“The best smartphone that money can buy”, “The best flagship from Samsung yet”, “The most loaded Note flagship ever”….
Those are some of the best ways to define the latest high-end offering from the Korean giant’s stables – the Galaxy Note 10+. Unveiled last month at an event in New York, Samsung is clearly forging ahead with its S Pen-toting flagship in a bigger way than ever. That’s because, along with the Note 10+, the company also announced an affordable sibling in the form of the Note 10… following a dual-device strategy in the Note series for the first time ever. While we’d be putting the Note 10 through its paces soon, it’s time to turn our attention to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and see why it deserves the aforementioned phrases.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||1440 x 3040 pixels|
|CPU||Dual core, 2.73 GHz + Dual core, 2.4 GHz, Samsung Exynos 9 Octa|
|Internal memory||256 GB|
|External memory||Up to 1 TB|
|Capacity||4300 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable|
|Primary camera||12 MP|
|Secondary camera||10 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 9.0 Pie|
Since the Note series has closely followed the S series flagship in the recent past, it has increasingly become tough to differentiate them… apart from the fact that the Note flagships boast the S Pen, of course. But that’s not the case this time around, as the Note 10+ differs in more ways than one from the Galaxy S10+ (review). And while those might be considered as small upgrades or changes, they do make the Note 10+ an ideal option for power users – which is the target audience for the lineup.
Yet with a starting price of Rs 79,990, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ may not be for everyone, but if you can stomach the cost, then you wouldn’t regret your decision.
Design and display
Size: 6.8 Inch
Resolution: 1440 x 3040 pixels
Display Type: Dynamic AMOLED
Pixel Density: 495 ppi
With the largest display ever on a Samsung flagship, the Galaxy Note 10+ is literally pushing the boundaries of a smartphone. Its screen measures 6.8-inches across, which shows how far along we’ve come since the 5.3-inch “gargantuan” panel on the original Galaxy Note, launched eight years ago. Yet, if you are a lover of big devices, you wouldn’t find the new Note 10+ difficult to use or unwieldy in any manner.
That’s because Samsung has managed to shrink the bezels quite a bit, and add to that the curved edges on the left and right side, which ensure that Galaxy Note 10+ isn’t much bigger than a phone with a ~6.4-inch screen. To put this in context, the Note 10+ has an astounding screen-to-body ratio of 94.7 percent. Having said that, the smartphone isn’t meant for single-hand use. You can’t really reach the corners of the screen if you’re holding the phone with one hand, and it’s also difficult to type comfortably and accurately as the phone is quite wide too. It’s also quite heavy, tipping the scales at 205g, though the weight has been distributed quite well across the body.
Thanks to curved edges and rounded corners, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ looks quite thin at 7.9mm. The handset has also changed things up in terms of button and port placement. First, the bad news – there’s no 3.5mm headphone socket. And as much as I love listening to music wirelessly, the comfort and universality of the good ol’ audio interface can’t be ignored. The Chaebol has also got rid of another element – the Bixby key (good riddance indeed), which has been a staple for Samsung flagships in the past couple of years. But here’s where things get interesting; instead of positioning the power button and volume rocker on the right spine unlike earlier, both of these buttons are placed on the left. That certainly requires a behaviour shift, but not a big deal once you get used to them. It’s worth noting that the power switch, by default, acts as a Bixby key itself, and hence has been referred to as the ‘side key’. Thankfully, you can change what the device should trigger when the side key is pressed.
Up top, the Galaxy Note 10+ features a SIM slot, an IR emitter and a noise-cancelling mic. At the bottom, you’ll find the USB Type-C port, a speaker grille and the housing for the S Pen. Similar to previous Note offerings, the S Pen can be ejected by a simple press.
I know, I know I haven’t talked about the blemish on the fascia of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+… the centre-aligned punch-hole. While Samsung must be credited for ensuring that the phone offers a full-screen display, the punch-hole is right there – staring at you – whether you’re using the device normally, watching videos or playing games. As compared to the punch-hole present on the left or right corners on other phones (which can be out of your peripheral vision), it isn’t as easy to ignore the one on the Note 10+, though you’d get used to it eventually.
