The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is one of the first phones I’ve used in a long while that elicits “oohs” and “ahs” from across the room. Part of that is because of it’s mammoth 6.8-inch screen, but what draws people in at first is the Aura Glow finish on my review unit, which glows the whole frickin’ rainbow—depending on how light hits the glass back.
Once you look past the eye candy, the Note 10 Plus (starting at $1,099) is a formidable big-screen Android phone with very capable four rear cameras, a host of new S Pen tricks (including Air gestures) and epic battery life. Here's what I like and what I don't like so far, and stay tuned for our final rating once we’ve put Samsung’s phablet through all of its paces.
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 11 hours and 46 minutes on our web surfing battery test, which lands the phablet on our list of phones with the best battery life.
- The included 25W charger juices the phone pretty fast, as the battery reached 65% in 30 minutes and 33% in 15 minutes. The 45W charger is faster but costs $50.
- Based on our benchmark tests, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is one of the fastest Android phones ever, but it trails the iPhone XS Max.
- The new S Pen Air gestures are fun but can be finicky.
- The lack of a headphone jack is a bummer, though Samsung kept the microSD card slot.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus pricing and release date
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is now available for pre-order for $1,099. The phone goes on sale Aug. 23. The phone starts with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but you can opt for a model with 512GB of storage for $1,199
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 is bundling active noise-cancelling 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.
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, or zooming in on a subject by drawing a small circle in the air. It's fun to try, but I'm not sure how often I'd use it.
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.
Galaxy Note 10 Plus cameras: 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.
Up front, the Note 10 Plus has a single 10-MP camera, which is fine by us, and it has a new Night Mode to get better images in dim lighting.
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.
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 he 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.
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.
I'm more 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. And Samsung backs this all up with an improved video-editing app that's optimized for the S Pen for more precise trimming.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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. By comparison, the Galaxy Note 9 had a shorter runtime (11 hours and 16 minutes) but the S10 Plus lasted an epic 12:35. Still, the Note 10 Plus' endurance is enough for it to land on our list of phones with the best battery life.
The OnePlus 7 Pro lasted just 9:31 on our test, while the iPhone XS Max has a runtime of 10:38.
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. 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.
A 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 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 see this feature being appreciated by those less comfortable relying on the cloud for computing.
The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is not a phablet for everyone, and that's made clear by its $1,099 starting price. If you really want an S Pen with your phone, the regular $949 Galaxy Note 10 should suffice for most users, because it has the same processor and mostly the same cameras (minus the depth sensor on the back) in a more compact design.
But if you want a really big screen, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus may be worth the splurge, as it also offers more RAM, more storage, microSD expansion and especially a bigger battery. At $999, 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.
Stay tuned to our full rated review to see how the Note 10 Plus stacks up to all the best Android phones, as well as the iPhone.