- Good Display
- Comfortable Form Factor
- Top tier Performance
- Triple Camera works Wonders
- Only One Variant with 256GB
- Lack of MicroSD Card
- Goodbye Headphone Jack
- Small Battery
One of the noticeable trends from Samsung this year would be offering multiple variants for their flagship series – like the S10 Series which consisted of three models – S10e (our personal favorite), S10 and the S10+. Moving on from that, the Galaxy Note series, their productivity centric smartphone came in two variants – a smaller Note10 and the Note10+. We had our eyes on the smaller Note10 because of how small it is and wanted to find out if it’s any worth picking up from the store over the Note10+. After three weeks spending time with it, here’s our final review on the Samsung Galaxy Note10.
Design and Build Quality
Say goodbye to the older design language that we have seen with the Note8/9. Samsung revamped the design from the ground up for the Galaxy Note10. In fact, the Note10 has some interesting changes that’s easy to spot and some thoughtful improvements that made the phone much easier to use. The device is covered in curved glass – both on the front and back with a metal frame around it. The moment you notice the frame, they have flattened the top and the bottom area – giving it a much more polished and slate like look – in fact, holding it in landscape is easier as the display has little room for bezel. It definitely looks alienated compared to its predecessor and stands out on its own without a doubt. On the back, we can see that the signature Samsung Camera layout is now moved to the side and has a prominent bump as well.
As for the build quality, the phone does feel premium and solid. The fact that it’s covered in glass makes the Note10, a fragile and fingerprint prone smartphone – but good thing is that they have included a TPU Casing inside the box that has a lip on the front to avoid the screen having a direct contact on the surface when it’s face down – Neat. Comparing with the predecessor, what really got my attention is the fact that the Note10 is extremely small and yet boasts a big display, fitting nice and snug in my hands. Truth be told, I am still genuinely impressed about the whole idea on how significantly small the Note10 is compared to my Note8 and my other daily driver, the S10e. In terms of the ergonomics, the Galaxy S10 had a lot of flaws and Samsung corrected it with the Note10 by making the back glass curvier for better handheld usage and once again – making it a really good one hand usable phablet by keeping the footprint small. In fact, it felt like Samsung had an inspiration from the Japanese manufacturer who had a vaguely similar design – which I love.
The fact that the Note10 comes in Aura Pink – definitely makes it an interesting phone to look at.
Specification and Performance
Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy Note10 boasts the same specification as the bigger brother, Note10+. It’s powered by Samsung Exynos 9825 coupled with 8GB RAM and 256GB Internal Storage that can’t be upgraded but personally speaking – 256GB is more than enough, just that transferring files over can be a bit of a challenge.
We performed benchmarks – Antutu and Geekbench to see how capable the processor, GPU and RAM are capable of handling synthetic loads, to give an idea on how well the phone can handle. We verified the specification with the help of AIDA64.
When it comes to the Note10, we are talking about a flagship smartphone with flagship grade specification that has the potential to give the kind of performance you’d want and it’s no surprise here as the Note10 does exactly that. Thanks to the superior processor and 8GB RAM, it’s a breeze to use this device for pretty much anything. Thanks to the new revamped One UI, it’s smooth, seamless and fluidic to use. Jumping between apps and going back to where you left off is pretty easy and quick to deal with. In this time and age, 8GB RAM is more than enough to multitask as well. The phone has the capability to handle heavy game titles such as PUBG, Asphalt: 9 and Need for Speed: No Limits at the Highest Quality with no issues. I use the Note10 mostly for productivity usage, such as editing on the move and with that said, those features were also pretty good to use and get things going. Overall, you are not going to regret with the performance the phone has to offer. Afterall, it is a flagship smartphone for a reason.
On the front, the Galaxy Note10 houses a 6.3” Dynamic AMOLED Display in a Full HD+ resolution with the infamous Infinity O right in the top, middle of the phone. What comes off as a surprise is the fact that the Note10 houses the exact display size as the Note8/9 in an extremely smaller body – making it a huge deal breaker for myself and it’s now much easier to use single handedly. The FHD+ display on the Note10 has the capacity to produce good colors, thanks to the AMOLED panel with true blacks and punchy color contrasts. Under bright sunlight, the display does suffer a little in terms of visibility but other than that, it’s still usable.
With support for HDR10, watching content that has HDR Certification on Netflix like 13 Reasons Why and so on, made the display a worthy media consumption device. What makes the Note special is the inclusion of the S Pen. The whole idea is to take notes and be able to create at the palm of your hands. That said, the S Pen does what it should, thanks to the Software. There isnt much change but most of it was more towards the software – where they included features such as AR Doodling and so on.
