Samsung Galaxy Note 10/10+ are Android refined to perfection, but no great risks taken (hands-on)

Samsung Galaxy Note 10/10+ are Android refined to perfection, but no great risks taken (hands-on)
After months of endless leaks and rumors, and speculations, the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series are finally official!

And yes, it's true: this year, for the first time, we have not one, but two new phones in the Note family: the Note 10+, a phone with a giant 6.8-inch screen and a big battery, but also a smaller Note 10 that looks extremely similar, just way more compact. This is the phone for the rest of us, those who want a powerful and productive phone that is not gigantic.

And they both look sexy, especially when you compare them against last year's Note 9: gone are the large bezels, gone is the fingerprint scanner on the back, and both new Note 10 series have screens that go all the way from edge to edge, with a tiny cutout for the front camera in the middle and a clean backside. They are made of glass on the back and front, and metal for the frame in the middle, and they feel very solidly put together, truly premium devices. One thing that stands out in particular is the styling: while most phones these days have rounded corners, the Note 10 series have the shape of a rectangle with much sharper corners, and that gives them a bit of a distinct character.

Both the smaller Note 10 and the larger Note 10+ come in a black and a white color versions, and you also have a third one that Samsung calls Aura Glow that is really quite surreal: it's not at all a gradient like on Huawei phones, but it can turn into one depending on the light it reflects. We saw it change from shades of red to different hues of green and blue as it reflects different light, and it's by far our favorite color. The smaller Note 10 will come in one extra color — pink — but that version seems to be reserved for select Asian countries and is not likely to make it to other markets.

So what is new in the Galaxy Note 10 series and should it be your next phone? Let's first take a look at the specs:

What's new in a nutshell?

  • No headphone jack (and no dongle in the box, but you will get a free pair of USB-C AKG-tuned headphones)
  • Bixby button is gone
  • 256GB base storage, double than before
  • Improved S Pen with better note-taking and camera remote control features
  • AR Doodle in camera, Live Focus Video
  • f/2.1 Telephoto Camera with better performance in low-light
  • ToF depth sensor on Note 10+

S Pen 

The S Pen is the defining feature of the Note series, and Samsung has continued improving it and adding new features to it.

And this time you can tell from the get-go: the new S Pen in the Note 10 does not just have a couple of new features, it physically feels like a much more solid piece of gear. It now has a unibody design that feels extremely sturdy, much more durable when you compare it against the plasticky feel that you had in the S Pen in earlier Notes. It's a night-and-day difference. This new S Pen will also automatically charge once tucked inside the Note, and it features a new Lithium Titanium battery that lasts much longer than before, so now you can get up to 10 hours of stand-by time on it.

The S Pen now comes in different colors too. The Aura Glow Note models have a blue S Pen, while the white and black models have matching colors for the S Pen.

In terms of the features, all the familiar tricks are still available: you can still take the S Pen out and hop up directly to the lock screen memos to quickly jot down things. The pop-up S Pen menu, however, is different: it's now a list instead of a carousel and it's easier to navigate. Samsung has improved its Notes application so it now does a much better job recognizing your handwriting and you can easily export those notes to a Microsoft Word format (we tried the handwriting recognition, and it really does an impressive job, even if like us, you have quite ugly handwriting). You can also easily pinch to zoom in and out within the Notes app, which is useful for those who draw on the Note to get those tiny details right. 

Then, you have the new air gestures in the camera: you can still use the S Pen as a remote control to take a photo, but now you can also hold the S Pen button and swipe up to switch between the front and rear cameras, you can switch between camera modes and you can even zoom in using these new gestures on the S Pen.

New Camera features

Image quality has not improved from the S10, but you have new features

Let's get the big question out of the way first: does the Galaxy Note 10 have a better camera than the S10? The answer to that is basically a "no", it's the same camera setup, with roughly the same image and video quality.

Just like on the S10, the Note 10 series will come equipped with three cameras on the back: the main shooter, a telephoto 2X zoom lens, and an ultra-wide angle camera. The Note 10+ will also have a time-of-flight (ToF) depth camera.

