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Galaxy Note 10 vs Galaxy S10: What Should You Buy?

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update Aug. 23: The Galaxy Note 10 is now on sale and our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review is live.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 has arrived, with a pair of big-screen models lapping up attention and competing for the dollars of smartphone shoppers. But the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus aren’t the first flagship phones Samsung has introduced this year. About six months ago, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S10 lineup. And the similarities between those phones and these two newcomers is pretty striking.

How do the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S10 compare? As the Note 10 arrives in stores, let’s take a closer look at the specs for each Galaxy lineup (excluding the Galaxy S10e, which doesn’t really compare thanks to its lower price).

Galaxy Note 10 vs Note 10: Specs Compared

Galaxy S10Galaxy S10 PlusGalaxy Note 10Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Base Price$899$999$949$1,099
Display Resolution6.1-inch Edge AMOLED (3040 x 1440)6.4-inch Edge AMOLED (3040 x 1440)6.3-inch AMOLED (2280 x 1080)6.8-inch AMOLED (3040 x 1440)
CPUSnapdragon 855Snapdragon 855Snapdragon 855Snapdragon 855
RAM8GB8GB/12GB8GB12GB
Storage128GB, 512GB128GB, 512GB, 1TB256GB256GB, 512GB
MicroSDYes (up to 512GB)Yes (up to 512GB)NoYes
Rear Cameras16-MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.4)16-MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.4)16-MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.1)16-MP ultra-wide (f/2.2), 12-MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12-MP telephoto (f/2.1), time-of-flight depth sensor
Front Cameras10-MP dual pixel (f/1.9)10-MP dual pixel (f/1.9), 8-MP depth-sensing (f/2.2)10-MP dual pixel (f/2.2)10-MP dual pixel (f/2.2)
Battery Size3,400 mAh4,100 mAh3,500 mAh4,300 mAh
Battery Life (Hrs:Mins)10:1912:35Not yet tested11:46
Dimensions5.9 x 2.77 x 0.3 inches6.2 x 2.91 x 0.3 inches5.9 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches6.4 x 3 x 0.31 inches
Weight5.5 ounces6.17 ounces5.9 ounces6.9 ounces

Displays

The Galaxy Note 10 has 6.3-inch display while the Galaxy Note 10 Plus offers a huge 6.8-inch screen. Compare that to the 6.1-inch Galaxy S10 and 6.4-inch Galaxy S10 Plus.The separate Galaxy S10 5G has a 6.75-inch display, which is closer in size to the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, though Samsung’s newest phone has the largest display you can get — at least until the Galaxy Fold finally ships.

The new Note 10 displays

The new Note 10 displays

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The other major display difference is that the regular Note 10 has a Full HD+ resolution, which is not as sharp as the quad HD panel on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, let alone both the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus.

We still need to spend some more time with the Note 10, but we have reviewed the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, and we think it's one of the best displays we've ever seen on a smartphone. The Note 10 Plus offers 686 nits of brightness, which is brighter than both the S10 Plus (625 nits) and the S10 (611). In Vivid Mode, the Note 10 Plus' screen captures 212% of the sRGB color gamut compared to 200% for the S10 Plus; when we switched the displays to Natural Mode, though, the S10 Plus topped the Note 10 Plus (136.5% to 124.6% on the larger phone).

Aesthetically, the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus have a cutout for the front camera in the middle of the display, while the S10 and S10 Plus put this punch hole on the right side of the screen. (Both the Note 10 and S10 lineup use the Infinity O display Samsung makes, featuring a circular camera cutout.) Whether one position is better than the other, or both are equally bad and should have been a pop-up camera or notch instead will be up to you.

Processors, RAM and Storage

While we hoped that the Note 10 series would come with the latest Snapdragon 855+, a new variant of Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line processor that promises better graphic performance, Samsung instead opted for the Snapdragon 855 for Galaxy Note models shipping in the U.S. That’s the same chipset you’ll find in the S10 models. 

In terms of RAM, the Galaxy Note 10 will have 8GB (unless you can get the 5G version from Korea which has 12GB) and the Galaxy Note 10 Plus will boost that up to 12GB. The Galaxy S10 has 8GB on board, while the Galaxy S10 Plus has has 8GB with a 12GB option. 

In terms of benchmarks, the Note 10 Plus benefits from extra memory. On the Geekbench 4 test which measures general performance, the Note 10 Plus scored 11,210. That topped the 8GB S10 Plus' score of 10,732 in our testing. Similarly, the Note 10 Plus edged the S10 Plus in the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme test for graphics performance, by a score of 5,781 to 5,648. The two phones turned in nearly identical times when we had them transcode a video using Adobe Rush. The Note 10 Plus finished the task first in 1 minute, 34 seconds; the S10 Plus finished 3 seconds slower.

