Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review (early verdict): the no-compromise Note

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Note 10+ gets expandable storage, optional 5G support, more RAM, and an all-new depth-sensing camera

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review
(Image credit: Samsung)

T3 Verdict

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ packs a helluva punch – it has the biggest AMOLED display ever shipped on a Note, an all-new DepthVision camera for better bokeh-style blur in photos and videos, a massive battery life boost for the S Pen, optional 5G... the list goes on. And underneath the bonnet, the Note 10+ boasts more RAM and storage than most laptops – topping out at 12GB and 1.5TB, respectively. That said, these excesses have their price, both literally and figuratively. Most notably, that very generous 6.8-inch screen means the Note 10+ is nigh-on impossible to use comfortably with one-hand – and even two can be a struggle!

Reasons to buy

  • +

    Gorgeous design with premium fit-and-finish

  • +

    Live Focus video modes are very impressive

  • +

    In-display fingerprint scanner works in the rain

  • +

    10-hour battery on the S Pen

  • +

    AR Doodles are gimmicky, but so much fun

  • +

    45W fast-charging and 15W fast-wireless option

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    Massively cumbersome to use one-handed

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    DepthVision doesn't offer much unique functionality for now

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    Infinity-O display isn't the most beautiful look

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    No 3.5mm headphone port (and no adapter in the box)

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Key Specs

(Image credit: Samsung)

Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm

Weight: 196 g

Screen: 6.8-inch AMOLED, 1440 x 3040 at 498 ppi

CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855


Storage: 256GB / 512GB, and up to 1TB via MicroSD card

Battery: 4,300mAh

Cameras: 12MP main + 12MP telephoto + 16MP ultra-wide + DepthVision Camera / 10MP selfie

OS: OneUI / Android 9.0 Pie 

After the announcement of the Galaxy S10 range in February, Samsung has just unveiled its second flagship smartphones series – the Galaxy Note 10. And for the first time in half a decade, the South Korean manufacturer has launched more than one handset in the Note range.

Galaxy Note 10 is a much more compact device which is easier to handle, especially one-handed. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note 10+ boasts the kind of pocket-stretching, thumb-aching screen we’ve come to expect from the Galaxy Note range.

Couple that with a faster, more efficient processor, expandable storage, an entirely-new depth-sensing camera system for Augmented Reality (AR) applications, and an upgraded S Pen stylus – it’s clear this is a serious piece of kit.

Ahead of Galaxy Unpacked, T3 was given the opportunity to get our hands on the Galaxy Note Note 10+. What follows are our initial impressions on the handset, with an in-depth review coming once we’ve spent some more time with the hardware.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: Price, Release Date

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.

Pre-orders are available online today, August 7, while the first smartphones will begin appearing on high street store shelves from August 23, 2019. 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.

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: Display, Design

We were pretty effusive about the Galaxy Note 10 and how it’s new compact design just feels right. Unfortunately the same can’t quite be said of the Note 10+, which is an unwieldy slab of glass and metal. Holding the handset for the first time is reminiscent of the Galaxy S10 5G.

Of course, there are huge benefits to a bigger screen – 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. 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 display on the Note 10+ will handle all of that brilliantly, but lets be honest, carrying around this smartphone every single day is going to be a kerfuffle. And using it one-handed while rushing to work juggling your keys and a travel coffee mug? Forget it.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

That said, Samsung has done a phenomenal job whittling away the bezels around the AMOLED display on the Note 10+. The flagship phone now enjoys a staggering 94.7% screen-to-body ratio, up from 83.9% on the Galaxy Note 9.

As such, it’s almost exactly the same size as the Galaxy S10 5G – 77.2mm x 162.3mm x 7.9mm on the Note 10+ compared to 77.1mm x 162.6mm x 7.9 mm on the Galaxy S10 5G, despite the latter sporting a smaller 6.7-inch display.

It’s impressive stuff, but doesn’t change the fact that it still feels cumbersome and unwieldy in your pocket. Thankfully, Samsung has offered an alternative in the Note 10, so those who want to enjoy the new features available in the flagship handset aren’t forced to lug around a surfboard-like phone.

As with the Galaxy S10 series, Samsung’s redesigned One UI operating system makes the Note 10+ much more manageable than they would be with stock Android OS. The Android Pie-based software was designed to make expansive smartphone screens easier to use – especially one-handed.

