Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus Hands-on: This one is different

Not too long ago Samsung’s Galaxy S10 line came around. Now, Samsung has worked out the 10th generation of its highly-rated Galaxy Note model to add to the overwhelming lineup. But this time, the Galaxy Note didn’t come alone. For some reasons, Samsung has decided it is high time the model split into a smaller and a very large model respectively like the Galaxy S10 lineup. These phones – the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus – are not so distinct in features but at a mere glance these two can instantly be distinguished by their size; one smaller while the other larger. With these new smartphones, however, Samsung seeks to make a meaningful splash. That leaves us with so much to uncover; from new specs to refined designs. Let’s go hands-on on these highly specced out phones.

A smaller and larger Galaxy Note

Before getting into the specs and all, this size difference stuff is new in this model lineup. Let’s talk about that first. While the smaller Galaxy Note 10 has a 6.3-inch display, the larger Galaxy Note 10 Plus has a display barely larger than the huge Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus 5G – a 6.8-inch display. The footprint of the Galaxy Note 10 is roughly the same as that of the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus.

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus has been convincingly constructed to be indeed different and noticeably larger than the Note 10 in the most significant sense, with some sounding quite odd especially for phones tagged a big shot. Usually, the Galaxy Note 10 display has been reverted to a 1080p panel. On the other hand, Samsung had the Galaxy Note 10 Plus retain the usual 1440p display.

The Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus will also be available in a 5G variant. The details of their 5G models, however, have not yet been mentioned by Samsung. But as far as specs are concerned, these 5G models surely should not be much different from their LTE counterparts. Meanwhile, the 5G variant of the Note 10 will be a South Korean exclusive while the Note 10 Plus 5G will come to the U.S. as a Verizon exclusive.

Standard refresh

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the Galaxy Note 10 Plus might be easily differentiated at a glance, but internally, that might take some time and a good research to find out. They both come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset in the U.S. Though, in order for these devices to make an insane and pacesetting difference, I expected that they will be powered by the Snapdragon 855 Plus instead. Maybe, just maybe, this will feature in the 5G model. Moreover, I also hoped that Samsung will feature an improved ultrasonic fingerprint reader under the display of these phones. Well, Samsung maintained this feature, but there is only one way to find out if its accuracy problem like in the S10 has been resolved – actually try them out.

No doubt both the Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus come with a lot of internal specs that are so now, like 2019. Both these devices are the third series of devices to come with UFS 3.0 storage just like the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, and the Asus ROG Phone 2, which are the very few to come with this feature. Like the Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus, the Samsung Galaxy Fold would have been another Samsung phone to use the UFS 3.0 storage, but it didn’t make to this month; that will be until September. Moreover, the Galaxy Note 10 has 8GB of RAM and a 256GB of storage option, while the Galaxy Note 10 Plus houses a 12GB of RAM and offers a 512GB storage option.

They both also share the wireless charging feature, inherited from the S10 series, which allows them to wirelessly charge other devices. While they share this feature, their wireless Powershare capability varies. While the smaller Note 10 supports 21-watt wireless charging, the larger Note 10 Plus can handle 15-watt wireless charging. In the fresh boxes of each of these phones, you can expect to find a 25-watt charger. In a case whereby you are planning on getting the Note 10 Plus particularly and are not just satisfied with that come with a 25-watt charger, then, you can get a 45-watt charger that Samsung is selling separately; the Note 10 Plus supports it. The batteries on both these devices power Dynamic AMOLED panels. They are also both HDR10+ certified.

Another thing that might feel awkward about these phones is their battery values. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus are respectively powered by a 3,500mAh and a 4,300mAh battery cell. Not too bad, but thoughtworthy. It is kinda funny to me at least; that the Note 10 comes with a battery 600mAh smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. Perhaps, Samsung feels that the Note 10’s 1080p display will sip less power, but regardless, the battery difference shouldn’t have been that much even though the Note 10’s display is 1-inches smaller than that of the S10, because that same 1080p is stretching the display on a 6.3-inch phone.

Built to impress

The Internal aside, physically, these phones were built and designed to appeal and sweep people off their feet. Their designs and looks are significantly different for the series. One of the most obvious design updates is a camera hole-punch which is stationed at the top-center of the Infinity-O display of these devices. Given the inclusion of the hole-punch in the Infinity-O display, the bezels of both the Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus are so far the smallest ever produced by Samsung. In comparison, however, the top and bottom bezel are noticeably smaller than even those of the Galaxy S10.

Well, the bezels are not the only small stuff in these phones, the aperture in the front-facing camera is made to be smaller than its predecessor, the Note 9, in order that the hole-punch can barely be noticed in the infinity-O display. Nonetheless, instead of an 8MP camera with an aperture of f/1.7 as in the Galaxy Note 9 which let in more light, the Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus offer you a 10MP camera with a smaller f/2.2 aperture. However, we can’t conclude yet that the performance of this new selfie camera is a poor upgrade or not. Once we have one in for a review, you’ll surely be the first we’ll update.

And speaking of upgrades, there’s one I can actually attest to; the new power button placement and the Bixby button replacement. In these new Note 10 series, the Bixby button has been completely removed, instead, the power button now serve as both the power and a Bixby button. To access the Bixby button function, you just need to double-press the power button. The power button itself has been moved to the left side of the device underneath the volume rocker. Though I’m used to turning on my phone using my thumb, in my briefing, I found this new placement of the power button so natural to use to power on the device, even better than the old placement.