Battery Life & Charging
The Galaxy Note10 houses a 3500mAh – which is 800mAh smaller than the Note10+ and 500mAh less than the Note9. Coming from a Note8 which has 500mAh less than the Note10 didn’t seem to make much of a difference. The battery life with the Note10 is okay – and at least to my usage, I barely got through a day with enough battery left at the end of the day. I found myself connecting to a battery bank in the middle of the day to be able to continue with rest of my task – I had about 17 hours 36 minutes of Battery duration with 6 hours of SoT. In the second test, I got about 8 hours of Active time and a Screen on duration of 4 hours 40 minutes.
Inside the box, Samsung has included a Super-Fast Charging adapter that supports 18W charging. It charges the phone from 0-100% in less than 1 hour 14 minutes.
If you happen to use your phone as intense as I do, then expect your battery life to be shorter than usual. Although I do wish that the battery for the Note10 to be a bit bigger as there are other phones in the market to have bigger battery in similar form factor.
Starting off with the front facing camera, the Note10 houses a 10 MP Front Facing camera that has the capability to capture pretty decent selfies under various lighting condition – making it a good front facing camera. It does have that Beautify mode going on but as I am not a huge fan of it, we just turned it off. But weirdly under low light the camera tends to soften the image, which affects the quality. The post processing under low light for the front facing camera needs a bit of tweaking in making images sharper because coming from the Galaxy Note8, the quality on that is much sharper and better in my opinion.
On the back, the Galaxy Note10 boasts a triple camera setup – in fact a functional setup. Starting off with a 12MP Primary Wide-angle camera with variable aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4 followed by a 16MP Ultra-Wide Camera and finally a 12MP Telephoto camera that has the capability to shoot objects that are further away. The Note10+ comes with a TOF sensor and again, you are still good to go without it.
Here you can see how the quality of the images are – on top, we have a simple comparison of the Ultrawide, Wide and Telephoto. Right of the bat, you can tell that the Ultra-Wide has distorted angles around the corner if you look closely and it’s much more prominent under low light. The primary Wide angle and the Telephoto works like a charm. Overall, the three cameras on the back offers good image quality and it’s pretty nice. We used this camera by turning off the Intelligent mode because just like in our S10+ review, it tends to over process the colors and it doesn’t look pleasant.
Moving on to a much tougher condition, which is low light – the phone can take pretty good pictures and it looks nice. Under ultra-low light condition, that’s when the phone struggles to take proper picture – this is a normal thing because almost every phone in the market struggles to take pictures under ultra-low light conditions.
Personally, the software needs tweaking without a doubt and Samsung, if you are reading this – find a way to turn off the beautify mode by default. So, people who want to look different, can play with it however they want to.
Speaker & Security
Now that the phone’s display is near bezel less, fitting in a proper stereo speaker is hard. With that said, the Note10 has a downward firing speaker along with a tweeter like speaker in the earpiece. The sound quality is good and listening to music with the speaker sure is nice but at maximum volume, you can feel that the phone vibrates a little to the sound it produces as it has very little room to produce proper sound but you will still be able to listen to calls and so on – which isn’t a big of an issue.
As for security, Samsung ditched the Iris Scanner for the Note10. To be honest, the Iris scanner is still my favorite authentication method till this day – and going to a face recognition where it uses the camera feels unsafe. They did include a under glass fingerprint sensor which works but truth be told, under display fingerprint sensors have a long way to go and having a physical fingerprint sensor mounted to the sides or at the back is still my preferred way to go.
The part that really trips me off, the lack of Headphone Jack. I still rely on my 3.5mm Headphones even when I have my Wireless headphones – but as a phone that’s targeted towards users who are pro-creators because of the features that they have included this time around, not being able to connect my external microphone and have power connected to charge at the same time makes it a huge turn off.
Another thing about the audio, the USB-C port does not support any sort of dongles you purchase from Shoppe or Lazada. It has to be a specific type and we did an article and video on that, which you must take a look at.
UI & OS
Samsung runs Android 9 on top of their minimalistic One UI, which is my personal favorite UI till date. Thanks to the clean interface and buttery smooth animation, moving across apps and using the native apps like Phone, Messages and so on is just pure bliss. As for those who wants extra security, Samsung has also included Samsung Knox to keep your business and private life separate and secure. You can’t go wrong with their UI – it’s well optimized as well.
I have used the Samsung Galaxy Note8 for near 2 years and honestly, using the Note10 was enjoyable because having the same size display in a smaller form factor definitely stole my heart and having a triple camera setup on the back with no compromises made it a really nice phone to pick up. Sure, the fact that it doesn’t have a Headphone Jack, an expandable SD Card slot and a bigger battery in the smaller Note10 does bum me out but it’s a sacrifice I don’t mind making for this phone. The Samsung Galaxy Note10 is a good phone to pick up and I am very sure you’d enjoy using it as much as I did – especially if you love using the S Pen as much as I do.
Thanks to Samsung Malaysia for providing the Samsung Galaxy Note10 review Sample for us to make this happen.