Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ - key specs
Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm
Screen: 6.8-inch, QHD+
CPU: Samsung Exynos 9825
Rear camera: 16MP + 12MP + 12MP + VGA
Front camera: 10MP
Welcome to T3's Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review. Over the past few weeks I have been testing out the South Korean maker's new technical leader and what follows is my take on the fantastically sized new flagship.
And that large size is important, as for the first time in the series' history, Samsung has concurrently released two Notes at the same time, the 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 10 and this 6.8-inch Galaxy Note 10+.
As such, for Android phone fans who have a soft spot for Samsung's stylus-toting phone series, there is now a serious choice to be made when going Note, and especially so considering the screen size is not the only difference to consider.
Hopefully, this full review, which breaks the phone down into a variety of key scoring categories, will go someway to making that decision clearer for potential upgraders.
Last year I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 for T3 and was very, very impressed with the overall package. It dripped "with a level of premium and capability" that made it the best Android phone in the world at launch, and even today it remains a superb all-round device.
With that being the case, though, what role is there on the market for not just the Note 10, but a super-sized, super-costly, engorged Note 10+? It is not an easy question to answer and, simply put, I don't think it will be an easy decision to make for many people.
If you absolutely have to have a quick, immediate takeaway from this Galaxy Note 10+ review, though, then I'd say that despite this phone being technically the best Note on the market, as well as the best phone Samsung has ever made, I feel most people will be better suited plumping for a regular Note 10, or even last year's Note 9, which is now half the price of the model reviewed here.
To find out exactly why, as well as just how the Note 10+ performed on test, read on.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: price, models and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ ships in three colours – Aura Glow, Aura Black, and Aura Pink. The Aura Glow is an undefinable blend of a handful of colours that is incredibly reflective and appears in a different shade each time it catches the light.
In the official marketing images from Samsung, it looks remarkably like the shimmering finishes seen on the Huawei P30 series, but it’s not quite as pleasant as that in the flesh. It’s too reflective to really let the colours shine in our opinion.
All variants of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 range are now on sale. The Galaxy Note 10 starts from £899 for the 4G model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of built-in storage, while the Galaxy Note 10+ costs £999 for the 256GB variant, and maxes-out at £1,199 for the 5G-enabled handset with 512GB of storage and 12GB of RAM.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: design and build quality
T3 were pretty effusive about the Galaxy Note 10 in our hands-on review, and how its new compact design just feels right. Unfortunately the same can’t quite be said of the Note 10+, which is a rather unwieldy slab of glass and metal. Being completely honest, holding the handset for the first time is reminiscent of the engorged Galaxy S10 5G.
Of course, there are huge benefits to a bigger screen, though – from watching films and box sets on your morning commute, to showing off holiday snaps to friends, reading eBooks on a flight, and getting immersed in the latest blockbuster mobile game.
And with the Galaxy Note series, there are even more advantages to the mammoth display, which makes for a much larger canvas for handwritten notes, lets you see and annotate more of a PDF or webpage without constantly having to scroll, and means the smartphone functions as a bigger trackpad when using DeX.
The expansive 6.8-inch AMOLED HDR10+ display on the Note 10+ will handle all of that brilliantly, but after some extensive usage, carrying around this smartphone every single day definitely leads to storage and transportation compromises — pockets friendly it certainly isn't.
It is also important to note here that the power button, which is left-mounted on the Note 10+ along with the volume buttons, now doubles as the Bixby button (more on that chap later).
With the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+, Samsung has relocated the titular O-shaped cut-out in the Infinity-O design. While the Galaxy S10 series kept the hole, which houses the front-facing camera and helps the company achieve that impressive screen-to-body ratio, in the top right-hand corner of the screen and the Galaxy A8s squirrelled its into the top left, the Galaxy Note 10 keeps its embedded camera dead-centre.
According to Samsung, the decision to move the hole-punch was taken due to customer feedback on the Galaxy S10, where the in-display camera forced Samsung to shift system icons away from the right-hand corner of the UI.
The new design is definitely better than the Galaxy S10 look. But it’s still pretty inelegant in my opinion. The new hole-punch means the system icons still reside in the top left- and right-hand corners of the display, just like every other Android-powered smartphone, which is good. But the cycloptic appearance of the Note 10+ isn’t something that could ever credibly be described as “beautiful” – something that most definitely could be said of earlier Galaxy Note models.
