Hands-On, Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Hands-On: The True Successor

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 smartphones are now official, and the star of the series is definitely this device right here, the Galaxy Note 10+. Even though it carries the “Plus” moniker, make no mistake: this is the true successor to the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, not the regular Note 10.

After spending a brief time with the Note 10+, I was left pretty darn impressed. In fact, this is easily one of Samsung’s most exciting phones to date; even more so than the Galaxy S10 series.

Smartphones with all-screen designs free of notches and hole-punch cutouts are increasingly common, but none of them – and I mean none of them – look quite as stunning as the Galaxy Note 10+. See, even though there’s a camera cutout at the top of the display right in the middle, the screen really stretches to the edges of the phone.

Now, the side bezels are virtually gone thanks to the dual curved display, but the most impressive design feat here is the lack of bezel at the top and bottom of the Galaxy Note 10+. There’s no forehead, there’s no big chin, only a very, very sleek-looking smartphone. Interestingly, it’s the same size as the Galaxy Note 9 too.

However, I’m sure some folks are not thrilled with the Note 10+’s hole-punch cutout at the top of the display. If it’s any consolation, the cutout is really quite minuscule; it’s even smaller than the Galaxy S10e‘s camera hole. Plus, with the 10MP f/2.2 selfie camera positioned right in the middle, it gives the phone a symmetrical look.

Speaking of looks, I really dig the unique Aura Glow colour of the Galaxy Note 10+. While I only managed to get my hands on a regular Note 10 with the colourway, it should look identical on the bigger device. Besides that, this phone has really solid build quality as well. In short, it’s a premium smartphone through and through.

But there is one design element of the Galaxy Note 10+ that I don’t quite like: all of the buttons are positioned on the left side of the phone. If you’re right-handed, it’ll require some finger gymnastics to reach for the volume rocker and power button. On the flip side, lefties will likely love this button arrangement.

Then again, it does make sense for a device like the Note 10+. Say you’re taking a note with the S Pen: if you’re right-handed, you would already be holding the phone with your left hand. From there, the buttons are already right there for your thumb to reach.

While I understand Samsung’s design decision with the button arrangement, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

And then we have the Galaxy Note 10+’s fantastic 6.8-inch 1440p “Cinematic” Infinity-O Display. Just like the Galaxy S10 smartphones, the Note 10+ features a Dynamic AMOLED display with support for HDR10+, and it looks brilliant.

Colours simply pop on this display, the blacks are pitch black, and thanks to the 3040 x 1440 resolution, everything looks razor sharp. On top of that, I imagine the sheer size of the screen would make content consumption on the Note 10+ very enjoyable. Samsung makes some of the best displays in the market, so it’s little surprise this phone has such an impressive screen.

There’s also an ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint sensor, though I wasn’t able to put it to the test; the feature is disabled on the demo units I’ve tried. Chances are, it should perform like the Galaxy S10+’s sensor.

In the performance department, the Galaxy Note 10+ is powered by Samsung’s brand new Exynos 9825 chipset paired with 12GB of RAM. While it’s virtually identical to the Exynos 9820 SoC found inside the Galaxy S10 series, it is built on a more power-efficient 7nm process. With that in mind, the Note 10+ should have the same level of performance as the S10 smartphones, but with the added benefit of better power efficiency.

Complementing the 7nm Exynos 9825 chipset is a generous 4,300mAh battery. Collectively, both of these hardware should make the Note 10+ a long-lasting smartphone. It’ll be interesting to see if it can offer two days of use once we have the device in for review.

Oh, DeX is also getting a nice upgrade on the Note 10 series: the desktop interface is now available on both Windows PC and Mac, along with support for drag and drop. Would these new additions make DeX worthwhile? It just might, though I’ll have to use it for myself first.

This wouldn’t be a Note device without the S Pen, so let’s talk about what’s new. On the Galaxy Note 10, the S Pen now sports a unibody design, as well as gesture support. That’s right, the S Pen now comes with a gyroscope and accelerometer for motion controls.

I tried out the new gesture controls in the Gallery app, and it worked relatively well. Swiping left with the S Pen moves to the next item, while swiping up or down reveals more information. However, to get the gestures to work, I would have to hold down on the S Pen’s button, perform a gesture, and release the button.

To be honest, it feels a little unintuitive, and the application doesn’t seem particularly…well, useful. Regardless, Samsung will release an SDK for developers to use the feature (if they want to), though I suspect not many will actually do so.

Compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 10+ naturally has an improved camera system. It now comes with a 12MP f/1.5 – f/2.4 main sensor, a 12MP f/2.1 telephoto lens, a 16MP f/2.2 wide angle camera, and even a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor for better depth perception, among other things.

One of the applications of the ToF sensor is using it as a 3D scanner. Once you’ve scanned an object with the sensor, you can print it with a 3D printer, or even insert it into a photo. Groundbreaking? Not quite. But it does present some interesting possibilities.

Anyway, back to the Note 10+’s quad camera system: how good is it? Honestly, it feels a lot like photographing with the Galaxy S10+, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The camera interface is responsive, detail preservation and dynamic range are great, and it can lock in focus extremely quickly too.

That being said, I can’t help but to feel…well, a little underwhelmed. Of course, the Note 10+’s camera system is still very good, but next to smartphones like the Huawei P30 Pro with its incredible zooming capability, it doesn’t feel quite as exciting.

Regardless, I will hold my judgment of the Note 10+’s camera performance until I can put it through its paces properly.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is easily the Korean company’s sleekest, most premium offering to date. Not surprisingly, it also comes with a matching price tag: the 256GB variant retails at RM4,199, while the 512GB model goes for a whopping RM4,799. If you’re keen, you can actually pre-order it right now until 18 August.

Without a shadow of a doubt the Galaxy Note 10+ is an expensive smartphone, but that’s the price you’d have to pay for the latest and greatest Note device yet. It may be able to justify that price tag, but we can only know for sure once we have the Note 10+ in for a full review.