To do this, One UI shifts all the elements of the user interface that you’ll actually need to interact with – buttons, toggles, menu items – into the lower-third of the touchscreen where they can be easily reached, even for those with smaller hands. 

Think of it like the Reachability feature Apple introduced a few years back, which temporarily drops the entire screen into the lower-half of the display, but applied across an entire user interface. Even swiping on the notification shade drops the quick action toggles far enough down the display that you won’t need to perform thumb-gymnastics to hit the right icon.

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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

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. 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. Although it didn’t happen during our time with the Note 10+, it’s likely something that will fade away after owning the handset for a day or two.

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. Unfortunately, we weren't able to thoroughly test the accuracy or speed of the fingerprint scanner, but we were impressed with how well the technology worked – even when the screen was slick with rain – on the S10.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: Camera

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. In our brief time using the handset, photographs from the 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+ 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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

Since it’s entirely software-based, it’s possible these new effects will be rolled-out to the Galaxy S10 Plus and Galaxy S10 5G, which already boasts a number of similar effects for the depth-sensing feature, including a Zoom and Swirl look.

Unfortunately, unlike the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, there’s no ultra-wide angle selfies to be found here. So, if you’re holidaying with a big group of friends or family, you’ll either have to resort to a timer, the remote shutter function included with the S Pen, or a selfie stick.

But it’s on the rear-facing camera set-up on the Note 10+ where you’ll find the most significant changes, especially for those upgrading from the Note 9 or older. Like the cheaper Note 10, you’ll find 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. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

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.

Samsung says the new propriety system should offer better bokeh-style blur behind the subject in photos and videos. It should also offer more accurate results when measuring distances, or placing computer generated objects into the real-world using Augmented Reality (AR) apps.

In our short time with the handset, Live Focus photos and videos looked very impressive. However, there didn’t seem to be much difference between the software-based solution on the Note 10 and the DepthVision-powered Note 10+. Samsung told us that AR applications will likely showcase the difference more than Live Focus photos and videos of friends and family.

Of course, we’ll need to spend much more time with the Note 10+ to get a good handle on what it’s capable of, but the early signs are very, very promising. Photographs are packed with details – albeit not quite as sharp as what you’ll get out of a Pixel 3. As you’d expect from Samsung, the images are warmer and more vibrant than rival handsets from Google and Apple.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: S Pen

The Galaxy Note simply wouldn’t be the Galaxy Note without an S Pen. The trademark stylus gets a modest update with the latest handset. The biggest new feature are Air Gestures, which uses the new six-axis sensors built into the S Pen to let you control features on the phone by waving it around in the air, like a Nintendo Wii controller. For example, holding down the button built into the stem of the S Pen and flicking it upwards – like a trainee wizard at Hogwarts – switches between the front and rear-facing cameras.

Coupled with the ability to use the S Pen to remotely trigger the shutter button introduced last year, the Galaxy Note 10+’s rear-facing camera is entirely hands-free.

In our brief time with the Galaxy Note 10+, Air Gestures felt pretty gimmicky. The technology itself works well and its impressive just how much smarts Samsung is now able to squeeze into the svelte stylus… but when was the last time you wanted to switch between the rear camera and the selfie camera using a flicking gesture a few metres from your handset? Yeah, us neither.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

More interestingly, Samsung is opening up Air Gestures to third-party developers, so we’re likely to see some intriguing new applications surface in the Play Store over the coming months. Should the team behind Harry Potter: Wizards Unite integrate the stylus gestures to make for some truly immersive wand action, it could easily make the Galaxy Note 10+ the definitive version of the mobile sensation, for example.

While the S Pen included with the Note 9 included the ability to remotely control keynote presentations, the 30-minute battery life meant you had to do some serious trimming to your TED talk to benefit from the new feature. That has been fixed this time around. The upgraded S Pen you’ll find bundled with the Galaxy Note 10 has a stunning 10 hour battery life and can recharge from flat in just 6 minutes.

Finally, Samsung has added a new stylus feature called AR Doodles. As the name suggests, this lets you scrawl on any faces displayed in the viewfinder with the hand-drawn crowns, glasses, facial, and presumably, comically-engorged genitals, using the S Pen. Samsung will keep the drawing adhered to the face as it moves. AR Doodle can be used for both photos and videos.

