Samsung built the Galaxy Note brand on delivering the best big-screen phones around, but the best thing about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is how delightfully small it is.
The 6.3-inch Note 10 is one of the most compact big-screen phones yet, thanks to its nearly bezel-free Infinity-O screen — and some features Samsung left on the cutting room floor. The Note 10 also boasts several S-Pen enhancements (including gestures), new video recording features and a new way to mirror the phone on a PC.
Although the $949/£869 Note 10 doesn’t represent the pinnacle of Samsung’s phablets, I suspect it will hit the sweet spot for most people in terms of size and specs. The idea of a compact phablet might sound crazy, but it actually makes a whole lot of sense when you use it — and makes the Note 10 one of the best smartphones available today.
However, there are some trade-offs. You won’t find a headphone jack on the Note 10, and the microSD card slot is gone, too. The Note 10’s screen also isn’t as sharp as its predecessor’s, though you’d be hard pressed to notice a difference between them.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10 : CHEAT SHEET
- The Galaxy Note 10 isn’t just thinner and lighter than the Note 9. It’s one of the most compact phones ever with a 6.3-inch screen.
- Samsung kept the cameras mostly the same compared to the Galaxy S10, with wide, ultra-wide and telephoto lenses. But it did bring Live Focus effects to video.
- The Snapdragon 855 inside the Galaxy Note 10 delivers impressive performance, though other flagship Android phones — including the Note 10 Plus with its extra memory — outperform it, and Apple’s new A13 Bionic chip in the iPhone 11 range absolutely smoke it.
- The S Pen can now perform Air Actions, such as changing camera modes with a wave of your hand. You can also convert handwriting to text, but it’s not seamless.
- Samsung killed both the headphone jack and microSD card slot, but at least the bundled USB-C headphones offer noise cancelling.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10 : DESIGN
The Galaxy Note 10 is easily one of the most striking phones around right now, especially if you go for the Aura Glow color. That model gives off a silvery iridescence that changes hues as light strikes it at different angles. You can also get it in Aura White, Aura Black and Aura Blue. Some regions will see additional colors, like Aura Red, that won’t be available in North America.
The most impressive thing about the Galaxy Note 10 is how it feels in your hand. At 6.3 inches, the Galaxy Note 10 has a slightly smaller screen than the 6.4-inch Galaxy Note 9, but it’s remarkably thinner and lighter.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10: S PEN
The S Pen has gained some new tricks on the Galaxy Note 10 — though some of them come across as more gimmicky than useful.
One of the S Pen’s hallmark features has been the ability to convert handwriting to text. New for the Note 10, Samsung’s OneUI software now offers a transcription-and-export option, that will allow you to save the note as text and send it to a Word doc, PDF or another file type, in one action. It’s a clever feature, though much like the S Pen’s other powerful transcription capabilities, it’s somewhat convoluted to access.
For example, if you scrawl out a Screen Off Memo or Quick Memo outside of the Samsung Notes app, you’ll have to tap an on-screen button to move that document to the Notes app before you can start converting phrases and entire documents. Additionally, if you’d rather have handwriting-to-text conversion carried out as you write on the fly, you’ll have to open the keyboard, swipe over to the keyboard page that offers additional features and tap another icon before you can begin writing with live transcription.
While I appreciate that Samsung offers so many ways to use the S Pen to write, and while transcription works well in practice, the company desperately needs to make it easier to locate these features. Having to move a note I’m already taking to a separate app so I can edit and transcribe it creates a strange and unnecessary extra step. And I suspect when taking notes, most people would probably prefer live transcription, so burying that feature behind several layers of keyboard menus doesn’t seem like the brightest idea either.
Thankfully, you don’t have to apply nearly as much effort to use the new Air Actions gestures for the S Pen. For instance, you can change camera modes in the camera app just by swiping the stylus in the air while you press the button, and you can zoom in by making a circular motion with the S Pen. This worked, but it took some practice to get the hang of. As I discovered, you don’t want to hold the button indefinitely — only when you’re actively making the motion.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10: CAMERA
Samsung decided to use the same camera sensors on the Galaxy Note 10 as on the Galaxy S10, which means you should not expect a leap in performance when taking still shots.
The back of the phone houses a triple-camera setup that includes a wide-angle 12MP shooter, an ultra-wide camera that takes 123-degree pics, and a 12MP telephoto lens that handles bokeh-effect portraits and offers 2x optical zoom. I say limited because phones like the Huawei P30 Pro already offer a 5x optical zoom using clever prism technology. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus offers a fourth sensor, a VGA depth camera that’s optimized for taking bokeh shots and better depth effects.
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10: PERFORMANCE
The Galaxy Note 10 is one of the fastest Android phones, but it may not hold the title for long. That’s because this phone is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 CPU, and not the 855+ processor that’s coming to other handsets like the Asus ROG 2 Phone, promising higher clock speeds.
However, the Galaxy Note 10 is one of a small group of phones (including the OnePlus 7 Pro) to boast UFS 3.0 storage for snappier read and write speeds. You get 256GB of storage standard, complemented by 8GB of RAM; the Plus model packs 12GB of RAM. Truthfully, though 8GB is enough — the smaller Note 10 never stumbled during a week of use, whether I was gaming or writing, and never seemed wanting for more power.
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