Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review: Q: Another word for excellent? A: Samsung
Deccan Chronicle| Aaron Almeida
With an absolutely gorgeous design and hardware to match, Samsung has once again set the bar of what a great smartphone should be.
The Aura Glow finish on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 proves that Samsung is at its optimal best when it comes to smartphone design.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was considered one of the hottest handsets of the year even though it boasted incremental upgrades over the Galaxy Note 8. With the Note 9, Samsung had once again proved that its Note Series was an all-inclusive device that featured zero compromises. Following its past philosophy, this phablet-sized device came with all the bells and whistles you expect from a Note handset. The South Korean tech giant once again proved that if it isn’t broken, it needs no fixing. However, this was then and a year is a long time in the tech world. And Samsung has shown that its favourite larger-than-life flagship needs a substantial upgrade and it no longer needs to be an also-ran; but, prove that it can beat the best in the industry and have enough in the tank to stay relevant even for a year more.
Enter the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus. These handsets come with stark differences from what we know about the Note Series and all the while raising some questionable eyebrows. The Galaxy Note 10 series are truly one of the finest handsets in the market; however, they have skipped on a couple of features that die-hard Note fans appreciate and love. Yes, we are talking about the 3.5mm headphone jack and its exclusion. This is the first time Samsung has ditched this fan-favourite feature on a flagship and with it, they are the last of the bigger brands to do away with the port. The smaller Note 10 as well as the larger Note 10 Plus, both forego this feature. However, unlike the Note 10, the Plus-sized device does come with expandable storage; which is sort of a consolation.
Apart from these notable misses, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a major improvement over the Note 9 in practically every aspect, be it its gorgeous display, insane camera capabilities, larger battery with super-fast charging speeds and the handy S Pen which comes with its own set of new magical tricks.
In for review, we have the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and boy, this is one of the best smartphones ever. Having spent a few days with it as our daily driver, here are our reasons why this smartphone is the one for you.
When it comes to the design of the Note 10 Plus, the handset comes with premium materials and has a build quality that’s second to none. Like every Android flagship available in the market in 2019, the Note 10 Plus boasts of glass plates on the front and rear that are curved and they sandwich a metal chassis that holds all three parts together. While Samsung does have the capabilities to offer a close to 90-degree curved glass on the sides, the brand has opted to stick with the tried and tested minimal curvature that’s similar to the Galaxy S10 devices. In fact, this 90-degree curved glass display is rumoured to be used on the vivo NEX 3 and it is expectedly built by Samsung. As of now, there is no word on what protection is being used on the glass panels, but since this is a flagship and a Samsung flagship at that, we expect it to be nothing short of Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass 6.
Having used the Galaxy Note 9 and each and every handset from the Galaxy S10 line-up, we can assure you that Samsung built it out of materials that are absolutely premium to the touch. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus, on the other hand, lacks the elegant feel on the rear and this is a bit confusing since it comes with a larger form factor and packs a bigger battery, yet it is light and thinner than the previous generation devices. While this may put off some, others may revel in the fact that it is so easy to handle due to its lightweight nature.
One of the best features of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is that it comes in a new Aura Glow colour. This new offering is absolutely gorgeous and we see it as the most purchased handset apart from the fan-favourite Aura Black colour. Describing this new colour is pretty hard to do as it isn’t like the gradient handsets available from competing brands. In fact, this colour can be likened to a compact disk where it reflects a rainbow hue when light falls on it at certain angles. While pictures can tell a tale of how this new colour option looks, it is best experienced with your own eyes. Other colours that are available at launch in India, one of India’s strongest markets are Aura White and Aura Black. Later on, Samsung will also launch a Blue and Red variant of the device which means that the Galaxy Note 10 Plus will come in a total of five colour options before the end of the year. Like every other glossy-finished handset available in the market, it is beautiful to look at; but is a fingerprint magnet. Hence, keeping it in its supplied case is of dire importance if you want to preserve the rich look of your handset.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a slippery device to hold without its case. This is due to the premium glossy finish it is contracted from. However, the brand has done well to offset it by adding improved ergonomics with the right amount of curvature on the sheets of glass. The metal frame of the device is extremely narrow as well; which also helps with the overall ergonomics of the handset. The chassis that’s built from a glossy metal is so thin that it had to be made a bit wider to slot the power and volume buttons. Combining all the above-mentioned points and throw in the case, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is fairly easy to handle.
