• Our Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Review



    When Samsung launched the Note line, there were 3 things that were significant about it. First off, it gave Samsung a reason to release a phone with a noticeably larger display, which as it turned out really helped to set an industry trend. Secondly; to help differentiate it they released it with a stylus. While the rest of the industry has largely ignored the stylus I give Samsung credit; theyíve put a lot of effort into it. Thirdly, it allowed Samsung an excuse to release a second flagship each year; a Galaxy S in the first half and a Note in the second.

    Hereís the Note 10+, their second half of 2019 flagship.

    Like the S line, the Note 10 line has bifurcated into regular (Note 10) and what Iím reviewing today, the plus (Note 10+) version.

    The industry trend has been to increase screen sizes without increasing the footprint of the phone by shrinking bezels.

    One of the Noteís key features is that it comes with a larger display - but the thing is, the S10+ already comes with a 6.4Ē screen which doesnít leave much breathing room for the Note+ which is just a bit larger at 6.8Ē. 0.4Ē used to be a big difference when phones were smaller but these days, 6.4 and 6.8 are both in the same ballpark

    When I do have them side-by-side, the only real difference in size I notice is that the Note+ is a tad taller.

    Here are the notable features:

    • Screen cut-out instead of a notch or just a plain old bezel
    • 3 rear camera setup (now derigur)
    • Cameras have been moved from the center back to the corner
    • 4300mAh battery
    • Reverse wireless charging
    • 12GB of RAM



    Under the hood, the Note 10 isnít all that different from the S10+. The screen is just a tiny bit larger, as is the battery.

    Body:



    You get a metal frame sandwiched by 2 pieces of glass. The screen wraps around the edges.

    The top and bottom have a very narrow bezel.



    Since the first Samsung Galaxy, the cameras on most Samsung smartphones have been located in the center top part of the back of the phone.

    However, the cameras have been moved to the corner which is a good thing from a design standpoint. This allows Samsung more flexibility with the guts of the phone. It allows them to cram all the smarts into the corner which allows more room for the battery. This also makes it easier for them to allocate more room for imaging (like maybe larger sensor, zoom lenses or even extra cameras) in the future.

    You could argue that having the camera at the corner makes it more likely that your fingers might intrude into your photos, but I actually find the opposite is true since you can hold the phone at the corners which are furthest from the camera.



    Another Samsung-ism thatís gone is the power button on the right side. Itís been merged with the Bixby button on the left. Pressing it wakes the phone up but youíll have to use an on-screen power button to turn the phone off (as opposed to just turning the screen off).



    I have mixed feelings about how they combined the power and Bixby buttons. Iím guessing they did this, because most people rarely turn their phones off completely. There are also probably more people who use Google Assistant than Bixby. So now you press the button to turn the screen on or off, or press and hold it to activate Bixby.

    Moving the buttons to the left also allows them to simply the internal layout of the phone since there are no buttons on the right side now.

    Anyways, whatís important here is that I got used to the new layout pretty quickly. On the other hand, I would have been fine if they just ditched the Bixby button and just left the power on the right. That way the middle of the sides of the phone would be freer so it would be easier to clamp the phone into something like a phone holder or video rig.

    The Note+ lacks the S10+ís headphone jack. If you do need one youíll have to pick up an USB Type-C or Bluetooth headphone adapter.

    Samsung somehow managed to include a speaker opening on the top bezel. Itís super narrow! I didnít even notice it till I looked for it!

    Seeing as how the Note 10+ is a Samsung phone, it has a shiny sticker behind the glass to give it a garish, shimmery look.



    Along the bottom are the microphone, USB Type-C jack, speaker and stylus silo.

    Like last year's Note the 10 has a facial unlock feature. However, the 10+ís feels a little less sophisticated because in low light, it actually uses the light from the screen to illuminate your face so that it can see it. This is noticeable when you try to use the facial unlock at night, because the screen will boost the brightness for a second even if you have it turned down.



