Samsung’s Galaxy Note series represents the best of what Samsung has to offer. The Note has the best display, best specifications, and best cameras of Samsung’s phones each year. Unlike previous years, Samsung launched two Galaxy Note smartphones this year: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. A lot of people complained about the specifications for the new Note 10, positing that they were a “downgrade” from the Galaxy S10+. After using the new Note 10 phone since launch, I can tell you that this notion is not only false, but that the Galaxy Note 10+ is probably the best phone on the market right now.
Before you get on my case, let me explain my view. The cameras on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ might not be the best on any phone. It doesn’t match the Huawei P30 Pro’s incredible zoom and night mode. It doesn’t have the same, fluid 90Hz display as the OnePlus 7 Pro. It doesn’t even have a headphone jack like the Galaxy S10+ did. What it does have, though, is an amazing camera setup that works for almost everyone, the best-looking display I’ve seen on any phone, and the best speakers I’ve ever heard on mobile. Everything it does right more than makes up for the shortcomings and its incredibly high price.
|Samsung Galaxy Note 10||Samsung Galaxy Note 10+|
|Display Type||6.3-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display, 19:9, 60Hz||6.8-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED Display, 19:9, 60Hz|
|Size||71.8 x 151.0 x 7.99mm, 168g||77.2 x 162.33 x 7.9mm, 196g|
|Display Color Palette||HDR10+||HDR10+|
|System-on-chip||Snapdragon 855/Exynos 9825||Snapdragon 855/Exynos 9825|
|RAM Capacity||8GB (LPDDR4X), 12GB (5G only)||12GB (LPDDR4X)|
|Storage Capacity||256GB UFS 3.0||256GB/512GB UFS 3.0 + MicroSD slot up to 1TB|
|Front Camera||10MP 2PD AF F2.2 (80°)||10MP 2PD AF F2.2 (80°)|
|Rear Cameras||Triple Camera
|Battery Capacity||3500 mAh||4300 mAh|
|Wireless Charging||Yes, Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless Power Share 9W||Yes, Fast Wireless Charging 2.0, Wireless Power Share 9W|
|Biometrics||Ultrasonic In-display Fingerprint scanner||Ultrasonic In-display Fingerprint scanner|
|Water and Dust Resistance||IP 68||IP 68|
|Software||Android 9 Pie with One UI||Android 9 Pie with One UI|
About this review: Samsung did not provide me any devices for review. I purchased both units mentioned in this review.
Hardware: Pour one out for the headphone jack
The hardware on the Galaxy Note 10+ is top-notch but without a notch. The 6.8-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED display is honestly breathtaking. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform and paired with 12GB of RAM which is more than any normal user could ever need. The 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage is also very welcome and you’ll never have problems with slow file loads. If 256GB isn’t enough, you can also grab a unit with 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage. If you want even more, the Note 10+ has a MicroSD card slot for additional storage.
The sleek curves of the aluminum body are complemented wonderfully by the colorful glass protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass 6. The curves wrap around the sides, making it feel as though you are holding a slab of glass when holding the phone. With dimensions of 77.2 x 162.33 x 7.9mm and dull sharp corners, the Galaxy Note 10+ is something you’ll definitely notice you’re always holding. It is by no means light, either, with a weight of 196g. Even though it’s heavy, it definitely feels premium; the feeling when using this phone is like no other.
The sound system on the phone is less amazing. Pour one out for the homie, because Samsung sadly removed the headphone jack in the Galaxy flagship lineup with the Galaxy Note 10+. I know we all would have preferred to have it there as long as possible. Sadly, its time has come. The headphone jack is gone. The end.
Things aren’t all doom and gloom, though. The removal is actually a good thing, in my opinion. The removal of the headphone jack brought with it a larger battery and improved haptics. I can’t find a single person who would complain about either of those. You can really feel the improved haptics on the Galaxy Note 10+, though I have had experiences with Samsung haptics getting worse over time, so we’ll have to see how it fares in a few months.