That said, the 6.8-inch screen on the Galaxy Note 10+ is a joy to consume multimedia content on or for scrolling through webpages. The Dynamic AMOLED panel has been rated A+ by DisplayMate, and it’s not hard to see why – the display is punchy, super sharp, has impressive brightness with minimal screen reflectance in direct sunlight and offers great viewing angles. You also get the usual features like adjustable colour temperature and the ability to enable the night mode.
While Samsung hasn’t been as experimental as Chinese brands when it comes to working with gradients and patterns with the rear panels of smartphones, the Note 10+ does come with a rather unique hue – Aura Glow, and that’s the variant I received for review. It’s rather stunning as it can show different colours, depending upon how hard the light is hitting the surface and at what angle. If you want to go with usual choices, then the device is also available in white and black colourways. Of course, at this point, I needn’t tell you that like any glass-backed phone, the Samsung handset attracts fingerprints like a moth to a flame. And to avoid that, you do get a transparent TPU case inside the retail packaging of the smartphone. Like its predecessors, the Note 10+ is impervious to dust and water, thanks to the IP68 certification.
S Pen capabilities
Along with its elongated screen, the USP of the Note series has always been the S Pen. The good thing is that Samsung is continuing to expand its feature set making it much more useful than just a fancy stylus for quickly jotting down notes or sketching. One of the biggest changes for the accessory was introduced last year when it got Bluetooth functionality. This allowed one to control music playback or capture a picture with the S Pen remotely. But our biggest gripe, in that case, was the fact that you couldn’t do anything beyond clicking an image with the S Pen’s button, for instance.
This time around, you can not only change the camera shooting modes or switch to the front camera, but can also zoom in or zoom out in the camera viewfinder – all while using the S Pen remotely as it comes with an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The feature is dubbed Air Actions and while it doesn’t always work, once you get hang of it, it’s quite useful. The best part is that you could use the same capability with multiple apps such as gallery, AR Doodle, etc. I think the feature is mainly useful for camera and gallery apps though. Samsung has also rolled out the SDK for this, so that third-party developers can unlock its capabilities.
Another new feature is the ability to convert written text to digital form, and then export it as a document or PDF. This is quite handy and I can already see it becoming really useful in a variety of situations. I also liked the fact that Samsung has ensured that this feature works not just with English, but as many as 62 languages, including Indic languages like Hindi, Gujarati, et. al. There’s also AR Doodle, which lets you doodle anything in the frame and then shoot it accordingly. For example, you could draw a crown over someone’s head, and the camera will actually follow him / her to show the crown. While it works quite well, it comes across as more of a gimmick than anything else.
Of course, if I do a deep dive on the S Pen capabilities, then it’d turn out to be an article of its own, so I’ll just wind up this section by mentioning what I really like the S Pen for:
a) using screen-off memo to quickly note down a phone number or an address
b) annotating screenshots for pointing out something specific
c) handwriting-to-text feature is quite handy in a lot of situations such as taking quick notes during a meeting
d) Air Actions are useful in certain scenarios such as clicking an image or selfie remotely. I hope app developers are able to harness its true potential.
The Bluetooth-enabled S Pen’s battery gets juiced up from the device itself. And once fully charged, it’s claimed to last up to 10 hours.
Primary camera: 12 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 10 MP
Over the years, Samsung’s flagships have perched at the top of the table of the best camera phones. Samsung was displaced by Google and Huawei in recent times, but the Note 10+ has helped the company regain its throne, per DxOMark. Now it’s interesting to note that the camera setup on the Note 10+ is largely same as the S10+, so of course, I was interested in testing out its imaging prowess. But before that, let’s take a closer look at the tech specs: the handset features a 12MP ISOCELL sensor with a dual aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4, a 16MP telephoto snapper, a 16MP ultra wide-angle shooter, and a ToF sensor, dubbed DepthVision. The punch-hole on the front houses a 10MP selfie camera, just like the Galaxy S10. With regards to the camera app on the Galaxy Note 10+, you’d find it to be familiar if you’ve used a Samsung smartphone before.
So how does the Galaxy Note 10+ improve upon the Galaxy S10+ to win the top spot? Well, there doesn’t seem to be a world of difference between the two. So mostly it has to do with enhanced image processing with the latest flagship.