What's new is in the actual shooting mode and features, starting with Live Focus video. Live Focus is the name for Samsung's portrait mode that you could previously only use for photos. With this mode, you can now blur the background in videos too, so you or your subject stand out more, and you also have tricks like turning the background black and white, and leaving only the subject in color.

Another new feature is the zoom-in mic that allows you to tap on, say, someone playing a musical instrument and better isolate that sound from the background, and you will also see the volume increase when you zoom in.

Super Steady was an impressive video stabilization that Samsung debuted on the S10 series and it's been improved and now Super-Steady-er on the Note 10. You also get a native video editor to help you mix a few clips together quickly, and you can use the S Pen to make precise adjustments and selections, down to the individual frame in a video.


12GB of RAM is the kind of sweet overkill Samsung likes

It's no surprise that the Note 10 series will be powered by the flagship Snapdragon 855 chip that you find on pretty much all high-performance Android phones in 2019. However, Note 10 models destined for countries outside the United States will get a different processor, the Samsung-made Exynos 9825. Both chips use the latest 7 nanometer lithography technology and should be very similar, yet not quite identical in terms of performance, and we do expect the Snapdragon models to have a slight edge.

Also impressive are the 12GB of RAM that you are getting on the Note 10+ model. This is an insane amount of RAM that will help keep apps open in the background for longer and will speed up the multitasking process for heavy users. 

Battery and Fast Charging

The bigger model will have the better battery life

The Galaxy Note 10 comes with a 3,500mAh battery, while the Note 10+ has a much bigger, 4,300mAh battery cell. The bigger phone will clearly be the better choice for those who use their phone a lot and want the maximum battery longevity. Last year's Note 9 features a 4,000mAh battery, which provided very good battery life (but did not quite rank at the top of our charts), so we are excited to test the exact improvement this year.

The Note 10+ will also have one of the fastest charging systems out there: it will support up to 45 watts of power, but to get those super-fast charging speeds you will need to buy that 45-watt wall adapter separately. In the box, you will find a 25-watt charger that will still give it a fast charge, and that slightly slower charger is also said to be better for long-term battery preservation, so it might actually be the more sensible option.

Both the Note 10 and the Note 10+ support Qi Wireless Charging, and both can also do the reverse wireless charging trick so that you can use their battery to charge other devices with wireless charge support by simply placing those other devices on the back of a Note 10.

Samsung DeX on steroids

No dock needed and now you can run desktop apps alongside mobile apps

Samsung DeX has been one productivity hack that has remained a bit under the radar since its launch, but the Note 10 might bring it to the spotlight.

This new DeX works with just a cable, so you don't need a bulky dock to carry around with you, so it's just a USB-C cable that you can use to plug in your Note 10 to a monitor or a TV. Once plugged in, you will be now able to drag and drop apps directly from the Note to the DeX space on your laptop for instance, and you will be able to use native desktop apps alongside mobile apps. Cool!

Once connected via the cable, you will also get all your messages and notifications on your, say, laptop making multi-tasking at work a much easier affair and you will be far less distracted by phone notifications.

What about 5G?

Only available on the larger Note 10+ in select markets

5G is the new connectivity standard that has already started showing us what is possible after 4G LTE, but 5G networks are only available in a handful of places and Samsung recognizes that with the Note 10 series. Because of the limited availability of 5G, Samsung is making a 5G version of only the larger Galaxy Note 10+ and that version will only be sold in select markets where there is a 5G network.

We asked Samsung whether a regular Note 10+ model destined for a non-5G market still has a 5G modem inside it that might just be disabled, but that does not seem to be the case, so a non-5G Galaxy Note 10+ simply will not have 5G connectivity.

What's missing

Headphone jack and a microSD card slot on the smaller Note 10

The Note 10 phones are the first major Samsung phones to come without a headphone jack, and that will be a disappointment for many.

Not having the headphone jack on board means that you have to buy a dongle in order to connect to old stereo systems or headphones, or the AUX cable in your car. Samsung, however, does bundle both the smaller Note 10 and the larger Note 10+ with a pair of AKG-tuned USB-C in-ear headphones.

Interestingly, the microSD card for expandable storage is only available on the larger Note 10+

Price and Release Date

$1,000+, but did you really expect any less?

