Review: Unboxing the huge Samsung Galaxy Note10+
The Samsung Galaxy Note10's Aura Glow colour variety gives it an even sleeker feel and, most especially, look.
Dubai - Bigger screen and battery, quad-cameras and everything else in between
I just love the way I coined it in my previous report, that how Samsung is kicking off the second-half smartphone wars. And with the sneak peek and unboxing done, we're actually in the midst of the first shot fired.
The Samsung Galaxy Note10 and Note10+ are out, and we're happy to be one of the first to have a go at it, specifically the huge Note10+. So enough of the pleasantries; we have a long discussion ahead:
TALE OF THE TAPE
Let's get this out of the way first: Both the Note10 and Note10+ have 5G versions, though it's unclear, as we write this, when it'll be launched here in the UAE. The only differences? Both the Note10 5G and Note10+ 5G only have one SIM slot, plus the former has a 12GB RAM option. We'll save these (hopefully) for another day.
Thanks again, Neeraj
That upper-right snap is of both the Note10 and Note10+, and you can readily see the difference in the fourth lens on the latter. Other than that, at first glance they seem identical. I've already suggested to Samsung that it might have been better if the Note10+ was even bigger to really make it stand out against the Note10 (seven inches, maybe 7.2 or even more?).
Another thing we need to get out of the way now: We're pitting the Note9 directly against the Note10+, for obvious reasons. Samsung has also said that the reason they, for the first time, created two Notes at the same time is so that users have a choice in terms of size, without losing the power and productivity the series is known for.
All-out with what's in and out
Save for the IP68 rating, each spec received upgrades (as they should). A substantial boost was put in for RAM - from 8GB to 12GB - along with a doubling of the base storage to 256GB. There's a 512GB version too, and both are expandable up to 1TB - that's 1.5TB of storage all yours.
And all physical buttons - volume rocker and side button - have been moved to the left. The reason why I called it the 'side button' is because, by default, revealing the power-off/restart/emergency menu requires long-pressing both the volume down and side buttons at the same time (short-pressing them takes a screenshot). By default, also, long-pressing the side button fires up - tadaa - Bixby (don't worry, swiping right from the home screen will take you to Bixby Home). But you can readily eliminate those complexities in settings:
You can set that side thingy as your power button or for some other action, plus you also have the option of firing up something via a long or double-press.
With the new setup, long-time Note and Galaxy S users - even users of certain other brands, maybe - may take a while to get used to their fingers not feeling any buttons on the right. At least the surviving buttons have been slimmed down further for a silky-smooth feel.
To round it out: The SIM tray is on top, while the USB-C port and - of course - S Pen are below. More on that a little later.
And did you notice two different colour schemes for the same screen above? The one on the right is - you guessed it - night mode. I personally like it better, plus it saves some more battery life.
Oh, the Infinity O
Who wouldn't talk about the screen? The Infinity O Display - first used in the Galaxy S10 devices earlier this year - gives a virtually bezel-less look, thanks to those smooth curves on the sides.
Alright, these are my pictures now
In the main picture above you see how the Aura Glow colour beautifully radiates different hues; the same rings through for the edges. The other options are Aura Black and Aura White.
A bit of a concern here though: Since the display slides down those edges, there is a tendency that when it detects parts of your fingers or hand on it, the display won't respond to your taps or swipes. Not a big issue, but we're just pointing it out so that you won't be screaming my Note10+'s display isn't conking out if it ever happens to you; just make sure you're holding it in the 'right' way.
Anyway, the chrome edges perfectly complement the Note10+'s front and back, both of which have a glass finish. A bit of caution, though: Its build may make holding it with slippery hands a potentially dangerous thing, so handle with care. And its rear will definitely make you realise that this machine stands out from Samsung's flagship pack: It's the first time they've used a vertical lens array on this tier, S or Note - though they've adopted this style in their mid-tier line-up.
Compared to the Note9, the Note10+'s power source was significantly upgraded from 3500mAh to 4300mAh. It's a natural, really, that this was a must-have upgrade, given all the other bumping-up Samsung made with the new device.
Another huge boost - charging time. The Note9 was advertised to go from zero to 100 per cent in an hour and 35 minutes, though in our review last year it took us 10 more minutes. The Note10+, meanwhile, eradicates that: In our test, it took the device only one hour and eight minutes to fully juice up. That's fast - really fast on any given day - but that's using Samsung's own super-fast-charging plug right out of the box.
