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Galaxy Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10: Which Samsung phone should you buy?

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Getting your hands on a Samsung phablet used to mean paying big bucks for a Galaxy Note. But that's about to change.

Samsung has unveiled a new big-screen phone, the Galaxy Note 10 Lite, which promises the same multi-camera setup as the Note 10 models that came out this fall, acres of productivity-boosting screen space and — most important — an S Pen for getting more done with your smartphone. We're not sure how much the Note 10 Lite will cost just yet, but it figures to be less than the $949 starting price for a current Galaxy Note phone.

But just what will you have to give up to enjoy that lower price tag? We still need to spend time testing the Lite model to see what you're getting, but here's a closer look at how the Galaxy Note 10 Lite compares with the Galaxy Note 10.

Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10 specs

PhoneGalaxy Note 10 LiteGalaxy Note 10Galaxy Note 10 Plus
PriceTBA$949$1,099
Screen Size (Resolution)6.7-inch Super AMOLED (2400 x 1080)6.3-inch Dynamic AMOLED (2280x1080)6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED (3040x1440)
CPUExynos 9810Snapdragon 855Snapdragon 855
RAM6GB/8GB8GB12GB
Storage128GB256GB256GB, 512GB
Expandable?YesNoYes
Rear Cameras12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 12MP wide angle (f/1.7), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)16MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2); 12MP wide angle (ƒ/1.5-f/2.4); 12MP telephoto (ƒ/2.1)16-MP ultra-wide (ƒ/2.2); 12-MP wide angle (ƒ/1.5-f/2.4); 12-MP telephoto (ƒ/2.1); time-of-flight VGA
Front Camera32MP (f/2.2)10MP (f/2.2)10MP (f/2.2)
Battery Size4,500 mAh3,500 mAh4,300 mAh
Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)Not yet tested9:2510:47
Size6.4 x 3 x 0.34 inches5.9 x 2.8 x .31 inches6.4 x 3.0 x .31 inches
Weigh7 ounces5.9 ounces6.9 ounces
ColorsAura Glow, Aura Black, Aura RedAura Glow, Aura White, Aura Black, Aura BlueAura Glow, Aura White, Aura Black, Aura Blue

Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10 price and availability

We're still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Galaxy Note 10 Lite — namely, for Samsung to announce a price for this phone and where it will be available. Because the Note 10 Lite runs on an Exynos CPU (we'll talk about that more later), there's some speculation that Samsung might skip the U.S. Other Galaxy Note models powered by Samsung's Exynos processors ship in other parts of the world, while the U.S. versions of the Note feature Snapdragon chipsets from Qualcomm. That said, Exynos-powered phones like the Galaxy A50 are available in the U.S., so perhaps Samsung is moving away from that distinction with its lower-priced handsets.

Budget-minded phone shoppers would certainly welcome a lower-priced Galaxy Note in this country. The Galaxy Note 10 base model that debuted last year costs $949, while the larger Galaxy Note 10 Plus starts at $1,099, though you can find the phablet for less by perusing the best Galaxy Note 10 deals.

While Samsung's given no indication of pricing, you'd expect some discount offered on the Lite version of the phone.

Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10 design and display

Expect the Note 10 Lite to be bigger than the standard Note 10 in every sense of the word. At 6.4 x 3 x 0.34 inches, this new phone is taller, thicker and wider than the 5.9 x 2.8 x 0.31-inch Note 10. In terms of size, the Note 10 Lite has more in common with the 6.4 x 3.0 x 0.31-inch Note 10 Plus, though this Lite model is anything but — at 7 ounces, it's heavier than both the 6.9-ounce Plus and the 5.9-ounce Note 10.

Note 10 Lite

Note 10 Lite (Image credit: Future)

One of the reasons the Note 10 Lite cuts such an imposing figure is its larger screen — a 6.7-inch panel versus the 6.3-inch display on the Note 10. Both the standard Note 10 and Note 10 Lite feature Full HD+ resolution. (For sharper Quad HD+ resolution, you'll need to turn to the more expensive Note 10 Plus.) 

The Note 10 Lite uses a Super AMOLED panel compared with the Dynamic AMOLED screen on the other Note 10 models. That should mean less accurate colors on the Note 10 Lite, and perhaps lower peak brightness, though we'll have to test the phone to confirm.

To keep costs down, Samsung went with plastic materials for the Note 10 Lite's case, a step down from the more polished materials used for the rest of the Note 10 lineup. But the Note 10 Lite boasts something those other phones lack — a headphone jack.

Galaxy Note 10 Plus and Galaxy Note 10

Galaxy Note 10 Plus and Galaxy Note 10 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You can get the Note 10 Lite in Aura Glow, Aura Black and Aura Red colors. Aura Glow and Aura Black are also regular Note 10 options, along with blue and white versions.

Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10 cameras

Samsung's other new discount flagship phone, the Galaxy S10 Lite, offers a more radical departure from the cameras on the regular Galaxy S10. In contrast, the rear cameras on both the Note 10 and Note 10 Lite have a lot more in common. You'll find three cameras on both versions of the Note 10 — a wide-angle lens, an ultrawide angle lens and a telephoto lens supporting a 2x optical zoom. The ultrawide lens on the regular Note 10 has a 16MP sensor versus 12MP on the Lite. And the Lite's main camera has a fixed f/1.7 aperture instead of the variable aperture on the Note 10 that can widen to let in more light as circumstances warrant. Otherwise, the cameras are pretty much the same.

Note 10 Lite

Note 10 Lite (Image credit: Future)

Samsung has chosen to lay them out differently, however. On the Note 10, the three lenses are stacked vertically on the upper left side of the phone. The Note 10 Lite goes with a square camera array. Whether that makes any difference in the quality of photos produced, we won't be able to say until we get a chance to do some shooting with the Galaxy Note 10 Lite. (If anything, it's probably more of an indicator of how Samsung will stack the cameras on the upcoming Galaxy S20.)

Galaxy Note 10

Galaxy Note 10 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Up front, the Note 10 Lite features a 32MP selfie cam with an f/2.2 aperture — the same front camera included with new S10 Lite. The Note 10 features just a 10MP (f/2.2) front shooter.

Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10 performance

As noted above, Samsung opted for one of its own Exynos processors for the Galaxy Note 10 Lite — an Exynos 9810, to be specific. That's the same chipset Samsung used for the Galaxy Note 9 models that shipped outside of the U.S. Our colleagues at Anandtech compared the performance of an Exynos 9810-powered Note 9 to the same phone running on a Snapdragon 845 chipset, and observed better results with the Qualcomm-powered model. Considering that the Snapdragon 855 inside the standard Note 10 sports significant performance gains over the Snapdragon 845, we'd expect a noticeable performance gap between the Note 10 and the Note 10 Lite once we can benchmark the latter phone.

Note 10 Lite

Note 10 Lite (Image credit: Future)

The standard Note 10 also comes with more memory — 8GB — than the 6GB of RAM in the Lite's base model, though there will be a version of the Note 10 Lite with 8GB. You're stuck with 128GB of storage with the Lite, though, which is half of the 256GB of onboard storage available with the Note 10. At least Samsung is still offering microSD expandability up to 1TB in the cheaper version, if you find that 128GB doesn't cut it.

Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10 battery and charging

One area where the Note 10 Lite could improve upon the standard Note 10 involves battery life. We weren't terribly impressed by the longevity of the Note 10's 3,500 mAh battery when we tested that phone last year. On our battery test, in which we have a phone surf the web over LTE until it runs out of power, the Note 10 lasted an average of 9 hours and 25 minutes. That's below average for a smartphone. (The Note 10 Plus and its 4,300 mAh battery did better, lasting 10 hours and 47 minutes.)

Galaxy Note 10

Galaxy Note 10 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Note 10 Lite could improve on the Note 10's battery test result, thanks to a massive 4,500 mAh power pack, which is even bigger than the battery inside the Note 10 Plus. Yes, there's a bigger screen to keep powered up on the Note 10 Lite than there is on the Note 10, but we'd still expect a longer-lasting phone with this cheaper model.

You're giving up the ability to wirelessly charge your phone with the Note 10 Lite, which means that the Wireless Powershare feature found on other premium Galaxy phones is not available here. We have been told that the Note 10 Lite is capable of 25-watt fast charging, though, which would match the Note 10's pace.

Note 10 Lite vs. Note 10 software and special features

One of the best Galaxy Note features is included with the Note 10 Lite — the S Pen that extends the phablet's capabilities. While we'll need to spend more time with the Note 10 Lite to confirm, the new phone's stylus presumably boasts the same features as the S Pen you get in the more expensive Note 10. That includes Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to use your S Pen as a remote control for the camera and music playback. Other S Pen features introduced with the Note 10, such as Air Command gestures and the ability to turn handwriting into text, are also available for the Note 10 Lite's stylus.

Note 10 Lite

Note 10 Lite (Image credit: Future)

The Note 10 Lite ships with Android 10 featuring the new One UI 2 interface from Samsung. The Note 10 arrived about the same time as the latest version of Android, so it shipped with Android 9, though the One UI 2 interface update has been rolling out to the Note 10.

Outlook

The differences between the Note 10 Lite and the Note 10 aren't as significant as the Galaxy S10 Lite versus the Galaxy S10. The cameras are essentially the same on the Note 10 models and both the Note 10 and Note 10 Lite feature Full HD+ resolution on their displays. The Note 10 Lite's screen is bigger, as is its battery, so those could be areas where this model actually has greater appeal than its higher-priced sibling.

But you are sacrificing some features with the Note 10 Lite. The processor won't be as powerful, and you can't wirelessly charge this new phone. We can't say for certain until both phones are side by side, but it's likely that the Lite won't feel as polished as the Galaxy Note 10, either.

But the fact that you're still getting an S Pen with a lower-priced phablet could be enough to persuade most people that those sacrifices are more than justified by a lower price. We'll know for certain once Samsung clarifies the Note 10 Lite's pricing and once we have an opportunity to put this new phone through its paces.