The Galaxy Note-series is the most premium smartphone offering from Samsung. For years, the company has billed it as the everything productivity device. Just like the Galaxy S10-family, you now get two Note devices. The Galaxy Note 10 with a smaller form factor, and watered-down specs. And then you have the premium offering, the Galaxy Note 10+.
For the latest Galaxy Note 10+, Samsung has taken the best elements from the Galaxy S10+ as a base, and improved on them. I’ve been using the “plus” model for the past two weeks. No doubt, it is the most powerful Samsung phone, and also the most expensive. Compared to the Galaxy Note 9 launch price, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is quite dearer too. But is it the premium smartphone you really want? There are five highlights of the smartphone that sets it apart from others. Read my review to find out.
S Pen: The magic wand that you always wanted
Until the Galaxy Note 8, the S Pen was just a stylus for taking notes and doodling. With the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung added Bluetooth connectivity and a supercapacitor for super-fast charging. Bluetooth enables you to play/pause music, videos and more. You can even use the S Pen as a remote shutter for controlling the camera, and control PowerPoint presentation.
With the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, Samsung added a gyroscope and accelerometer to the S Pen. It enables you to hold the button on S Pen to change camera modes by performing gestures. You can also move it clockwise/anti-clockwise to zoom-in/zoom-out in the camera app. When playing music or video, you can press and hold the button and move it up or down to increase/decrease volume. And it’s cool, at first. But will I be always using it? Nope. But I do see real-world benefits, especially when clicking photos or recording videos. It may turn out to be an excellent tool for Vloggers.
One of the interesting changes that S Pen software brings this year is the ability to translate handwriting into text, and that too with very good accuracy. What this means is that you can jot down quick notes, then convert it into text, and then even copy/paste it in a document or e-mail.
And of course, there is a Pen Up app where you can doodle to create an artwork or use it as a coloring book. There is also Photoshop Sketch app, built for designers and illustrators.
5 Cameras: More is better
As I mentioned earlier, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus builds on the Galaxy S10 Plus, and it features the same camera hardware, with a few additions. You now get quad cameras at the back. The primary is a 12-megapixel sensor with dual aperture f/1.5 – f2.4 mode. Then you have a 12-megapixel sensor with a telephoto lens, f/2.4 aperture. The third camera sensor is a 16-megapixel sensor with ultra-wide-angle lens and 123-degree field of view.
The addition comes in the form of VGA DepthVision (ToF) camera to enable better portrait mode and 3D scanning. Upfront, you get a single 10-megapixel camera with auto-focus and UHD video recording capabilities.
Now that the hardware is covered, let’s move on to software. Samsung has improved on the algorithms to ensure a more consistent camera experience. I’ve clicked a few photos in day-light, and I don’t have much to complain about. The camera clicks detailed photos, with punchy colors. The dynamic range is also good. Even photos clicked from the ultra-wide-angle lens pop out.
In this photo of a flower below, it was very windy when I clicked it. Still, the camera could lock the focus and click a good photo. This is how capable the camera is, and it should be considering the price tag.
Low-light photos look good too. Samsung has included a dedicated, handheld night mode which clicks a burst of shots at different exposures, and offers overall brighter photos. It may not be Pixel or Huawei level, but nevertheless, it’s not bad either.
The portrait mode is even more accurate now compared to the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S10 Plus. This is all thanks to the new DepthVision camera. There are different modes – blur mode with level 4 offering a proper bokeh effect. The background and foreground are properly separated. Then there are other modes with color point, big circle and more to add more fun to the photos.
The front camera captures good selfies with accurate skin tones and details. There is portrait mode as well, and the edge detection is really good. The portrait effects available on the rear camera are also available for selfies, and they add fun to your selfies too.
Video recording quality is great. I shot a few videos and they were very well stabilized too. There is audio zoom feature, which increases the mic sensitivity towards the subject in the video. It sort of works, provided the recording conditions are good. But does not work when there is a lot of ambient noise.
Aura Glow Design: Pure Lust…
Huawei started the trend of gradient back finish with the P20-series, and other OEMs now offer gradient colors too. The Galaxy S10+ with gradient finish looked really good. And well, the Aura Glow color of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is simply mind-blowing.
It looks stunning and colors change based on the angle in which light falls on it. It actually has that dual finish, between mirror and aura glow. I showed it to my friends, and they just couldn’t stop drooling over it.
Moving to the front, Samsung has come way too close towards offering an edge-to-edge display with a higher screen-to-body ratio. At 6.8-inch, with QHD+ resolution (3040×1440 pixels) and HDR10+ support, it is a feast to your eyes. Watching series like Stranger Things or Black Mirror on Netflix is completely different experience altogether. And those concerned about the Infinity-O notch, it isn’t as intrusive after a couple of days when you get used to it.
