Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ full review
As you now know, there's a plus size model of the Galaxy Note 10 so you need to choose which of Samsung's phones to get. The Note 10+ is the one, as you would expect, has all the bells and whistles but is both big and expensive. Here's our full review.
Plus phones are nothing new in the smartphone world but Samsung has never gone this far with the Galaxy Note range. Arguably, the firm has never had to considering the long standing premium phablet status of the handset. The Note range has a loyal following despite hiccups like the Note 7.
Previous models aside, the Note 10+ is the Galaxy device you go for if you want as many features as possible. It's the big phone power user's dream with amped up specs compared to the regular Galaxy Note 10 including a few exclusive bits and pieces.
The regular Note 10 will set you back £899/$949 and the Note 10+ is only £100/$150 more despite all the extras at £999/$1,099 so that's a tempting upgrade if you're happy with the size of the plus.
The Note 10+ also comes in a 5G variant which costs £1,099/$1,299 or £1,199/$1,399 if you want 512GB. Find out if it might be worth it in our EE 5G review.
Design & Build
The Note 10 phones sort of look like previous generations, but also have a distinctly new look at the same time. Blending familiarity with freshness isn't easy so Samsung has done a great job in this respect.
There are some small design tweaks which we'll explain but the big one is around the screen, as you can see. This thing has almost no bezels now, especially on the top and bottom where a lot of space has now become display. Despite having a bigger display compared to the Note 9, the device as a whole is a very similar size.
This is largely due, of course, to the camera being embedded in the screen like Samsung did with the S10 phone – only the sensor is central to get a better angle of your face and to look more appealing. If you find it to be something of an eyesore, then search for wallpapers that hide it.
It's still the biggest Note to date and it's unsurprisingly unweildy when holding it in one hand. It's 196g which is marginally lighter than the Note 9 but not enough to make a big difference.
The aluminium frame is sandwiched inbetween more glass than an opticians. It looks a feels great with it's curved edges so has the high-end build you'd expect but we still worry about dropping the phone. You probably will too considering how much this thing costs so we'd recommended getting a case to avoid disaster - there's not one included in the box.
We really like the design of the Note 10 which still has the usual sort of mix of materials and craftsmanship, including things like an IP68 waterproof rating. However, it's not all plain sailing.
Over the last couple of years it's become pretty normal for phones to ditch the headphone jack and that's what's happened here. Samsung says this is partly to slim the design down (it's just 7.9mm) and to leave room for the battery. Still, that's a bit odd considering Samsung has scolded rivals for doing the same thing.
Whether that's ok with you depends on your stance on using wired headphones. We'd rather have the option to plug some old-fashioned cans in, though. Samsung doesn't even include a dongle but offer some USB-C headphones instead.
Some changes with the physical buttons are worth pointing out, too. There's no dedicated Bixby button (did you even notice?) but you can long press the power key to summon the digital assistant if you so wish.
The power and volume keys are now on the left which is highly unusual. This isn't the most comfortable solution for a right-handed user but we found ourselves simply double tapping the screen to wake the phone anyway and volume changes didn't feel abnormal.
The Note 10+ comes in a different set of colours to the regular model, so while the Note 10 is available in an exclusive Aura Pink, the plus comes in Aura Glow, Aura Black and Aura White – the latter being the exclusive.
We reviewed the Aura Glow model which is stunning thanks to its swirling, ever changing colours akin to an oil slick. It's quite mesmorising but the back of the phone is extrememly reflective and also attracts fingerprint marks like they're going out of fashion.
The other colours are reflective but hide the grubby marks a bit better.
Specs & Features
As alluded to, the Galaxy Note 10+ is the model to go for if you want to go all-out. It's got quite a few specs that are the same as the regular model, but plenty of extra things to tempt you with.
A tablet sized phone
Starting with the display it's 0.5in bigger than the regular model at 6.8in - so that's pretty much the same size as the small 7in tablets like the Nexus 7 which were popular a few years ago. The phone still feels pretty big, but that's to be expected and will appeal to the Galaxy Note lovers.
This might not be a 90Hz panel but there's still so much to like about the screen that we highly doubt you'll be disappointed. Samsung has been bossing it with displays for a number of years now and the Note 10+ is no different.
Samsung calls this the Infinity-O display, which uses Dynamic AMOLED technology. It sports curved edges and even has a support for HDR10+. Both models are stunning but the Note 10+ has a higher resolution and pixel density at 3040 x 1440 and 498ppi if you like playing smartphone Top Trumps.
Like other Galaxy phones, you don't actually get this resolution by default. It's set to Full HD+ (2280x1080) but you can change this in the setting if you want. There's also a lower HD+ option if you, for example, want to save battery power pushing pixels.
We won't go into various tutorials now but there are various things you can do with the display such as always-on, blue light filter, night mode and Samsung's Edge screen. You'll find it all under the 'display' section of the setting menu or some things are in the quick settings.
