For years, the Samsung Galaxy Note has been catering to faithful fans of the stylus and, this year, there are two options on the table, a first for the line. While the smaller (“smaller”) Galaxy Note10 is the chief successor to the Galaxy Note line, with a 6.3-inch screen and form factor that’s similar to its forebear, the Note10+ is attempting to carve out a larger, more premium niche with its gargantuan 6.8-inch screen, beefier batter, surplus of RAM, and staring price of $1099. The result? A beautiful phone with hardly any serious flaws other than that it may just be far more phone than you need.
The Good: The Galaxy Note10+ is a beautifully made device. Samsung’s build quality has been top notch for ages and the Note10+ is no exception with its satisfying heft and screen that curves over the edges. It comes in a variety of colors but the “Aura Glow” version I tested is notably eye catching. Like the underside of a CD, it changes color as it catches the light and while it struck me as over the top at first, the effect really grew on me.
Like any good, big phone, the Note10+ also has a big, 4,300mAh battery that lasts ridiculously long. Even a Saturday of strenuous use streaming Formula 1 and then reading far too much Twitter for hours on ends was not enough to take its battery much lower than 30 percent by the end of the day.
The Note10+ sports a terrific camera system, very similar to the one currently offered on Samsung’s line of S10 models, which means it takes fantastic photos, as any phone at this price point should, but doesn’t quite offer any surprises.
The S Pen, now updated with an accelerometer and gyroscope, now has increased utility outside of just writing on the screen. Waving the pen through the air like a wand will allow you to do some a few potentially useful tricks like change camera settings on a phone that you might not be holding.
Who It’s For: The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ is, at its core, for one type of person very specifically: the kind who absolutely loves a stylus. With its powerhouse performance, fantastic build quality, great camera, and stellar battery life, it’s a suitable and satisfying computing companion for anyone, but if you aren’t dying for the stylus, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus slightly smaller but otherwise comparable in almost every way, with the added bonus of a bigger battery and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Watch Out For: While the S Pen’s new wand-like air commands are novel and theoretically useful, I didn’t find a lot of value to them in practice. They also support a limited suite of apps, perhaps most noticeably the camera, where it could come in handy for long-range selfie set up. Maybe. And though Samsung has provided the software tools for other apps to make themselves compatible, it seems hard to imagine this becoming much more than a gimmick.
At 6.8-inches, the Note10+ is a lot of phone. I’m a man with relatively large hands and still had trouble negotiating its heft one-handed on the train even with the aid of a PopSocket. Of course that is part of the 10+’s appeal, but it’s something to be aware of, especially considering the smaller, 6.3-inch Note10 also exists and will be, for most normal people, indisitinguishable in terms of performance despite its slightly less overkill supply of RAM.
Alternatives: If the stylus isn’t your main concern, there are many. Chiefly the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus which is slightly smaller, slightly cheaper, but otherwise extremely similar. Google’s Pixel line, with its cleaner version of Android, also provides a possible substitute, with the Pixel 4 due for announcement in the next month or two.
But if the stylus is your bag, a Note is pretty much your only choice. The smaller Note10 is a great way to get almost the same phone but with a smaller screen (and slightly less RAM, less battery power) for $100 cheaper if the Plus’ gargantuan size isn’t a must for you. If you’re not sold on the latest and greatest, the Note 9 is also an option. It only has a two-camera cluster, and sports a fingerprint reader on its back instead of under the screen, but is still a more than capable device you might be able to find at something of a discount.
Verdict: The Note10+ is a real powerhouse of a phone and if it has a primary flaw it is only that it may be more phone than you need or want to pay for. But if its price or size doesn’t make you wince at the prospect, it won’t let you down.
Display: Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Rear Camera: 16MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 12MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)
Front Camera: 10-MP dual-pixel (f/2.2)
Capacity: 256GB, 512GB internal, up to 1TB with MicroSD
Samsung provided this product for review.
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