Performance: All the power you need
The Galaxy Note 10+ is the first Samsung phone to be powered by a 7nm Exynos 9825 SoC. It features an octa-core CPU featuring two high-performance custom cores clocked at 2.73GHz, two Cortex A75 high-performance cores at 2.4GHz and four efficiency Cortex-A55 cores clocked at 1.9GHz. Graphics are taken care of by a Mali-G76 GPU. The chipset promises improvements in performance and battery life compared to 8nm Exynos 9820 SoC on the Galaxy S10-series.
Besides the chipset, even RAM and storage gets a bump. There are two variants – both featuring 12GB of RAM. The base model comes with 256GB storage and the higher model comes with 512GB storage. A microSD card slot is also present for further expansion. Sadly, unlike the Galaxy S10+, there isn’t a 1TB onboard storage model.
The Galaxy Note 10+ has all the raw power for lag-free performance. The surplus RAM and storage also makes it future proof for at least the next three years. Response time for opening apps and switching between them is also very quick. And it’s not just the hardware that makes the difference, as software and optimizations go hand in hand. The One UI skin built on top of Android 9 Pie is super smooth. And the phone runs on the latest Android Security update.
Samsung has also improved on the gaming performance. There is a vapor chamber cooling system to keep thermal levels at low even with longer gaming sessions. PUBG Mobile runs at HDR graphics and Ultra frame rate without breaking any sweat. And games like Asphalt 9: Legends run at 60fps. With 35-40 minutes of gaming sessions, the phone got just a little warm. And battery drop during this time was roughly 17 percent. There is also Discord integration which will allow your friends to know about your gaming sessions.
Battery: Finally, super-fast charging
With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, the company has also introduced super-fast wired charging and support for 45W. However, the charger will need to be purchased separately. Still, the bundled charger comes with 25W fast charging support using power delivery method. And let me tell you this, it is the fastest charging on any Samsung phone yet.
The 4,300mAh battery roughly takes 65-70 minutes to charge from empty to full. It’s even faster than OnePlus 7 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro that uses 30W and 40W fast chargers, respectively. Although the difference is marginal. These phones take close to 70-80 minutes to full charge. Talking about battery life, I always keep the phone on QHD+ resolution, and I easily get full day worth backup, with screen time of five hours plus.
By reducing to FHD+, I was able to squeeze close to six hours at max. It’s not excellent compared to affordable phones, or the Huawei P30 Pro which delivers a bit more. But given the sheer power the Note device has to keep things ticking, the battery backup is acceptable for a flagship phone.
Talking about the extra features, you have Samsung DeX which transforms your phone into a PC. All you need to do is connect it to a monitor or a TV and use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. This time, there is DeX app for macOS and Windows, which allows you to run Android apps on your PC inside a virtual environment. It a good addition, be it helpful or not.
For security, there is an ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor. It is a bit slow compared to optical ones on competitor devices. And the surface area to scan the fingerprint is also very small. Due to this, at times, it takes longer to unlock the phone. There is face unlock feature too, but this time around there is no IRIS scanning like the Note 9.
Now, talking about the compromise. The 3.5mm headphone jack has finally gone. Let that sink in. Ok, even worse, there is no Type-C to 3.5mm dongle included in the box, so you will have to buy it separately. This is a big loss for content creators, and they won’t be able to simply plug in a wired mic to record audio.
Another change is that the power button has been moved to the left, just below the volume rocker. Yes, this is where Bixby button used to be. If you are switching from a previous Galaxy Note or S-series device, you will take a little time to get adjusted. Mainly because the muscle memory will always end up clicking on the right to unlock.
The Bixby button still exists in the power button, but with slightly different functionality. When in sleep mode, a single click wakes the device, double click opens the camera, whereas click and hold summons, Bixby. Of course, you can change press and hold option for power menu, and completely disable Bixby from the settings.
Verdict: Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+?
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is the most premium Android phone today. The base model is available for Rs 79,999, and the higher model will set you back by Rs 89,999. It is a perfect productivity tool for business and power users. It’s got a stunning design, impressive display and powerful hardware. The S Pen is the key differentiator here, not something that you can find on other premium phones.
There is a big battery with fast charging, wireless fast charging, and reverse wireless charging features. Samsung has also packed a great camera system. There is IP68 certification for water and dust resistance too. All these factors make the Galaxy Note 10 Plus a compelling device.
That said, the Galaxy Note 10+ does miss a few things where competitors excel. The camera is great, but still shy of excellence offered by the Google Pixel 3 or the Huawei P30 Pro. Sure, they offer good still camera experience, while lacking in video department. Then there is the OnePlus 7 Pro with a Super AMOLED display with 90Hz refresh rate, a Snapdragon 855 SoC, and more. But the camera department is where it struggles.
To sum up, there is nothing like a perfect phone. Each one has a set of pros and cons. If you are a Galaxy S8, Note 8, or S9-series, upgrading won’t be a bad idea. If you have a Note 9, you have to decide whether you want to pay for those extra cameras, and better hardware, or wait for another year. For Galaxy S10 users, the question is how badly you want the S Pen.