Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: What should you buy?

galaxy s10 lite vs galaxy s10
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you want one of Samsung's top-of-the-line flagships these days, you've got to be prepared to spend big bucks. The Galaxy S20 that arrived this spring starts at $999, and that's before we even get to the four-figure prices of the rest of the S20 series. More recently, Samsung took the wraps off the Galaxy Note 20, another phone with a $999 starting price.

What's a smartphone shopper on a budget to do? Turn to last year's models for lower priced models that still deliver top features, like the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus.

But Samsung has expanded your choices. The year began with Samsung showing off the Galaxy S10 Lite, a new spin on last year's flagship phones. This S10 model has a lot in common with its older siblings, but it drops some features in order to offer a lower price.

The Galaxy S10 Lite arrived in the U.S. in April, joining the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus in Samsung's lineup of more affordable phones. Here's a closer look at the Galaxy S10 Lite vs. the Galaxy S10 and what separates these different phones from one another.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Specs compared

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PhoneGalaxy S10 LiteGalaxy S10eGalaxy S10Galaxy S10 Plus
Screen (Resolution)6.7-inch Super AMOLED (2400 x 1080)5.8-inch AMOLED (2160 x 1080)6.1-inch AMOLED (3040 x 1440)6.4-inch AMOLED (3040 x 1440)
CPUSnapdragon 855Snapdragon 855Snapdragon 855Snapdragon 855
Storage128GB128GB, 256GB128GB, 512GB128GB, 512GB, 1TB
Rear Cameras48MP wide angle (f/2.0), 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 5MP macro16-MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4)16-MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4); 12-MP telephoto (f/2.4)16-MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4); 12-MP telephoto (f/2.4)
Front Camera32MP (f/2.2)10MP (f/1.9)10MP (f/1.9)10-MP dual pixel (f/1.9), 8-MP depth-sensing (f/2.2)
Battery Size4,500 mAh3,100 mAh3,400 mAh4,100 mAh
Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)Not yet tested9:4110:1912:35
Size6.4 x 3 x 0.32 inches5.6 x 2.75 x 0.3 inches5.9 x 2.77 x 0.3 inches6.2 x 2.91 x 0.3 inches
Weight6.6 ounces5.29 ounces5.5 ounces6.17 ounces
ColorsPrism BlackPrism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Prism Green (except U.S.), Canary Yellow (except U.S.), Flamingo Pink (except U.K.)Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Prism Green (except U.S.), Flamingo Pink (except U.K.)Flamingo Pink, Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue, Prism Green, Ceramic White, Ceramic Black

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Price and availability

As the Lite name might suggest, the Galaxy S10 Lite costs less than the Galaxy S10 — but not quite as much as we would have imagined back in January 2020 when Samsung first introduced the phone.

That's because the Galaxy S20 subsequently came along, and Samsung opted to keep the S10 models around, cutting prices by $150 to appeal to users who found its new phones too expensive. As a result, the Galaxy S10 went from costing $899 to $749.

The Galaxy S10 Lite, which has been on sale since April, costs $650 at Amazon, Best Buy and Mint. Best Buy knocks $100 off the price if you activate the phone when you buy it.

It's a wider price gap with the Galaxy S10 Plus, which now costs $849 after its Galaxy S20-inspired price cut. But the Galaxy S10e remains the cheapest Galaxy S model, with a sub-$600 price tag.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Design and display

At 6.4 x 3 x 0.32 inches, the Galaxy S10 Lite is noticeably taller and wider than the Galaxy S10 (5.9 x 2.77 x 0.3 inches). The newer phone weighs more, too — 6.6 ounces compared with 5.5 ounces for the S10. Some of that is to accommodate a larger screen, as you get a 6.7-inch display with the S10 Lite, versus 6.1 inches for the S10. (The Lite's screen is even larger than the Galaxy S10 Plus' 6.4-inch panel.) The S10 Lite also incorporates plastic in its casing to help keep costs down.

Galaxy s10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10

Galaxy S10 Lite (Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy S10 introduced the world to the Infinity O display, which features a hole punch for the front camera. That's on the right side of the screen for the S10 and S10e, but the S10 Lite moves it to the center, much like the Galaxy Note 10 and the Galaxy S20 lineup.

The display on the S10 Lite may be larger, but it's not as sharp. Samsung went with a Full HD+ resolution (2400 x 1080) for the S10 Lite, while the S10 sports a 3040 x 1440 resolution. (The S10 Lite's resolution is a little sharper than the Galaxy S10e's 2160 x 1080 display.) The S10 Lite turns to a Super AMOLED panel instead of the Dynamic AMOLED screen found in other S10 models. We'd expect that means the colors on the S10 Lite may not be as accurate as they are on the S10, but we'll still need to test the phone's display to be certain.

