With so many flagship smartphones launched in the span of the past month from Samsung, Huawei and even Apple, the comparisons on which flagship smartphone stands supreme will definitely be on every tech fan's mind. But the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series is special; it's always been a phablet dedicated for all creators and it continues on this reign.
Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10+, with the Note 10+ being the cream of the crop.The plus version is packed with extra tech and a larger battery yet still remains at the same size as the Galaxy Note 10 at 7.9mm. Which is amazing as the Note 10 is, as mentioned earlier, still considered a phablet given its sheer size and multi-tasking credentials.
There's also that Samsung style it follows, with the edge-to-edge curved glass design we’ve all come to expect and the display takes up an impressive 94.2% screen. And, of course, what makes the Samsung Galaxy Note series stand out is the S Pen stylus and it remains the device's truly unique selling point up, even right until now.
Design of the best
Straight out the box and into your hands, you will realise the lack of bezels the Note 10+ has, something that S10 users will also notice. Samsung is definitely catering their devices to anyone who detests the existence of bezels, and it makes the Note 10+ come off as a premium smartphone, a giant slab of forged glass and metal and using the thing is really a job for both hands. It's also pretty sturdy, with IP68 water and dust protection. But that doesn't mean it's clumsy proof; so don't drop it.
It has a similar look to the Galaxy S10, with the disco iridescent silver and flickers of orange, green and everything in-between. It is available in Aura glow (pictured), Aura white or Aura black and each one looks and feels amazing.
The best part about the Note 10+ is most definitely the 6.8in AMOLED screen which is undoubtedly generous. This makes the device both thinner and lighter than the Galaxy Note 9 with impressive view angles, and when it's black, it's wonderfully dark with excellent dynamic range. Watching videos on this was magical, though if you're against seeing a camera on your screen, even if it is so tiny you can barely notice it, that may be an issue.
Lastly, we have to address the lack of the headphone jack. Yes, it sucks to see Samsung moving away from what should be considered something steadfast. Am I sad that it's gone? Yes, and with the price of bluetooth headphones these days, it's a tough convert. But thankfully Samsung is here to ease your pain by providing a pair of USB-C AKG headphones in the box.
Cameras come in five
As with all flagships, the camera is an important feature and this time Samsung went all the way by giving the Note 10+ five cameras on the back. Like the Samsung Galaxy S10+, the main 12MP sensor does a lot of the heavy lifting. The 12MP f/1.5- f/2.4 telephoto and 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lenses join the party and there’s even a Depth sensor (like the Huawei P30 Pro), which is omitted from the Galaxy Note 10.
The ‘Live Focus’ colour point is great when you want to highlight a subject. For instance, you grey out the entire background and have the main subject in colour. This works across video and when using the front-facing camera too. It works best using the main sensor at the back as the Depth camera can really do its magic, whereas the front camera relies of software to enable this effect.
It does especially great with videos, mainly due to its great image stabilisation. During our time at the Tokyo Game Show, I took some videos using the Note 10+ and it was smooth and looked great even as I was walking around or moving away from shoving people. Something else you can look forward to as a content creator is the Zoom-In Mic that amplifies the audio which works best with one subject speaking although if there’s more people in the frame, it doesn’t really work. But as a vlogger? Good enough!
Night Mode actually works quite well compared to previous Samsung Galaxy Notes. Yes, there’s a little bit of noise but that’s preferable to flattening and smoothing over. It’s not perfect, or as smart as Google’s Night Sight, but it’s a huge improvement. As for the 10MP front camera, it is surprisingly great, offering really well balanced exposure and doesn’t have quite the same colour intensity as the main camera does.
Overall, there’s little to fault in the camera department though there may be better smartphone cameras out there. Night photography could be better, and the on-screen food setting is not very good and using the main camera is almost always the best option in most scenarios.
The ever powerful S Pen
The biggest reason to love the Note series is the ability to "write" on it, and being able to actually write (and not type) is one of life's simple, and often better, pleasures. And now Samsung makes this little pleasure even better as you can transcribe your writing to digitised text with just the tap of a button. While yes, this feature was available on the Note 9, it's even more accurate this round and can even be downloaded into a Microsoft Word doc.
You can even write ‘off screen’ which gives you the ability to take notes without the distraction of everything else going on once you unlock your device. It’s the quickest way to get writing and a bit of an overlooked treat really. Simply press on the bottom of the pen to release it from the phone’s body and it’s ready – like an inviting fresh pad of paper.
The newest feature to the S Pen is the inclusion of a gyroscope, which allows you to use Air Actions with some wizardly ward-like behaviour. Swipe between camera modes and make circle motions clockwise to zoom and visa-versa. It's not easy to master on the first few tries, and you may even get frustrated enough to never want to try it again. It's a cool feature but unless you want to attract more attention to yourself, it's best to do it at home.
This brings us nicely to another Pen-based activity - AR Doodle. This allows you to draw on subjects in virtual space, like drawing a halo over the head of your friend and it’ll ‘stick’ to the object, so the halo will follow them around through the camera. Definitely fun, but unless that's your thing as a content creator, you may not use it much.
The Note 10+ remains powerful, being equipped with a fiery Snapdragon 855 processor inside kept the device speedy, especially with the addition of the extra storage. And as this is great for content creators, multi-tasking is what the phone is built for so it’s just as well it offers 12GB of RAM or even 256GB with the 512GB model, plus there’s a microSD slot for expansion, which the Note 10 isn’t blessed with.
While I hype the Note 10+ as a device for content creators, even streaming gamers will also enjoy the device. Loading apps remains speedy and it can easily handle a few gaming sessions throughout the day. There’s even an AI Game Booster for optimising performance and power, there’s also a host of toggle on/off options. To keep things breezy, there’s a vapour chamber built into the centre plus a screen-recording feature so you can launch your YouTube career and upload videos of yourself gaming.
All this will mean nothing if you run out of power but the Note 10+ comes with a massive 4,300 mAh battery unit which is even bigger than the Galaxy S10+ battery. With some heavy usage, it could last a whole day, but with usual usage of social media and messages it will last 2-3 days.
You are definitely getting your money's worth when it comes to the Note 10+ based on the many features offered, the problem will likely be whether or not you will actually use them. Sure AR Doodles are great, but there's no certainty you will actually use them. The device also continues to be attractive mostly to content creators or Note series fans. After all, the biggest reason you would want this is for the S Pen.
Honestly if you're a Note series fan and don't have this yet, I'd be surprised. It's definitely a great upgrade from the previous versions. But whether or not it will convert new people... maybe. There's not a lot going for it for new people, unless they've always wanted one.