Samsung Galaxy Note10+ Review - Power-Packed Productivity Powerhouse
The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ has exceeded expectations as it melds a refined blend of Samsung's finest technologies into one slim form factor that is lighter and slimmer than its predecessor. Excellent front and rear cameras, a vibrant display, immense performance and the newly enhanced Air Gestures with the revamped S Pen make it Samsung's most powerful and desirable phone ever made.
Previously, we had the opportunity to get a closer look at what came in the box with the Galaxy Note10+ along with a thorough look at its slick design and build quality in our initial hands-on. This time around, we’re taking a closer look at the hardware under the hood and its performance to see how it fares under actual field conditions.
Samsung Galaxy Note10+ Performance and Specifications
Befitting Samsung’s most powerful phablet for 2019, the Galaxy Note10+ is armed for bear from within and without. Under the hood, the Galaxy Note10+ runs Android 9.0 overlaid with the latest incarnation of their One UI which was rolled out to the Galaxy S10 series phones earlier this year.
While there were concerns of navigating the phone on account of its somewhat large size, One UI manages to make things a lot easier with almost everything within easy reach of your thumb or index finger. Combined with the fact that all important buttons are on one side of the phone, you don’t really have to change your grip to access different sections of the screen bar a few situations such as accessing the drop-down quick setting menus on the top edge of the display.
Units for the Malaysia market come with Samsung’s own Exynos 9825 octacore processor paired with 12GB RAM and either 256GB or 512GB expandable storage.
Our test unit came with 256GB of storage and unlike the smaller and slightly cheaper Galaxy Note10, the Galaxy Note10+ has the advantage of a hybrid SIM card slot that lets you bung in a microSD card up to 1TB in size to augment the available storage as needed.
If you’re a previous user of Samsung phones, you’ll find getting about a doddle with most of the usual shortcuts like swiping your palm across the display for a screen shot, double pressing the power button for quick access to the camera and a few other shortcuts all present and correct.
This time around, you have the option to reassign the double press action towards other tasks though you can’t reassign the ‘long press’ that summons Bixby towards anything else save for turning the phone off.
The most unique enhancement to the interactivity of the Galaxy Note10+ here isn’t its user interface but its S Pen stylus. Last year’s S Pen on the Galaxy Note9 added a BLE connectivity to allow you to use it as a remote control for the camera and a select number of apps. This time around, they’ve upgraded it with gesture controls so that you’re able to wave the S Pen around like a wand to allow for more interactivity.
By default, you can wave the S Pen clockwise and counterclockwise to zoom in and out, swipe left and right to select different menu settings on the camera UI and to swap between the front and rear cameras. You can also reassign these gestures for a select number of apps though they’re so far limited to Chrome, Samsung’s own browser, the image gallery and for music playback.
In practice, these gestures are less the airy waving about of a wand and more the forceful gestures of a conductor’s baton as you need quite a bit of force for the S Pen’s accelerometer to register a movement but it does work.
You can also use the S Pen for augmented reality sketches or what Samsung calls AR Doodles where you can take an image and then sketch in whimsical bits of art for a lark.
One particular feature of note with the new S Pen is that it now has far better handwriting recognition than ever before and is able to digitally convert written text into softcopy on the fly with a very high degree of accuracy even for both traditional and simplified Chinese script. This makes taking notes down particularly handy, especially for multilingual users.
Unfortunately there isn’t much interactivity with other apps except from a predefined pool at this point in time but with the release of their SDK for developers, it’s simply a matter of time for gesture enabled games and other applications to appear if not on this then on future incarnations of the Note series S Pen. It’s promising indeed and these Air Gestures, as Samsung is wont to call this new feature, make using the camera a lot easier especially if you’re travelling solo.
Revamped S Pen aside, the Galaxy Note10+ has immense amounts of pixel crunching punch under the hood. The new Exynos 9825 processor powering the Galaxy Note10+ is a slight upgrade from the Exynos 9820 from the Galaxy S10 series phones with an enhanced 7nm EUV manufacturing process that offers slight improvements in terms of clock speeds and energy efficiency.
The Exynos 9825 processor integrates a pair of 2.73GHz M4 Mongoose cores, a pair of 2.4GHz Cortex A75 cores and a quartet of 1.9GHz A55 Cortex cores for general grunt work. Paired with the Exynos 9825 is a Mali-G76 MP12 GPU.
In terms of synthetic benchmarks, the Galaxy Note10+ scored exceptionally well in 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme OpenGL ES 3.1 test with 4,958 points and 4,864 points in the Sling Shot Extreme – Vulkan test. In Geekbench, it scored a single-core score of 4,248 points and a multi-core score of 9,958 points while in Antutu benchmark it got an impressive score of 348,652 points.
