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Samsung Galaxy Note 10

We try out the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.

Pros

  • Best stylus on the market
  • Excellent design and dimensions make it easy to hold and use
  • Similar camera setup seen on the S10 series so expect great results

Cons

  • Storage cannot be expanded
  • Biometric unlocking could be improved
  • No option for 5G

The Galaxy Note 10 is the smaller of the two Note models Samsung has released this year. Unlike its bigger brother, the Note 10 Plus, it lacks the option of 5G capabilities, but it’s cheaper, easier to handle and it offers the same great S-Pen experience.


First impressions and design

  • Curved edge to edge screen is the main display upgrade from last year’s Note 9
  • “Pinhole” style front camera is embedded in the display
  • One of the smallest Galaxy Notes to date

The 10 is the first Note edition to introduce an edge-to-edge display - an increasingly popular feature in premium smartphones. The edge-to-edge display means Samsung can squeeze a generously sized 6.3-inch screen on to a relatively compact body, making the Note 10 the smallest since the days of the plastic-bodied Note 2.

Note 10 screen outside No notches, fingerprint reader and an edge-to-edge display help make the front of the Note 10 almost all screen.

Note 10 back 2 The Black colourway has a smooth back that beautifully reflects a blue sky

Compared to the Galaxy S10, released last year, the latest Note feels compact and easy to handle. At around 170g it’s also one of the lightest premium phones out there.

The Galaxy Note 10 introduces an on-screen fingerprint scanner which is an excellent space-saving feature. The on-screen sensor uses ultrasound to read your fingerprint - it’s easy to get used to and provides a handy alternative to typing in a PIN.

Facial recognition is fast and accurate most of the time, but it does struggle a bit in the dark.

Note 10 side At around 8mm thick, the Note 10 never feels too big or heavy.

The volume rocker and power button are located on the left side of the device, a standard placement for Samsung devices but the opposite to most other Android devices.

One noticeable difference to the S10 is that the Note lacks a dedicated Bixby button.

Bixby is Samsung’s answer to Google assistant; an Alexa-like voice-activated AI that can answer all kind of queries from train times to weather reports. You can activate it using either your Samsung or Google account.

The Bixby voice assistant is easy to use and pretty good at answering your questions. It uses third-party services from the web to help you get any information you need, such as “Skyscanner” for flights or Google Maps for directions.

Note 10 screen blue Samsung Global Goals is an integrated app that raises awareness of 17 Global Goals for a better world. Inspirational quotes linked to each goal can be set to appear on the lock screen.

The pinhole selfie camera is located in the top centre area of the display, and after a while you’ll barely even notice it’s there.

As you would expect from a premium Samsung device, the Note 10 is built using high-quality materials. A polished aluminium frame and the highest standard of Corning Gorilla glass will keep your new Note 10 looking as slick as the day you unboxed it.

Note 10 bottom with spen The S-Pen is easy to pull out and use and it is the first version to include a gyroscope and motion sensor.

Screen and Sound

  • The screen is no longer the Note series main feature
  • HDR+ enhances light balance for supported videos
  • The pinhole camera can get in the way of a full-screen video experience

Note 10 screen outside The Note 10 screen is perfectly usable outdoors, even on a sunny day.

The Galaxy Note’s 6.3-inch AMOLED display looks fantastic, with bold brightness and vivid colours. Thanks to the super-thin bezels; the Note 10 manages to squeeze a large display into a compact body, and it’s great for web browsing and content streaming.

Note 10 screen red The camera housing is extremely slim so you can rest the phone on its back while taking notes or having a conversation on speakerphone

The display has two main colour modes, Vivid or Natural, as well as the option to adjust the colour temperature to your preferred levels. As a video player, the Note 10 is up there with the best. It supports HDR+, a technology that adjusts the light level on a frame-by-frame basis, so details will equally visible on both dark and bright scenes. HDR+ is not widespread and requires the video source to provide the right tech. So while a random YouTube video may not get a HDR+ boost, new productions from streaming services like Amazon Prime and Netflix will.

The speaker is located at the bottom. Sound quality could be better for music, but it’s excellent for a phone conversation on loudspeaker.



Camera

  • Only marginal improvements with last year’s Note 9
  • Optical Image stabilisation on all but the wide-angle lens
  • High-level of customisation

Like the Galaxy S10 series, the camera on the Note 10 is sure to please anyone that cares about consistently good photography. The triple-lens setup includes a primary 12MP lens sits next to a 16MP ultra-wide and a 12MP telephoto that supports up to 2x zoom. Note 10 camera lenses The three camera setup is identical to the one seen on the Galaxy S10. This is great news as it is still one of the best you can buy today

The wide-angle lens optical image stabilisation may struggle in low light. But this doesn’t detract from the fact that having a 123-degree field of view makes this an extremely versatile setup, especially for holiday snaps.