The Galaxy Note 10 is locked at 256GB of storage — there’s no microSD slot on this model nor are there other storage variations. The Note 10 Plus also features a base model with 256GB, but you can upgrade to a 512GB version or augment the onboard storage with a microSD card. In comparison, the S10 and S10 Plus start with 128GB with options to go up to 512GB; S10 Plus owners can even opt for a 1TB version if they don’t mind paying an extra $600 on top of the starting price.

Samsung upgrade storage in the Note 10 to the UFS3.0 data transfer protocol. That means it’s faster to access files and more than it is on the S10 models, which use an older version. We think that accounts for some of the difference in the benchmarks we saw for both phones.

Cameras

The Note 10's three rear cameras

The Note 10's three rear cameras

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Despite hopes for revamped cameras with greater resolution and more aperture options on the Galaxy Note 10, the cameras on the new phones are basically identical to what Samsung offers with the S10 lineup.

That means both the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus feature a 12MP dual-pixel standard lens, an 16MP ultra-wide lens and a 12MP telephoto lens on the back, with the only difference being the aperture on the telephoto lens. It’s now a wider f/2.1 on the Note 10 lineup compared to f/2.4 on the S10 series. Hopefully, this means you’ll get better zoom photography on the Note 10 since the wider aperture will let in more light.

In addition, the Note 10 Plus gets a time-of-flight sensor (TOF), which was previously only found on the Galaxy S10 5G. This ToF sensor will help produce better portrait shots with a more convincing bokeh effect, as well as provide better performance in augmented reality apps.

On the front of the phones, it’s the same 10MP selfie camera on all the phones, except the aperture is now smaller on the Note 10 (f/2.2 versus f/1.9). The Galaxy S10 Plus and S10 5G remain the only models to feature a second front camera (and the S10 5G includes a front TOF sensor, too).

The S10 cameras produce some pretty good-looking shots, though we prefer the cameras on phones like the Pixel 3 and Huawei P30 Pro more. We're working on a camera face-off involving the Note 10 Plus, but one of our criticisms of the phone thus far is that as nice as its photos are, they rarely surpass what you can get from the best camera phones.

Battery and charging

Get ready for a smaller battery on the regular Galaxy Note 10. It only has a 3,500mAh battery, significantly less capacity than the 4,000 mAh battery on the Galaxy Note 9. Still, the Galaxy S10 gets by well enough with a 3,400 mAh battery, and because the Note 10 may have a lower-resolution full HD+ display, compared to quad HD on the S10, it may offer longer endurance than the S10.

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus gets a 4,300mAh capacity, higher than the 4,100 mAh in the Galaxy S10 Plus, which lasted 12.5 hours on our battery test, placing it among the longest-lasting smartphones we’ve tested. The Note 10 Plus does have a larger screen, of course, so the extra capacity is warranted.

The Note 10 Plus turned in an impressive result on our battery test, even if it fell short of the S10 Plus. The Note 10 Plus' battery was drained after 11 hours, 46 minutes of continuous web surfing over T-Mobile's LTE network.

No headphone jacks on the new Note 10 models

No headphone jacks on the new Note 10 models

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As for charging, the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus both support super-fast 45-watt charging, but only offer 25-watt chargers in the box, like the Galaxy S10 5G. It’s better than the 15W-charging on the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus which is comparatively sluggish, but it would have been nice to enjoy the super-fast option by default.

Still, now that we've tested the Note 10 Plus, that 25-watt charging should let you top off your phone's battery fairly quickly. After 15 minutes of charging the Note 10 Plus, the phone's battery indicator was up to 33%.

The Galaxy S10 family introduced Samsung's Wireless PowerShare feature, where you can place Qi-compatible devices on the back of the S10 or S10 Plus to charge them. That features returns in the Galaxy Note 10 lineup.

Special features (and missing features)

The biggest differentiator between the Galaxy Note line and the Galaxy S series remains the S Pen. And the S Pen in the new Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus offers some notable upgrades. These include new Air Command features for performing various gestures, AR functions and the ability to save handwriting as a text document. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It's worth noting, though, that both the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus have killed the headphone jack. So you'll have to opt for wireless earbuds or Bluetooth headphones. The S10 and S10 Plus both have a headphone jack.

Outlook

Overall, the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus don't look dramatically different from the S10 and S10 Plus. But there are lots of little upgrades that could compel smartphone shoppers to make the plunge, like faster memory performance, more capable cameras, faster charging, and new S Pen functions.

If you need a deeper look at these phones, than you can find our reviews of the Galaxy S10, S10+ and Note 10 Plus. We've also shared some hands-on impressions of the Note 10, which we'll update once we spend more time with that model.

Right now, it seems that the Note 10 Plus is the right choice for anyone who wants the biggest screen possible and a helpful stylus that helps them complete more tasks. The S10 and S10 Plus have more general appeal, and the fact there's little separating the cameras of Samsung's flagship phones, mean that you can opt for the S10 and save a little money from the pricier Note 10 models.