In our standard one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, meanwhile, we put the device through tests on two different power modes: Optimised and the top-notch high performance. The results? Eight per cent and 10 per cent of juice sapped out, respectively, both beating out the Note9's 11 per cent. Though we didn't run through them, the smart money is on that those figures will indeed go down if you go further down to the medium and maximum power-saving modes:
Yes, the Note10+ can go up to over five days with life - but that comes at a huge price in terms of performance. Maybe if you're stuck on an island waiting for someone to rescue you, it'll come in handy.
There was minimal heat after watching videos and playing games for an extended period of time. Samsung's cooling system - improved, once again - takes care of that.
A Bluetooth magic wand
I've never been big on using styluses on devices (even on tablets and laptops), but if there's something good on offer, why not? The improved S Pen has a lot of reasons that'll allow you to kick back and relax from a distance, using your Note10+ without even holding it. Consider it your Bluetooth-powered magic wand, which can perform some interesting tricks with Air Gestures.
However, not all apps support this, and you'll know it if the circle on the right turns into the pen icon once you fire up an app and dislodge the S Pen.
Once you've determined that an app is compatible, then you're ready to wave it. For example, in the camera app, you can use the S Pen to snap pictures (press the side button once) and switch from main to front camera (double-press). By pressing and holding the side button then rotating the S Pen clockwise, you can zoom in; doing a counter-clockwise move does the opposite. Doing that same hold on the button but 'swiping' the S Pen left or right will allow you to cycle through the camera modes.
In the gallery, you can use that sideway-swinging to scroll through your media; flicking it upward will show you a file's details. In YouTube, meanwhile, you can perform specific gestures to skip videos and adjust the volume. It doesn't work for browsers such as Chrome and Samsung's own Web-surfing app, but we won't be surprised if it does in the future with some upgrade.
But what am I babbling about when you can just see these:
Clockwise from top are YouTube, camera and gallery. In short, just hover above the Pen icon to find out what you can do. Period.
It's a nice feature to get things done potentially faster, but there are some speedbumps. For example, when zooming into something in the camera app using the S Pen: If you start rotating clockwise, you won't be able to go the other direction without letting go of the button and pressing it again. It's just one extra step, but it would've been nice if you just keep your finger on the button so you can move more freely. There were also times that the Note10+ took several seconds to detect that I was already brandishing the S Pen (rather wildly). A software update would improve this, but for now, you may have to keep the Pen within a safe distance for it to work properly.
While the Note10+ isn't the first mobile with a quad-camera setup - that honour belongs to Samsung's very own mid-tier Galaxy A9 - it does come armed with an improved arsenal: 16MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide, 12MP telephoto and VGA DepthVision lenses make up its latest shooter.
The light gathered by this system is commendable, but it does, to a certain extent, make shots less natural than what they actually are in reality. Anyway, there is a pro mode in which you can fix this if you deem that shots using the regular mode are a bit overexposed.
With that, on to your (probably) most favourite part - the camera samples. Feel free to click/tap on the images we took for a full view (they'll open in a new window on your browser). Ladies and gentlemen, presenting our seafood special:
It was between prawns and salmon for me
And let's not forget the veggies and - of course! - dessert:
Decisions, decisions (for the pic below, obviously)
The camera's sensors seem to adjust pretty well to lighting conditions; the seafood and sweets pictures were taken in spots that have less lights, compared to the veggies that were under all sorts of it. Ergo, the resulting shots look very natural.
From the hypermarket to the actual mall, let's look at a super-wide-angle shot:
Quite lax for a Thursday evening
The top photo uses the macro shot mode. Here's another one, back in the KT garden:
For some reason, the garden gives me a sense of calm
You can see how dark the area is on those rocks at the lower-right, plus how well-lit those trees are nearby it. Let's see how they end up with closer shots; those on the left were shot with the regular shutter, while the ones on the right used night mode:
I'm taking one of those rocks home
It seems that the Note10+'s sensors are able to detect when and when not to amp up the lighting. That works for me, because I'm all for the natural looks.
You can also adjust that slider within the frame to control glare; night mode won't be able to fix everything, but at least you have a lot of tools at your disposal (including tapping on the screen to where you want to focus on):
What dark lighting conditions?
You can solve those glare issues to a certain extent, but remember, that'll affect the rest of your shot's lighting. The best solution is, well, find a better spot if you can.
Of course, live focus is back, and you have the usual options available: blur, circle, spin, zoom and colour spin:
Why so serious?