In PCMark, it got a score of 9.045 points. This significantly outpaces its generational sibling sibling the Galaxy S10e that we tested a while back. Even its direct competitors – phones with a Snapdragon 855 processor also don’t have the same massive amounts of RAM that the Galaxy Note10+ has which makes it a bit hard to make a proverbial orange to orange comparison but suffice to say, it’ll handle everything you throw at it for the foreseeable future.
Demanding games like PUBG and Asphalt 9 were able to run with everything dialled to maximum and it was easily able to tackle a modest bit of 4K video editing on the integrated video editor along with a good two dozen plus open Chrome tabs which we were swap effortlessly between each other in seconds.
What takes centre stage in the case of the Galaxy Note10+ is its vivid yet pin-sharp 6.8-inch WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display which has a crisp 498ppi, a tall 19:9 aspect ratio and HDR10+ certification though content is in somewhat short supply for the foreseeable future.
Even without HDR10+ content, the display proved exceptionally capable. Colours are beautifully brilliant along with exquisite detail and the panel was able to serve up beautifully deep blacks which makes watching movies on this an absolute delight.
Clarity under sunlight was excellent as well though this usually requires you to max out the screen brightness with a commensurately higher drain on the battery. Perhaps the only quibble here is the 60Hz refresh rate which is sufficient for most tasks save for gaming though that’s not exactly the primary objective of the Note10 series anyway.
Fortunately Samsung hasn’t neglected performance on the audio front and their built-in stereo speakers on the Galaxy Note10+ are some of the best in the business.
Even with the somewhat unorthodox placement of the top speaker which has a tiny hole as an echo chamber of sorts on the too of the phone with the second speaker firing downwards, the Galaxy Note10+’s speaker setup was able to deliver some pretty good volume and good clarity with a fair amount of sound staging. Unfortunately, the phone lacks a 3.5mm audio jack though they do provide a pair of Type-C AKG earbuds for private listening.
Befitting its 3.5mm equipped predecessors, the Type-C AKG earbuds proved to be one of the best bits of stock listening kit ever bundled with a phone. Unfortunately, for those looking to use their own 3.5mm headphones, you’ll need an adaptor with an external DAC for it to work as a mere dongle is unable to work with the phone.
Audio jack or rather the lack thereof aside, the Galaxy Note10+ sets a new bar for performance in almost every aspect from its superb display, excellent speakers and updated S Pen stylus though what really impresses are its imaging capabilities.
Galaxy Note10+ cameras
The Galaxy Note10+ has a camera array somewhat akin to the Galaxy S10+ but upgraded with a 3D Time of Flight VGA camera for specific augmented reality tasks and for creating better Live Focus videos and snaps.
For your money you’re getting primary 12-MP camera that is OIS stabilised with a dual aperture that can change from F/1.5 to F/2.4 depending on ambient light conditions. This is paired up with a secondary 16-MP F/2.2 camera with an ultra wide angle lens that has a 12mm equivalent focal length and a third 12-MP F/2.1 camera with 2X optical zoom and OIS stabilisation. Unique to the Galaxy Note10+ is a fourth 3D ToF VGA camera. The front hosts a 10-MP F/2.2 selfie camera.
In terms of the camera user interface, the phone has an additional set of Live Focus filters and a Live Focus Video mode which dynamically defocuses the background with an array of effects ranging from a plain old blur all the way to artifully desaturating the background to a monochromatic hue while keeping the subject in frame in full colour.
There’s certainly quite a bit of creative scope available and the rear cameras now have an enhanced Super Steady algorithm that helps to further smooth out hand jitters when filming footage though this mode is capped at 1080P@60fps. Another particularly new feature for video capture is a Mic Zoom that focuses audio on the subject and which mutes background noise.
Like previous examples of the UI, most of the menu is accessible via sliders on the right of the interface but the present version is somewhat cluttered due to the addition of the Live Focus and Live Focus Video filters, leading to half the display being obscured with a menu overlay and with it, quite a few inadvertent accidental button presses. All the important modes are present and correct including a Night mode and one specifically for Food.
Straight out of the proverbial box, the Galaxy Note10+ captures excellent photos and videos in almost every conceivable scenario for all three of its cameras. Firing it up takes mere seconds and autofocus is fast and accurate.
Images captured with the primary and wide angle camera offer loads of detail and beautiful colour reproduction as well great dynamic range, even under dim light and high contrast conditions though there’s a bit of a trade-off with a bit of noise in very dim lighting conditions. The 2x zoom telephoto camera works best under daylight conditions but does a good job in dim light with a slight bit of noise.
The new Live Focus filters unlock a variety of creative options and proved to be surprisingly accurate in simulating bokeh for portraiture and objects alike with the readings provided by the ToF camera.
When capturing videos, the Galaxy Note10+’s rear cameras proved to be one of the best on test with excellent retention of detail, great colours and very usable footage even indoors or under dim light.