Galaxy S10 Lite v Galaxy S10

Galaxy S10 (Image credit: Samsung Galaxy S10)

You get a wider choice of colors with the Galaxy S10, which is available in Prism Black, Prism White, Prism Blue and Flamingo Pink. (Outside of the U.S., there's also a Prism Green option.) The S10 Lite just features Prism Black for U.S. customers.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Cameras

You'll get quite a different camera setup on the Galaxy S10 Lite, even though it has three rear lenses, just like the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus. (The Galaxy S10e makes do with just two rear cameras.) The difference lies in which cameras Samsung has selected for the S10 Lite.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10

Galaxy S10 Lite (Image credit: Future)

Like the S10 and S10e, the S10 Lite has a wide-angle lens as its main shooter, augmented by an ultrawide-angle lens. The main camera on the S10 Lite packs in more megapixels — 48MP with an f/2.0 aperture, compared with the 12MP main lens with variable aperture on the S10. The ultrawide-angle lens on the S10 Lite is 12 MP with an aperture of f/2.2, compared with the 16MP (f/2.2) ultrawide shooter on the other S10 models.

It's the third lens that marks the biggest departure from the regular S10, which features a telephoto lens to support an optical zoom. The S10 Lite goes a different route with a 5MP macro lens that figures to assist with shooting objects close up, but it sounds like you'll have to rely on a digital zoom when you want to zoom in on a subject. (We haven't tested the S10 Lite's cameras, but we're not a fan of macro lenses in general.)

galaxy s10 lite vs galaxy s10

Galaxy S10 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Up front, the S10 Lite features a 32MP selfie cam, which sports more megapixels than the 10-MP front camera on the S10 and S10e. The S10 Plus has two front lenses to aid with portrait effects — something you won't get with the S10 Lite.

The Galaxy S10 takes solid pictures, though it can't quite keep up with top camera phones like the Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 Pro. We're interested in seeing if the S10 Lite's photos can measure up, especially after a software update available to the S10 models introduced some of the camera features that debuted with the Galaxy S20 this spring. The S10 Lite will be able to take advantage of Single Take in which the phone captures different pictures all at once from its many lenses, Pro Video for greater control over settings and Night Hyperlapse for time-lapse videos shot in low light.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Performance

There's little difference in the mobile processor powering these different S10 models. Like the rest of the S10 family, the S10 Lite runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor. That was Qualcomm's latest and greatest chipset when the S10 debuted last year, but the chip maker has since introduced the Snapdragon 865, which now powers the Galaxy S20 lineup, and the Snapdragon 865 Plus, which is inside the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. That could explain why Samsung went to the Snapdragon 855 for its so-called Lite phone.

We'd expect the Galaxy S10 Lite to come pretty close to the S10 on benchmarking tests, though the extra memory on some models of the S10 may give it a slight edge. We'll need to test Samsung's new phone to confirm.

galaxy s10 lite vs galaxy s10

Galaxy S10 Lite (Image credit: Future)

The S10 Lite does sacrifice in the areas of memory and storage. The U.S. version of the Galaxy S10 Lite features 8GB of RAM. (There's a 6GB version in other parts of the world.) That matches what you get with the Galaxy S10, but you can up the memory to 12GB in the Galaxy S10 Plus.

With Samsung's older S10 models, you have a choice in storage options — 128GB for the base model and either 256GB for the S10e or 512GB for the S10. As for the S10 Lite, you're stuck with 128GB of on-device storage.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Battery life

Battery power is one area where you're not sacrificing at all with the Galaxy S10 Lite. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if Samsung's Lite phone outlasts the regular S10.

That's because the Galaxy S10 Lite comes with a 4,500-mAh battery, a massive upgrade over the 3,400-mAh power pack inside the Galaxy S10. The latter phone lasted 10 hours and 19 minutes on our battery test, in which we have the phone surf the web continuously over LTE until it runs out of power. 

The S10's result is slightly above average for smartphones, so you'd think the S10 Lite and its bigger battery should top that, even with the S10 Lite's bigger screen. (The S10 Plus has a 6.4-inch screen, after all, but its 4,100-mAh battery helped it last 12 hours and 35 minutes on our test, placing it among the devices with the best phone battery life.)

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10

Galaxy S10's Wireless Powershare feature

You won't be able to wirelessly charge your Galaxy S10 Lite, which also means that the Wireless PowerShare feature that lets other S10 models charge up other devices isn't available here. The S10 Lite does support 25-watt fast charging, though.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Software

You won't find much difference between these Galaxy S10 models when it comes to software. The S10 Lite ships with Android 10 and Samsung's new OneUI 2.0 interface out of the box, while older S10 models had to be upgraded to the new OS, having shipped with Android 9 Pie last year.

Galaxy S10 Lite vs. Galaxy S10: Outlook

We'll admit that some of our enthusiasm for the Galaxy S10 Lite has dimmed since we've learned about the $650 price. While that's still less than what the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus cost, even after their price cuts, other Android phones have come along that deliver more features for a similar price. The OnePlus 8, for example, costs $699, and you get a Snapdragon 865 chipset with 5G connectivity and a 90Hz display with that phone.

Still, if you're committed to getting a Samsung phone but recoil at the Galaxy S20's $999 starting price, the trade-offs between the Galaxy S10 Lite and the regular S10 are notable, if not deal breakers for most people. Colors may not be as accurate on the S10 Lite's display, but you're getting a bigger screen. You can also expect performance that's comparable to Samsung's more expensive S10 models, and battery life could be better. The biggest sacrifice appears to be in the cameras, particularly if you use zoom for a lot of shots and need a good telephoto lens.

We can offer a more definitive verdict on how the S10 Lite compares with other S10 models once we have a chance to thoroughly test this new phone.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.