As mentioned earlier, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is an extremely lightweight handset and for a device that comes bearing a 6.8-inch display, that’s substantially larger than the competition, Samsung managed to keep the weight down to a paltry 196g. This impressive feat is coupled by the fact that it is extremely thin and measure a mere 7.9mm at its thickest. This makes it lighter and thinner than the current Android king, the OnePlus 7 Pro which measures 206g and 8.8mm. The Note 10 Plus gets all the more praise after you take into account that it packs a whopping 4300mAh battery.
While the handset is easy to handle due to its lightweight nature, single-hand usage is near impossible unless you have large hands. This is because of the fact that Samsung has added a 19:9 aspect ratio here. During one-handed usage, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus upper portion of the display was impossible for us to reach. Pair this point with the nearly non-existent bottom bezel which makes gesture navigation a cumbersome task. While this may be uncomfortable to use single-handedly, you can’t deny the fact that Samsung has pushed the envelope with the design of this bad boy and how surprisingly slim the bezels are.
One of the trademark features of the new Note 10 Plus is the centrally-aligned hole-punch camera on Samsung’s Infinity-O display. Samsung has done away with the camera cut-out that’s found on the S10 series and instead opted for a tinier front-facing camera. We actually like this design decision even though it may upset some purists who would have preferred OnePlus’ solution and their pop-up style selfie camera. However, in day-to-day usage, you won’t notice this feature and it takes a matter of minutes of getting used to. While the Galaxy S10 had its cut-out on the side, the Note 10 devices feature them in an area where a traditional smartphone notch is located. The space between the camera cut-out and the notch is quite slim as well and it doesn’t have enough of an area to be usable for certain elements. The use of this cut-out, in the end, all boils down to personal preference and we honestly find no problem with it. So, whether it is on the side or in the centre, it makes no difference really as you will get used to it almost instantaneously.
The screen that’s used on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is definitely one of the best used on a smartphone. This is no surprise as Samsung Displays are by far one of the best in constructing smartphone panels. In fact, they are so good that rumours are floating around which claim that Apple will be using the exact same screen on its upcoming iPhone 11 devices that’s used on the Note 10 Plus. The bezels on this handset are so narrow that the bottom chin can easily compete and even best the Apple iPhone XS Max’s chin; which is widely considered as the industry’s best. The top bezel plays home to the earpiece and the proximity sensor. The ambient sensor is placed below the screen so Samsung has wisely used each and every fraction of space to fit all the sensors.
Moving on, the rear glass panel is strikingly similar to the one at the front and boasts the exact curvature. Like the front screen, the rear glass panel adjoins the metal frame perfectly with no noticeable gap between the two. Speaking about the metal frame, this area plays home the speaker grilles, the Type-C charging port and the holder for the S Pen. The bottom also features the primary microphone and Samsung have managed to utilize every ounce of space without foregoing on necessary features. The secondary microphone is situated at the top of the handset which also houses the SIM tray and the microSD card slot.
A feature that actually takes getting used to is the lack of any buttons on the right side of the handset. Samsung has shifted all of its buttons to the left and has done away with the Bixby button that’s found on previous-generation handsets such as the Note 8 and Note 9. A small tip to keep in mind is that now for taking screenshots, all you got to do is perform a 1-second press on the Power button and the Volume down button simultaneously and voila, that’s it.
Unlike previous generations, the S Pen now matches with the colour of your device. And with the Aura Glow version of the Note 0 Plus, you get a Blue S Pen which is a pretty incredible shade if you ask us. This allows it to stand out and look elegant at the same time. Accessing the S Pen is absolutely simple. All you have to do is just give it a slight push and the spring-loaded mechanism pushes it out. The S Pen, like previous generations, is built well with the perfect amount of weight distribution.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is an absolutely stunning device that needs to be experienced to know it’s worth. And coupled with the fact that Samsung has priced it so well, makes it an all the more appealing option. With that being said, if you do love legacy features such as the 3.5mm headphone jack, then this device isn’t for you. However, a word for the wise — all future smartphones will be ditching this feature to make space for other more important components such as bigger batteries and better cameras. So, you might as well get used to the fact that the headphone jack has finally met its end.
Where do we start with the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus? It is absolutely mind-blowing and in our humble opinion, this is by far the handset’s headlining feature.
For years, the AMOLED displays have been the star attractions of Samsung’s high-end devices and this year around, it is the same. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus boasts a gorgeous Dynamic AMOLED screen which is head and shoulders above the display found on the Galaxy Note 9. The brand-new screen features a 6.8-inch display with a 1440 x 3040 WQHD+ panel with a 19:9 ratio and an impressive 498ppi. Put all these specs together and you get a super crisp and vivid display that’s jaw-dropping. Since the handset is challenging to be the best in the market, it also comes with an HDR10+ display that’s also found on the OnePlus 7 Pro. While this feature is still in its infancy, Samsung has ensured that the device is future-proof which will make watching supported content an absolute pleasure.