One thing we did straight away was switch on 'swipe down for notification panel'. The top of the screen is way to far away to reach, even for those with bigger hands, so this allows you to retreive the panel by swiping wherever you find comfortable.
As you might expect, the Note 10+ has an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner embedded in the screen, which is also placed slightly further up compared to the S10 for better comfort. A lot of people would prefer the sensor on the back but you'll have to deal with that.
The other option is face unlock as there is no iris scanner here. Both work pretty well and you can use them in tandem so you can use the fingerprint scanner if the camera doesn't pick up your face. Other facial recognition such as Face ID might be better but there's not a gulf of difference. Samsung allows you to pick a more secure method if you don't mind it potentially taking longer.
The processor is the same - a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus or Exynos 9825 depending on where you live. However, the Note 10+ comes with a triple set of benefits if you do splash out.
It's got 12GB of RAM (50% more than the regular model), the option for 512GB of storage as well as 256GB and is the only one with a microSD card slot so you can add up to 512GB more. On these, fronts the Note 10+ is a power user's dream and could even replace a laptop for some.
It's really no surprise that this a slick phone when it comes to performance. Put simply, there's just no lag no matter what you do so we'll leave it at that. You can check out the benchmark results below, but remember these are just synthetic tests.
That's most of the extra bits but you do get a bigger battery in the Note 10+ at 4300- compared to 3500mAh in the smaller Note 10. As with any phone, it depends on your personal usage as to how long it will last. In our experience, the Note 10+ comfortably lasts a day without needing to be topped up.
This is with the default optimised power mode but you can also choose from high performance along with medium and maximum power saving. If you're not sure which to use then adaptive power saving will pick for you based on your usage.
Of course, if you use features like Wireless PowerShare to charge other phones (yes, that's a neat trick if you haven't heard about it before) or devices like the Galaxy Buds then the battery will be drained quicker.
Wirelessly charging the phone is now quicker at 15W and topping up via USB-C, if you unplugg the supplied headphones, can be a whopping 45W. However, Samsung only supplies a 25W charger in the box so you'll beed to buy the faster one separately if you want.
With the supplied charger you can get the Note 10+ from dead to fully charged in just over an hour which isn't bad at all.
We didn't know it at first but these faster charging speeds are reserved for the Note 10+. The regular Note 10 is limited to 12W wireless and 25W over cable.
Back to the Note 10+ extras and the phone has some additional camera sensors compared to the regular model. Samsung calls then DepthVision and they help out with things like Live focus rather than solely relying on software to create those effects. You can see them below the LED flash.
The main cameras are the same so you get a 12Mp dual aperture main camera along with a 12Mp telephoto lens that offers a 2x optical zoom - both feature optical image stabilisation (OIS). Then there's a 16Mp ultra-wide angle option so you're basically gettning the same trio as the S10.
At the front the punch-hole camera is 10Mp with an f/2.2 aperture and an 80 degree view. It's not a dual-setup like the S10+ but you can still choose from regular and wide framing options which essentially crops the image instead.
You should expect excellent photography from a phone this expensive and on the whole, that's what you get. There's plenty of detail of offer and rich, bold colours. The camera is good at exposing, too which is handy in bright situations. Samsung provides lots of different modes and features to play with and the app will even make suggestions such as when to try the wide-angle lens.
Our main disappointments are that Samsung still tends to over-sharpen images and the Note 10+ simply isn't as good as rivals in low light using the Night mode. Compared to the wizardry of phones like the Pixel 3, Samsung just falls short with more like a long a exposure effort which often results in blur.
Videos are even better thanks to improved Super Steady (digital) stabilisation which does an amazing job of smoothing out footage and can also be used in Hyperlapse mode. Of course, a gimbal does a better job but for a phone without aid, this is high-quality.
There are also new features like audio zoom so you can select a particular area of a video to listen to more but the most useful thing is being able to add the bokeh blur effect of Live focus onto videos.
Those into creating video will enjoy the built-in editor which has a range of tools including titles, transitions, sketches, stickers, speed adjustment, background music and filters. All of this is a joy to use with the S Pen.
We also need to talk about 5G which is not a standard feature of either Note 10 model. If you're interested in getting on the latest and greatest mobile network, or at least future-proofing, then you'll have to buy the specific 5G variant of the Note 10+ just like Samsung has done with the S10 5G.
To round off some other wireless stuff, the phone is Wi-Fi 6 enabled, following in the footsteps of the S10, so uses the up and coming 11.ax standard and also has things like Bluetooth 5.0, NFC and GPS.
Samsung said not many people used it so the heart rate monitor which was previously a feature is now gone and we doubt many people will even notice.
Stylus it out
We haven't talked about the Galaxy Note's classic feature yet, partly since it's the same on both models but also because it's not hugely different from the previous gen.
It's still got Bluetooth and a very similar design, but does last longer now with up to 10 hours of standby with a quicker charge time, too. This is still the smart, sleek and accurate stylus we've come to expect.