The battery on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is crazy good as well. It’s got a large 4,300 mAh battery that should be able to last you a day, maybe even two. If it doesn’t last you into the second day, the phone comes with a 25W fast charger in the box. It also supports up to 45W charging via a separately-sold USB PD 3.0 with PPS charger. In my experience, the charging is very fast, and I’ve seen the 25W charger actually charge the Galaxy Note 10+ faster than Warp Charge 30 charges the OnePlus 7 Pro. If wires aren’t your style, you can also wirelessly charge via Samsung’s 15W Fast Wireless Charging 2.0. Even better, the Note 10+ supports Samsung’s Wireless Power Share, the name for Samsung’s reverse wireless charging technology which the company first introduced with the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Fold. This iteration, though, it provides a more respectable 9W of power rather than 5W.
The 4,300 mAh battery easily lasts me a full day. In my normal use, I get around 7 or 8 hours of screen on time. This is with auto-brightness, the light theme, Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE always on. This is pretty insane battery life for how much I usually push my phones in terms of connectivity and app usage. Keep in mind, though, that my experience might not be the same as what you get because of factors like location, signal strength, connected devices, installed apps, charging habits, SoC, etc.
The cameras, which I will get into more about later, are almost the same as the Galaxy S10 5G. The actual camera sensors are the same, but the lens and apertures aren’t. The wide-angle camera is about the same as before. It’s a 12MP lens with a variable aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4. The sensor is a Samsung ISOCELL S5K2L4SX. Then there’s the 16MP 123° ultra-wide lens. It has a set aperture of f/2.2. The sensor is a Samsung ISOCELL S4K3P9. The telephoto camera is a 12MP f/2.2 with 2X zoom. The sensor is a Samsung ISOCELL S5K3M3.
The last camera to mention is the one contained in the hole punch in the display. This front-facing camera is actually smaller than the one on the Galaxy S10. The aperture is also smaller to match the physical size. The new aperture is f/2.2, whereas it was f/1.9 on the Galaxy S10. This sensor is unchanged from the S10, that being the Sony IMX374.
Design: Acid trip, meet mirror
The first thing even worth mentioning about the design of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is the colors. It comes in different colors depending on size and location. In the U.S., the smaller Galaxy Note 10 comes in Aura Black, Aura White, and Aura Glow. The Galaxy Note 10+ comes in Aura Black, Aura White, Aura Glow, and Aura Blue. I have both the Aura Glow and Aura Blue colors. The Aura Glow phone is hard to describe. It looks different depending on the lighting and how you look at it. Basically, it’s a silver mirror with light streak rainbows wherever the light touches. The Aura Blue color is a bit easier to describe as it shifts between darker blue colors. If Aura Blue is a fancy restaurant, Aura Glow is a night club.
The back of the phone is very basic. In the top left corner, there is the quad-camera setup. It’s 3 cameras stacked on top of each other with a minor camera bump. To the right of the bump, there is an LED flash with a Time-of-Flight sensor underneath that. Compared to the overall size of the device, it’s a very small camera. On the side of the camera is a VERY small microphone hole. It’s almost impossible to see without knowing where to look.
On the right side of the phone, there is nothing there. No power button, no Bixby button, no volume rocker. Instead, the left side has it all. It has a volume rocker with a single button under it. That button is what Samsung calls the “side key.” This is because it isn’t a power button or Bixby button, but rather it acts as both. By default, holding it opens Bixby while pressing it toggles the display on and off. The glass on the phone wraps around the slightly thicker aluminum border where the buttons are.
The top of the phone has a SIM card tray on the left with a speaker hole next to it. The speaker hole is right next to the SIM card tray. On the right side, the second of the three microphones is present. On the bottom of the phone, we have the main speaker and USB Type-C connector. The third microphone is also on the bottom.
