- What’s good? Possibly the slimmest bezels yet; all-day battery life; fast performance
- What’s bad? The phone’s boxy corners and big and heavy build makes it uncomfortable to hold for long stretches; the screen is only 60Hz, so loses out to OnePlus 7 Pro’s
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is the first Note in four years to not have any major issues or glaring flaws. The Galaxy Note 9 had a dated design with noticeable forehead and chin bezels (try looking at the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and Oppo Find X, and then look at the Galaxy Note 9 and tell me the Note 9 doesn’t feel a bit older); the Galaxy Note 8 had a terrible fingerprint scanner location and poor battery life; and the Galaxy Note 7 had, uh, some battery issues.
But the Galaxy Note 10? It keeps up with the current smartphone trends of all-screen design and crazy-ass specs. Heck, Samsung surpasses rivals. The Note 10+’s bezels are perhaps the skinniest I’ve seen, topping the bezel around the screens of the OnePlus 7 Pro, Huawei P30 Pro, Samsung’s own S10, and probably the iPhone 11. The phone has a whopping 12GB of RAM, and a 4,300 mAh battery that’s the largest in any mainstream release.
No matter how you look at the Note 10+ hardware — screen resolution? screen-to-body ratio? fingerprint scanner unlock times? SoC performance? Memory? Build quality? The Note 10+ can claim to be top in the business right now, and that’s something the Note 9, Note 8 and Note 7 couldn’t claim.
The Galaxy Note 10+ runs on a Snapdragon 855 with 12GB of RAM and either 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of internal storage. With these specs and a much improved software UI that’s leaner than previous Samsung offerings, the phone zips around without issue. The OnePlus 7 Pro is still faster, but the Note 10+ isn’t slow at all.
There’s plenty of battery life too, with a 4,300 mAh cell. From my testing, the Note 10+ is getting six to seven hours of screen-on time a day, easily.
Elsewhere, the quad-camera system on the device’s back consists of a 12-megapixel main lens with a variable aperture; a 16-megapixel wide-angle sensor; a 16-megapixel telephoto lens and a new TOF sensor. The latter allows the Note 10+ to shoot bokeh videos and better bokeh images.
From many testing, I found the Note 10+’s cameras to be very good, and often can go toe-to-toe with the best flagships. But ultimately, it can’t claim the “best camera on a smartphone” title. Google’s Pixel 3 still produce more balanced images more consistently, while the Huawei P30 Pro and Oppo Reno 10X Zoom have significantly better zoom capabilities.
But I’m judging this from the fortunate position of someone who gets to test all the newest phones. For the majority of people, they won’t have anything to complain about with the Note 10’s camera. Photos are often punchy with very bold colors with contrast that’s been dialed up just a bit. Samsung’s auto-focusing system is the best in the business, and the cameras can take in so much light it often overexposes during the day but can do wonders in really dark scenes. The P30 Pro’s specially built RYYB sensor still captures more light than the Note 10 Plus’s traditional RGB sensor, but the P30 Pro has an artificial yellow hue to shots, while the Note 10 Plus’s shots are more natural.
A Note, of course, wouldn’t be a Note without the included stylus, which Samsung calls S-Pen. The stylus has mostly remained the same, with the only new trick this year being the ability to use it as a remote control to cycle through images in the photo gallery app. This feature is gimmicky and serves little use in my opinion.
But older S-Pen features are still here and they could be very useful depending on who you are. I still enjoy using it to draw over screenshots or write handwritten notes or sign digital contracts. But a stylus in 2019 is still ultimately a niche offering, as very few people would prefer to take handwritten notes over typing, and illustrators would likely prefer to draw on a larger screen like an iPad Pro.
Samsung knows this, hence why it’s tied some camera specific features to the S-Pen. New this year is AR Doodles, which allows a Note 10 user to scribble on real-life scenes displaying through the viewfinder. These scribbles will stay in that location (think augmented reality), so you can create a video in which words or illustrations pop up over certain locations or items.
Overall, the Galaxy Note 10+ is a major step up from the Note 9. Whereas last year’s phone was mostly a rehash and felt old as soon as it hit the market, this year, the Note 10+ feels like something that can hold Its own against any phone on the market and still look good well into 2020.