    Something struck me while I was writing this. It took me a very long time to write it and it didnít realize till much later that I forgot to write about the S-Pen stylus. It works really well and has some really cool tech behind it. For example it has built-in Bluetooth so you can use the button on it to trigger your camera remotely. Since it uses Bluetooth it also has a battery that charges via a wireless charger inside the phone.

    Indeed while the S-Pen is pretty cool, I think most people arenít going to use it very often because you donít need it to interact with Android. In an industry with lots of imitation itís telling that no one else makes phones that have a built-in stylus.

    In a way itís like a physical headphone jack - some people will swear by it, some will be happy that itís there; ďJust in caseĒ, while most wonít notice itís there.

    Display:



    No surprises here, the Note 10+ has a curved screen which spills over to the sides of the phone. I find it makes the Note challenging to use if youíre not using a case because my palm is always inadvertently touching the side of the screen.



    While Samsung tries to include some extra functionality in the sides of the screen I find none of them out-weigh the fact that the curved screen makes the phone more difficult to use. In lower light, youíll also notice the colour shift on the sides of the screen. That said, the Note is much easier to use once you put it in a case.

    The curved screen is also a tremendous liability if youíre reading text that wraps around the edges of the screen. That said it doesnít happen very often.

    Samsung actually provides an optional app in the Samsung app store which allows you to disable the sides of the display. Youíll have to download the Good Lock app from the Samsung App Store and then install the EdgeTouch add on.

    Of course I canít help but wonder how much better a phone the Note would be if it had a flat screen. Put your hand up if youíd like the Note more if it had a flat screen and a slightly larger battery or better yet, if they also ditched the S-Pen and used that space to put in a larger battery.



    Like the S10+, the Note features a hole in the screen instead of a notched display. However, instead of being offset like the S10+ís, itís centeredÖ just like a notch. Iím not convinced that the hole is any better say the notch on a Huawei P30 Pro.



    Hereís how I think about it, where would be the worst place to put a hole in the display? Right in the middle of the screen. So with in mind, putting a hole almost at the top of the screen is worse than putting it at the very top of the screen because it draws more attention to itself.

    The Note 10+ isnít that much larger than other phones on the market but one thing I noticed is that itís tall enough that the top is starting to poke out of the pockets on my pants. This makes it more likely to fall out when Iím bending over.

    Colour wise the Note+ looks great.

    I measured a maximum brightness of around 300cd/m2 which seems a bit low. Turns out it will only go brighter than this if you shine a really bright light into the front-facing camera. I grabbed a flashlight and managed to get the brightness up to 500cd/m2. Apparently the Note can hit 4 digit brightness but Iím guessing my flashlight isnít bright enough to get it to bump the brightness up even more.

    Viewing angles are excellent but not good enough that you donít notice that thereís something off about the curved parts of the display. Itís something youíll get used to.

    The screen has a fingerprint reader built-in it. While itís extremely cool feature, itís a bit slow, doesnít always work and the facial recognition always beats it to the punch. Clearly a fingerprint reader is becoming a vestigial feature like a headphone jack

    Like itís smaller sibling the Note comes with a plastic screen protector. It wraps over the edges and covers nearly 100% of the glass. Plastic screen protectors are a bit softer than glass ones so theyíll be more prone to scratches. Then again, since theyíre softer than glass, theyíll never crack. The reason why Samsung has done this is because the in-screen fingerprint reader has trouble working with glass screen protectors because they tend to be thicker than plastic ones.

    If your plastic screen protector gets a bit scuffed up Iíd advise against removing it unless you absolutely have to because they're substantially more difficult to apply than glass.

    While the Note+ has a 1440 pixel wide display, thereís an option to treat it internally as if it was only 1080 pixels wide. The idea is that a 1080 display is easier on the processor while the graphics card is able to scale it back up to 1440 more efficiently thus using less battery overall. I didnít notice any difference between these 2 settings so Iíd just leave it.

    Camera:



    There are 3 cameras on the back with the following lenses; super wide angle, regular and portrait.

