Samsung Galaxy A10 review: Great in its day, but you can do better for your money in 2020 – Expert Reviews

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The Samsung Galaxy A10 is enduringly popular, but your money can go a lot further now
Cards on the table: we’re a little late to the Samsung Galaxy A10. Originally released back in 2019, the Galaxy A10 has proved enduringly popular, still selling at its modest full price 18 months after release.
Now that we’ve (finally) got the phone, the question remains whether it’s still a worthy choice in 2020. With an ageing processor and just a single rear camera, the Galaxy A10’s appeal is steadily declining, especially since newer releases, such as the Galaxy A21s, offer much more for just a bit more money. The Galaxy A10 can’t really compete, but is it still a dependable choice for those that want to spend a bit less?
While for many the Samsung Galaxy series starts with the S and ends with the Note, there’s also the Galaxy A, which covers Samsung’s mid-range and entry-level handsets. The Galaxy A10 is the cheapest Samsung on offer, which means you get a somewhat curious mish-mash of stylish design but limited innards.

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Powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 7884 processor (that’s roughly equivalent to a Snapdragon 450) and 2GB of RAM, the 6.13in handset has a 720p LED screen and a single-lens 13-megapixel camera. So while in terms of design it doesn’t look a million miles away from Samsung’s flagships of two-to-three years ago, inside it’s an entirely different story.
The Samsung Galaxy A10 launched at £140 back in Spring 2019, and it’s doggedly maintained that price point – something of a rarity for Samsung handsets, which tend to fall relatively quickly.
The most obvious rival is Samsung’s more recent Galaxy A21s which launched earlier this year at £180, but has fallen in price to around the £150 mark. The same applies to the middling Oppo A5, which has dropped £30. Also hanging around that price point is the excellent Nokia 5.3, which is sticking to its original £150 asking price.

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A bit of a wildcard I’m including here is the quad-camera-toting Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T, which originally sold for £179, but can now be had for £150. Yes, it’s been eclipsed by the Redmi Note 9 now, but as the newer model is sticking around £200 it’s not really comparable.
As I alluded to earlier, the Samsung Galaxy A10 is a good-looking phone. Budget handsets are no longer chunky things with enormous bezels, and at a glance you could easily confuse the Galaxy A10 with a flagship from a few years ago. It’s just 7.7mm thick, its bezels are around a millimetre (for the most part: the ‘chin’ is a little thicker), and while a camera notch is present, it’s considerably less visible than current iPhones.
Look closer, however, and there are tell-tale signs that this is a budget offering. For starters, the back is made of plastic rather than the glass coating you typically get on more expensive phones. There’s only one camera on the back, too, and the reason you can’t see a fingerprint reader isn’t because it’s a fancy in-screen model, but simply because there isn’t one. In its place, Samsung promises you can use your face to unlock, but without the fancy front-facing camera of a Pixel 4 or an iPhone Xs it doesn’t feel like it’s the best form of security.

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With no fingerprint reader, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that wireless charging is a no-go, but more surprising is that this is a Samsung phone you can buy in 2020 that still uses a microUSB charge cable. That means slower charging and data transfer speeds, but on the bright side, it probably means you have plenty of old cables to use in a pinch.
There are, however, several positives that more expensive handsets often omit, like its support for two SIM cards at once. Even more pleasingly, it supports microSD cards of up to 512GB and maintains the 3.5mm headphone jack – both features that the brand-spanking-new £849 Galaxy Note 20 omits.
The Samsung Galaxy A10’s 6.13in screen is an IPS LCD number, and it’s clearly a point where the company is making savings. Although it’s impressively bezel-free for the price, you won’t be getting QHD or even Full HD here – instead, you’re limited to 720p.
Honestly, I’m okay with that in principle. If I can live with 1080p on a 40in TV, then 720p on a smaller screen is just fine with me if it saves a few quid, but how does it perform in our display tests?

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Pretty well, as it turns out, especially when you consider the low cost of entry. According to our colorimeter, the Galaxy A10 covers 83% of the sRGB gamut, with a volume of 85.3%. Brightness reaches a very reasonable 444cd/m2, and contrast is a decent 1147:1 as well.
To be clear, this isn’t a screen that offers any kind of competition to £800 flagships by any means, but it’s perfectly usable and you can’t have any complaints for the price.
More aggressive cost-cutting is going on inside, though. Not only is the phone powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 7884 chip, but there’s only 2GB of RAM to help keep things running smoothly.
And bluntly, it struggles to manage that. Apps are slow to open and there’s a noticeable lag from when you press a text field to the on-screen keyboard popping up. I’d expect these things after a year of phone usage, but it happening with a fresh install of Android is a little concerning.