You might be wondering how it feels to hold and use the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. Well, let me say it feels absolutely wonderful. It feels very thin while managing to fit in great specifications and a large battery. This is thanks to Samsung’s curved displays. It allows them to wrap the glass around the back and into the body, making it a bit thick while feeling thin. I love curved displays. I love curved backs. The way I hold my phone, I don’t have to worry about palm rejection, and I can enjoy the full experience of curved glass.
Display: Hole in One
This display literally has a hole in it. The best way to describe it is as if the display wasn’t a display. It’s as though someone printed out a picture and glued it to a slab of glass and aluminum.
The technology that results in such an amazing display is Samsung’s own Dynamic AMOLED display. The panel is 6.8-inches diagonally with a resolution of 3040×1440. This ends up being around 498 ppi. The display is, of course, HDR10+ certified. There’s also this cool technology that Samsung first introduced with the Galaxy S10: an integrated blue light filter. I’m not talking about a software filter that turns your display orange: This is a filter built into the display. It is said to reduce harmful blue light by about 40% compared to the Galaxy Note 9.
Something I noticed when using this display is the glare. That there is almost none. When holding the OnePlus 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ in the same position with the same light source, the Galaxy Note 10+ has no glare while the OnePlus 7 Pro has some. Sadly, this just isn’t something you can show off in a picture. This is one of the reasons why I say the display doesn’t even look like a display. I think it’s gotten to the point where it doesn’t look like a piece of technology, but something that just belongs in your hand.
The display settings are a little dumbed-down from the Galaxy Note 9. This time around, there are 2 display modes: Vivid and Natural. Vivid is Samsung’s usual bright and colorful setting. Colors pop but aren’t super color accurate. Natural is what I have used as it’s more color accurate and just looks better to me. I would recommend this setting to anyone who is using the Galaxy Note 10+. What’s interesting about these two settings is the default is regional. According to Samsung, in the U.S. and Asia, users prefer more color-accurate colors, so Natural is the default setting. In Europe and South America, customers apparently prefer brighter colors that pop, so Vivid is made the default.
We can’t forget about the glass. You know we are in an interesting area of technology when mentioning the glass is important, but it is. The oleophobic coating on this glass and whatever else Samsung puts on it, well, are straight-up amazing. Your finger just easily glides over the display and never gets caught. It just feels GREAT to use. This stands out from almost every other phone I’ve used. Barely any light reflects off of it, too, making it look as though the display is matte. It’s hard to describe, but the main takeaway is that it’s not reflective.
Performance: Faster than a speeding bullet
Once you get the phone set up, one of the first things you notice is the display. The second thing you’ll notice is how fast the Galaxy Note 10+ is. This isn’t your old Samsung phone that lags after a week. I’ve had the phone for over a month and I’ve noticed no lag whatsoever. There are no frame drops, no app loading lag, nothing of the sort. It is like any other modern flagship: fast as it should be. To be honest, I don’t feel it necessary to run through a bunch of benchmarks because I feel it really shines in real-world performance, I’ll still show some benchmarks below.
What I’m doing here is simple: I’m running these benchmarks on 2 of the same phones at the same time. This is so you can see what the difference is between my two devices and what it might be between your device if you pick one up. The settings will be the same with the same apps and the same battery percentage.
Geekbench is the go-to CPU benchmark. Since Geekbench released Geekbench 5 with an emphasis on AI, AR, and ML along with some camera stuff, I decided to use it for benchmarking. The numbers below are probably not going to mean much without context, but I can’t really give much context. Just know that these are very good scores and the Galaxy Note 10+ ranks very highly compared to my other devices with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855.
Next up is AnTuTu. This is, in my opinion, one of the better holistic benchmarks. It tests pure CPU and GPU performance along with usage tests like scrolling and HTML5. The higher, the better. AnTuTu also separates each category into its own number. You get a score for memory, GPU, CPU, and UX. Below are 4 scores from 4 devices. There are two Galaxy Note 10+ devices, the OnePlus 7 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and OnePlus 7 Pro have UFS 3.0 storage with faster theoretical storage speeds. Honestly, these speeds don’t matter that much. You won’t notice much of a difference between the devices. Still, I know people like to compare minor details between devices, so here are the results for the Galaxy Note 10+ and OnePlus 7 Pro.
