Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus is here and it's Samsung's most feature-packed phablet yet, thanks to a whopping 6.8-inch display, a huge 4500mAh battery and, of course, that all-important S Pen stylus

First Impressions

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the true successor to the Note 9. It’s a huge brute of a phone with a lovely display, plenty of grunt and a huge battery. There isn’t a whole lot new when compared to the S10 – but this still stands as the true high-end Samsung phone for the end of 2019.

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £999
  • 12MP, 16MP (wide) and 12MP (tele) rear cameras
  • 6.8-inch QHD+ AMOLED display
  • 256, 512GB storage + microSD
  • 4300mAh, 25w charging
  • 10MP front camera
  • 12GB RAM

Samsung broke the mould with this year’s Note launch, unveiling two devices where before it’s only ever released one. The Note 10 is the smaller, more affordable option, while the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the company’s true flagship phablet for 2019.

As its name suggests, similarly to the S10 series from earlier in the year, the Plus is a larger, more feature-packed take on the formula established by the standard Note 10, complete with optional 5G.

Do the extra clout and large size make it a worthwhile competitor against the likes of the iPhone XS Max and Huawei P30 Pro? Let’s see.

How much does the Galaxy Note 10 Plus cost?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus will be making its way onto store shelves as of August 23rd, with pre-orders running right now.

In the UK (among other markets) you have the option of a 256GB model that sells for £999 ($1099.99 in the US), while the 512GB model unveiled at the phone’s launch isn’t yet confirmed for British shores but is up for grabs for $1199.99 Stateside.

There’s also the matter of the 5G model, which is currently a $1299 Verizon exclusive in the US. In the UK it starts at £1099 (for the 256GB model) and costs £1199 for the higher capacity 512GB SKU.

Display and Design – Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a very big phone with a very nice screen

While Samsung’s Galaxy S series offers mass appeal, the Note line has always catered to a more niche audience. As a result, it allows Samsung to take more risks, most evident by its sheer size. This phone may be nearing ‘bezel-free’ status, with a screen reaching to the fringes of its borders, but it’s still one of the most sizeable phones I’ve handled.

Related: Best phones 

A glass front and back with heavily curved edges meet at a narrow metal frame – the aesthetic is a blend of strength and elegance, helped by keeping the phone well-polished and free from fingerprints. The base of the 10 Plus features a USB-C port and room for the S Pen stylus to slot in, however, there’s something missing.

Samsung has finally ditched the headphone jack from the Note’s design, meaning you’ll have to rely on the in-box adapter or compatible headphones. On the upside, the dedicated Bixby button that’s lived on the left side of Samsung’s more recent phones has finally been nixed.

Galaxy Note 10 Plus rear

Instead of that port, you get a pair of AKG USB-C buds in the box (UPDATE: looks like it doesn’t come with a 3.5mm adaptor as I had originally said, so you’ll have to buy that separately). It’s still a water-resistant phone (IP68) and, unlike the smaller Note 10, retains a microSD slot for upping the base storage.

During my multi-hour session with the Note 10 Plus it was the screen that really stood out. Now, this doesn’t have any fancy fast refresh-rate tech like the OnePlus 7 Pro, and there’s still a small cutout hiding the front camera but the colours and punch of a Samsung OLED really draw you in. There’s HDR10+ support here too.

Specs-wise, you’re looking at a 6.8-inch version of the Dynamic AMOLED panel Samsung introduced earlier in the year, with a 3040 x 1440 resolution.

Galaxy Note 10 Plus front and S Pen

S Pen and software – The Note 10 Plus has a trick tucked inside and a focus on gaming

The Note 10 and Note 10 Plus differentiate themselves from the S10 by slotting a stylus into the body. The S Pen is the true headline feature for the Note series and it is pretty much the only flagship around that lets you draw and take notes with a pen on the display. It’s a pleasure to write and doodle with, thanks to fantastic responsiveness and excellent palm-rejection.

The S Pen is very much the same as you’d find in a Note 9. It’s packing Bluetooth Low Energy so it can act as a remote for your phone, has a number of new ‘Air Gestures’ for zooming and altering the volume along with improved handwriting recognition.

Like the S10, the Note 10 Plus runs Samsung’s new One UI interface over the top of Android 9. While it’s a big improvement over previous Samsung software, it still lacks some of the finesse of, say, Oxygen OS on a OnePlus 7 Pro.

Galaxy Note 10 Plus drawing

So, what’s new for the Note 10 Plus? For one, you can now plug your device into either a PC or Mac for access to a PC-like DeX UI. There’s also the ability to stream games from your PC, with Samsung selling a clip-on controller separately. 

Performance and battery life – The Galaxy Note 10 Plus should be one of the most powerful phones around and there’s 5G option

As is usual with Samsung phones, there’s a variety of internals being used. In Europe, it’s the Exynos 9825 which is a slightly more efficient version of the S10’s 9820, while the US gets a Snapdragon version. This is the Snapdragon 855, rather than the slightly faster 855 Plus we’ve seen in a few forthcoming gaming phones.

Read next: Best gaming phones 2019

That chipset has been paired with 12GB RAM and you can pick between 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. In terms of battery, you’re looking at a hefty 4300mAh cell backed up by 25W fast-charging.

Interestingly, the phone does support even faster charging at 45W – to enable this you will need to shell out more cash for a new adapter. For a phone costing over £1000/$1000, this seems very strange. Wireless charging remains and is upped to 15W, along with the Wireless Powershare feature introduced with the S10. This allows you to slowly juice other Qi-enabled devices (phones, AirPods, the Galaxy Watch Active 2) using battery power from the Note 10 Plus. It’s a handy feature that could do with being a bit faster.

Judging a phone’s speed or battery life after a few hours is unfair and I’ll save that for the full in-depth review where we’ll look into full benchmark scores and breakdowns. For now, I will say that it felt very snappy and with all this power inside, it should be one of the fastest phones around.

Rumours had suggested the Note 10 Plus would simply be a 5G phone in all its configurations. That’s not the case and you’ll have to pick up a specific version of the Note 10 Plus 5G to benefit.

Related: Best 5G phones

Camera – The same array as the Galaxy S10 5G with four sensors on the back

Whereas the Note series might have once given us a glimpse of what was to come in the next big Galaxy S phone, now it’s more of a case of using what’s already there. The camera array on the back of the Note 10 Plus looks as though it’s been plucked straight from the 5G version of the Galaxy S10.

On the back of the Note 10 Plus there are three cameras, plus a ToF (time of flight) sensor: a main 12-megapixel sensor with an aperture that’ll shift between f/1.5 and f/2.4 depending on the conditions, a 16-megapixel ultra-wide f/2.2 and a 12-megapixel f/2.1 telephoto. That ToF sensor is used to more accurately measure depth, hopefully, improving the Live Focus bokeh mode.

Related: What is a ToF camera?

Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

Both the main and telephoto cameras have optical image stabilisation (OIS) – just like they did on the S10 series. There’s also a bigger focus on video here with ‘pro-grade’ video recording (Samsung’s words), ‘super-steady’ stabilisation and an improved video editor.

I only had a short time to test the camera and the conditions weren’t ideal, so I’ll save my final verdict for the full review. However, it did seem to function very much like the Galaxy S10. That’s one of the better smartphone cameras available now, so things are looking good for the Note 10. Whether it’ll compete with the upcoming Pixel 4 remains to be seen. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus – Early Verdict

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is the true successor to the Note 9. It’s a brute of a phone with a lovely display, plenty of grunt and a huge battery. There isn’t a whole lot new when compared to the S10 – but this still stands as the true high-end Samsung phone for the end of 2019.

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