Samsung's Galaxy Note is called the 'everything phone' for a good reason. Since 2011, which is when the first Galaxy Note was launched, Samsung has been outfitting these things with the best of specs plus a one-of-its-kind stylus for one sole purpose – to get your job done. The Galaxy Note has come a long way since then, but it’s always stayed true to that purpose.
The smartphone market’s going through some changes of late. Almost every brand we know is making an everything phone now, or something very close, and many of them are selling these devices at more affordable prices. The Galaxy Note isn’t the only everything phone around anymore. Unless you want a stylus because, there’s still no one doing that, you know.
Which is why, Samsung is doing things a little differently this year. The Galaxy Note in 2019 comes in two sizes – there's a smaller 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 10 and a much larger 6.8-inch Galaxy Note 10+. The idea is to offer a little something for everybody without compromising on core hardware, which is still the Galaxy Note’s key USP. It’s still an everything phone, but now you get more options to choose from. While the Galaxy Note 10 price in India starts at Rs 69,999, the Galaxy Note 10+ starts at Rs 79,999.
On the face of it, this year’s Galaxy Note isn’t all that different from last year’s Galaxy Note, and yet it is – the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10+ mark the beginning of a new chapter for Samsung. Question is, where do we go from here?
The Galaxy Note 10+ is Samsung’s biggest smartphone to date. At 6.8-inches, it literally towers over competition too. It’s just huge. But that’s only on paper. In the hands, it feels no bigger than last year’s Galaxy Note 9 – it has a very similar footprint. This is because the Galaxy Note 10+ has almost no bezels. The screen-to-body ratio on this one is just ridiculous – putting even the Galaxy S10+ to shame. You couldn’t say that in the past. It was always like the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S were cut from the same cloth. With the Galaxy Note 10+, Samsung is charting a new course.
That course leads to ultimate luxury. The Galaxy Note 10+ is quite simply put, the nicest smartphone that money can buy today – it's a piece of art. It’s two pieces of nearly uninterrupted Corning Gorilla Glass 6 held together by an aluminum frame that’s just barely there, especially on the sides. All that glass is surely a health hazard, and I strongly advise you to put a case on it, but hey, just look at this thing glow.
The aura glow variant that Samsung has conjured specifically for the Galaxy Note 10+ is like a rainbow of colours you can carry around at all times and feel good about it – there’s also aura white and aura black in case you’re looking for something less flashy.
Button placement is typical Samsung although the company has tried to get rid of the dedicated Bixby button on the Galaxy Note 10+, sort of. There’s no longer a power button on the right, instead the Bixby button on the left doubles as a power button – which means you can get rid of it by remapping it to power off/restart the Galaxy Note 10+.
Like the Galaxy S10+, the Galaxy Note 10+ also uses Samsung’s Dynamic AMOLED display – which is without a doubt, the best in the business. Whether you talk about brightness or contrast or outdoor legibility, you can’t go wrong with this one. Colours are more natural by default (as opposed to last year’s Galaxy Note 9), but there is also an option to pump out Samsung’s signature over-contrast through the settings.
Viewing angles are also best in-class with minimal colour and white shifting. The Galaxy Note 10+ has a sharper QHD+ screen while the smaller Galaxy Note 10 has a FHD+ resolution and while there’s no fancy 90Hz refresh rate here – maybe next year – the quality of the display is so good, chances are you won’t even notice it.
This is because the Galaxy Note 10+ is literally all-screen and no bezel with an Infinity-O punch hole in a dead center position (unlike the Galaxy Note 10+ where it’s on one side) where you’re most likely going to forget about it, after a couple of days or two. Even faster if you’re going to binge watch content on it. The Galaxy Note 10+’ display is also certified for viewing HDR10+ content.
The Galaxy Note 10+ has the same ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner as the Galaxy S10+ and while I like that it’s a lot more accurate now, it’s still not the fastest and needs some time getting used to.
Being Samsung’s top-tier Galaxy Note means the Galaxy Note 10+ packs the latest and greatest in hardware. In India, the Galaxy Note 10+ is powered by Samsung’s top-of-the-line Exynos 9825 processor. This is paired with up to a whopping 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM and 512GB of USB3.0 storage which is also expandable by up to 1TB via a hybrid micro-SD card slot. The Galaxy Note 10 has the same core hardware paired with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage – this one does not support expandable storage.
Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy Note 10+ is one of the fastest Android smartphones that money can buy today. The thing literally flies – no matter what you throw at it. And it does that without breaking a sweat. Samsung is using a new vapor chamber cooling system in the Galaxy Note 10+ that’s claimed to be “the slimmest in the world.” It works well to keep the temperature in check and cools the phone down rather swiftly when being pushed to the edge – so no complaints there.
The Galaxy Note 10+ is efficient too and it boasts of the biggest battery that Samsung has ever shipped in a high-end flagship to date - which is 4,300mAh (the Galaxy Note 10 has a smaller 3,500mAh battery). Battery life is good, for a Galaxy Note but we’ve surely seen better – so that’s one area where the Galaxy Note 10+ does feel lacking over competition. The Galaxy Note 10+ is a full-day phone only if you’re being nice to it – which means that you’re not a heavy user and you don’t mind running the phone at FHD+. But if you are, here’s the thing – in our video loop test, the Galaxy Note 10+ lasted for around 10 hours which is good, but I expected better.
The Galaxy Note 10+ supports 45W fast charging (the Galaxy Note 10 supports 25W fast charging) but Samsung is bundling a 25W fast charger in the box which tops the phone in about one and a half hours – which is nice. The Galaxy Note 10+ also supports 15W fast wireless charging and reverse charging.
There are a couple of more things to note about the Galaxy Note 10+’ hardware -
-- Samsung Dex now allows you to move files between your phone and computer (Windows/Mac) more seamlessly by connecting the Galaxy Note 10+ to it with any USB cable.
-- Samsung has partnered with Microsoft to bring ‘Link to Windows’ to the Galaxy Note 10+. Once linked, you can exchange text, share photos, and receive notifications from the galaxy Note 10+ on your Windows PC.
Quick pointers on the Galaxy Note 10+ as an everyday phone -
-- The Galaxy Note 10+ comes in 12GB RAM/256GB and 12GB/512GB configurations. That's LPDDR4X RAM and UFS3.0 storage. Which means, everything runs fast almost all the time. The Galaxy Note 10+ also supports expandable storage of up to 1TB via a hybrid micro-SD card slot.
-- Software inside the phone is Android 9 Pie-based One UI. With features like a system-wide dark mode and an emphasis on faster and seamless use on large-screen devices, One UI is without a doubt the best piece of software that Samsung has ever built. What’s impressive is that even though Samsung hasn’t necessarily cut down on fancy animations (and there are still many duplicate apps here including three different email apps), the whole UI still feels faster than any of its past software iterations. Hopefully, it holds up – and hopefully Samsung shows the same intent with updates as well. The phone is set to receive Android 10-based One UI 2.0 beta soon.
-- The Galaxy note 10+ comes with high-quality dual speakers that can get quite loud with good stereo separation. The Galaxy Note 10+ does not have a headphone jack.
-- Phone calls made with the Galaxy note 10+ are of good quality across the board – there’s nothing really to complain here. The dual SIM phone supports dual 4G VoLTE.
-- The phone is IP68-certified for water and dust resistance.
Samsung’s signature S-Pen is getting a big update this year – at least on paper. Samsung has packed an accelerometer and gyroscope inside it, so it can now support ‘air’ gestures to control the Galaxy Note 10+, literally like a magic wand. That’s gimmick 1. There’s a new AR Doodle feature in the Galaxy Note 10+ that lets you draw on people as well as things virtually and then these stay pinned (almost) even after you or your subject have moved. That's gimmick 2. I call them gimmicks because both are parlour tricks that you’re likely to try once and forget soon after.
But there’s one improvement that I really like. Even though Samsung’s S-Pen has no competition, I like that it continues to add more and more useful features to it year after year. Digital text conversion is something that Samsung introduced last year. This year, Samsung is using AI to make it more accurate and you also now get the option to directly export your text to Microsoft Word – that's neat.
The Galaxy Note 10+ has four cameras in all - quad rear cameras consisting of one 12MP wide (77-degree field of view) sensor with variable f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture and dual pixel OIS, a 16MP ultra-wide (123-degree field of view) sensor with f/2.2 aperture and fixed focus, a 12MP telephoto sensor with OIS and f/2.1 aperture, and a Time-of-Flight camera for 3D depth mapping purposes. That’s mostly the same setup as the Galaxy S10+’ with an added ToF sensor. On the front, the Galaxy Note 10+ has a 10MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture and 80-degree field-of-view – again, mostly the same deal as the Galaxy S10+.
The all-round results are also mostly similar although I must say, Samsung has upped its game ever so slightly when it comes to (post) processing. Samsung seems to be using new algorithms so all-round result is warmer and more pleasing to the eyes with great dynamic range as well especially in ideal lighting. Low light photos meanwhile appear soft and mushy because of Samsung’s highly aggressive noise reduction in such situations. Samsung’s night mode does help get more out of your low light photos – but, again, it’s no match for what Huawei and Google are doing with their high-end flagships.
The front camera can shoot good-enough selfies with lots of detail in good light but low-light selfies (and portraits) could be better.
But where it falters at stills, it more than compensates for through one of the best in-class video recording – the Galaxy Note 10+ videos are sharp, with lots of detail, and good stabilization (including good all-round audio) across the board. The Galaxy Note 10+ also lets you shoot bokeh videos but they’re nothing special – so that’s one area that needs work. There's also a new feature where you can amp the audio as you zoom into a subject, like in the HTC U11 - it works well enough.
So, how’s the Galaxy Note 10+ an everything phone reinvented, when overall, it’s just another incremental update to the Galaxy Note 9? It is not, when you scratch through the surface. On the inside though, things are different. The Galaxy Note has always been a productivity centric device, but chances are, the Galaxy Note 10+ could be the last of its kind. Or second last, I am not sure. But it surely can’t be the future. The future, as Samsung puts it - and I can’t agree more – belongs to foldables.
Foldables like the Galaxy Fold. And until Samsung finds out a way to make them more affordable and more mainstream, these devices will be a luxury. The Galaxy Note 10+ is no foldable, but it’s a very, very luxurious device that’s knocking on that future’s door. Whether or not you should buy it is something that will ultimately depend on your preference – your preference for nothing but the best, and of course, your preference for that super useful yet super gimmicky S-Pen.
(Photos by Saurabh Singh)