First Impressions: Samsung Note 10/Note 10+

Lucky PAT PILCHER was one of the first to check out Samsung’s spanking new Note 10 and Note 10+. But are the annual innovations up to scratch? Read on to find out.

 

It’s that time of the year when we look at our phones with fondness but at the same time begin to lust after Samsung’s newest Note smartphone and stylus combo.

There are good reasons for this. The Galaxy Note has long had a dedicated following. Galaxy Note owners tend to know what’s under the hood, both in terms of RAM, storage, graphics and CPU. Aside from having a thing about its stylus, many Note owners want bigger, brighter and higher-res displays. This time, however, Sammy has changed things up a bit and may have found a smart way to grow the Note fan base. The secret sauce to this comes in the form of not one, but two Notes – the Note 10 and the Note 10+.

Samsung’s decision to launch XXL and L Notes sees its display shrink to a pocketable 6.3-inch. The screen on its plus-sized sibling jumps to 6.8-inches.

Seeing the Note 10’s for the first time, the big thing that struck me was their displays. Both Notes have what Samsung has branded the “Infinity-O” display. This translates into a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. Both devices have an all-screen design and a hole-punch housing a 10MP front camera. Where the hole-punch on the Galaxy S10 and S10+ sits in the top right, the Note 10/10+ hole-punch is in the top centre. This is a good thing, as it is far less distracting and doesn’t interfere with notifications.

On the Note 10, you get a 2280 x 1080 FHD display and the note 10 HD+ 3040 x 1440 QHD. In both cases, the displays manage the TARDIS-like feat of being squeezed into a chassis that on paper is a hair (0.076mm) thinner than the Note 9. Looks-wise, it appears to be super slim. Both phones are taller than the Galaxy S10, and the display seamlessly blends into the sides of both devices.

Powering up the Note 10 and Note 10+ reveals super vivid colours, as you’d expect from a super AMOLED HDR10 capable display, a pin-sharp resolution that is helped along by crisp contrast levels.

Design-wise, the positives outweigh the negatives with the Note 10’s overall design. On both devices, things feel streamlined and very upmarket. The not-so-good news is that Samsung has finally dumped the headphone jack, but have redeemed themselves by also ditching the annoying as hell Bixby button. Both the Note 10 and Note 10+ look (and feel) much sleeker than the Note 9.

Power-users from the Note fanbase may grizzle about the Note 10 only (ha!) using a Full HD+ resolution display, but there is a method in the madness. Most of us struggle to tell the difference between QHD and HD+ under real-world conditions, yet a lower resolution display places far fewer demands on the battery. I’d rather have longer battery life than bragging rights for a spec most people don’t care about.

Speaking of things battery-related, there’s a bigger battery tucked inside the Note 10+ (4,300mAh). The extra cost also gets you more RAM (12GB vs 8GB) – good news if you have a tonne of browser tabs and apps running. It also has a microSD card slot. The 10+ also comes in 256 or 512GB flavours.

The big news with any Note is the S Pen. Samsung has refined and re-refined the whole S Pen thing, which raises the perennial and very tough conversation of what to do this year? The answer takes the form of an accelerometer and gyroscope. This gives the S Pen Wii controller motion-sensing chops. For controlling video playback, you can wave the S Pen about, and it all feels very Harry Potter-like.

The stylus also drives a fun augmented reality feature. You can shoot a video of someone and draw a moustache and glasses on them using the S Pen, and the Note 10 will move your scribblings in synch with their face.

The Note has always had strong handwriting recognition, and it has been given an even bigger shot in the arm with the Note 10. The extra power of the 7nm Exynos CPU allows the Note 10 to translate and scribbles in what seems to be almost real-time. Add to this increased integration with Microsoft’s rather excellent Android apps and the Note 10 takes on some serious productivity smarts. S Pen scribbles can be exported to Outlook (which is the default email client) effortlessly.

Samsung says that Air Actions will be supported in their upcoming SDK. If they can garner developer support, expect some exciting apps to emerge soon.

Another area where Samsung has been particularly busy with the Note 10 is video. Live focus now works with video recording for cool bokeh beyond static photos. There’s also Zoom Mics, which can “aim” the Note 10’s microphones, so audio from a particular point where you are aiming the camera gets emphasised. Editing video clips on the Note 10 has been polished too, with industrial-strength image stabilisation giving filmed footage a slick look.

That said, the camera configuration on both Notes feels very similar to that on the Galaxy S10+ in that it sports an ultrawide lens, a zoom lens and as variable aperture. The Note 10+ takes things a step further with a depth sensor that can be used for AR and bokeh effects. Around the front, the 10-megapixel shooter has an f/2.2 aperture.

DeX is also there. This time it doesn’t need an expensive dock accessory. The Note also has Microsoft’s Link to Windows widget. Windows 10 users with a paired phone can receive and respond to notifications, emails and texts on their PCs. This means fewer distractions.

On the connectivity front, about the only thing missing is a kitchen sink. Wi-Fi 6 is supported. So is CAT-20 LTE. Both are perfectly timed to take advantage of the arrival of Wi-Fi 6 routers, and Vodafone’s moves to upgrade their 4G network as part of their 5G build. Reverse charging is baked in, and Samsung has branded it “Wireless Powershare”. You can charge other Qi-compatible widgets enabling Powershare and placing them on the Note 10’s back. If that isn’t enough, Samsung has included a fast 25w charger that can take the Note 10+ from zero to fully charged in around an hour.

We’re getting our hands on a review unit over the next few weeks, so expect a full hands-on review shortly!

 

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