    By default the Note takes fantastic looking shots with one exception; It takes obnoxious pictures of people because the default is to ďoverbeautifyĒ people to the point that they look really unnatural.

    The ultra-wide camera takes decent looking video but in low light, it gets a little splotchy looking because of what appears to be over-agressive noise reduction.

    The camera app has too many features. While features are a good thing, on the Note they make the things feel clutter and complicated. You swipe to switch modes but there are so many sometimes you end up swiping in the wrong direction and then have to go back. To Samsungís credit you can edit which options are available but I just never felt comfortable using the camera app.

    Software:

    A couple of months ago Samsung actually ditched their TouchWiz Android user interface in favor of their new One UI. Is it a case of same wine, different bottle? Actually no, itís a pretty big difference and not just a rebranding.

    The first thing I noticed is that there is less duplication of preloaded apps. Basically with the exception of Gmail, Chrome and Google Play, the Note only comes with alternate versions of the usual apps preloaded Android apps.

    Instead of Google Drive you get Microsoft OneDrive/Office Mobile, Samsungís Gallery app instead of photos, etc. Anyways you can always download whatever app you want to use and uninstall a lot of the included ones.

    Another thing I noticed is that the One UI doesnít push you as hard to sign up for a Samsung ID. If you donít want to signup or login you wonít be bothered much.

    That said, getting a Samsung ID isnít a bad idea. There are some useful apps like Goodlock that you can download from their app store

    Under it all is Android 10.0 Pie. The One UI doesnít use the Pie task switcher where you swipe up to switch apps like on a Pixel. Instead it uses the older task switcher/home button/back buttons along the bottom.

    I liked the One UI though I must say once I got my apps launched I spent very little time interacting with it. These days this is the norm.

    Multimedia:

    There Note 10+ has stereo speakers; one on the bottom and another front-facing speaker above the display. Along with facial recognition performance, another casualty of the silly war on bezels has been front-facing speaker performance.



    In the case of the Note, Samsung shrunk the speaker grill to the point that itís so narrow I didnít even realize it was there.

    This would be fine if the speaker sounded as amazing as it does on the S9+ and S10+ but in the case of the Note, it sounds like the speaker is hidden behind a wall.

    Thereís a MicroSD card slot if you need more storage.

    Performance:



    Under the hood is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, the same SoC as the S10+. It comes with 12GB of RAM.



    Each battery percentage lasted around 7.5 mins so itís in the same ballpark as the S10+ - the largerís screenís higher energy demands are offset by the larger battery.

    Conclusion:



    No surprises here, the Note 10+ is a slightly larger, more expensive version of the S10+

    The extra money gets you a slightly larger display, in some cases a bit more RAM, and a stylus.

    However, the larger display makes the Note 10+ even harder to use since thereís really nothing to hold onto. The larger display also affects the top speaker so it doesnít sound quite as good as the one on the S10+. It also omits the headphone jack and second front-facing camera though I donít think either is a big loss.

    Then thereís the stylus, while Samsung has done an admiral job with it, the Note is just too small a form factor for it to be terribly useful. Very few apps have been optimized for it and itís just not well suited for the form factor. While Iím sure some people will swear by it I suspect most users wouldn't even notice if they lost it.

    Since I really liked the S10+ youíd think Iíd have the same feelings for the Note 10+ but thatís just not the case. Itís not to say that the Note 10+ is a bad phone, far from it; Itís just that itís too similar to itís smaller sibling to justify the (even) higher price tag. I hate to say it that while the Note 10+ is a fantastic phone from a technical standpoint, its execution makes it worse than the sum of its parts.

    4 out of 5

    Pros:
    • Flexibility of 3 rear cameras
    • Camera image quality
    • Large battery
    • Large display


    Cons:
    • Difficult to hold
    • Fingerprint reader doesnít work
    • Weird cut-out draw attention to itself
    • Expensive
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Our Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Review started by howard View original post
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