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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus hands-on: This one is different
It’s August, and like clockwork, the new Samsung Galaxy Note is here. This is actually the 10th Galaxy Note device if you count the Galaxy Note Edge, so just like the company’s Galaxy S10 line, Samsung wants to make a splash with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
There’s a lot to unpack here, with new specs and a slightly refined design. Check out what the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus are about below.
Wait, there are two Notes?
Phones have gotten pretty big, and Samsung decided it was time to split the Galaxy Note into a smaller (but still large) model and a very large model. While they share many of the same features, there are several key differences between the two models, but we’ll get into that later. For now, all you need to know is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 has a 6.3-inch display, with roughly the same footprint as the Galaxy S10 Plus. The Note 10 Plus has a larger 6.8-inch display, which is slightly larger than the enormous Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus 5G.
Weirdly enough, Samsung has reverted the display on the Galaxy Note 10 to a 1080p panel, while the Note 10 Plus retains the 1440p display we’re used to. This change seems odd for a device this big, and we’re interested to see how noticeable it is once we test the device.
Samsung will also offer a 5G variant of the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus. While the former will be a South Korean exclusive, the Note 10 Plus 5G will come to the U.S. as a Verizon exclusive, at least temporarily. Samsung hasn’t mentioned many details around its 5G models, though we expect they will be largely the same as their LTE counterparts as far as specs go.
Internally, the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus sport a lot of specs that scream 2019. They have 8GB and 12GB of RAM respectively, and each comes with UFS 3.0 storage, making them the third series of devices to include it. The only other devices currently available with UFS 3.0 storage are the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, and the Asus ROG Phone 2. The Samsung Galaxy Fold was supposed to use UFS 3.0, but it’s delayed until September. On the Note 10, you’ll only have the option for 256GB of storage, while the Note 10 Plus offers a 512GB option.
Both devices are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset in the U.S. I personally thought Samsung would put the Snapdragon 855 Plus in this device, but it may be saving that for the 5G model. We’ll have to see once we know more about that device.
Faster storage and faster charging are always welcome
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is powered by a 3,500mAh battery, while the Note 10 Plus gets a 4,300mAh cell. Both values seem awkwardly small. The display on the Note 10 is only .1-inches smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, but its battery is 600mAh smaller. I’m assuming Samsung is thinking the Note 10’s 1080p display will sip less power, but 1080p is stretching it on a 6.3-inch phone, especially at this price point.
Both devices ship with 25-watt chargers in the box, but the Note 10 Plus supports a 45-watt charger that Samsung is selling separately. If you want to wirelessly charge your device, the Note 10 supports 12-watt wireless charging, while the Note 10 Plus can handle 15-watt wireless charging. Both devices inherit the Wireless Powershare capabilities from the Galaxy S10 series.
The batteries power Dynamic AMOLED panels on both devices, and they are both HDR10+ certified. Samsung has also maintained the ultrasonic fingerprint reader under the display, but I’m hoping Samsung has improved it since the S10.
Built to impress
If we ignore the insides for a bit, the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus are wonderfully designed smartphones. They feel like proper updates to the series, with an Infinity-O display punching a camera hole in the top-center of the device. This allows for the smallest bezels Samsung has ever produced, and both the top and bottom bezel are noticeably smaller than even the Galaxy S10. There’s a trade-off though.
To make the hole-punch in the Infinity-O display small enough, Samsung had to make the aperture smaller in the front-facing camera. This resulted in a 10MP camera with an f/2.2 aperture. The Galaxy Note 9 had an 8MP camera with an aperture of f/1.7, which let in more light. We’ll have to see how well the new selfie camera performs once we have a unit in for review.
On the Note 10 series, the glass wraps around the device even more than the S10 series, with less aluminum frame. This likely allows for mmWave technology to work properly in the 5G model, as mmWave antennas can’t pierce aluminum, only glass. It still looks elegant and feels comfortable. I’d just be a little more wary of dropping it.