There can be an argument that the hole-punch camera cut-out is obtrusive and will affect your media consumption experience; however, this is quite far from the truth as it did not hamper our experience a single bit. In fact, apps like Netflix have a solution for this wherein the area surrounding the hole-punch is blacked out. This doesn’t provide you with the ideal full-screen experience but it is a compromise we accept for the unhampered experience. Also, it is worth mentioning that Samsung did make the cut-out as small as they could in order for you to get the maximum out of your handset; which was well appreciated by us.
To summarize this section of the review, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus features one of the best displays ever on a smartphone. However, it lags behind the OnePlus 7 Pro which boasts the 90Hz refresh rate. By adding this feature, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus’ experience would have been elevated to a whole new level.
For a few years, Samsung did not have the best UI in comparison to other brands. The year 2019 has been a game-changer for the brand and it's One UI has been one of the major contributing factors to Samsung’s resurgence. The Galaxy Note 10 builds up from the S10 and it comes with the custom One UI that’s based on Android 9.0 Pie. The new interface focuses on single-hand usage and goes back to basics with the entire user experience.
Elaborating on the single-hand usage, the new One UI has been drastically improved especially since the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a tall handset and features the 19:9 ratio. Swiping down practically anywhere will bring the UI to the lower half of the display for easy usage. The notification menu at the top also receives the same treatment and a gesture like swiping twice will allow you to easily access it.
If you are upgrading from a Galaxy S10, you will get a similar experience here on the Note 10 without the S Pen functionality, of course. And like every One UI smartphone that’s launched this year, it comes with a ton of customisation options that will not leave you wanting.
There are a lot of features available with the new One UI and we will touch upon just the top three that will enhance your user experience.
Display: Since the screen is one of the best in the world, Samsung has added a ton of features that will enable you to get the most of this handset. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus comes with a Night Mode, a Blue Light filter, advanced screen calibration, adjustment of screen resolution, and Edge screen. The screen adjustment setting allows you to change the resolution of the device and you can go as low as 720p or up to 1440p. Out of the box, the screen is set to 1080p so turning it up to 1440p will give you the best experience. With Edge Screen, you have your tray of apps that you use frequently and this allows you to store actions, tools and whatever you like. This can be easily accessed by swiping from the edge of the display. A neat feature thrown in here is Edge lighting which lights up the sides of the display whenever you get a notification. With this feature in tow, you get a range of customised style to opt for.
S Pen: The S Pen is one of the primary reasons why people the world over purchase the Note device. And like every new iteration of the Note device, the S Pen gets an upgrade as well. The new S Pen comes with improved camera gestures, AR Doodle and hand-written text recognition. With the new AR Doodle feature, which is a bit gimmicky but interesting at the same time, you can use the S Pen which in conjunction with the 3D ToF sensor you can pick up a face and then start sketching on top of it. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus’ inbuilt software performs a sort of motion tracking where it keeps a track of the face if it happens to exit the frame and return back to the display. This is a fun and interesting feature that’s nothing more than a gimmick but we see people using it from time-to-time.
With the hand-written text recognition, Samsung shows off how truly powerful the Note 10 Plus actually is. With this feature, any hand-written note that’s taken in the Samsung Notes app can be easily converted into text. Those with less than stellar handwriting shouldn’t fear as well as Samsung claims that they have added a plethora of handwritings to its database and their algorithm can easily translate capitalisation, colour and virtually everything in between to text. This time around, the Pen is truly mightier.
Other notable features include the fact that the Always-On is no longer located in the Display menu. Instead, it has been shifted over to the Lock-screen sub-menu, a place where it actually should reside. As always, there are a ton of styles to access with customisations for the Always-On screen are galore. The handset now gets a much-needed raise-to-wake and tap-to-wake options. With the latter, a single touch is all that’s needed to view your lock screen notifications. Notably, this feature isn’t available on the S10 as of yet and a software update should bring it to the older handset as well.
The Always-On display also has the option to display the ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. It’s advisable to keep this turned on as accessing it from a blank screen is a bit difficult as the fingerprint unlock animation takes a couple of seconds to show up. And since this biometric authentication area is pretty small, you need to be absolutely precise where you place your finger.