It’s a fun little feature and a great demo for the handset, but it does sit somewhat at odds with the productivity and business focus of the Galaxy Note series. That said, even the most spreadsheet-obsessed amongst us need to switch off every now and again, and if drawing a pair of spectacles on a colleague’s face and watching it stick to them as they move around the room helps you keep a good work-life balance, then more power to you.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: Specs, Other Features

As you’d expect from a flagship handset from Samsung, the Note 10+ has a formidable specs sheet the reads more like a laptop than a smartphone. Powering the device is a new seven-nanometre Exynos 9825 chipset that promises faster speeds and greater power management than the impressive Exynos 9820 inside the Galaxy S10 series.

That 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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

It has a 4,300mAh battery cell that Samsung says should last all-day and well into the night, although we’ll need to spend much more time with the smartphone to assess those claims. When it does run our of juice, the Galaxy Note 10+ supports speedy 45W wired charging which Samsung claims can refill the handset with enough power to last an entire day in 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.

Elsewhere, Note 10+ includes sound tuned by AKG, which is plenty loud enough to enjoy a YouTube video without headphones, Wireless PowerShare – which allows you to charge Galaxy Buds or any other Qi-compatible gadget by placing it on the back of the handset, IP68 water and dust resistance, and support for Wi-Fi 6, which means you’re future-proofed as your home and work router are upgraded in the coming years.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Samsung)

But the Galaxy Note 10+ has also lost a feature that was included on its predecessor. Yes, it’s true – after years of roundly mocking Apple and other rivals for dropping the audio port, Samsung has ditched the once-ubiquitous connector. The company says it removed the port because it needed the space inside the handset to squeeze more battery life into the new svelte frame. OnePlus has used a similar excuse in the past.

We’ll thoroughly test the battery life in our full, in-depth review to see if that argument holds any water… but in the meantime, the missing port is so common these days that you’re unlikely to be phased. In the box, Samsung will throw-in a pair of USB-C wired AKG headphones, but no dongle. Of course, this can be bought separately from the Samsung Store, but the additional purchase is likely to frustrate people with wired 3.5mm headphones they’re reticent to ditch for a new phone.

(Image credit: Samsung )

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: Our Early Verdict

In a nutshell, the Galaxy Note 10+ is the no-compromise option in Samsung's new flagship Note series – it's a behemoth with a whopping 6.8-inch AMOLED display that packs 12GB of RAM and can hold up to 1.5TB of storage when coupled with the right microSD card. Unlike the smaller Note 10, it also boasts the new DepthVision system that’s tipped to play a significant role in AR applications going forward, not to mention the plethora of other photography options available on the handset – from ultra-wide, to Live Focus photos and videos, and optical zoom.

It's almost like Samsung looked at a list of headline features available on rival smartphones that could tempt away customers with older Notes from upgrading to the new model – and then systematically ticked-off every one of those capabilities.

Samsung even offers a version of the Galaxy Note 10+ with 5G for anyone who wants to take advantage of the next-generation network today, or would rather future-proof their new purchase for tomorrow.

That said, the no-compromise approach does have its drawbacks. The excesses result in a smartphone that's pretty unwieldy and gives you the appearance of someone recreating a Dom Jolly sketch each and every time you answer a call. The gorgeous 6.8-inch screen, while brilliant for catching up on some Netflix, rules out ever being able to use the phone comfortably one-handed on-the-move.

Just as eating every chocolate in a Christmas tin of Quality Street means you won't miss out on anything – but might leave you feeling like ignorance would've been better for your bowels, the overindulgence of the Galaxy Note 10+ that can hamper the overall experience at times.

Make no mistake, this is a phenomenally impressive flagship that won’t disappoint those who want the absolute best Samsung Galaxy Note money can buy... but for us, the more compact Note 10 is still a better buy for the vast majority of people.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review: News, Updates

Since we published our Galaxy Note 10+ review, some new details about the Samsung handset have emerged. We'll keep you posted about all of the latest updates here, in case they change how you feel about the handset...

August 13, 2019: Samsung has now confirmed that Galaxy Note 10+ will only ship with a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box – not the USB-C to USB A that it shipped with the Galaxy Note 9. What does that mean? Well, if you don't have a laptop or desktop computer with a USB-C port handy – you're going to struggle to connect your shiny new Samsung-branded phone to it. It also means you're not going to be able to connect the charging cable to any old USB-A wall plug that you've likely got sat around from various previous purchases. It's not a dealbreaker, but it might mean you're keen to add a separate cable or adapter to your basket at check-out.