A nice update in the software is the ability to quickly convert your note taking into a Microsoft Word file - or other formats like PDF - with pretty decent conversion to text. However, the Note 10+ gets confused when you have a mix of writing and drawing with the latter often being left out completely. It would be good if Samsung Notes could differentiate between the two.
The big fancy new feature is Air Actions which lets you wave the S Pen around like a wand to control the phone. At the moment it's pretty limited to things like changing between cameras and modes or a somewhat awkward circular motion to control zoom.
An open SDK might mean that developers come up with some interesting uses for it, but as it stands this is largely a gimmick that doesn't really serve a useful purpose. When it could be helpful is when you can't see the display but this isn't an option.
It's 50% a camera feature, but there's also AR Doodle to play around with. With face tracking, you can draw on and around someone with the scribbles moving as the subject does. Once you're done you can record a video to send to someone. Again, it's fun but probably something you'll only use a little bit then forget about - especially since it doesn't work on pets.
S Pen improvement alone are unlikely to temp Note 9 users to upgrade, but the stylus remains a key reason to get the Note over the S10 range or other large screen rivals.
Software & DeX
There's no difference in software so you don't get any exclusive apps on the Galaxy Note 10+ or the like, apart from the S Pen stuff of course.
There's Android 9 Pie with Samsung's own One UI skin since things can't be left stock when it comes to Samsung, but things are more reserved than previously. There are even fewer pre-installed apps with only OneDrive in the menu when there are normally a few from Microsoft.
Samsung's own can largely be dismissed unless you happen to love them. The same is true of Bixby and Bixby Home which we just don't find ourselved naturally using at all.
As mentioned earlier, everything runs silky smooth and we assume there will be an update to Android 10 at some point.
Ever the problem with modern smartphone is the overwhelming amount of settings and features that are available but a tutorial when you first setup the phone would take hours to show you them all. It's worth exploring the setting menu to see what's not been switched on by default. Take a look at things like smart pop-up view, motions and gestures and Edge screen.
Before those things, you should setup 'Link to windows' which allows you to control the Note 10+ from Windows 10. It's easy to sort out and then you can do anything without unlocking the phone. Another bonus is getting your photos instantly.
This is, as though, the Your Phone app that's been available to any Android user but it's an exclusive version for the Note 10 with easier installation, mirroring support for any PC and a faster connection. There's also no need for Bluetooth.
Our only quibble is that the phone need to be unlocked and the screen on to use the mirroring which obviously uses the phone's battery a lot more and doesn't seem necessary.
We still found this more useful than DeX, Samsung's Windows-like software which stands for desktop experience. Although this is better than previous versions.
If plug into a computer via USB-C, it brings up a second desktop window where you can use your Android apps in pop-out windows - just like, er, Windows. Not everything works, though and not everything works that well - after all, these apps have been designed for touch input on a much smaller screen.
A really nice benefit is being able to drag and drop files between the two devices, as well as copy/paste for text. Oddly it works with Windows 7, Windows 10, macOS (10.13+) but not Windows 8.
Considering the raw power of the Note 10+ it would be nice if this phone could go around with you while leaving your laptop at home. However, the need to install the DeX software on the host device means you can't just plug in and use it on a publicly available machine, then leave knowing you've not left any files there or accounts logged in.
Your best option is carrying around a keyboard, mouse and portable monitor like the Lenovo ThinkVision M14 but that means this is no laptop replacement.
It's pretty clear that this is one of the best phones Samsung has ever made with a nice improvement on the Note 9.
The Note 10+ comes with a sleek new design that features tiny bezels enabling an even bigger screen inside a frame that's almost no different to its predecessor - while being a tiny bit lighter.
That Infinity-O screen is huge and stunning and the Note 10+ is packed with tech that power users will drool over. Importantly it has a number of things that the regular Note 10 doesn't including expandable storage, depth sensors, faster charging and more.
Samsung hasn't completely nailed it though as we're disappointed by the removal of the headphone jack and many of the new features, like Air Actions, feel gimmicky rather than genuinely useful.
It's pretty understandable that this is a £1,000 phone and we think you get a lot of extras for £100 more than the smaller Note 10. You've just got to be ok with the size of this phone, which existing Note users should be, othewise look to its little brother or an S10 model.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+: Specs
- Android 9 Pie with One UI
- 6.8in 3040x1440 Dynamic AMOLED Infinity-O Display, 498ppi, HDR10+
- Qualcomm Snapdragon or Samsung Exynos
- 256/512GB storage
- microSD card slot, up to 512GB
- 12GB RAM
- 12Mp camera, f/1.5-2.4 and OIS
- 16Mp ultra-wide 123 degrees, f/2.2
- 12Mp telephoto, f/2.1 and OIS
- DepthVision sensors
- 10Mp front facing camera, f/2.2
- 802.11ac/ax dual-band Wi-Fi 6
- 4G LTE Cat 20, 4x4 MIMO
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensor (in-screen)
- S Pen with 6-axis sensor
- 4300mAh battery
- 25W charging, 45W adapter available separately
- 15W wireless charging with PowerShare
- IP68 waterproof
- 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm
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