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The Exynos 7884 is roughly equivalent to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 – a chip that’s now over three years old, and it’s telling that every phone of a similar price to the Galaxy A10 has moved on to the Snapdragon 665. The difference in performance, as the benchmarks demonstrate, is night and day – especially in terms of multi-core performance.
It’s a similar story when it comes to graphical grunt. With budget phones, onscreen gaming performance is wildly inconsistent thanks to differing resolutions, so the figure to pay attention to here is the faint yellow chart where the Manhattan 3 benchmark is played at 1080p, even if the phones can’t physically display them.
As you can see, it lags behind the more recent Galaxy A21s, but it’s also about half the speed of options from Oppo, Nokia and Xiaomi.
The phone ships with Android 9, but shortly after it arrived I was presented with a pop-up offering Android 10. Out of curiosity, I ran the benchmarks again once updated, and it didn’t take a performance hit. On Geekbench 5, the single-core score was 208 and multi-core his 523: that’s basically well within the margin of error on these tests. So we can safely call the addition of Android 10 as a positive, and Samsung should be applauded for ensuring the new features reach a budget handset like this.
In our standard battery test, where handsets play the same looped video at 170cd/m2, the Samsung Galaxy A10 was a very good performer, managing 18hrs 23mins of playback before conking out.
As you can see, that puts it towards the high end, but honestly anything above 14 hours is more than enough for more people’s needs. Anything extra is just gravy.
The Samsung Galaxy A10 is something of a throwback with its camera setup: it’s back to the days when phones simply came with one rear camera. Plenty of budget phones waste time with a (pretty pointless) depth-sensing lens to make them look a bit more premium, but here Samsung is keeping it simple. It’s notable that its 2020 offerings have more – the A21s, for example, comes with four cameras on the back.
Here, though, you’re treated to a single 13-megapixel snapper with an aperture of f/1.9. So how does it do?
In bright sunshine, absolutely fine for a phone of this price. Coronavirus being what it is, I didn’t have a similarly priced phone on hand to compare it to, but as you can see from the samples below, it does a serviceable job of producing bright shots that capture the moment. Zoom in and a lot of detail is lost, mind. With the photograph of the church zoomed in, you can see that the roof tiles tend to blend into one.
But that’s quite picky given that all phones do that to some degree, and these images are generally fine for a £140 smartphone. Unfortunately, in low light, things leave a bit more to be desired.
Here, everything is a whole lot more fuzzy – something that is quite noticeable when you zoom in even a tiny bit.
There are artefacts everywhere where the image processing clearly cannot cope. In other words, this isn’t an ideal camera for capturing your clubbing memories once this whole global pandemic thing is out of the way.
On the front, you get a 5-megapixel selfie camera with an aperture of f/2.0. And it’s fine, though in classic Samsung style there’s no way to completely disable beautification. The picture on the left is with me turning everything off, and you can still see telltale signs of beautification. The middle one is the default, and the picture on the far right-hand side is with settings maxed out.

They’re all fine for video calls, and by beautification standards, the effects are actually pretty minimal, with none of the ‘uncanny valley’ qualities that you sometimes get from some camera apps.
In terms of video, the Samsung Galaxy A10 is capable of shooting Full HD video (1,920 x 1,080) at 30fps. It’s not too bad for the price, but the lack of stabilisation means that footage captured will likely appear on the bumpy side unless you have a very steady hand (or a tripod).
In some respects, I’m wholly unsurprised that the Samsung Galaxy A10 remains a popular choice in 2020. It’s far better looking than any phone in this price bracket has any right to be, the screen is decent and it generally gets the job done.
But you can definitely do better now. Shop around, and you can find the Oppo A5, Nokia 5.3 or Xiaomi Redmi Note 8T at a similar price, and all of them will give a far better day to day performance, and provide better photos too. If you’re dead set on a Samsung, then the Galaxy A21s is a substantial improvement and is one of the best-priced smartphones we’ve ever reviewed.
In short, the Galaxy A10 was a great budget phone in its day, but that day was a year ago, and it’s officially time to move on to something better.
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