As a shooter, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is quite reliable. Whether its daylight, low-light or close-ups, the phone does justice to each of the scenes, and you get crisp images with good colours. Of course, the colours are tuned towards saturation, but there’s no denying the fact that they appear quite pleasing to the eyes. The portrait shots also turn out to be really good, and I absolutely loved the wide-angle images as it allowed me to capture a much wider frame without moving my position. In dim environments as well, the Note 10+ manages to offer a balanced show by keeping the light sources in control and offering good colours without being grainy. And if you enable the night shot mode, then the output is even better, if you can keep your hand stable that is. One interesting observation that I had with the mode however, is that because it reduces the shutter speed, if a subject – let’s say a person – is moving, then the image will only have slight traces of the same.
One thing worth pointing out in this case – which isn’t related to camera quality per se – is the fact that it’s extremely difficult to shoot with the Note10+ single-handedly. So if you’re trying to click pictures or images with the handset while holding it in one hand, then the shot may not turn out to be the way you’d have wanted since it’s nigh impossible to be able to get a stable output and when you are able to get that, your hands would get tired within a couple of minutes.
While most phones focus on the image quality, Samsung is among the few brands which give equal attention if not more to video recording capabilities. Thanks to OIS, the footage is quite smooth, and I also liked the fact that you could use all the shooters in the video department too. Yes, that means that you can get bokeh effect while shooting videos too and in my usage, it seemed to have worked well. Of course, the device comes with time lapse and slow-mo recording capabilities (at 960fps) too. But there’s also functionality like the Zoom-in mic that ensures that the device is able to record voice from a certain direction / person better, which can come in quite handy in situations such as concerts.
I enjoyed capturing Germany through the eyes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+, yet I don’t concur with DxOMark’s ranking (at the time of publishing this review) of the handset being at the top of the pecking order of the camera phones. And with the recently-launched iPhone 11 Pro getting rave reviews for its cameras (we are yet to test them out) and Google’s Pixel 4 on the anvil, it’d be interesting to see where the Samsung flagship would stand.
Hardware and software
CPU: Dual core, 2.73 GHz + Dual core, 2.4 GHz, Samsung Exynos 9 Octa
GPU: Mali-G72 MP12
RAM: 12 GB
Memory: 256 GB + Up to 1 TB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
With all the chipmakers jumping on the 7nm bandwagon, Samsung’s Exynos was a step behind earlier this year. Unlike Huawei’s Kirin 980 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processors, the Exynos 9820 SoC was based on 8nm process. But the brand has now introduced a mid-cycle upgrade in the form of the Exynos 9825, which is what powers the all-new Galaxy Note 10+. Apart from the smaller die size however, the latest chip is the same as its predecessor, i.e. an octa-core processor with three clusters: 2 x 2.7GHz + 2 x 2.4GHz + 4 x 1.9GHz.
While the S10+’s higher-end variant offered 12 gigs of RAM, that’s the default on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+… yet another example of how the device is aimed at power users. With such a powerful combination, smooth usage is almost guaranteed, and that’s what I witnessed during my time with it. The phone handles anything thrown at it, and switching between apps is quick too. There was nary an instance where I felt that the device was stressed enough, and on most occasions, there was around 3-4GB RAM spare. This was when I had more than 30 apps opened, and in case your recently-opened apps pane is empty, then the device has around 7GB RAM free.
With the Mali-G76 GPU, the Note 10+ deftly manages the graphics aspect too. I played a bunch of 3D-heavy titles on the smartphone, and came away impressed every time. Thanks to the new liquid-cooling mechanism, the device doesn’t get too hot even after playing for more than an hour.
While there’s a single RAM variant, the Note 10+ is available with 256GB or 512GB storage options. You could also expand it further with the use of a microSD card of up to 1TB, taking the total storage to 1.5TB – perhaps more than most laptops out there. However, you’ll need to sacrifice the dual-SIM capability for the same.
For security purposes, the Galaxy Note 10+ features an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner underneath the display which works quite well. It’s still not the fastest I’ve come across, but then you can always rely on the face unlock. The latter is quick to authenticate, though struggles in low light.
It may seem like the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ features a single speaker at the bottom, but the earpiece up top also doubles up as one to offer stereo effect and thus the sound gets fairly loud at full volume. With support for Dolby Atmos, the output is crisp too, though the placement means that the sound gets muffled when you’re using the handset in landscape mode.
I’ve come to love Samsung’s OneUI interface, which runs atop Android 9.0 Pie. The UI is quite minimal and gets rid of quite a few irks I had with the brand’s custom skins. There’s not much bloatware either apart from Microsoft suite of apps and titles like Facebook. However, the My Galaxy app does send unnecessary notifications about offers or TV series, which is quite bothersome.