However, if the much maligned notch on the iPhone X has taught us anything, it’s that it’s very easy to get used to an intrusion in the middle of the screen.
Overall I think it is fair to say that the Note 10+'s design is attractive but not beautiful, and its massive form factor does take a little something away from what is actually a very minimalist, streamlined design.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: screen and hardware
As you’d expect from Samsung's technical leader, the Note 10+ has a very formidable specs sheet that reads more like a laptop's than a smartphone's. Powering the device is a new seven-nanometre Exynos 9825 chipset that delivers faster speeds (see benchmarks boxout) and greater power management than the impressive Exynos 9820 inside the Galaxy S10 series.
That state-of-the-art silicon is coupled with 12GB of RAM and a choice of either 256GB or 512GB of built-in storage. Unlike the Note 10, the Galaxy Note 10+ does include a microSD slot which can be used to add up to 1TB of additional storage, so you’re unlikely to ever run out of space on this handset, with a maximum possible storage of 1.5TB beating many laptops, let alone other phones.
The screen is without doubt one of the most jaw-dropping features about the Note 10+ and, if I am being honest, the main reason why anyone would plump for the handset over its smaller brother. The 6.8-inch, 1440 x 3040 at 498 ppi, AMOLED screen is a thing of true beauty, with the South Korean maker's usually super strong vibrancy, contrast and sharpness once more on display, but now at a truly staggering size.
Indeed, thanks the massive screen size, pin-hole camera and minimal bezeling, the flagship phone now enjoys a staggering 94.7% screen-to-body ratio, up from 83.9% on the Galaxy Note 9. This makes a massive difference in the display of content and also, naturally, use of the S Pen digital stylus, with a now phenomenal amount of screen real estate in which to make notes, illustrate and navigate online.
GeekBench 5 benchmark scores
Single-Core Score: 712
Multi-Core Score: 1,808
OpenCL Score: 4,087
Vulkan Score: 2,594
After recently spending serious time with the Sony Xperia 1, with its stunning 21:9 Bravia-engineered panel, which was only let down slightly by that phone's underwhelming battery, the Note 10+ definitely had a tough act to follow and, while I would say the Sony phone is still the device I would prefer to watch 21:9 movie content on, for everything else the Note 10+ is either the Xperia 1's equal or superior.
Performance is, as you can seen from the nearby boxout, top level. That combination of Exynos 9825, Mali-G76 GPU, and 12GB of RAM means that anything mobile you throw at this phone it will deal with comfortably.
And, as you would expect, that hardware translated to a buttery smooth user experience in-app, in-game, and when navigating the phone's user interface. Lag and waiting is definitely not something that you have to deal with when using the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
And, while I couldn't test out the feature, I am confident that the hardware package delivered here will mean the phone will perform admirably in Samsung DeX, bolting on a light computing experience to the overall package, too.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: camera and AR emoji
Unlike the Galaxy S10 5G, the similarly-proportioned Note 10+ sticks with the same single 10MP front-facing camera with f/2.2 seen on the smaller Note 10. It’s interesting to see Samsung move away from the dual-selfie system used on the Galaxy S10 Plus and the Galaxy S10 5G.
Thankfully, that means the hole-punch in the display stays relatively small – unlike the pill-shaped eyesores seen on the larger variants in the Galaxy S10 range. Over the period of time I spent testing the handset, photographs from the Note 10+'s front-facing camera looked good – with plenty of detail that will survive more than a few edits before being posted to Facebook and Instagram.
Like the Note 10, the Note 10+ also supports Live Focus photos from the front-facing camera, so you can add an artificial bokeh-style blur behind your face.
Samsung has also thrown-in a few wackier looks for those who want to stand-out from the endless sea of bokeh-filled selfies, including a new “Glitch” effect that gives the background the appearance of a badly maintained VHS – with tracking and stuttering colours. It’s not something you’re likely to use all that often, but it’s a fun new addition nonetheless.
In terms of rear-facing lenses, you get a 12MP wide-angle camera with the same variable aperture technology seen on the Galaxy S10 range – allowing the camera to instinctively switch between f/1.4 and f/2.4 to capture images in challenging low light conditions, a 16MP ultra-wide with a 123° field of view, and finally, a 12MP telephoto camera that handles 2x optical zoom and Live Focus shots.