The Note 10 series release date is set for Friday, August 23rd, but you will be able to pre-order much earlier, starting from August 8 at Midnight, and Samsung has some deals for the first on the pre-order line.

The regular full retail price for the Note 10 is set at $950 for the base version, while the Note 10+ costs $1,100 for the base model. Right from the beginning, Samsung will be offering consumers to trade-in an older Samsung phones to get price cuts on the new Note 10 series.

Refined, but behind on features?

Samsung has turned a bit of a blind eye to modern smartphone trends

The Galaxy Note 10 sparked a mixed reaction in our office: there was no arguing that it's a beautiful and powerful phone, but some people rightfully pointed out that save for the S Pen, it's not all that much different than the Galaxy S10 family of phones that have been on the market since early 2019. It's worth elaborating that point in a bit more detail. First, the Galaxy Note 10 has the same processor as the S10 series. Second, it runs on the same software. Third, it basically has the same camera system as image and video quality has not improved in any meaningful way. But here is the counter-point: the Galaxy Note 10 is not a phone that tries to convince you that you should upgrade from the S10, it's a phone for those looking for the productivity boost from the S Pen and for those looking to upgrade from older phones.

We think there is truth to both sides of this argument, but what seems clear when you compare the new Note 10 series against the competition is that it seems like an incredibly refined phone, but also one that is not taking any great risks. OnePlus and Asus have phones with incredibly smooth, 90-hertz displays, a ton of Chinese phones have an edge-to-edge screens with absolutely no interruptions, Huawei and Oppo have 5x or 10x zoom cameras that impress, Apple has its big new software features and a ton of augmented reality innovation around Face ID, and then Samsung... it is kind of late on all those fronts, yet it is a phone that costs a lot more than all aforementioned devices.

Related phones

Galaxy Note 10
  • Display 6.3" 1080 x 2280 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 10 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 3500 mAh
Galaxy Note 10+
  • Display 6.8" 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 10 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 4300 mAh



1. VariableCheapskate

Posts: 177; Member since: May 29, 2019

Regardless of Apple shilling or not, screw the OG Note 10 hard. Just why?

2. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 703; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

Not even a 90Hz display. Shame on you Samsung.

3. pimpin83z

Posts: 593; Member since: Feb 08, 2019

Shame on them for what? Not jumping on the 90Hz bandwagon? Have you compared your OP7 Pro display to the Note 10 display yet to at least try to justify your comment?

4. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 703; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

Do you actually understand technology and its synergies? The Note is about its sPen. What do you think does offer a better writing experience with a Pen? 60Hz or 90/ 120Hz? Clearly higher frequency screens provide a lower latency so that the sPen would reach a new level if the Note was offering 90/ 120Hz. I own an iPad Pro and its 120Hz screen is its killer feature for using the Apple Pencil. Once you experienced a 120Hz screen with a pencil, you cannot go back to anything less than that. That is why I am so disappointed from Samsung to stick with 60Hz.

6. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

Ipad pro and apple pencil are next Gen things,, they are something very advanced over the note spen so it won't change much by using a 90hz display on note, the pen experience will be similar coz it's a Wacom digitizer actually.

13. oldskool50 unregistered

The latency of the S-pen has zero to do with the refresh rate of the display. Refresh rates have nothing to do with things that touch the screen, its for things viewed on the screen. That right there shows you, you have zero idea what you are talking about The refresh rate on today's Note is no different than they were on any earlier models The latency of the S-Pen is totally and 100% control by the hardware. Not the screens refresh rate. This article here -​/118382/first-impressions-apple-pencil-new-surface​-pen-compared makes your claim totally false. According to this article, even though the iPad has a 120hz display, the difference in latency was exactly 1MS vs the Surface Pro. Which means the latency really has zero to do wih how fast the display is. if you actually think 1 millsecond is a significant difference from a 60hz display vs a 120hz then this article says YOU ARE WRONG. As I have stated many times. Apple fan always make bogus untrue claims. Also the WACOM hardware of the S-Pen is not the same type of hardware Microsoft uses in the new Surfaces, as they don't use WACOM anymore, they use NTrig...or however its spelled and Apple uses something different. This article says, what the iPad 120hz display does do is the refresh rate simply helps the display show the input from the pen faster, but the pen itself is not faster. if it was as fast as you claim, then the iPad would have a latency time that would be 11ms and not 20ms vs the Surface at 21ms. According to this article, the Apple Pencil has a speed of about 3 frames per second, while the S-Pen is 6 frames per second. According to other info, the reason the Apple Pencil and Surface Pen are faster, is because they are battery powered, while the S-Pen gets its power from the layer underneath of display. The S-Pen basically doesn't actually turn on until it actually touches the screen. This is what causes the delay, not the screen refresh rate. If you claim was true as I said, then why is the Apple Pencil on 1ms faster than the Surface Pen when the Surface has a 60hz refresh rate? See you ahve zero idea what you are talking about. I rather have the S-Pen for several reasons. For 1, it fits in the phone. 2. It never needs charging to write and 3, its FREE and included. Get you facts right bruh...YOU'RE WRONG in what you said.