Samsung has also made the DeX mode inherently useful this time around. Instead of needing a separate accessory, the brand has worked with Microsoft to allow the DeX feature, making it so easy to connect the Note 10+ to Windows-toting machines by simply connecting a Type-C cable. You do need to download an app on your computer, and once done, you get the entire smartphone on the PC, including the ability to open settings, check out pictures in the gallery, open files, etc. While all this may seem like a functionality that a service like AirDroid used to offer, it’s much more powerful as you can also open apps that are installed in the Galaxy Note 10+ (though not all of them are compatible with the large screen of a laptop), access the settings panel, make notes, among other things. There’s also Link to Windows feature, which lets you get access to your phone’s messages, etc. by using Windows My Phone app.
Capacity: 4300 mAH, Li-ion, Non removable
While Samsung has tried to play it safe with the battery capacities for its top-of-the-line offerings, the Note 10+ sports the largest cell ever in the brand’s flagship. The 4,300mAh pack ensures that the device lasts a day, and then some more. Granted that this is when the display resolution is set at FHD+ and not QHD+ (which perhaps makes sense when you aren’t watching compatible videos at such resolution), it’s impressive nonetheless. I usually managed to eke screen-on time of roughly five to six hours.
With the bundled 25W adapter, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ goes from 10 percent to fully-charged in less than an hour. However, it’s worth noting that the phone supports 45W charging speeds, but you’ll need to buy the power brick separately. You do get wireless charging support at 15W as well the functionality of juicing up other compatible devices wirelessly with PowerShare.
Now, this is where things get interesting. Unlike a couple of years back, Samsung not only has to fend off rivals in the high-end segment, but devices which offer flagship-grade specifications at lower prices too, which makes the first comparison rather inevitable:
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ vs OnePlus 7 Pro
Within a short span of time, OnePlus has become a force to be reckoned with – it has also shifted from the flagship killer stance to being the flagship itself. And the OnePlus 7 Pro (review) is the culmination of all its learnings over the years. With a sharp QHD+ AMOLED panel offering 90Hz refresh rate, triple rear cameras, a powerful battery and a clean software experience – it’s difficult to choose the Note 10+ over the OnePlus 7 Pro – especially for the phone’s starting price of Rs 48,999 unless you bring the S Pen to the equation.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ vs Galaxy S10+
Well, if you don’t necessarily have a need for the S Pen, then the S10+ may serve your needs equally well. And even though the Note 10+ does bring slight upgrades to the table – they aren’t enough to warrant spending more over the online price of around Rs 67,000 for the S10+.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ vs Galaxy Note 10
If you can’t go for the S10+ as you do need an S Pen, then Samsung has another option for you in the form of the Note 10. It’s also a great option for those who want a compact screen size. However, with a difference of just Rs 10k, and the smaller sibling missing out on features like the microSD card slot, it perhaps makes more sense to go for the Note 10+ itself.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ vs Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
It’s an age-old rivalry which will continue for the foreseeable future. And to be fair, it’s actually an apples vs oranges comparison as both the Note 10+ and Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max are targeted at a different set of users. If you don’t worry about the price tag and are looking for a device that offers smooth user experience and can work with other Apple devices that you own, then the iPhone 11 Max Pro is a clear choice. But if you aren’t in the iOS ecosystem or are looking for absolutely best that Android has to offer, then the choice between them is pretty clear.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ vs Huawei P30 Pro
Huawei has suddenly been making a lot of right moves, as far as its device strategy is concerned. With a powerful camera setup, it easily is one of the best camera phones, if not the best, and its hardware is also top-notch. And if you don’t have a use case for the S Pen, then the P30 Pro (review) is more affordable too. In case, you’re looking for a canvas same as the Note 10+, then you might want to wait for the launch of the Mate 30 Pro.
With the Galaxy Note 10+, Samsung isn’t just relying on the S Pen to make a case for the smartphone. It’s everything you’d want in a smartphone, along with things that you may not even know you need.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Large screen real estate
- Good screen-to-body ratio
- Solid internals
- S Pen is more powerful than ever
- Great cameras
- Impressive battery life
- Cameras aren’t the best
- Not meant for one-hand usage
- Priced steeply
Photos by Raj Rout