Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Review
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Review
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review
I’ve been trying to adjust for a week and have been mostly unsuccessful in retraining my muscle memory. The switch is great for people who use their phone with their left hand (lefties, rejoice!), but for folks like myself, the change might be hard to get used to.
Everything else about the Galaxy Note 10+ is excellent, which isn’t surprising. Samsung once again polished the metal-and-glass sandwich design to yet another level of luxury; the iridescent Aura Glow color is especially eye-catching. The huge display, with its super-thin bezels and center-aligned selfie camera, is even more gorgeous than on the Galaxy S10+. And the quad-camera system, performance, and battery life are all champs worthy of the Note 10’s hefty price.
Like the Galaxy S10+, I found myself liking the Galaxy Note 10 very much. It’s easily the best big smartphone available — as almost every Galaxy Note has been for nearly a decade — but there are features I really wished Samsung borrowed from its Android rivals.
The Galaxy Note 10 starts at $949, while the Note 10+ starts at $1,099. As expensive as they are, they’re not egregiously priced compared to other premium smartphones. For $949, you get a 6.3-inch display with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. A Galaxy S10 with a smaller 6.1-inch screen and 128GB of storage retails for $899 and a Galaxy S10+ with a slightly larger 6.4-inch display and the same amount of storage costs $999.
The prices are even better when compared to Apple’s lineup. The Note 10 is $200 less than the iPhone XS, which costs $1,149 for the same 256GB of storage. Similarly, a 256GB Galaxy Note 10+ is $150 less than an iPhone XS Max with the same amount of storage. (Bump it up 512GB and it’ll cost you $1,199, which is $250 less than an equivalent iPhone XS Max.)
But if you want the best premium phone value of 2019, OnePlus still has Samsung beat: $699 for the OnePlus 7 Pro with 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM or $749 with the same storage and 12GB of RAM.
Remember, though: Choosing a phone isn’t entirely an apples-to-apples comparison based on storage. There are many features to consider. Do you want an S Pen (Note 10)? Do you care about a 90Hz screen (OnePlus)? Do you need a microSD card slot? (The Note 10+ has one, but the Note 10 doesn’t.) How important is camera image quality? Do you want a headphone jack?
STUNNING METAL AND GLASS
Holding the Galaxy Note 10+ made me feel old. Eight years ago, Samsung unveiled the big, plastic Galaxy Note and now, we’ve got this beautiful piece of polished aluminum and glass.
The design may not be unique to Samsung phones anymore — Huawei, OnePlus, and other companies have cloned it — but it still looks great on the Note 10+.
It’s truly an engineering and design marvel that deserves to be ooh’d and ahh’d at in public and private. But as stunning as the phone is, I have to say it’s as delicate as it looks.
I love that the Note 10+ feels better in the hand — it’s thinner and lighter than the Note 9 — but it bugs me that it’s also more slippery. That’s because there’s more glass on the sides where the display and back glass meet the metal frame.
In only a week of using the Note 10+, I almost dropped it a handful of times pulling it out of my pocket and holding it up to take photos.
The Note 10+’s Corning Gorilla Glass 6 back is unfortunately also a fingerprint magnet and scratches easily. A case fixes it, but my bare review unit, which I babied as much as possible, got scratched less than 24 hours after unboxing.
Despite these minor annoyances, I still very much enjoyed using the Note 10+. The massive 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display (3,040 x 1,440 resolution at 498 pixels per inch) is arguably the best smartphone screen there is in terms of image quality. The display is very bright, sharp, and vibrant, and the bezels around it are some of the thinnest on any phone.
And I really like the center-aligned selfie camera cutout, versus a “hole punch” in the corner or a notch. I had doubts it would look better than a “teardrop” notch, like on the OnePlus 6T, but now I’m certain it does.
The one thing that could have made the display even better would have been a 90Hz refresh rate like on the OnePlus 7 Pro or a 120Hz refresh rate like on the Razer Phone 2 for silky smooth scrolling. That said, the Note 10+’s standard 60Hz refresh rate doesn’t make the screen any less beautiful to look at.
With the exception of the moved power button and removal of the headphone jack (a dongle isn’t included in the box, but at least you get a pair of USB-C AKG earbuds), the Note 10+ has all of the classic Samsung pillars you’d expect: fast wired and wireless charging, IP68 water and dust resistance, reverse wireless charging (Wireless PowerShare), microSD card slot (only on the Note 10+, not the Note 10), and of course the S Pen.
People will be upset about the death of the headphone jack, but I’ve been living without it on iPhones and Pixels and you know what? Wireless earbuds and headphones are way more convenient and if you need a dongle, it’s only a few bucks. In 2019, the loss of the headphone jack isn’t a big deal to me.
