Two weeks after using the Galaxy Note 10+, it’s easy to see why people are sniffing around so much about the flagship series. But then I also used the Galaxy Note 9 and the Note 8 extensively, and between the Note 10+ and the Note 9, the inherent experience hasn’t changed much. Samsung has added many new features to it, adding to the experience of using the flagship Note. But is it really transformative? Let’s find out –
Performance – 7nm finally makes Exynos comparable to Snapdragon
The new Exynos 9825 is based on the new 7nm EUV manufacturing process, compared to the 8nm Exynos 9820 in the Galaxy S10 series. Most of the advantages of the new chipset are in the efficiency. In terms of performance, only the mid-core in the SoC now has a slightly higher clock speed, up to 2.4 GHz from 2.31 GHz, but again, Samsung has also clocked the efficiency core back from 1.95 GHz to 1. 9GHz. The GPU inside is the same. The changes are minor and the Note 10+’s benchmark results are largely similar to those of the Galaxy S10+. Interestingly, the OnePlus 7 Pro, which comes with more or less the same hardware inside (Snapdragon 855, 12GB RAM, UFS 3.0 storage), beat the Galaxy Note 10+ in all major benchmarks.
Yet these are only simulated scenarios. In the real world, the Galaxy Note 10+ is a charm to use. It’s noticeably faster than the Samsung Galaxy S10 I’ve been using since its launch in India, mainly due to the UFS 3.0 storage and 12GB RAM module that always keeps around 5GB of RAM free. However, there is an anomaly. We noticed that OneUI’s resource management is too aggressive. It tends to kill most background apps if they are running for a long time. Example: BatteryLog app that clocks a percent every time the battery drops, quit within minutes even after being whitelisted under the memory area. Even then, the Note 10+ keeps about 6.7 GB of RAM in use, with about 5.3 GB free for everything. It’s still way more than most flagships offer, but the high RAM usage doesn’t match the aggressive resource management.
Almost anything you throw at the Note 10+ will be handled without a hitch. Whether it’s editing a RAW file in Lightroom, writing an article, recording a 4K video or playing an intense game, the Note 10+ has no problem getting them done. . That way, it’s perfect for power users. But again, you get the same performance and reliability from the OnePlus 7 Pro, which is much cheaper than Samsung’s flagship.
Gaming on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is also a pleasure, unless you are looking for the highest frame rates. The screen is gorgeous and roomy enough to give plenty of hand room, but the frame rates we clocked on PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9 with play bench were much lower than what we saw on the OnePlus 7 Pro, for example. PUBG Mobile ran at 40FPS with 88 percent stability where it could go up to 60 FPS. Asphalt 9 gave 30 FPS with 96 percent stability. It was striking that the phone hardly got warm during the sessions.
One thing that sets the Note 10+ apart is the revamped DeX experience. You can now access desktop mode by simply plugging the phone into the USB port. DeX is now more like Windows than ever before. Apps get full screen and window modes, you can launch any apps on your phone and even make the Windows shortcut work nearby. However, it is not as smooth as Windows and in fact a bit slow. But then most Windows shortcuts will work in DeX. I tried to write this review in DeX mode but had to give up half way through because not all apps (including Microsoft Excel, Dropbox Paper) offer all the features. There is also no hot-switching between Windows and DeX. To go back, you need to disable desktop mode. Samsung said you can even attend calls on your desktop, but the feature isn’t live yet.
My argument here is why would I need DeX in the first place? Yes, it works much better now, but I saw no reason to move from a perfectly functioning Windows environment to a mobile experience that can’t quite match the smooth running that Windows or MacOS offers.
My next complaint is with the S-Pen itself. It’s what sets the Galaxy Note series apart from the rest and was a useful addition in the early years. But over time, the S-Pen’s use cases have been mostly limited to creative professionals or casual doodles, both a fairly small subset of users. This time, Samsung has added Bluetooth to the S-Pen and it now supports air gestures. At the moment the air movements are a bit rusty. We used them to control the camera and the circular motion to zoom in would often be mistaken for the swipe gesture to switch from the rear camera to the front camera. The good thing is that Samsung has opened up the SDK for the feature, but it remains to be seen how many developers will actually use it.