The results are nice - better than what I recall on the Note9, with the subject's edges better detected. Do remember, however, that the quality will also depend on your (as usual) lighting, and it won't be perfect all the time:
Keep in mind that you can still adjust the effects after you've taken the photos in the gallery app. Ditto for videos; the Note10+ also has live focus available on it, and it's also adjustable after you've taken it. You can also zoom in on sound in videos, plus slow-mo and super slow-mo are also available.
And I almost forgot the selfie-at-night sample:
Things can get a bit smudgy in low-light scenarios, but at least the light-gathering capabilities of the device can make up for that. The one on the left's on auto mode, while the other is, of course, using night mode.
And there's this little thing called AR Doodle: Watch:
So, yeah. This will be a boon for all those who love to put stuff on their faces on their pictures. And you may have guessed it: The S Pen is the tool to be used to draw all the silly stuff you want to.
The beautiful thing about it is that, as mentioned in the tweet above, whatever you draw will stay where you scribble it, and just see how the AR function is able to keep in it place even if you pan around it. I have to point out that it isn't perfect; there are situations wherein the doodle overlaps the subject and sometimes even goes off further away. It's a neat feature, but not really essential if you look at the bigger picture.
But there's an even cooler feature: 3D Scanner. With the Note10+'s improved AI and AR systems, plus the fact you also have the DepthVision camera, you'll be able to scan an object and it'll be transformed into a 3D object on the phone. And you can even make it dance. Don't believe us? Here, from the unveiling itself:
As we post this, the 3D Scanner app was just made available on the Galaxy Store. We promise to give it a run and update this as soon as we finish.
You probably know by now what Samsung DeX is. If not, it is, simply put, a way to turn your Galaxy device into a PC:
And that's on a Mac
Basically, anything you do on the Note10+ or on whatever PC/laptop it's connected to will reflect each other (you connect them using a USB-C cable, by the way; no wireless connectivity available). But it doesn't happen in real-time: You'll need to open a specific app or task on either before it reflects in the other.
For example, if you write something on Samsung Notes on the laptop and try to open it on the Note10+, the app will be restarted and it'll fire up on the latter; whatever you've jotted down will then show up on the Note10+, and vice-versa:
In short, no same app can be open on both the Note10+ and DeX simultaneously.
Every app on your device will also be available on the bigger screen, but with a different layout; the best way to describe it is that it'll remind you of some of those Android-based tablets you've (probably) used before (ages ago?). Some apps too haven't optimised for DeX (read: weird transformations), just like Chrome:
Something weird, though: While connected, the Note10+ cannot be locked - unless you do it from DeX itself. And one more amusing thing: the Alt-F4 command - used to close a window or app in Microsoft Windows - works on a Mac. Teehee.
Oh and by the way, you get a bunch of goodies - including free Galaxy Buds, a two-year warranty, 50 per cent off Note accessories and 0 per cent installments if you order your Note10 via Samsung's website.
That's a lot to digest; there's really a lot more to discuss to be honest. The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ is trying to be a 'power personified' device, and it ticks a lot of boxes - if not all of them - in what it's trying to achieve.
The sleeker design and great overall performance perfectly complement each other, though I believe a couple more inches bigger would've really done wonders and made it pop out even more. Some may balk at the price too, but in today's world this seems to be the norm, given what's on offer and the innovation that's inside these little machines that are actually beasts.
I am concerned, however, that the decision to completely make a separate 5G model may compel customers to think twice before grabbing their Note10 units right now. I mean, with 5G literally here - and only a matter of time before it becomes a full-blown commodity - would it have been better if there was just a 5G model because people might hold on and wait for that device to roll out? This is a highly-debatable thing on the grounds of costs (5G phones are expected to be more expensive, though The Verge reported that the Note10+ 5G will start at $1,300, or roughly Dh4,800 - just a few hundred dirhams more compared to the Note10+) and the sparse availability of 5G coverage. In any case, Samsung seems to want us to experience their latest tech right now without the frustrations of looking for a 5G signal.
In any case, we would be able to get pre-order and first-few-day-sales numbers from Samsung quite soon. This could, to a certain extent, be able to gauge consumer interest in the 5G version (how about doing a survey on that, Samsung Gulf?).
GOODIES - Super-sleek design, sturdy camera, great battery life, powerful capabilities, expandable memory, lag-free performance
GOOFIES - S Pen Air Gestures need a little more tinkering, screen edges can get too sensitive to unintended touches/feels, front camera gets smudgy in dark conditions, lack of 3.5mm audio jack renders older headsets useless
EDITOR RATING - 4.5/5