Embedded underneath the display is the same ultrasonic fingerprint reader found in the Galaxy S10, S10+, and S10+ 5G. In my tests, the Note 10+’s in-display fingerprint sensor performs on par with the S10’s. It’s not faster or more responsive, so if you feel the S10’s fingerprint reader is slow, especially compared to the optical in-display sensor in the OnePlus 7 Pro, you’re gonna be disappointed.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Review: VERSATILE CAMERAS
Like the Galaxy S10+, the Note 10+ has a lot of cameras. But don’t let all of the lenses scare you into thinking you need to be an expert to use them.
On the front, there’s a single 10-megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.2 aperture for selfies. Simple enough.
However, the four cameras on the rear require a short breakdown if you haven’t been keeping up with the latest phones:
- 12-megapixel main lens with variable f/1.5-2.4 aperture with optical image stabilization
- 12-megapixel telephoto lens with f/2.1 aperture and optical image stabilization
- 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens with f/2.2 aperture and no optical stabilization
- VGA-resolution “DepthVision” camera, aka a “ToF” (time of flight) lens for AR and 3D scanning
For the most part, the Note 10+’s three cameras take pretty much the same pictures as the ones taken by the Galaxy S10, S10+, and S10+ 5G. The Note 10 and 10+’s telephoto lens has a slightly improved aperture (f/2.1 instead of f/2.4) which means it’s a smidge better at taking brighter, low-light photos. But truthfully, the difference in image quality is so negligible it’s mostly irrelevant.
As with the Galaxy S10+’s cameras, the Note 10+ takes good photos. Not the sharpest (that’s still the Pixel 3), not the most color accurate (iPhone XS), and not with the most impressive optical zoom (Huawei P30 Pro). But good, well-exposed photos respectable enough to share on your Insta or Twitter without editing.
The 123-degree ultra-wide angle camera is the most fun to shoot with and opens up a ton of opportunities for creative shots.
Below, you can see examples of what kinds of shots you can take with the Note 10 and Note 10+’s three main cameras.
Many flagship phones now have three cameras, but they’re not all created equal. As you can see in the comparison shots below, the Note 10+’s ultra-wide angle camera has the widest field of view and the image processing produces the most vibrant colors with more dynamic range.
The OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro’s ultra-wide cameras take duller shots. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s ultra-wide in particular has issues with chromatic aberration (the color fringing around the edges of things), most noticeable in the tree branches.
POWER FOR ALL
Galaxy Notes are known for their performance — productivity requires tons of power — and the Note 10+ is no exception.
With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chip and 8GB of RAM (Note 10) or 12GB of RAM (Note 10+), Samsung’s latest Galaxy Notes are two of the fastest Android phones of 2019.
On Geekbench 4, the Note 10+ got an average single-core score of 3,477 and multi-core score of 10,950 — comparable to the Galaxy S10+’s 3,384 single-core and 10,825 performance.
Just as I noted in our Galaxy S10+ review, the Snapdragon 855 chip is nearly as powerful as Apple’s A12 Bionic chip on multi-core, but still lags on single-core. Running Geekbench 4 on my iPhone XS loaded with the latest iOS 13 beta 7, the A12 Bionic chip scored 4,765 on single-core and 11,494 on multi-core — 37 percent and 5 percent faster than the Note 10+, respectively.
If all of these scores are lost on you, just know this: the Note 10+ is exceptionally powerful and can handle any app you throw at it like a champ.
The Galaxy Note 10+ ships with Android 9 Pie with Samsung’s One UI customization. As I said in our Galaxy S10+ review, One UI is excellent. It’s lightweight, fluid, and has plenty of settings you can adjust to personalize Android to your liking, including a sweet dark mode, a notification shade that you access with a down swipe on the home screen (no need to struggle to reach the status bar), and a built-in screen recorder (finally!).
As I always do, I played a few of the most popular games such as Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, and Asphalt 9: Legends to see if the Note 10+ would choke. Needless to say, the phone loaded all of them quickly and frame rates were often butter-smooth instead of choppy like on many mid-range phones.
Games like Fortnite also ran cooler; the Note 10+ still gets a little warm, but not as bad as the Note 9.
The phones also include two “booster” features. The first is called Boot up Booster. It uses AI to ensure your most frequently used apps (four on the Note 10 and 12 on the Note 10+) are preloaded and ready to launch. The second booster feature is called Game Booster and uses AI to boost the NPU (neural processing unit) to improve gaming performance by regulating things like temperature and RAM and blocking calls and notifications for uninterrupted gameplay.
Like previous Galaxy Notes, the Note 10+ comes with a boatload of productivity features. There’s the usual Note stuff like Apps Edge, which lets you launch apps and shortcuts directly from a swipe on the left or right side of the screen, and Screen-off Memo, which lets you write notes on the screen (no unlock necessary) as soon as you pull the S Pen out. But it also has a bunch of new stuff that may or may not be useful depending on your workflow.