If you’re aiming to go all the way, the rear cameras are capable of going up to 2160P at 60FPS at HDR10+ which makes for exceptionally lush and detailed footage though it eats up storage space by the gigabyte.
The cornerstone of what makes the Galaxy Note10+ so darned good this time around is their inclusion the aforementioned Super Steady mode that offers silky smooth results approaching a gimbal in terms of smoothness.
Samsung DeX improved and refined
One of the most defining features of the Galaxy Note series starting from the Galaxy Note8 was the inclusion of what Samsung’s calls DeX mode which allows users to take advantage of a desktop style interface using the phone as a PC of sorts by simply plugging it into a monitor via a HDMI cable.
In the case of the Galaxy Note10 series, they’ve retained the original properties of DeX mode and upgraded it to enable it to run off a PC or Mac by simply hooking the phone up via a USB cable. Windows or MacOS is still running when you do so, so you’re effectively running DeX as a pseudo OS of sorts riding sidecar.
The key advantage here is that you’re able to transfer files to and from the phone by merely dragging and dropping them while allowing you unimpeded access to the phone’s higher functions – calling, texting and the like are all possible without having to physically touch your phone.
The other key perk here is access to the apps on your phone – productivity, games and all. Another key advantage here is that this integration makes using DeX a lot simpler; rather than having to rely on a separate display and having to find a mouse and keyboard, you can rely on your notebook’s monitor and keyboard to get about.
If you plug your Galaxy Note 10 series phone to a monitor, it will still default back to the usual DeX mode which means you’ll still need a separate keyboard and mouse.
In terms of compatible apps, DeX mode covers the essentials like the Windows office suite and Google Docs for productivity purposes along with Netflix and YouTube, all of which run flawlessly but not everything is guaranteed to run if at all.
Some apps won’t run in in full sized mode while others don’t quite run in windowed mode so it’s still a bit of a crapshoot. Even so, this move to make DeX mode a more seamless addition to your workflow welcome one. DeX mode is still a work in progress and still has a few kinks to work out, in particular the lack of app compatibility but this latest update is a step in the right direction with a more seamless PC to phone workflow.
Galaxy Note10+ Price, Battery Life and Conclusion
Keeping the lights on in the Galaxy Note10+ is a 4,300mAh battery which supports up both 25W and 45W fast charging. Unfortunately, you don’t get a 45W charger with the box and are relegated to a 25W fast charger along with the USB Type-C cable to go with it.
On paper, the Galaxy Note10+’s 45W fast charging sounds impressive indeed though we were unable to test this in action and at the time of publication, Samsung hasn’t made a 45W charger available for sale yet. If you’re looking to take advantage of the phone’s 45W fast charging, you will have to purchase the charger separately.
In terms of endurance, the Galaxy Note10+ did not disappoint. Even with a full-on workload, with a combination of WiFi and data on all day, an hour worth of movie watching and a good hour or two of gaming as well as heavy use of Facebook and Google docs combined with a few voice calls, the phone had more than enough juice to survive the commute home without having to trigger any power saving modes. With the bundled 25W power charger, the Galaxy Note10+ was able to charge to 65% in about 30 minutes which is gratifyingly swift by any standard.
All told, the Galaxy Note10+ isn’t cheap by any standards but you get what you pay for and what you’re chunking out a substantial wad of cash for is one of the most powerful Android phablets currently in the market. Excellent front and rear cameras, a vibrant display, immensely powerful performance and the newly enhanced Air Gestures with the revamped S Pen make the Galaxy Note10+ the most powerful and desirable phone that Samsung has ever made.
What we liked Outstanding display, excellent front and rear cameras, enhanced S Pen, stellar performance, 45W charging speed
What we didn’t No 3.5mm audio jack, overly dense camera UI, finish is a fingerprint magnet
We say The Galaxy Note10+ has exceeded expectations as it melds a refined blend of Samsung’s finest technologies into one slim form factor that is lighter and slimmer than its predecessor. Excellent front and rear cameras, a vibrant display, immense performance and the newly enhanced Air Gestures with the revamped S Pen make it Samsung’s most powerful and desirable phone ever made.
Display 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED, 1,440 x 3,040 pixels
Processor Exynos 9825 octacore processor
OS Android Pie 9.0
Memory 12GB RAM/256GB storage + microSD card
Camera 12-MP Dual Pixel F/1.5-F/2.4 w/OIS + 12-MP F/2.1 w/ 2x zoom & OIS + 16-MP F/2.2 w/12mm wide angle lens + TOF 3D VGA camera (rear)| 10-MP F/2.2 Dual Pixel camera (front)
Battery 4,300mAhh w/ 45W fast charging
Size/Weight 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm / 196g
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia