It hit me during my long commute home while I was catching up on Stranger Things on the 6.8-inch Galaxy Note 10 Plus. As Jane approached Jim Hopper's house with its fiery orange lights illuminating his silhouette, I thought to myself: "This is better than my TV."
And the back of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is just as captivating as the front, especially if you opt for the Aura Glow color, which reflects all the colors of the rainbow depending on how the light hits the glass back.
Once you look past the eye candy, the Note 10 Plus (starting at $1,099/£999) is a formidable big-screen Android phone with strong performance, a host of new S Pen tricks— including Air gestures— and above-average battery life. I also like the fast charging and pro-level video effects, and I really don't mind the headphone jack getting the axe. However, the cameras could be better compared to Google's and Huawei's best efforts.
Overall, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is one of the best smartphones you can buy if you can afford the premium. But is it right for you?
Galaxy Note 10 Plus Cheat Sheet
- The Galaxy Note 10’s mammoth 6.8-inch AMOLED display is one of the best we’ve ever seen and tested.
- I love the Aura Glow color and the way it changes color in the light, but not the fingerprint smudges.
- The huge 4,300 mAh battery allowed the Note 10 Plus to last an average of 10 hours and 47 minutes on our web surfing battery test, which is better than average for a smartphone.
- The included 25W charger juices the phone pretty fast, as the battery reached 65% in 30 minutes and 33% in 15 minutes.
- Based on our benchmark tests, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is one of the fastest Android phones yet, but it trails the iPhone XS Max.
- The new S Pen Air gestures are fun but can be finicky.
- While the Note 10 Plus' cameras perform well in low light, the Pixel 3 and Huawei Mate P30 Pro are better camera phones overall.
- The lack of a headphone jack is a bummer, though Samsung kept the microSD card slot.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus price and availability
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus costs $1,099 for the 256GB version (£999 / AU$1,699). You can also opt for a model with 512GB of storage for $1,199. All of the major wireless carriers are selling the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus Tech Specs
|Galaxy Note 10 Plus|
|Display||6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED (3040x1440)|
|CPU||Snapdragon 855 (US); Exynos 9825 (WW)|
|Rear cameras||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 cameras||10-MP (ƒ/2.2)|
|Charging||25W; 45W optional|
|OS||Android 9 Pie with Samsung OneUI|
|Colors||Aura Glow, Aura White, Aura Black, Aura Blue|
|Size||6.4 x 3.0 x .31 inches|
Design: Bigger screen, smaller package
I have to give credit to Samsung. They managed to cram a 6.8-inch display into a design that's both thinner and lighter than the Galaxy Note 9, which had a 6.4-inch display. This is partly because the Galaxy Note 10 has slimmer bezels, thanks to its Infinity-O display with a cutout for the front camera in the top center portion of the screen.
Samsung also removed the headphone jack, which at this point feels more inevitable than controversial. It also allows the Galaxy Note 10 Plus to pack a bigger battery. The good news is that Samsung bundles AKG headphones in the box that use USB-C.
Make no mistake, the Note 10 Plus looks and feels like a phablet, especially compared with the regular Note 10 and its 6.3-inch screen. This is definitely a two-handed device, but it's a sleek one.
If you like your phone to be flashy, I would pick up the Aura Glow version of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. The iridescent silver design changes colors based on how the light hits the back of the phone. The only issue is that the Aura Glow model picks up fingerprints quickly; I found myself wiping the back of the phone on my shirts and pants to keep the smudges at bay.
A close second for me is the Aura Blue in terms of fashion, but you can also get more traditional Aura Black and Aura White.
I do have one other nitpick. While I'm glad Samsung ditched the dedicated Bixby button found on previous models, I wish the volume controls and power button were on the right side instead of the left. After all, most people are right-handed.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus Display: One of the best ever
Short of a foldable phone, you won't find a larger screen on an Android phone than the 6.8-inch AMOLED panel on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. And it is a sight to behold, with the same rich colors and wide viewing angles we've come to expect from Samsung.
The screen has the same Quad HD+ resolution as before, but it's certified for HDR10+, compared withHDR10 for the Note 9. When watching the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I could make out fine wisps of hair on Rey's head, and Kylo Ren's firey red lightsaber crackled and popped off the screen as he drove it into his enemies.
The center cutout or punch hole at the top center of the Galaxy Note 10's screen isn't as offensive as the cutout on the Galaxy S10 Plus. That's because this has a single front camera, compared with two on the S10 Plus that are located on the right side.
On our lab tests, the Note 10 Plus' screen turned in some of the best performance numbers we've seen. It hit 686 nits of brightness, which beats the OnePlus 7 Pro (513 nits), iPhone XS Max (606 nits) and Galaxy S10 Plus (625 nits).
The OLED panel on the Note 10 Plus hit 212% of the color gamut in Vivid Mode and 124.6% in Natural mode, compared to 123% to the iPhone XS Max and 180% for the OnePlus 7 Pro. The Galaxy S10 Plus wasn't as colorful in Vivid mode (200%) and a slightly higher 136.5% in Natural mode.
The one letdown with this screen is that it doesn't offer a refresh rate of 90Hz as some had rumored, which offers smoother performance in phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro. This would have been a welcome upgrade for folks stepping up from the Note 10 to the Note 10 Plus.
The Galaxy Note 10 has an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, similar to the Galaxy S10. The sensor works pretty well overall, but users discovered that both the sensors on the S10 and Note 10 could be fooled using a silicon screen protector. A subsequent software update from Samsung reportedly fixes this issue.
S Pen: Handwriting to text, Air Actions and AR Doodle
The S Pen has learned some new tricks with the Galaxy Note 10, but I'm not yet sold on how useful they are. The handwriting-to-text feature is designed to let you convert your scribbles and import them, such as into Microsoft Word docs. The functionality generally worked during my brief hands-on time, but the phone sometimes missed a letter. More important, it just didn't feel instant.
I like that you can just double tap on words in the Notes app and then tap the convert button that appears. However, I didn't see a way to select all handwritten notes within a note at once, and if you have a longer note the process of double tapping a selection and then dragging the box to enlarge it seems like too much work.
If you like the idea of using the S Pen as a pseudo-magic wand, there's Air Actions. This S Pen feature lets you do things like change modes in the camera app by waving the stylus from side to side while pressing the button, or zooming in on a subject by drawing a small circle in the air.
I tried the gestures and not all of them worked consistently well. Changing camera modes was easy, as was going from the front to back camera (you just go up and down with the S Pen). However, zooming in and out proved tricky; sometimes I zoomed in and out without a problem, but sometimes I accidentally took a bunch of photos while trying to zoom out.
With AR Doodle, Galaxy Note 10 users can draw right on top of people in the camera view, and whatever you draw will follow that person as they move around the frame. It could be fun at parties.
At first I thought AR Doodle on the #GalaxyNote10 was pointless. But then I gave it someone who can draw.... thanks @katedylankozuch Full review coming on @tomsguide pic.twitter.com/jHK9GBV9rWAugust 16, 2019
I didn't find much use for AR Doodle at first because I'm simply not a very good drawer, but once I put it in the hand of staff writer Kate Kozuch, I could see the potential. She drew an eye patch on fellow writer Adam Ismail, and then added a little parrot on his shoulder. She said she really likes the feature, even though I noticed that the eye patch came away from Adam's face as he turned.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus cameras: Good, but a step behind the competition
With its four camera sensors, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is definitely an upgrade over the Galaxy Note 9's two cameras. The back of the Note 10 Plus houses a wide-angle camera and telephoto lens like its predecessor, but adds an ultrawide shooter to fit in more of the frame and a depth sensor to achieve more convincing bokeh effects when shooting portraits.
Check out the photo gallery below and side-by-side comparisons versus top cameras phones below that to see how the Note 10 Plus' cameras stack up.
The Note 10 Plus offers Live Focus effects when shooting portraits, similar to the Galaxy S10 Plus. I like the Big Circle and Color Point effects especially, though the bokeh effect looked a bit messy. Big Circle looks good at first glance but blurred out Adam Ismail's hair. Color Point puts the subject in color and the background in black and white, which I could see myself using more often.
In our side-by-side shots with the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and Google Pixel 3 and Huawei P30 Pro, the Note 10 Plus held its own but didn't surpass the competition. However, the Note 10 Plus' Night mode did impress.
As you can see from this photo taken in near darkness, the Night mode on the Galaxy Note 10 Plus performs quite well. With Night mode turned on, the gloves on the right become a lot more visible, as does the multi-tool in the foreground and the cube on the left.
I then compared the Galaxy Note 10 Plus in Night mode against the Pixel 3 XL's camera with Night Sight turned on. Google's phone has an edge, as it delivered a brighter shot with slightly more vivid colors.
In this low-light test on a city street, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus snapped a remarkably bright photo with Night mode engaged; you can make out the buildings and cars clearly. However, some areas of the shot look a little more blown out than in the Pixel 3 XL's shot, especially the lights on the left side. And the tan in the Cadillac's roof on the right looks a little more crisp on the Pixel 3 XL.
In this shot of a bar in Grand Central station, the Galaxy Note 10 produces a brighter and warmer-looking photo that I’d rather share, but the Pixel 3’s image features more realistic colors.
This round is really no contest. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus really struggles against the Pixel 3 in capturing a portrait of me inside the New York Public Library. The light above me nearly blows out the scene. My teenage daughter called the photo "garbage." Yikes. The Pixel 3's bokeh effect is almost too aggressive but overall it's the superior shot.
Once again the Galaxy Note 10 Plus renders a warm-looking photo in this shot of flowers, and the exposure looks pleasant. Still, I’d give the nod to the Pixel 3 in this round, as the details in the petals and veins are much more distinct.
Turning our attention to cupcakes, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus delivers more details in the shot from front to back. Check out the chocolate one in the background. However, the Huawei P30 Pro gets the color of the pink frosting right on the cupcake in the foreground, and the white-and-yellow flower looks better on the Huawei pic.
The Note 10 Plus' shot just looks less realistic.
This photo taken outside the New York Public Library provides an interesting contrast between the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and Huawei P30 Pro. I like both shots for different reasons.
The Note’s pic is more vibrant, especially the green in the tree off to the right; it’s almost too bright overall, though, as the Huawei does a better job retaining the shadows. Check out the detail in the columns and in the lion statue.
Note 10 Plus Camera: Life focus video and Super Steady
Samsung says the Note 10 Plus now offers pro-grade video. For example, the phone offers Live Focus video effects, so you can blur out the background or change the background to black and white while the subject is in color. This worked well in my testing; my colleague Rami jumped off some stairs with the Live Focus on and the background of plants and passersby was indeed blurred.
I also tried Live Focus on two other colleagues, Adam and Kate, as they walked down a pathway in Bryant Park. The Note 10 Plus did a remarkable job blurring out plants and other people but at times Kate looked a little blurry, too. Still, the whole clip looks pretty compelling and kind of reminds me of a soap opera.
I was also impressed with the improved Super Steady mode in the camera. Once you press the little wavy hand icon towards the top of the screen and start recording, the camera can minimize any camera shake. I tested this out by jogging up stairs with the Galaxy Note 10 Plus in one hand and the iPhone XS Max in the other hand.
As you can see from the results, the Note 10 Plus' footage looks much smoother, while the iPhone XS Max's video looks a bit shaky.
There's also a Zoom-In Mic feature that amplifies the audio in the frame. This feature didn't impress me that much. That's because as I zoomed in on two subject, their words got louder but so did the ambient noise of cars passing by.
Samsung backs this all up with an improved video-editing app that's optimized for the S Pen. I appreciated how easy it was to drag the slider tool and trim clips with the pen, and you can choose from multiple effects to spruce up your footage.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus front camera
As for the front 10-MP camera, I didn't love the selfie the Note 10 Plus took of me outside on an overcast day. My skin looks a little washed out, as does the rest of the photo. I do like there's a Night mode for the front camera now, which can come in handy at restaurants, bars, concerts and more.
Specs and performance: Solid performer
With its Snapdragon 855 processor, the Galaxy Note 10 should offer comparable performance to the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, but the addition of UFS 3.0 storage should provide a speed boost. Still, we were hoping that Samsung would have used the newer Snapdragon 855+ chip to achieve higher clock speeds.
|Geekbench 4 (Multicore)|
|Galaxy Note 10 Plus (12GB RAM)||11,210|
|OnePlus 7 Pro (12GB)||11,227|
|iPhone XS Max||11,515|
|Galaxy S10 Plus (8GB)||10,732|
The Note 10 Plus should have plenty of memory for multitasking, as it offers 12GB of RAM standard, compared with 8GB for the regular Note 10. And you get 256GB of storage standard with the option of upgrading to a 512GB model. Unlike the Note 10, the Note 10 Plus includes a microSD card slot for expansion.
In everyday use, the Note 10 Plus is a swift performer. In fact, it loaded apps like Chrome, Twitter and Facebook slightly faster than the iPhone XS Max. This phablet also ably handled long play sessions in PUBG Mobile. It delivered console-like detail without any stuttering even at the highest setting, and the phone remained relatively cool.
On Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus turned in a very good score of 11,210, which is comparable to the OnePlus 7 Pro (11,227) but lower than the iPhone XS Max (11,515). The Note 10 Plus beats the Galaxy S10 Plus (10,732), which doesn't benefit from UFS 3.0 storage.
MORE: Best Smartphones of 2019
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus turned in a fantastic score on the 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme (OpenGL ES 3.1) graphics test. It notched 5,781, which surpasses the Galaxy S10 Plus (5,648) and soundly beats the iPhone XS Max (4,339).
Samsung's phone fell behind the iPhone once more on our video editing test, for which we transcode a 4K video to 1080p in the Adobe Rush app. After applying a filter and transition effect and hitting go, the Note 10 Plus took 1 minute and 34 seconds to complete the task. That's good, and a few seconds better than the OnePlus 7 Pro, but the iPhone XS took only 41 seconds.
When it comes to gaming performance, the Note 10 Plus has an AI-based Game Booster mode for optimizing performance and power consumption based on the game. And you'll even be able to stream games from your PC to this phone using Samsung's Play GalaxyLink, a P2P streaming service that the company says will be available at launch.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus battery life and fast charging
The Galaxy Note 9's battery was the biggest yet in a Galaxy phone at 4,000 mAh, but the Note 10 Plus ups the ante with a 4,300 mAh battery, which is even bigger than the 4,100 mAh pack in the Galaxy S10 Plus.
|Galaxy Note 10 Plus||10:47|
|Galaxy S10 5G||10:56|
|Galaxy S10 Plus||12:35|
|iPhone XS Max||10:38|
|OnePlus 7 Pro||9:41|
|Google Pixel 3 XL||9:30|
|LG G8 ThinQ||9:29|
On the Tom's Guide Battery Life Test, which involves continuous web surfing over 4G LTE (on T-Mobile), the Galaxy Note 10 Plus lasted 11 hours and 46 minutes. That number proved an outlier, as subsequent tests produced results ranging from 10 hours, 15 minutes to more than 10.5 hours. In the end, across four tests, the Note 10 lasted 10 hours, 47 minutes across four tests, beating the average for a smartphone by more than half-an-hour.
By comparison, the Galaxy Note 9 had a slightly longer runtime (11 hours and 16 minutes) but the S10 Plus lasted an epic 12:35.
The OnePlus 7 Pro lasted just 9:31 on our test, while the iPhone XS Max has a runtime of 10:38. The regular Galaxy Note 10 lasted an average of 9 hours and 25 minutes, so those who want more endurance should opt for the Note 10 Plus.
Samsung does sell another phone with a screen size that's nearly identical in the Galaxy S10 5G. That handset packs a 6.7-inch screen and an even bigger 4,500 mAh battery. On our battery test, the S10 5G lasted a good-but-not-great 10:56. However, this was on Verizon's 4G LTE network, which we've found drains phones faster than T-Mobile's network for some reason.
The Note 10 Plus comes with a 25-watt charger, but there's an even faster 45-watt charger that Samsung sells separately for $50 (it's currently not available in the UK). You may not need the latter, though. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus get to 33% battery capacity in just 15 minutes and 65% in 30 minutes. The OnePlus 7 Pro got to 60% in 30 minutes with its 4,000 mAh battery, while the Huawei P30 Pro reached 70% in the same amount of time on a 4,200 mAh battery.
As you'd expect from a Samsung phone, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus supports wireless charging, but this time around it's 15 watts, while the Galaxy S10 supported up to 10 watts. However, the results are disappointing based on our testing. It took 30 minutes of the Galaxy Note 10 to reach just 21 percent using Samsung's $79 wireless charger stand.
You can also use reverse wireless charging on the Note 10 Plus, which means you can charge the Galaxy Buds or other phones using the back of Samsung's handset.
Galaxy Note 10 DeX for PC: A simpler way to connect
No dock required, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus can easily sync with your PC using a single USB cable. Once connected, you'll be able to drag-and-drop files back and forth and use your laptop's mouse and keyboard to navigate the phone. And with the Link to Windows app, you'll be able to receive notifications and send and receive messages on the desktop.
I tested out the DeX app out on a MacBook Pro, and I had uneven results. The DeX app found the phone pretty quickly, popping up a desktop atop macOS. And I could easily access photos, make calls and even transfer files from the phone to my Mac.
However, I got an error message when I tried to drag and drop files from the computer to the phone. It seems like Samsung still needs to work out some kinks with DeX, at least with the Mac.
Quick Measure: An AR app that comes in handy
One feature that's exclusive to the Galaxy Note 10 Plus and not available for the Note 10 is Quick Measure, which instantly can give you the dimensions of pretty much any object.
It's like an augmented reality tape measure that one-ups the Measure app in iOS, because you get the length, width and depth with a single scan. With the iPhone you have to draw virtual lines on the object before you get a measurement.
For example, I pointed the Note 10 Plus at a can and it returned a height of 4.5 inches, a depth of 2.5 inches and a width of 2.5 inches. I verified those numbers using a tape measure and the Note 10 Plus was accurate.
3D Scanner: But for What?
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus does something unique, thanks to its depth sensor on the back. You can scan objects in 3D with relative ease. You just walk around the object and the phone creates a 3D model.
Samsung demonstrated this feature during its launch event with a stuffed bear, as you can see in the below tweet.
The Galaxy Note 10 doubles as a 3D scanner. Pretty impressive in action. #SamsungEvent #samsunggalaxynote10 #galaxynote10 pic.twitter.com/Jnyr2X7iX0August 7, 2019
After the phone is done creating the 3D model, you can embed it into videos and the object can become animated and even mimic dance moves that are on screen. It's a fun demo but I'm not sure how people will use this yet.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus Verdict
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus looks like the big-screen phone to beat. Although the price is quite steep at $1,099/£999, you get one of the best and most immersive displays ever in a phone along with strong performance and long battery life. And while Samsung has not caught up to Google and Huawei in photography, the Note 10 Plus is still a very capable camera phone with a compelling Night mode and intriguing video effects.
If you really want an S Pen with your phone but don't want to spend as much, the 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 10 should satisfy. It has the same processor and mostly the same cameras (minus the depth sensor on the back) in a more compact design than the Note 10 Plus. But if you want a really big screen, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is worth the splurge, as it also offers more RAM and microSD expansion, along with longer battery life.
At $999/£799, the 6.4-inch Galaxy S10 Plus is a good in-between option, as it provides comparable performance to the new Notes along with a headphone jack. Overall, though, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is an ultra-premium, big-screen phone that you'll be psyched to use.