One other important factor that adds to the elegant look of the Note 10 series is that it is properly wrapped with glass, even more than the S10 series. So, I’d advise you be a little more careful handling the phone so it doesn’t drop. It’s also a good thing that the device is wrapped with more glass with less aluminum frame; it hints that the 5G model will most likely allow for mmWave technology since mmWave antennas can only pierce glass.

2019 cameras

The Note 10 series also come with more cameras at the rear than last year, just like the Galaxy S10 series. Both the Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus houses an ultra-wide 16-megapixel shooter with an f/2.2 aperture and field-of-view of 123 degrees, a wide-angle 12-megapixel shooter with a variable aperture of f/1.5 to f/2.4 and optical image stabilization, and a 12-megapixel telephoto shooter with an aperture of f/2.1 and optical image stabilization.

Once again, however, with the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, you’ll get an additional VGA camera with an aperture of f/1.4 and a field-of-view of 80 degrees for that Plus. This camera was specifically designed for depth detection.

These cameras are positioned vertically down the left rear side of the phone.

Apart from coming with more cameras than its predecessors, the new Galaxy Note 10 series packs equally new camera features that scream 2019. Let’s start from the Live-Focus Video. This feature is there to add effects like live bokeh or colour pop in real time. Moving forward, the Zoom-in Mic. This one makes the focus point of a video louder as you zoom in. To illustrate, you are in a crowded and noisy concert wanting to hear the guitar played by the guitarist particularly in your video, with this feature, you can just zoom in on the guitar player and your microphone will focus on that subject so you can hear it better. And then to the AR Doodle. With this, you can draw a subject and have it reflect in 3D space. Lastly, with the new Super-Steady camera in this device, handled video becomes even smoother than last year. To do this, this feature uses a gyroscope with an updated refresh and other sensors. 

While the Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus assume a more or less boxy design, the rim of their camera array is more rounded than on the Galaxy S10. The shape of the Note 10 series might be harshly contrasted with the nature of the rim of the camera array, yet I personally find it attractive all the same. On this device, the extra sensors like the flash and depth camera and separated from the camera array itself. Instead, they are stationed at the right of the camera module.

To optimize the Note 10 Adobe Rush, Samsung also included successfully a native video editor which works with Adobe to cut together a quick clip from the phone.

Dex is much better

The Samsung Dex functionality and features have also improved in the Note 10 series. Impressively, the connective capability of the Samsung Dex is not limited to a standalone monitor like last year. Now, with the Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus you can connect your device to any PC or monitor with a standard USB cable to use Samsung Dex. And just so you can manage files and run apps easily from your device on your PC, Samsung made it possible that the Dex can now appear in a separate window from the desktop with this device.

And speaking of possibilities, Samsung, in collaboration with Microsoft has worked on a feature that allows you to respond to text message straight from your computer. With the wireless synchronization of Note 10 with Windows, you can receive texts, notifications, and photos directly on your PC. People moving over from iMessage and macOS will particularly find this feature really relevant and impressive.

And of course, the S-Pen

With the Note 10 series, a lot of enhancement has been made on the Note lineup from the Dex to even the S-Pen functionality. Of course, the Galaxy Note 10 series had to come with the S-Pen – this particular component gives the Note lineup its name. But this time, the S-Pen came with a lot more functions than the last; some, keenly relevant and others, not too useful but could be handy.

Even at a glance, it can be seen that the Note 10 series S-Pen is different. Instead of the two-tone design from last year, the Pen is now a single piece of plastic. Apart from design, the new S-Pen now offers some additional function to last year’s Samsung Galaxy Note 9 S-Pen.

Talk about Air Actions, this new S-Pen comes with the latest function Samsung has got to offer so far in its S-Pen just like in the latest Galaxy Tab S6. That means the recent Galaxy Tab S6 is not going to be the only one to come with an S-Pen that lets you zoom the camera or swipe through your gallery, the Galaxy Note 10 series now does. And, you know, Samsung is never that stingy with its advantage. Just so that developers can implement actions into their apps, Samsung has opened up an SDK.

Samsung’s proud ability to export to Word can also be perceived in the S-Pen. You can now also zoom in an edit your handwriting, convert it to text, or send it straight to Microsoft Word with the S-Pen. While this particular one might not be so important, it could be useful any time.

Awkward deductions

While the Note 10 series come with a whole lot of amazing feature and enhancement, it also came along with some of the strangest deductions Samsung has ever made on a new model. One I find very awkward is the ‘no microSD expansion stuff’ on the Galaxy Note 10 while the larger Note 10 allow for expandable storage. Considering the fact that the smaller Note 10 only comes in a 256GB variant while the Note 10 Plus packs a 512GB storage option; I just can’t deal with this play from Samsung.

Also, I’m assuming that Samsung seeks to propel people’s attention to the Samsung Galaxy Buds and that’s why a headphone jack didn’t feature in the Samsung Galaxy Note series, yet it is somewhat strange.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus price and availability

The Note 10 series will go on sale on the 23rd of August, 2019 with preorders opening on August 8, 2019. The starting price of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 will be $946. On the other hand, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus will start at $1,099. 

Exclusively, the Note 10 series will be available in Best Buy and in Aura Blue. The standard Note 10, in general, will be available in Aura Glow, Aura White, Aura Black, and Aura Blue.

As for the Note 10 Plus 5G, we don’t know its pricing or availability information yet. All we have for now is that it’s coming exclusively to Verizon to start. Eventually, however, later this year, it will be made available in more carriers.

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