Personally, I found most of the new S Pen features to be gimmicks. While I think using the S Pen as a camera shutter remote and slideshow clicker is still practical in the right situations, the new S Pen’s motion-based Air Actions feature gets a big thumbs down from me.
At launch, you can use the S Pen’s motion controls to wirelessly control the camera. The simpler gestures, like launching the camera with a press and hold on the S Pen button, and switching camera modes with “press and hold + left/right swipe” work fine.
But the most complicated gesture — the one that requires “press and hold + half rotate clockwise or counterclockwise” to zoom in and out in the camera viewfinder — almost never worked. They sound cool on paper, but in practice, the silly air gestures are more trouble than they’re worth. More often than not, instead of recognizing the S Pen gesture, I ended up taking a batch of unintentional selfies of me looking frustrated.
The other new S Pen features are kinda snoozy as well. I guess for some people, it’s good the Note 10’s can convert handwritten notes to text (the conversions can be very accurate or terrible) and then convert that into a Microsoft Word document, but non-power users will probably shrug.
Which leaves Link to Windows and Samsung DeX for PC as the two most exciting new Note 10 features.
The first lets you wirelessly connect your Note 10+ to a Windows 10 PC and use the computer to check notifications, send and receive texts, and view the 25 most recent photos. More useful is the ability to mirror your Note 10 on your Windows 10 computer — good for running Android apps on your PC.
The second new productivity feature is Samsung DeX for PC. If you’ve used a Galaxy Note before, you’re probably familiar with Samsung’s past attempts to turn a phone into a PC-like computer by letting you connect it to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse via a DeX dock.
Rather than turn your phone into a desktop-like PC, Samsung’s realized that most workers just want a way to connect their phones to their Mac or PC to do things like drag and drop files, copy and paste text, and use a mouse and keyboard with Android apps.
Samsung DeX for PC accomplishes this using a single USB cable. Connect your Note 10 and computer via USB, run the Samsung DeX app, and — voila — your Note 10 switches into its desktop-like interface, and you’ve got Android in its own window inside of Windows 10 or MacOS.
And it works pretty well, too. With Samsung DeX for PC, I was able to simply drag files from the Note 10 directly to the desktop (or any folder) on my MacBook Air. Some Android apps like Feedly don’t work very well with a mouse and keyboard, but in general, the experience is quite good, and I can see many workers using Samsung DeX for PC rather than the old DeX.
With so many features and ways to use the Note 10+, you’re probably wondering if the phone has stamina.
I can’t speak for the Note 10’s 3,500 mAh battery since I didn’t test it, but the Note 10+’s 4,300 mAh battery usually lasted at least a full day with heavy use with the display resolution set at the full WQHD+ (3,040 x 1,440).
Scaling the resolution down to the default FHD+ (2,280 x 1,080) and turning on battery-saving features like adaptive brightness increased battery life to about one and a half days. Turning on “power mode” which does things like restrict background data, deactivate the always-on display, and limits the CPU speed to 70 percent boosted the battery life to almost two full days.
The Note 10+ doesn’t have the biggest battery in a smartphone, but it’s not something you’ll need to worry about often because the included 25-watt charger is able to fast charge the phone from 0-100 percent in about 65 minutes.
Samsung says 45-watt charger (sold separately) will be able to fast charge the Note 10+ (not the Note 10, though) via wire even faster, but the company didn’t provide that for me to test.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the Note 10+’s performance and battery life — they’re flagship level.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Review: PLAYING IT SAFE (AGAIN)
The Galaxy Note 10 story is the same as the Note 9: evolutionary, not revolutionary. The Note 10+ has a larger screen and a shinier body, but it doesn’t feel like Samsung’s pushing the boundaries anymore.
I’m sure power Galaxy Note users will appreciate some of the new S Pen features and might find Link to Windows and Samsung DeX for PC legitimately useful, but I think they’ll fly right over most people.
Samsung missed an opportunity to leapfrog its Android competitors with the Galaxy S10. It’s the same with the Note 10. Where’s the screen with the refresh rate that puts the OnePlus 7 Pro to shame? What about an optical zoom lens that bests the Huawei P30 Pro? Or cameras and a night mode that trounce the Pixel 3? How about secure face unlock that rivals the iPhone XS?
Maybe I’m expecting too much from Samsung — the Note 10+ is a refined phone and that should be enough — but where’s the excitement in accepting the status quo?
The Note 10+ is a flagship phone in every regard — the best big phone with a stylus — but instead of setting the trends for every other phone to copy, Samsung plays it safe (again).