If that list sounds at all familiar, it’s because it’s the same mixture of ultra-wide, telephoto and dual-aperture found on the Galaxy S10 Plus – so you’ll find exactly the same photo options, including the artificial adjustable bokeh blur Live Focus photos.
Like the selfie camera, you’ll also get the same Live Focus options from the rear-facing set-up, including "Glitch" and "Circles", which adds circular bokeh-style blur behind the subject. Like the Galaxy S10 5G, the Note 10+ is capable of adding these Live Focus effects to video in real-time.
It’s a really nifty trick that no other smartphone has managed to match – at least for the moment.
Where the Note 10+ differs from the smaller Note 10 is how it achieves this Live Focus effect. While the latter uses software to identify the subject of the image, the Note 10+ is fitted with an all-new patented DepthVision camera, which includes two separate sensors. This is different from the single Time Of Flight sensor used to achieve a similar effect on the Galaxy S10 5G.
This DepthVision camera, simply put, allows for enhanced bokeh-style blur behind the subject in photos and videos. I feel it also offers more accurate results when measuring distances, or placing computer generated objects into the real-world using Augmented Reality (AR) apps.
After spending some time testing Live Focus, I have to admit that photos and videos looked very impressive. However, there didn’t seem to be much difference to my eyes between the software-based solution on the Note 10 and the DepthVision-powered Note 10+.
And speaking in terms of video, as well as slow motion and a variety of other recording modes, you can shoot at 4K, 60fps on the Note 10+. Nice.
Lastly, in terms of camera system, it would be amiss if I didn't talk about AR Emoji. Last year, when I reviewed the Galaxy Note 9, I commented that "creating your AR Emoji with the camera system is super easy", praising how fast the process was. I didn't like how generic the avatars were, though, nor how few styling options you were given.
This time round I feel Samsung has moved even further away from an accurate portrayal of the subject for a more cartoony, Pixar-style approach. My avatar, even after some serious tweaking, still looked very little like me. The phone maker has addressed the lack of customization, though, and there are now far more outfits and accessories to choose from.
Stickers and animal avatars also return once more, so if that is your bag, then you can make shocked face as a sloth, or get daemonic if your significant other informs you that they ate the last wagon wheel in the cupboard.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: battery and audio
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 has a large 4,300mAh battery cell that, from my testing with the phone, is good for a day and half of moderate real world usage. This isn't as strong as some other flagships, such as the Huawei P30 Pro, which is good for two days between charges, but for a phone with such a big screen and internal spec, I feel is actually good. I never had any battery anxiety when using this device and, well, that's a mark of endorsement from me.
When the Note 10+ does run our of juice, though, it supports speedy 45W wired charging which can refill the handset with enough power to last an entire day in just 30 minutes. That’s seriously impressive and almost stands toe-to-toe with the Warp Charging included with the OnePlus 7 Pro, which has been almost unmatched since its introduction earlier this year.
If you’re not willing to cough-up for a 45W wired charger, Samsung still includes a 25W fast wired charger in the box, which should be plenty for those who leave their smartphone charging overnight. The Galaxy Note 10+ also supports 15W fast wireless charging pads, too, which is nice coming off a couple of recent launches where the maker did not include a wireless charging (or reverse wireless charging functionality).
In terms of audio and other notable features, the Note 10+ includes sound tuned by AKG, which is plenty loud enough to enjoy a YouTube video without headphones, and Wireless PowerShare – which allows you to charge Galaxy Buds or any other Qi-compatible gadget by placing it on the back of the handset. I found the audio reproduction, both over wired and wireless headphones, to be good.
While we're on audio, I feel I need to point out (sigh) that the Note 10+ does not have an audio port, with Samsung following OnePlus in ditching it so that a bigger battery could be used. I feel this "issue" is largely rendered moot as Samsung includes a pair of decent USB-C wired AKG headphones in the box. Yes, no USB-C port to headphone jack dongle is included but [checks Amazon] they can be picked up right now for £3.19. And, simply put, if you can spend £1,000 on a phone then I think you can stretch the extra few quid.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: Bixby, Security, S Pen and OS
God I hate Bixby. There, I said it. At the start Samsung's own AI system was much akin to Bertie Wooster in my mind — had a funny name, didn't operate properly and got into mishaps, before being eventually let off with a "AI will be AI" slap on the wrist and a "C- must try harder" write up.
