top of it, but the Samsung device overheated and turned off Wireless Powershare.

The phone overheated during the trial. Photo/Juha Saarinen.
The phone overheated during the trial. Photo/Juha Saarinen.

This despite a fancy vapour cooling system on the S10+. Here's hoping Samsung fixes that heat-gremlin soon.

The new Wifi 6 wireless networking standard is supported, ditto Category 20 Long Term Evolution cellular broadband. Wifi 6 access points are starting to appear and they promise a theoretical speed of 9.6 gigabit/s but I've yet to lay my hands on one. Cat 20 LTE is unlikely to arrive at NZ telcos anytime soon, but yes, 2 Gbps downloads and 150 Mbps uploads give the S10+ speed bragging rights.

Android 9 and new user interface

The powerful hardware runs latest Google's Android 9 operating system with Samsung user interface tweaks, a generally pleasant experience. Samsung's additions like the edge panel for shortcuts are toned-down and useful, and you can tame the UI even more by turning off animations in the settings.

Bixby the personal digital assistant is there too and still has its own button on the S10+, and routines that learn what you do during the day and automatically creates multi-stage tasks. You can edit the routines and create your own ones as well, similar to Siri shortcuts on iOS.

I'm not a fan of having both a Google and a Samsung account for apps, storage and other features though. However, the Samsung account can be associated with your Google one though, so it's less of an annoyance than in the past.

Count the cameras

A premium smartphone has to have multiple cameras in 2019, and the S10+ does not disappoint with its five imagers. There are two selfie cams at the front: one 8 megapixel unit for depth sensing for augmented reality, filters and "fauxkeh" (bokeh) computer-generated background blur, and a normal 10 megapixel resolution shooter for photos.

Samsung's new phone could set you back as much as $2600. Photo/Juha Saarinen.
Samsung's new phone could set you back as much as $2600. Photo/Juha Saarinen.

The three at the back are: one fixed-focus ultra-wide angle with 16 Mpixel sensor, and wide-angle and a telephoto camera with 12 Mpixel resolution (there's a flash and heartrate sensor too).

Of these, the middle wide-angle unit is the most feature-packed with dual-pixel phase-detection autofocus and a variable f/1.5-2.4 aperture that was introduced with the S9+.

In terms of viewing angles, the three cameras provide 123, 77 and 45 degrees respectively, and the S10+ manages 0.5 and 2 times optical zoom, and a 10 times digital zoom. The two longer cameras have optical image stabilisation.

Here are some samples to show how the three cameras plus maximum digital zoom work.

Fairly good, although the colour changes in the images when you switch from the ultrawide camera to the others bothers me.

A photo taken with Samsung's new smartphone. Photo/Juha Saarinen.
A photo taken with Samsung's new smartphone. Photo/Juha Saarinen.

The camera system has masses of features: high dynamic range, tracking autofocus, super and "normal" slow motion, time-lapse, panorama, pro mode with manual exposure settings, and my favourite, the live focus that lets you adjust and apply different types of background blur. And filters! Lots of filters.

You can shoot 4K high definition video at up to 60 frames per second for smoother action. If you want all the video features, including the useful digital stabilisation and tracking autofocus, the highest you can go is 1920 by 1080 pixels and 30 frames per second.

Premium, super premium or megahyperextra premium?

Samsung's timing of the S10+ release is a bit odd, given that it'll face competition from the company's two even higher end devices soon. Maybe three even, if Samsung drops a new Note 10 on the market.

The cost of the S10+ is steep too, and there are indications that people's price pain threshold was reached last year. Customers are holding onto older but still very capable devices instead of buying new ones, or casting side-eyes at cheaper but feature-rich Chinese brands.

Ignoring all that, if you're thinking about upgrading the Samsung Galaxy S10+ delivers on all fronts as a premium Android device.