14. oldskool50 unregistered

edit... I forgot the link for this point: According to this article, the Apple Pencil has a speed of about 3 frames per second, while the S-Pen is 6 frames per second.

12. oldskool50 unregistered

Question. What is the benefit of aa 90hz display on a 7" display. I want to know. I also want to know, why many times have you complain about Samsung having pointless gimmicky features, and then you make a comment about it not having a pointless gimmicky feature. 90-120hz on a tiny display is complete pointless. Especially when 99.9% of the apps won't even make use of it. So why have it? Even Android games don't support it. So why have a waste of battery just to switch screens faster? T That seems completely pointless and stupid. On larger screens, the increase frequency helps games because it helps prevent blurring, which is somrthign that can be constant with games that can run at higher frames than 30FPS. Even on Xbox and PlayStation, most games don't even exce4ed 30fps and movies don't either. Now on many phones you can record video at 60fps, which most mobile displays should support with no issue. But what videos or games support 90hz or higher. Please show me a list of at least 100 and then I will say your point is valid. if you can't then it is a pointless battery draining novelty. Do you even own a phone with such? If so be happy with it. Because I know of 3 phones that have it and 2 of them are gaming phones and I can bet $1M you don't own either of them. For me I'm glad Samsung didn't waste time and money on such a useless pointless feature. Once videos and games support above 90hz, then lets, move to that direction.

20. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 703; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

Your reply is nonsense. The benefit of a higher frequency screen is that one sees the output of the screen earlier than on a lower frequency screen because the screen updates more frequently. So of course the Note would benefit massively from a 90/ 120Hz frequency screen since you would see the input of the sPen earlier than on the 60Hz screen.

25. oldskool50 unregistered

Again. I just showed you, the iPad with Promotion @120hz, made the Apple Pencil on 1ms fastre than the Surface Pro pen on a 60hz display. So this there was basically zero benefit. You saying, just because you are can do 120MPH and mine can only do 119MPH as an example, that is better. The problem with what you said, is the margin of benefit is simply not big enough to justify the expense. In other words, you want to pay $100 for a phone display, to simply switch screens faster, when no apps and no games even take advantage of the extra speed. I was looking for you to really give a real beneficial argument. You didn't! My point stands. But I did give you a chance to counter argue. I have the answer you should have gave and that is. I want the 90/120hz display, because it is the next new thing and since this is a newer phone with a high price I feel it should have it. If you had said anything similar to that, I would have agreed 100%

5. Xavier1415

Posts: 208; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

Omg this phone is sexy!

7. pego99

Posts: 121; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

Your right no risks taken. The only company that takes risks is Apple. LOL

11. berns

Posts: 36; Member since: Jun 07, 2014

I couldn't agree more, both variants are outstanding.