And here we are two years down the line from Bixby's launch alongside the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones and, despite numerous updates, it still is just nowhere near the level of reliability, useability and usefulness of either The Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. It is, for all the hype and gloss, at best a thoroughly average voice assistant and, at worse, something you wish you could, literally, crowbar out of the phone.
Is it a deal breaker? No, obviously not. But I do feel Bixby has outstayed its welcome now. It needs to get better fast. My suggestion to anyone who picks up one of these phones? Remap the double tap on the power button to open The Google Assistant app.
In terms of fingerprint security, unlocking the Galaxy Note 10+ is handled with an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanner – just like the Galaxy S10 series. Samsung has moved the sensor a little higher up the frame this time around, so it falls in a much more natural position when holding the phone.
After some extensive usage of the unlocking feature, as well as the face unlock function, I can confirm that both are among the very fastest and most consistent I've used to date. Place you thumb or finger on the screen for but a moment and the phone unlocks, while if you simply pick up the Note 10+ and press its power button, if you have facial recognition on then again, almost instantaneously, the your face is invisibly scanned and the home screen reached.
These security features, along with a suite of more traditional methods such as pin unlock (which is mandatory for the other methods to be used), means locking down your phone, or unlocking it, is never a frustrating experience. And coming off the Xperia 1's side-mounted fingerprint reader, which was inconsistent to the point of annoyance, that was a pleasurable transition for me.
Tucked inside the Note 10+ is, once more, its party piece. The S Pen digital stylus with Bluetooth remains a genuinely useful accessory that delivers best-in-class note taking, annotating, illustrating, remote image taking functionality. Features like Screen Off Memo and Remote Camera Shutter are just as handy and fun to use as on last year' Galaxy Note 9+.
This year, though, aside from the Pen measuring lightly smaller and coming in a fetching new colour scheme, the big new addition is Air Gestures, which use a gyroscope and accelerometer to allow you to use the S Pen like a wand to achieve various results.
For example, flick the S Pen left or right and you can switch through menu screens, while rotating its tip in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction when using the camera and you can zoom in or out. Equally, flick the pen up and down and you can flip through the camera system's lenses.
Air Gestures aren't a new concept, but the simple extra functionality added in here is welcome and works well and consistently, adding another string to the Note 10+'s bow. And, well, there isn't a rival device on the market that can compete with it, so in this regard Samsung is in a league of its own.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: verdict
As a tech enthusiast, there is something in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ that just pushes all the right buttons. It absolutely smokes almost all flagship rivals in terms of internal hardware spec, punches hard across every feature area, and even delivers unique functionality with its S Pen digital stylus that other device's cannot match at all.
The Note 10+ also comes in a 5G variant, so you can even get the very latest, super rapid data connections now available in most major UK cities and set to spread throughout countries over the next few years, future-proofing the device perfectly for its lifespan.
All of this naturally begs the question: why wouldn't I buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ then?
Well, cost is definitely one consideration, as while the device is a technical marvel when viewed objectively in isolation, there is no denying that a max-spec Note 10+ 5G, ringing in as it does for £1,199, is a truly eye-watering amount of money to spend that I am guessing is not very approachable in the real world to many people.
Even the lowest spec Galaxy Note 10+ 4G phone starts at £999 (a grand!), too, so this entire range is definitely not something to consider unless you have serious money to play with. Don't get me wrong, this is Samsung Mobile's technical leader and, as mentioned above, it is its "no-compromise" smartphone, so it makes sense that it is pricey, but not everyone can or should play in that ballpark.
Other factors that should make you think twice before ringing up a Note 10+ are almost non-existent, but its unwieldly size, comprehensive but technically beaten in a few areas by rivals camera system, and general sense of excess (and that is the feeling of a guy who reviews a lot of very premium phones), is definitely something to muse upon before you hit the checkout. Remember, you can get almost the exact same package but in a smaller, cheaper form factor with the Galaxy Note 10.
At the end of the day, though, here at T3 we love top tech, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is certainly that — it is a stunningly accomplished smartphone that will effortlessly power any user's mobile experience for years to come.