The Ultrasonic fingerprint sensor is a major improvement over the one found on the Galaxy S10. The Note 10 Plus’ fingerprint reader is a lot faster in comparison and while the S10 took a couple of seconds to unlock the device, this new version unlocks almost instantaneously. However, it is necessary to place it exactly where the fingerprint animation is displayed or else you will get some missed readings.
The handset also comes with face unlock; however, it is worth noting that it isn’t as secure as the fingerprint sensor. The performance of the face unlock is pretty zippy as well but lacks the amount of security found on the iPhone XS and Mate 20 Pro.
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus comes with a Device Care section that should be viewed by everyone who purchases this handset. In this sub-section, you get information regarding battery, storage, memory and so on. The handset also comes with the ability to clear background apps as well as scan the device for suspicious behaviours. This feature also has the ability to be set automatically and it can be scheduled as well which negates the need for you to do it on a manual basis. A schedule can be set and the auto-optimization takes over allowing for the handset to run this task periodically.
Samsung has ditched the Bixby button on the Note 10. However, this feature is pretty alive and well. To access Bixby, all you have to do is long-press the Power button. Double pressing this button will enable the Bixby page where you can access a ton of content from.
Overall, Samsung has loaded plenty of features in One UI and this handset will be best suited to whatever your needs are and then some more.
Being a flagship device, Samsung has fitted nothing but the best specifications here. So, depending on the area you live in, you will get flagship processors no matter the make. In some parts of the world, Samsung uses a Snapdragon 855 while in countries like India, we get the brand-new home-grown Exynos 9825 chipset that’s based on an industry-first 7nm EUV processing technology. This new chipset will offer significantly higher clock speeds as well as better energy efficiency. Elaborating on the Exynos 9825, this SoC comes with two custom Mongoose cores, two Cortex A75 cores and four A55 cores. Breaking this down, the Mongoose M4 cores are clocked at 2.73GHz, the Cortex A75 cores clock in at 2.40GHz cores while the small Cortex A55 cores get clocked at 1.95GHz. With the EUV technology, Samsung claims that they have enabled it to print finer circuits which results in a quicker processor as well as being energy efficient.
The Exynos 9825 comes with its own Neural Processing Unit that helps in driving AI and AR apps and it is paired with the new Mali G76-MP12 GPU that helps in supporting 8K UHD video and HDR10+ content. Also, the new chipset is also said to offer higher levels of security.
As far as memory goes, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus comes with 12GB of RAM and paired with either 256GB or 512GB of storage. For both models of the Galaxy Note 10, Samsung has used UFS 3.0 storage which is significantly faster than the more common UFS 2.1 that’s found on previous devices such as the Galaxy S10.
In the Geekbench test, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus scored 3482 points in the single-core test while it recorded a score of 7120 points in the multi-core test. This score is significantly less than what we expected and it actually loses out to the Galaxy S10, a device that comes with an Exynos 9820 chipset. When we ran the benchmark again, it provided us with scores that were befitting of the processor bump. In the single-core test, it scores 4468 points while the multi-core Geekbench test gave us 10309 points. Honestly, we are not sure how it scored this low the first time around. In the AnTuTu benchmarking tool, the device recorded 346913 points which puts it at the upper end of performance scores.
Overall, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a beastly handset that is futureproofed and will be a worthy servant to you for the next few years.
With every new Note launch, Samsung adds a ton of performance improvements to its cameras that make it compete with the best there is. For years, Samsung has trailed behind the likes of Apple, Google and Huawei and this time around, Samsung has not just doubled-down on the hardware aspect but also added significant improvements to their software. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus comes with a primary sensor, a 2X telephoto lens and an ultra-wide-angle camera. The Note 10 Plus also comes with a ToF sensor that will help with depth sensing that should see performance gains in portrait shots, as well as AR features.
As far as specifications go, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus comes packing a 12MP primary camera with a variable aperture that ranges from F/1.5 to F/2.4. It comes with a ½.55 sensor while the size of the sensor is 1.4 µm. As with all handsets that boast a variable aperture, the primary lens captures images at F/2.4 if there is sufficient light. If this isn’t the case then images will be captured at F/1.5 in order to get more light in. The variable aperture comes into play when shooting macro images as well as objects/subjects that are at different distances.
The handset features a 16MP ultra-wide-angle sensor with an F/2.2 aperture and this feature was the same as the one used on the Samsung Galaxy S10. While this is the first Note Series handset to come with an ultra-wide-angle camera, it still lacks autofocus that’s found on competing handsets. There is a 12MP telephoto lens and it boasts a wider aperture of F/2.1 as opposed to the F/2.4 that’s found on the S10. This lens comes with 2X zoom that’s lacking in comparison to the competition which is already using 3X zoom and 5X zoom. However, it is worth mentioning that both the primary lens and the telephoto lens come with OIS.