Samsung moved the power button to the left side of the device underneath the volume rockers. At first, I thought this would feel weird because I’m used to turning my phone on with my thumb. In my briefing, it felt natural to power on the device with my index finger instead. I don’t think I’ll miss the old placement. This replaces the Bixby button, which has been completely removed. Instead, the power button now doubles as a Bixby button when double-pressed.
Just like with the Galaxy S10 series, you’ll find more cameras on the back than last year. On the standard Note 10, you’ll get an ultra-wide 16MP shooter with an f/2.2 aperture and field-of-view of 123 degrees, a wide-angle 12MP shooter with a variable aperture of f/1.5 to f/2.4 and optical image stabilization, and a 12MP telephoto shooter with an aperture of f/2.1 and optical image stabilization.
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus comes with an additional camera, specifically designed to detect depth. It’s a VGA camera with an aperture of f/1.4 and a field-of-view of 80 degrees.
These cameras are positioned vertically down the left rear side of the phone. If you took the Galaxy S10 camera array, rotated it 90 degrees and shifted it to the left, you’d get this design. The rim of the camera array is also more rounded than on the Galaxy S10, which contrasts harshly with the device’s otherwise boxy design, but I think it looks great. Samsung has also separated the extra sensors like the flash and depth camera from the camera array itself and positioned them to the right of the camera module.
The Note 10’s camera also has some new features.
Zoom-In Mic makes the focus point of a video louder as you zoom in. If you’re at a concert and specifically want to hear the guitar, you can zoom in on the guitar player and your microphone will focus on that subject so you can hear it better. Live-Focus Video can add effects like live bokeh or color pop in real time. AR Doodle lets you draw on a subject and have it reflect in 3D space. Finally, Super-Steady uses a gyroscope with an updated refresh rate and other sensors to make handheld video smoother than last year.
Samsung also included a native video editor to cut together quick clips from the phone, and it worked with Adobe to optimize the Note 10 for Adobe Rush.
Dex is much better
In previous years, you needed to connect your device to a standalone monitor to use Samsung Dex. This year, you can connect your Note 10 to any PC or monitor with a standard USB cable. Dex now appears in a separate window from your desktop, so you can easily manage files and run apps from your phone on your PC.
Samsung also worked with Microsoft to sync your Note 10 wirelessly with Windows. With Link to Windows, you can receive texts, notifications, and photos directly on your computer. This is a nice feature for people moving over from iMessage and macOS, which let you respond to text messages straight from your computer.
And of course, the S-Pen
The Galaxy Note 10 wouldn’t be a Note without the S-Pen, and this year’s has been refined in several ways. The pen is now a single piece of plastic, instead of the two-tone design from last year, and it’s been updated to serve quite a few more functions.
Air Actions are here, just like in the recent Galaxy Tab S6. This allows you to zoom the camera or swipe through your gallery with the S-Pen, and Samsung has opened up an SDK for developers to implement actions into their apps.
You can also zoom in and edit your handwriting, convert it to text, or send it straight to Microsoft Word. Samsung was very proud of the ability to export to Word, and while I don’t see this becoming very useful, it could be handy.
As you may have heard, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series has no headphone jack. This is a strange play from the company, probably meant to push people toward the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
Beyond the headphone jack, there is no microSD expansion on the Galaxy Note 10, though the Plus model does still allow for expandable storage. It seems a bit odd that Samsung would ax the feature from one model and keep it from another, especially since the Note 10 only comes in a 256GB variant.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus will start at $949 and $1,099 respectively. Pre-orders open on August 8, 2019, and the phone will go on sale starting August 23, 2019.
The Note 10 series will come in Aura Glow, Aura White, Aura Black, and Aura Blue. Aura Blue is exclusive to Best Buy and Samsung.com.
We still don’t have pricing or availability for the Note 10 Plus 5G, but we know it’s coming exclusively to Verizon to start. More carriers will likely carry the device later this year.