Battery Life – Boosted by the processor and a bigger battery
The Galaxy Note 10+ in India comes with the new Exynos 9825 SoC, while in the US it comes with the Snapdragon 855. Back in the day with the Galaxy S10, there was a noticeable difference, not in sheer performance, but in power efficiency, based on the reviews and reports from around the world. Now that Samsung has switched to the latest 7nm EUV lithography process, we have been promised better energy efficiency. Now there’s a boost in screen-on time and everything, including a bigger screen, has increased screen-on time by an hour or so. But again, it’s hard to say whether that’s because of the slightly larger 4300mAh battery (compared to the 4100mAh on the Galaxy S10+), or switching to the best manufacturing process currently available.
We clocked 7 hours and 16 minutes on Geekbench Battery Life, an hour and a half higher than what the Galaxy S10+ gave. 15 minutes of PUBG Mobile drained the battery by 6 percent. So did 30 minutes of HDR content on Netflix. But it was our video run test that lasted more than 12 hours.
Camera – Software does the trick
Thought the Galaxy S10+’s camera was overdone? The Note 10+ goes a step further and includes a ToF 3D camera along with the wide-angle, ultra-wide-angle and telephoto lenses. It’s essentially the same set of lenses that there is on the Galaxy S10 + 5G in the US. Still, I have the feeling that between the S10+ and the Note 10+, Samsung has fine-tuned the software even further, so that the images (especially in low light) come into their own a lot better. There is now a special night mode and live focus in video.
The Samsung Galaxy S10+ camera came out on top when we compared it to premium flagships in the first half of 2019. The Note 10+ goes further and improves colors, sharpness and details. However, it is still essentially the same hardware. So there’s a very good chance that even the Galaxy S10+ will eventually get the new software tricks that are there on the Note 10+.
The same technique used by other OEMs such as OnePlus and Huawei is being used in researching the new night mode. Take multiple photos and merge them to get more sharpness and detail. A first for Samsung, it works quite well at improving low-light photos, as the examples above will tell you. Try not to pixel-peek though, or the photos will start to lose detail.
However, the Live Focus video is a bit patchy. It should keep the camera sharp on a (moving) subject, but it continues to focus from the foreground to the background, resulting in a messy bokeh video. However, the blur is quite nice.
Design & Display – Premium, Advanced & Durable
The Galaxy Note 10+ follows the S series with the Aura colors painting an RGB reflection on the back panel. You’ll see a new color on the back of the phone from every different angle you’re holding from the Aura Glow variant we received for review. Definitely quite premium. There are also Aura Black and Aura White colors aimed at more buyers who are more conservative in their choices. The Note 10+ is housed in the same sturdy aluminum frame as the S10+ with glass on both sides. It is reinforced with Gorilla Glass 6 which is about two times more durable than its predecessor and is IP68 water and dust resistant.
Between the S10+ and the Note 10+, the front camera has changed position. From the right corner, the single front camera is now drilled in the center. It does change the aesthetic, but it doesn’t really get in the way of viewing things. The 3.5mm headphone jack is now a thing of the past with the Galaxy Note 10+, one of the last flagships to ditch the legacy port. Interestingly, you don’t even get a 3.5mm to USB-C converter in the box, but a pair of AKG-tuned earphones with USB-C output in the box.
The Galaxy Note series display was one for everyone to beat. But this time, the maximum brightness we got from the Note 10+ under the sun was 635 lux, much lower than the 742 lux achieved by the OnePlus 7 Pro. It’s even lower than the Galaxy S10+’s screen. Still, the AMOLED panel is HDR10+ classified and has a QHD+ resolution. This alone ensures that objects on the screen look super sharp and clear with excellent contrast. HDR content on the 6.8-inch panel looks vibrant and vibrant and you can play HDR content on all streaming platforms. However, with OneUI, Samsung reduced the number of options to adjust the display settings. It defaults to Natural Colors and FHD+ Resolution, which you can adjust to Vivid Colors and HD+ or QHD+ Resolution. The Note 10+ is also an excellent phone for reading content before going to bed. The minimum brightness that the panel can achieve is 3 lux and there is a blue light filter, which together protect the eyes at night.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ comes across as a phone very similar to the Galaxy S10+, save for a few new features that may or may not prove useful. There is a lot of reason for longtime Note users to upgrade to this one. Then there’s the smaller Galaxy Note, which comes with toned-down features, including a smaller screen and form factor, that may be accepted by a new breed of power users eager to experience the Galaxy Note experience. What I really liked about the phone is how Samsung has improved the camera performance, especially in low light, and the new DeX mode which now works much better than before. Overall, the Galaxy Note 10+ feels like an incremental upgrade, but good enough for old Note users to get a new one.