Upfront, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus features a 10MP sensor with an F/2.2 aperture. This aperture size is smaller than the ones found on the Galaxy S10 devices as the earlier generation handsets come with a larger punch-hole cut-out. While this smaller aperture may appear to take a hit when it comes to low-light photography, Samsung has used its software to ensure this isn’t the case.
When it comes to camera performances, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus holds its own and it has the ability to go head-to-head with other top-tier smartphones. The dynamic range on photos captured in broad daylight is pretty impressive and there is plenty of detail visible. Due to the variable aperture, Samsung ensures that the handset doesn’t falter with the edge-blurring that occurs with the wider aperture. Colours in images have the desired punch but aren’t too saturated which was highly appreciated. These images can be great for those who love sharing photos on social media as the images have no noise whatsoever.
It has to be said that while comparing to other handsets, the Note 10 Plus features a greater dynamic range with details well visible. The overall colour reproduction is natural with the scene optimizer turned on and there is no visible softness noticed. While shooting with the telephoto camera, there is a lot of detail visible although it is less in comparison with that found on the primary sensor. We also observed that there is a pretty high dynamic range and colours are wonderful.
When shooting images with the ultra-wide-angle lens, we observed in some instances there was barrel distortion. However, in most cases, this isn’t an issue when the lens correction is turned on. However, the lack of autofocus could be the only limiting aspect of this sensor.
Samsung has truly upped its game when it comes to low-light photography and with it we observed that images have a lot of detail as well as great colour reproduction. There is a high dynamic range visible here as well with noise levels kept to a strict minimum. While using the camera app’s Night Mode, there is a lot of brighter exposure without the loss of detail. Images captured in this mode are a lot sharper and more refined and colours appear natural.
When it comes to selfies, the Galaxy Note 10 does extremely well even though it packs a smaller aperture. This all down to Samsung’s software magic which helps with the overall performance. Like the rear camera, the 10MP shooter here has an impressive dynamic range and subjects are always in focus. The edge-detection found on this camera isn’t the best as there is no secondary sensor that assists with depth information. However, a casual user will find this more than satisfactory.
Overall, photography on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a huge improvement over the Galaxy S10 but still trails the likes of the industry best when it comes to the overall camera performance. With this being said, anyone who purchases this handset will be more than thoroughly impressed with its performance.
The Samsung Galaxy Note Series has always come with large batteries that promise all-day battery life; and, the Note 10 Plus is no different. Even though this handset comes with an extremely streamlined body, Samsung has managed to stuff an incredibly large 4300mAh battery here to power the ginormous 6.8-inch display. The battery does well when it comes to accessing social media as well as video streaming off apps such as YouTube and Netflix. This performance should be ideal for most users and the bigger battery does, in fact, go a long way in keeping the handset juiced up.
An interesting feature here is the 45W fast charging support which Samsung has introduced for the first time on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. The handset comes equipped with two fast charging capabilities — 25W and 45W and both are made use of by the handset’s Type-C port. However, while you can make use of the zippy 25W fast charging feature as there is supplied brick and cable in the packaging, to take advantage of the 45W fast charging, you will be required to purchase a separate 45W adapter.
Lastly, the handset also supports Wireless PowerShare which is the company’s branding for reverse wireless charging, with this feature, the Galaxy Note 10 can easily charge another device that supports Qi wireless charging such as a smartphone, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds earphones or even the Galaxy Watch Active.
It’s completely true that the Galaxy Note is one device that offers no compromises.
In India, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is priced at Rs 79,999 for the 256GB version while the 512GB option costs Rs 89,999. While the Galaxy Note 10 Plus appears to have a very heavy price tag, this couldn’t be farther away from the truth. When it comes to pricing of devices in India, very few brands can compete with Samsung as they understand the Indian market and price their products accordingly. The Note 10 Plus is a device that’s so much more than its price, which by the way pales in comparison to the iPhone XS and XS Max which are its direct rivals. The Apple options are almost a year old and still, cost way more than what Samsung is selling its latest handset for.
With the Galaxy Note 10, there isn’t a single feature that makes it a worthy upgrade but a combination of various factors when put together that make it a sum of all its parts. With a gorgeous design that’s paired with a beautiful display that’s complimented by insane speeds that’s assisted by some of the best cameras and rounded off with an insane battery life, you get a device that’s not just another flagship. Instead, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, you get a smartphone that’s an experience that has the potential to be an extension of your personality. And that, my friend, is what you are paying for.