Hands-On, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Hands-On: A New Breed

It’s only natural to think that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is the direct successor to the Galaxy Note 9, but that’s not the case at all. Don’t be fooled by its name: the Note 10 is actually a new breed of Note device, and that, in itself, is an exciting prospect.

After all, one of the most definitive features of a Note device in the past is a large display, but that changes with the Galaxy Note 10. For the first time ever, you can now get a Note device in a compact form factor, and I’m really fond of it – let me tell you why.

First, let’s talk about the size of the Galaxy Note 10. If the Note 10+ is similar in size to the Note 9, the Note 10 is akin to the Galaxy S10. While it’s not quite as compact as the Galaxy S10e, the Note 10 is noticeably smaller than the Note 10+, so it doesn’t feel quite as unwieldy.

That’s not to say the Note 10+ is overly big or unwieldy, of course. It’s still in a perfectly usable form factor, but when it comes to ergonomics, the standard Note 10 fares better. it’s easier to fit into your pocket, it’s more lightweight, and more importantly, it would be easier to use with only one hand.

However, one-handed usage will still be quite a challenge with the regular Note 10 – unless you’re left-handed. That’s right, much like the bigger Note 10+, all of the buttons are placed on the left side of the phone. Good news? At least the dedicated Bixby button is gone.

While this button arrangement makes sense when you’re taking a note with the S Pen (you would be holding the Note 10 with your left hand if you’re right-handed), it would be quite inconvenient when you’re not using the S Pen. More often than not, that’s the more prevalent situation.

Beyond the odd button arrangement, the Note 10 is as much of a looker as its bigger sibling. The new 6.3-inch 1080p Cinematic Infinity-O Display stretches right to the edges of the phone, resulting in very tiny top and bottom bezels. Side bezels, on the other hand, are effectively gone with the dual curved display.

Of course, some would argue that the hole-punch cutout at the top of the display takes away from the all-screen design of the Note 10. Yes, it’s certainly not ideal to have a screen cutout for the 10MP f/2.2 selfie camera, but at least it’s a tiny hole. In fact, it’s actually smaller than the camera cutout of the Galaxy S10e and S10.

As for the display quality itself, it’s really, really good. Yes, the Galaxy Note 10 “only” has a 1080p resolution, but it is still a Dynamic AMOLED panel. It supports the HDR10+ standard, so you will get a wide colour gamut and excellent black levels. Unless you’re comparing this display side by side with the Note 10+’s, you really won’t notice any difference in quality.

In the performance department, the Note 10 is powered by the same Samsung Exynos 9825 chipset found in the Note 10+. This is essentially the 7nm version of the Exynos 9820 SoC found in the Galaxy S10 smartphones, so you can expect the same level of performance as the latter. On top of that, it should have better power efficiency too, thanks to the smaller 7nm chip; the Exynos 9820 is built on an 8nm process instead.

The power efficiency of the Exynos 9825 will be needed to get good battery life out of the Note 10, given that it only comes with a 3,500mAh battery. While that’s not particularly small, it’s not very generous either for a phone this size. Nonetheless, the 3,500mAh cell, along with the 7nm chip and 1080p display, may just be good enough to return above average battery life.

Naturally, the S Pen of the Note 10 is identical to the one found on the Note 10+. It still has Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to use it as a remote control. With the addition of a gyroscope and accelerometer, the S Pen can now recognise motion gestures too.

It’s an interesting new feature, but I do find the gesture control a bit gimmicky. At the moment, it only works with certain apps, and it remains to be seen if other developers will pick up on this feature. Samsung will release an SDK for them to integrate the motion controls if they so desire.

And then we have the camera performance of the Note 10, which should be very similar to the Note 10+. See, these two phones share the same triple camera configuration, minus the time-of-flight (ToF) sensor on the latter for better depth perception.

Made up of a 12MP f/1.5 – f/2.4 main camera, a 12MP f/2.1 telephoto lens, and a 16MP f/2.2 wide angle sensor, the Note 10 is a capable shooter. It can lock in focus very quickly, images look flattering, and overall, it reminds me a lot of the Galaxy S10+‘s camera.

While the Galaxy Note 10+ is the higher-end offering in the series, I’d argue the Note 10 is the more exciting product. Not only does it share quite a number of similarities with the Note 10+, it also introduces a brand new category of Note device. The prospect of a compact Note is finally realised with the Note 10, and that’s a big deal.

But whether or not there is actually demand for a smaller, more ergonomically-friendly Note is still a question mark. Personally, I love the prospect of a compact Note smartphone. Heck, I’m a fan of compact smartphones in general.

Then again, the Galaxy Note 10 is not particularly affordable: it retails at RM3,699 for the 256GB variant with 8GB of RAM. For the sake of comparison, that is the exact price point for the Galaxy Note 9 at launch. Well, granted that variant of the Note 9 only comes with 128GB of storage space, but do note – excuse the pun – that the Note 10 no longer comes with a microSD card slot.

Whether or not the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 can rightfully command that kind of price tag can only be answered in a full review of the phone. If you’re interested to pick up the phone anyway, the Note 10 is now on pre-order until 18 August.

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