3DMark is also a great way to test GPU power. If a phone scores well here, you won’t have to worry about it handling any Android game. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ handles it very well, as expected. According to 3DMark, it outperforms over 99% of phones. I threw the newest iPhone in there because people love to compare iPhones to Android phones, and as you can see, the GPU on the Galaxy Note 10+ beats the iPhone by a cool 200 points.
Look, the Galaxy Note 10+ is fast. It’s one of the fastest phones you can buy. It should easily last you two, three, or four years without feeling slow. Samsung has really been focusing on longevity, which has been obvious since the Galaxy S9. If you are going to drop $1100 on a phone, you want it to be fast and last for a long time. I’m not a time traveler, so I can’t tell you for sure how it will hold up in the long run, but I expect it to last very well.
Camera: The power you need to succeed in more than Instagram
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you are reading this, you already know if you are going to like or dislike the camera. You likely already have a perception of the device and the camera quality. This review will hopefully change it, for better or worse.
Previous Samsung phones have had issues with their cameras. It wasn’t about quality or actual hardware issues, rather it was all about the color science. Samsung’s colors are usually cooler and the saturation is turned up to 11. This made the pictures straight out of the shutter in auto mode great for something like Instagram. If you wanted more true to life photos, though, this wasn’t really great. With the Galaxy Note 10+, Samsung changed things a bit. The photos are not as saturated as before. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still not perfectly true to life, but it’s much better than earlier devices.
The one thing I want to say before getting into the actual photos is that I don’t judge photos by zooming in and checking for minor details (ie. pixel peeping). I’m just looking for a good overall photo. This means if I come back and look at this picture in 10 years, how will I remember it? My idea of what makes a photo good is not necessarily in the tiny details, but from just it looking overall pleasing. This means my opinion on what makes a picture good will be different from yours.
These daylight photos are delightful. There are great detail and dynamic range. Nothing is particularly dark or overexposed. The colors aren’t particularly color accurate, but they look great. These are pictures you don’t need to edit before sharing or posting online.
The night photos, however, aren’t as amazing. It’s not like Google’s Night Sight, Huawei’s night mode, or even Apple’s night mode. Samsung seems to be using HDR along with noise suppression and turning up the sharpness. It’s not going to make night-time pictures look like they were taken in the middle of the day, but it’s still going to look great.
Let me take a selfie
Ignoring the obviously horrible pun for this section, let’s talk about the selfie camera. It’s pretty good. The picture, of course, looks like me without much beautification going on. The thing is, most people I know don’t take photos from the default camera app. They use something like Snapchat. You can also see the selfie from Snapchat below. Both are pretty good pictures, and I highly doubt anyone you are sending a selfie to will find any minor inconsistencies.
Video isn’t always a strong point on Android phones, but Samsung has been pretty great for the last few years. The videos below were recorded at [email protected] from the rear and [email protected] from the front. You can judge them as you wish, but I think they look great. The audio picked up by the microphones sounds good and really focuses on your voice. Zoom-in-mic is cool but not the best feature to ever be added. The selfie video quality is pretty good. It has similar color science to the rear cameras.
One UI: Software to match the hardware
One UI is currently one of my favorite Android skins. This is a weird thing to hear myself saying as I consider myself a stock Android purist. While using phones, I always seem to prefer the Google Pixel software over other skins. One UI, though, is one of the few skins I actually like more than stock Android. It’s not worth re-reviewing all of One UI here as I already wrote a review on One UI back in December. The basics of One UI haven’t changed since then, so I’m just going to mention the software features that are new with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
One of the Galaxy Note 10-specific features I’m absolutely loving is the ability to write on the calendar. In the calendar app, you can click a button in the top corner and start writing directly on the calendar. As you switch between days, weeks, or months, it will save all your writing on the calendar. This makes it feel like a real paper calendar but on your phone.
One minor feature that is finally making its way to Samsung phones is a screen recorder. This is a pretty common feature on a lot of other phones, but Samsung has finally included it pre-installed on the Galaxy Note 10+. This allows you to record out of the selfie camera while screen recording. There are multiple options for audio recording as well. You can select no audio, internal system audio, or microphone and internal. You can also select the quality as well. You can choose between 480p, 720p, and 1080p. You can also draw over the recording. This is like one of those ESPN replays where they stop it and draw over the game – that’s what you can do with this.
A couple of features that specifically use the new Time of Flight sensor in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ are Quick Measure and 3D scanner. Quick Measure works like Google’s Measure app in that it lets you find the measurement of objects. I find it to be a bit more accurate than Google’s app because the Note 10+ has dedicated hardware for this purpose. The other use of that hardware is 3D Scanner. It is very basic, but it lets you actually make 3D models of objects. You can export these models as a .obj file to 3D print. You can also control the 3D model with your movements. The feature needs a humanoid figure to 3D scan or it won’t work that well, though. I couldn’t get it to work well with the models I tried.
Another feature I just can’t get enough of is Samsung Pay. I know, it’s been around since the Galaxy S6, but I don’t hear enough people talk about how amazing it is. In the U.S., NFC-based contactless payments still isn’t that great. About 75% of stores support NFC, apparently, but in my experience, I tend to run into a lot of stores with no support. Around 3 places I often go to actually support NFC payments. Luckily, Samsung Pay has got me covered. It works anywhere you can swipe a credit card thanks to a technology called MST. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s just make this simple: If you can swipe your credit card, then Samsung Pay will work. I go to Chipotle often to get their burrito bowls, but my local store doesn’t support NFC payments. However, every time I get a bowl, I just hold my phone against the terminal and it works. The workers usually say “we don’t support Apple Pay” but then when Samsung Pay works anyways, you just feel a little smug. It’s a great feeling.
I could rave about Samsung features and One UI for hours, but that would be completely ignoring the problems with it. Samsung’s battery management is… extreme to say the least. If you haven’t opened an app in 3 days, it will automatically put it to sleep by default. You can disable it, sure, but it’s still annoying. There is also a huge bug with alarms. Sometimes they just won’t activate. Our own Daniel Marchena has mentioned a few times that his Galaxy Note 10+ just didn’t ring even when he had alarms set and made sure the app wasn’t sleeping. This is a real issue that needs to get fixed. I don’t use alarms on my phone, but it’s still an issue that I feel needs to be mentioned.
Besides those aforementioned bugs, I wouldn’t say there is anything wrong with the software. This is my favorite skin hands down.
S Pen: What makes the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 a Note
The S Pen is one of the few reasons I love the Galaxy Note series. Without the S Pen, there would be no Note. Not everyone will use the S Pen every day; I sure don’t. Just because you might not use it every day doesn’t mean it won’t be appreciated.
This year’s S Pen is about as good as last year’s in terms of writing. It’s slightly smaller than last year’s, which is totally fine. I actually like the smaller size. While having it smaller doesn’t make it any easier or harder to use, the act of pulling the pen out of the phone is less of an annoyance to pull off. It’s a minor change but it isn’t noticeable unless you are specifically going for a comparison.
The wireless function of the S Pen on the Galaxy Note 10+ is also greatly improved. The battery on the pen was increased from 30 minutes to about 10 hours. The pen does charge slightly slower, but not 20x slower. I see this as an absolute win. The wireless functions are also upgraded a lot. It now has a bunch of sensors for controlling your phone. You can twist and turn and fling your hand around (as long as you are holding the pen) to control your phone. As stupid as it sounds, it is actually pretty useful. I’ll get more into that later on.
If you want to see a bit about how they work, here is a video from TK Bay showing off all the Air Gestures and AR Doodle features Samsung has added to the Galaxy Note 10+.
The Air Gestures are supported in a bunch of system functions and system apps. You can swipe between photos in the Gallery app or between camera modes in the camera app and essentially fully control it wirelessly. You can switch between songs and change the volume as well. This isn’t limited to system apps though, as Microsoft PowerPoint lets you control a slideshow with it. This is an open SDK so any developer can add support in their own app.
You also get the usual screen off memo. This allows you to write on the phone screen without having to unlock the phone. This was introduced with the Galaxy Note 7 where it was pretty limited. With the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung added the ability to have up to 100 pages of screen off memos. With the Galaxy Note 9, the color of the ink was the color of the S Pen. With the Galaxy Note 10+, you can choose what color ink you want on there. There are five colors available: white, yellow, blue, green, and red. You can, of course, pin these to the always-on display.
Gimmicks: No one ever said a gimmick was bad
When someone says a feature is a gimmick, it is always perceived as a negative. Gimmicks aren’t inherently bad. I want my phone to be full of gimmicks. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ isn’t the Essential Phone with just the essentials and nothing else, it’s a fully-featured phone. It has every feature you could ever want or need. It has fun things to show off to your friends and lots of useful features. A few gimmicks here and there is great, especially when they turn out to be unexpectedly useful.
I’ve heard many people say the new AR Doodle and 3D Scanner are gimmicks. Ditto with the new Live Focus video effects. These might not be useful for everyone, but they are certainly cool. Since they’re not revolutionary, they get labeled as gimmicks. All of these features – and trust me there are more than what I mentioned – are gimmicks. There is no doubt about that. However, they don’t detract from any of the other features or hardware. They are just giving those who might want to use them the option to use them.
One of the cooler gimmicks I’ve used on my Galaxy Note 9 and now on my Galaxy Note 10+ is the Bluetooth S Pen. I’m not talking about the motion controls, but rather the ability to play and pause music wirelessly. This is a niche example of how I use it, and there are probably more efficient ways to do this. I use my phone for music while playing video games or doing homework. As my friends know, I’m not a headphone type of guy. I prefer audio over speakers. Being able to leave my phone away from me to not distract me while being able to still control my music is something I miss on all non-Note phones.
Then you have DeX on PC. It’s an extension of Samsung DeX. This new version of DeX allows you to use your computer as a screen for DeX, essentially allowing you to run virtual Android apps on your laptop or desktop. It does more than that, though, as it also allows you to drag and drop files between devices. This is great for creators who use Instagram where there is no desktop client and most alternatives are okay at best. There is even room for some minor gaming. Gaming this way is not the best experience ever, but it’s fine for light usage. Most of the complaints about this feature come from DeX as a whole and not the PC client. DeX just has terrible text scaling and DeX on PC doesn’t help as it makes the resolution worse. If you can work through this, you’ll enjoy DeX on PC.
Final Thoughts: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is Better than its Spec Sheet
This phone is honestly the best (normal) Android phone I’ve used. The best Android phone award goes to my Galaxy Fold, but that’s for another review. This phone provides the best feel in the hand, the best specifications you want, and amazing cameras. This is the phone I want to have in my pocket at all times. It might not have the 90Hz refresh rate or pop-up camera, but it has everything else you would ever need. It’s not the most powerful device on all fronts, but it doesn’t have to be. Samsung makes phones that are about more than the specs. It’s also about the design, the software, and the day-to-day performance.
I honestly can’t think about a better phone to recommend, so long as you are willing to spend the premium price of $1,100. You definitely don’t need to spend $1,100 to get a good phone in 2019. There are a lot of good phones out there. But if you want the best phone, you need to spend more. You’ll find no better than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ if you’re able to extend your budget. It’s the best you can get, but it won’t come cheap.
If you are interested in buying the Galaxy Note 10+, it’s available throughout the world starting around $1,100.
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