Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review
To be or Note to be?
Samsung launched two Notes into the enormous smartphone symphony, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 + is the pick of the pair.
The super-sized version is packed with extra tech, a larger battery yet still remains as skinny as the Galaxy Note 10 at 7.9mm.
In Samsung style it follows that edge-to-edge curved glass design we’ve come to expect and the display takes up an impressive 94.2% screen.
The S Pen stylus makes the Note 10+ stand out and it’s the best pen yet, which gives this phone a truly unique selling point.
This is the most extra of smartphones and could still be considered more of a phablet given its sheer size and multi-tasking credentials.
Design and screen: Absolutely phabulous
Bezels, like clowns, are either absolutely detested or merely tolerated. Samsung very much cater to the former group with the skinniest bezels we’ve ever seen.
It’s the epitome of a premium smartphone, a giant slab of forged glass and metal and using the thing is really a job for both hands.
It’s fairly hardy with IP68 water and dust protection but dropping it would be catastrophic.
Finally, the headphone jack has been relegated and filed in the Smartphone archives of yesteryear, but Samsung sort you out with a pair of USB-C AKG headphones in the box.
The Aura Glow brings the disco with iridescent silver and flickers of orange, green and everything in-between. It is available in Aura glow (pictured), Aura white or Aura black to keep the magpie uprising at bay.
The power button, which doubles as the Bixby button is on the left along with the volume slider. If it wasn’t so girthy, then that would be fine – but being right-handed, it can be a little tricky to reach.
The 6.8in AMOLED screen is incredibly generous and it’s both thinner and lighter than the Galaxy Note 9. There’s an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner which was a doddle to use, and speedy too.
The colours on screen are punchy on the HDR10+ certified screen and watching TV on the Note 10+ is spectacular.
View angles are impressive, and the bright screen owes itself to sunny days. The black levels are gloriously inky and there’s excellent dynamic range which became clear watching the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood trailer and seeing Margot Robbie’s face lit up by the blue light of the cinema screen.
There’s a wee interruption to the ocean of screen for the centrally located front camera, but it really is very small.
Camera: 5 will make you get down
Following on the theme of excess, the Note 10+ squeezes in 5 cameras.
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.
Night Mode works better than we’ve come to expect with Samsung Galaxy Notes. There’s a little bit 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.
The wide-angle lens is one of the widest out there, but that of course comes at the cost of some serious wonky edges, but than can be fixed.
The 10MP front camera is surprisingly great, offering really well balanced exposure and doesn’t have quite the same colour intensity as the main camera does.
Video on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is ace, mainly due to the image stabilisation. I spent the end of a lunchtime shooting some of some cycling enthusiasts and the results were excellent, which is quite the feat as I don’t have the steadiest of hands, and especially not when holding a very large glassy and expensive phone.
Another excellent addition in the Zoom-In Mic that amplifies the audio which works best with one subject speaking. If there’s more people in the frame, it doesn’t really work.
Overall, there’s little to fault in the camera department. 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.
Features: Pen me in
Call us old fashioned but putting pen to paper is one of life’s simple pleasures. And thankfully, the digitised version from the Galaxy Note 10+ is equally satisfying.
Handwriting can be transcribed into text, which was available on the Note 9, but now it’s a lot more accurate and it can even be downloaded into a Microsoft Word doc.
You can even write ‘off screen’ which we love. It 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. Again – this is the sort of thing that will draw attention to yourself. And it’s also something you probably won’t use very often.
Which 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. Sure it’s fun for a while, especially on a long train ride, but far from essential.
It’s great to see DeX doesn’t require a dock anymore, because to be honest it was a bit of a pain. Now access DeX just by plugging the phone into your PC via USB-C. There’s also a new Link to Windows mode which would be a lot more useful if it were easier to drag and drop items without it being so temperamental.
Bixby is best when it’s seen and not heard. Great for identifying things via the camera but ask Bixby to do anything useful is not going to be a fruitful experience.
Performance: Solid as a rock
A fiery Snapdragon 855 processor inside keeps things speedy, with ahe addition of the extra storage.
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.
The Note 10+ was able to contend with my everyday use. Loading app is speedy and it can easily handle a few gaming sessions thorough 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.
This massive phone contains a massive 4,300 mAh battery unit which just trumps the Galaxy S10+ battery. However, we found ourselves in zone red at the very end of the day after some intensive usage, which we wouldn’t get with the Huawei P30 Pro.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ verdict
The crux of it is that there are better smartphones asking for four figures. Some with better cameras, some which will last you longer than a day, but none offer this point of difference – the inclusion of the S Pen.
It feels really similar to the S10 line-up and Samsung still make the most beautiful screens, but there’s got to be more when competition is so tough.
If you do want excess, strive for luxury and must have an S Pen stylus, then what are you waiting for? Plus, it’s a better use of cash than getting your cat a personal trainer.
A very capable and glamorous android phone with a touch too much swagger for most.
Stunning and huge screen
S Pen is better than ever
Cameras could be better at this price