15. oldskool50 unregistered

What you didn't explain Victor is, what risks are you looking for? Give some examples. We all, already read your Galaxy Note hate piece just a few weeks ago. Also, what OEM's are takign risks? NAME ONE. What risks have Apple taking? Well they took a risk and went with Intel crappy unfinished 4G modem which has cause connectivity issues with WIFI and Cellular connect with the iPhone XS/XS Max. Is that the type of risik you want? Or maybe Samsung should have added Face ID which is in fact not as secure as any other biometrics, because of other forms of biometrics like eyes and fingers are considerably harder to duplicated without expensive tools, while Face ID, all you need is an identical twin, a sibling, a mother/father or even best friends who kinda sorta looks like you to unlock it. Is that the type of risk you want? I dunno, I think removing the headphone jack is risky. How many people you think didn't buy an iPhone X because it doesn't have a jack? I can bet millions didn't. Next, considering what happened when Samsung removed the sdcard capability from the Galaxy S6/Note 5 and how sells went back up when they brought it back on the S7/Note 7; I would say it was pretty risky to remove it yet again on this Note. In fact Victor, what type of new technology exists right now that would be considered risky to put in a phone. I want to see it Victor. Wait Victor let me help you...THERE ARE NONE. What the Note does offer is plenty of new technology: UFS 3.0 - Does you precious iPhone have that? NO. Premium headphones in the box...yet again. Does your iPhone have that? No. A 4300MaH battery in the phone. Does your IPhoen have that? bearly breaks 3000Mah. Samsung had 3000Mah batteries in their phones since the S6, or maybe even before. Oh and those phones had jacks. In fact the last Note also has a 4000Mah battery and it has a jack too. What was Apple excuse? Samsung phones have the fastest modems since day one. Apple? Nope. Does the iPhone have a camera lens that has 2 apertures in a single lens? NOPE. How about 8/12GB RAM? NOPE. Does the iPhone have a 3K display? Nope Does the iPhone use USB type C which gives it more than double the transfer speed of Apple's own Lightning port? Nope. Does the iPhone have a pen? Nope. Does the iPhone have a 16MP camera for wide angles? Nope. Does the iPhone have a faster charger in the box? leats not yet. Finally the next one will. How many years has Samsung offered fast charging along with the charger? Since the S6...that was 4 years ago Victor.

16. rkoforever90

Posts: 466; Member since: Dec 03, 2011

I-phone can get away by not having features as it has a dedicate user base,not the case with Samsung as now the Chinese are offering more features, they are coming out with more innovation and latest tech and yet cost less than Samsung phones. All Samsung fanboys gets salty and bring I-phone to the topic when criticized . This is not 2012 in which Samsung and Apple are the major competitors . Either they should implement new features or just stop jacking up prices for a phone 5% better than last iteration

24. ebilcake

Posts: 1231; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

With respect, the headphones Samsung include are okay at best, they're not premium. Compared to actual premium headphones they sound a bit s**t.

26. oldskool50 unregistered

They are premium compared to the ones most phones with, or what older Samsung phones came with. AKG is a highend consumer/professional audio company. They don;t sell cheap audio hardware...PERIOD. So yes the AKG headphones in the box, are far and away more premium than those cheap $5 headphones most phones have. Are they better than other brands who sell premium headphones? Well many headphones carry a premium price. That doesn't mean they are of premium quality. So let me say that first. Next, the AKG's with the Samsung phones, sound far and away better than many pricey Beats headphones. I'm not comparing the AKG's to premium ones like BOSE or Sennhesier and similar. But I can say for a fact, the BOSE Sports that I paid $139 for, do not sound better than the AKG ones Samsung phones come with. In fact they sound about the same. The AKG ones are very well balance. And maybe sometimes we use words like "premium" to loosely. Byt the AKG headphones are far and away more premium than many OEM box included ones. How many OEM's use braided cables that don't tangle or rip at the connection point? Apple headphones don't even come with tips to help them fit more ears.

17. redmd

Posts: 1943; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Samsung played safe this year with the Note. Or are they pushing the boundaries with the Fold instead.

21. Xxtoxicskittlexx

Posts: 190; Member since: Jun 11, 2018

Because Apple takes so many risks, right ? LOL. Let's see the title of the iPhone 11 hands on.

22. deleon629

Posts: 469; Member since: Oct 04, 2014

Does a Nintendo Switch have a +90hz screen? Has Android released any games that can take full advantage of such a screen?

23. ebilcake

Posts: 1231; Member since: Jul 16, 2016

Boring phone, if you have a Galaxy S9+ or similar, skip 2019 , nothing worth buying. The good stuff will arrive next year.

28. oldskool50 unregistered

somewhat agree. but are you going to say the same for the iPhone 11?

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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