For the past eight years, the Samsung Galaxy Note line has cemented itself as the quintessential power smartphone. It's the Hulk of mobile devices, commonly known for having the biggest screen, the largest battery, and the most storage.
However, in 2019, the Note's competition continues to increase as most flagship phones including the iPhone Xs Max, Google Pixel 3 XL, and the Galaxy S10+ have joined the weight class of large devices. But, as its margin of being the best powerhouse shrinks, the latest Note 10+ proves this line of flagship phones are still the best in its class.
Starting at $1,100, the new Note 10+ is the ultimate mobile device packing in every feature you can think of and capable of doing a million things once. It's big, beautiful, and most importantly a powerful phone that has so many use-cases (some great, but some gimmicky) that help make the premium price tag a little less intimidating. Let's take a further look.
It has a beautiful 6.8-inch display with a hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera centered at the top of the phone. The hole punch is smaller than the version on the Galaxy S10 phones making it less of any eye sore. After a couple days, I barely noticed it was there. Also, Samsung was able to reduce the overall height of the notification bar because of the camera size, allowing for more usable screen surface area. The hole punch won't be for everyone, but it's the best solution so far for those looking for an edge-to-edge display without the infamous notch.
Like any Samsung phone these days, the display is big, beautiful, vibrant, and bleeds off of the curved edges. I wish it came with a 90Hz refresh rate like the OnePlus 7 Pro, but its 60Hz is more than suitable. The Note 10+ easily has best display on the market, and is one of the best looking Android phones to date.
On the backside, the Note 10+ comes in an assortment of colors, but it's the "Aura Glow" model getting all the spotlight. Looking very similar to Virgil Abloh's Louis Vuitton iridescent keepall bag, the glass back illuminates on every angle you hold it. It shifts from its neutral silver finish to blue, red, green, and yellow for a enchanting effect.
Unfortunately, it's a finger print magnet, so either opt for a clear case, or be ready to clean it often.
Diving into the phone's specs, The Note 10+ features a fast Snapdragon 855 processor, 12 GB of RAM, a large 4,300 mAh battery, 256 GB of storage, as well as expandable storage up to 1 TB. It's dynamic AMOLED display is best-in-class making watching videos, reading e-books, or browsing the web so much more exhilarating.
The battery life on the phone can last all day on a single charge and features fast charging with a 25-watt charger that comes in the box. Users can also buy an optional 45-watt charger from Samsung for $50, which promises to give you around 70% charge from zero in a half hour. Spending about a week with the phone, I haven't had an battery issues. Charging to 100% only takes around an hour (using the 25-watt charger).
Like the S10 models, the Note 10+ comes with a in-screen fingerprint reader. Design wise, it's great to hide the sensor right into the display, but practically, it's still not as smooth and fast as a physical finger print reader. Many times I've found myself having to try 2-3 times to unlock the phone, or taking longer to read my print. Even though it's a few extra seconds, it still can be a minor annoyance.
Somehow, with only one camera, the Google Pixel 3 is still the best in the business when it comes to mobile photography, but the Note 10+ isn't far behind. As a total package, the Note is actually the better choice --- offering a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, 12-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens. Additionally, the 10+ camera system now has a dedicated night mode for better capturing low light images. While the 10+ takes great photos, if you're looking for the best-in-class camera system, the Pixel 3 and Huawei P30 Pro are still in a league of their own.
When it comes to video, the Note 10+ is one of the best on the market only really competing with the iPhone XS. It comes equipped with Live focus mode which allows users to blur backgrounds in real time while capturing a video. It hasn't been optimized yet, but the feature can be a big winner after a couple updates. Its best new feature is the Super Steady mode, which improves video stability drastically.
There's also a new zoom mic option, which allows users to focus on a person or subject while simultaneously enhancing their audio. It's good on paper, but it doesn't have as big of a noticeable difference as we hoped.
If three cameras weren't enough, Samsung added a fourth, depth sensor camera to allow scanning of 3D models. This feature is part of the AR Doodle feature, which allows you to scan objects into the phone and give them motion control and other fun treats. Sadly, this feature wasn't available at the time I reviewed the phone.
What sets the Note series apart from every other flagship, is its S Pen stylist. Now, the stylist isn't a prime seller for many, but for those who it is, the S-Pen hasn't looked better. Samsung has upgraded the tool to feature an impressive handwriting-to-text conversion. The update can detect many writing styles, good or bad, and quickly turn them into plain text that can be exported to a Word doc, PDF or email. It's a great feature for those looking for a productive way take down quick notes throughout the day.
The stylist also received air gesture updates allowing users to channel their inner Harry Potter flipping through camera systems and more by waving the pen like a wand. Unfortunately, air actions are only limited to the camera as of now, so not much use for it.
There's also AR doodle, which is fun for a few minutes, but I never had a reason or incentive to go back.
The updated S-Pen is impressive and fun to use at times, but on a day-to-day basis I rarely need or wanted to bust out the stylist for anything. Granted, I've never been the stylist-type. There aren't enough circumstances where I find myself saying, "I really need to use the stylist for this."
The S-Pen is a nice addition to have, but the gimmick features and lack of incentive to use doesn't make this tool a must-have for me.
That being said, is the Note 10+ worth the expensive $1,100 price tag? The short answer is, yes. The Note 10+ delivers a premium smartphone experience fully packed with features, top-of-the-line specs, a gorgeous 6.8-inch screen, all-day battery, and an improved camera system. Also, the Aura Glow back is too beautiful to pass up. Besides not having a 90Hz refresh rate and headphone jack, every other aspect of the phone is nearly perfect.
With stiff competition offering up nearly similar specs and features for hundreds of dollars less, it's hard to make the Note 10+ the go-to option for the average consumer. Samsung's other flagship phone like the Galaxy S10 Plus and the Note 10 are nearly identical to the Note 10 Plus, besides a stylist, bigger battery, and slightly better camera. The Note 10 is also $150 cheaper. Does Samsung have too many flagship devices?
However, if those three features are very important to you, dropping a few extra bucks is totally worth it. I loved my time with the phone. It's one of the best experiences I've had with a mobile device, especially its gorgeous display and phone design. So, if you have the money, and you're looking for a top-tier premium phone, the Note 10+ is the best option on the market.