Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite hands-on: They’re a little strange

With all the buzz around affordable flagships like the OnePlus 7, iPhone 11, iPhone XR, and even the rumored iPhone SE2, it’s no wonder Samsung wants to get in on the action. The company recently consolidated its low-range to midrange lineup, creating the newly broadened A-series, but it’s never shown us an “affordable flagship” until now. In fact, we got our hands on a pair: the Galaxy Note 10 Lite and Galaxy S10 Lite.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite were selected by our editors as the best products in the Mobile category at CES 2020. Check out more of our Top Tech of CES Award winners.
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Don’t expect the same sleek lines

Walking up to the Note 10 Lite and S10 Lite, which Samsung announced just before CES 2020, I accidentally picked up the A71, thinking it was one of these two recently announced “lite” flagships. Obviously, I was wrong, but no one could blame you for making the same mistake. These look almost nothing like the original Galaxy S10 and Note 10 devices. 

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Gone are the ultra-thinness and sturdy metal edges that flow seamlessly into curved glass on the Note 10 and S10. Think of the S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite as if the S10e was styled as a proper S10, but with the materials of an A71. It feels thicker and a bit plasticky, but the bezels are quite thin, and the punch-hole allows for the Infinity-O display look like what we’ve come to expect on Samsung’s flagships.

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The displays on both are 6.7 inches and sport HD+ (2,400 × 1,080 pixels) resolutions. They’re still AMOLED screens, so the deep, inky blacks and saturated colors are plain to see, and the slight drop in resolution from the original Note 10 and S10 doesn’t appear very noticeable when looking at the device.

The Note 10, of course, comes with the S Pen, on which you’ll still find all of the same functionality you’d expect from the latest Note device.

Solid specs with some curious choices

The spec sheet on these phones isn’t too shabby. Shipping with Android 10, both will have either 6 GB or 8 GB RAM with 128 GB storage and a beefy 4,500mAh battery. The processors are flagship-level for 2018 devices, but, curiously, the S10 rocks a Snapdragon 855, while the Note 10 goes with the Exynos 8895. Exynos processors are typically reserved for international variants of Samsung’s phones, but the company wouldn’t comment on what that means for availability, nor could it offer much insight on why this distinction between the S10 Lite and Note 10 Lite has been made.

Corey Gaskin / Digital Trends

Moving on to the cameras, we have 32 MP selfie cams up front and triple-camera setups on back of both devices. Here’s where another interesting departure is made. While the Note 10 Lite utilizes 12 MP sensors for the ultrawide, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses, the S10 Lite goes with a 5 MP macro, 12 MP ultrawide, and a 48 MP wide-angle as the main sensor. It’s a curious choice to go with this hodgepodge of cameras, one that Samsung says is focused on giving the typical S10 user what they’d like — a phone with an emphasis on the camera. I’m not yet convinced that this setup is delivering on that promise just by jacking up the megapixels, but of course, some deeper testing is needed.

Where can you get one?

Well, nowhere yet. And Samsung is rather noncommittal about where these two phones might end up or when, saying only that they’ll likely receive a “global launch.” Pricing has yet to be announced, but if these come in around the $500 mark and deliver on long battery life and near top-tier cameras, then Samsung could have a strong contender for the Onepluses and iPhone 11s out there.

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