Scene selection adjusts the exposure settings based on whatever you’re snapping. It works as advertised and succeeds in producing bluer skies for outdoor photography or better lit indoor shots. You can expect true-to-life results in almost any situation.

Video recording supports a resolution of 2160p at 30 or 60 fps, and there are some exciting new features to enhance your clips. As well as excellent video stabilisation, the Note 10 includes a bokeh-mode for videos and colour-point mode that makes the background black-and-white while keeping (most of) the subject in colour.

Overall, Samsung has played it safe with the camera on the Note 10. It packs the same great setup seen on the best Samsung devices seen in the last year or so. As with the rest of the premium Galaxy series, if you care about photography and need consistently good results, you cannot go wrong with the Note 10.

Main Camera 12MP f/1.5
Wide Angle 16MP, f/2.1
Telephoto 12MP f/2.1 2x zoom, 52mm equivalent
Selfie Camera 10MP
Optical Image stabilisation On Main and Zoom only

Performance and battery life

  • The S-Pen is the killer feature
  • No additional memory card slot
  • Supports wireless charging

Samsung traditionally packs their Notes with the most powerful components in their whole lineup, and the Note 10 is no exception. The platform relies on a brand new Exynos chipset giving this latest Samsung device one of the most powerful and efficient processors in the market. The Note 10 comes in one storage size - 256GB. Even though you can’t upgrade the storage, 256GB should be more than enough unless you install a ridiculous number of games and don’t make use of cloud storage solutions.

There is one new feature that might cause a bit of controversy - the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack. This is the first Samsung device to do away with a headphone jack, but it comes with a pair of headphones you can use with the USB-C port. You will have to purchase an adaptor.

The battery is a 3500mAh, smaller than the one found on last year’s Note 9 but increased power efficiency and an adaptive power management guarantee similar stamina without adding extra bulk. Where the Note 10 trumps both its predecessor and the Galaxy S10 is in the charging speed. The “Super Fast Charging” promised by Samsung is based on the 25W power supply and is capable of filling up a depleted battery within an hour.

Wireless charging is supported via a charging pad that can be purchased separately. It makes for really convenient charging when you’re at a desk.

The jewel in the Note 10’s crown might just be the S-Pen. It allows you to use your phone in unique ways and complete specific little tasks with a precision you could never achieve with only your fingers. You can use your Note as a note-pad even when the screen is locked. Just pick up the pen and jot your ideas or even doodle away.

Existing Note users who are used to the stylus will find themselves right at home with the Note 10. The S-Pen software has been updated and now includes Optical Character Recognition so that your handwritten notes can be turned into digital text. And the inclusion of motion sensors within the pen expand its uses to include gestures that weren’t possible before, including controlling the camera mode and shooting pictures by clicking and waving the pen like a magic wand.

Note 10 with spen out The S-Pen is still the Note's killer feature

RAM 8GB
Storage 256GB
Battery capacity 3500 mAh
OS and Version Android 9 (Pie), Samsung One UI

What about the Note 10 Plus?

For the first time ever, Samsung has released two versions of its pen-equipped smartphone, the Note 10 Plus is a bigger version that is more in line with the classic Note brand and differs slightly in its massive 4300mAh battery that supports 45W fast charging, and the option of a 512GB with a massive 12GB RAM.

The screen on the Note 10 Plus is a 6.8-inch which makes it noticeably taller and wider so definitely not a pocket-size device.

The Note 10 Plus is also the only one that comes in a 5G version so if you can’t wait to connect at the fastest possible speed that is worth considering.

Value and verdict

The Note 10 represents an excellent choice for Note aficionados that are put off by the size, and price tag, of the Note 10 Plus. The device is beautifully designed, the specs belong to the very high end of the market, and you’ll be hard to find a better designed or more complete software interface the Samsung UI. In the end, however, it all comes down to the stylus. Almost ten years of refinement have produced a stylus experience that has no rivals. If you’re used to having the choice of a pen to use your phone, nothing comes close to this.

Note 10 with spen The Note 10

The Samsung Galaxy is an excellent alternative to the Galaxy S10 and serious upgrade for Galaxy S9 or S9+ users.

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