Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on August 25, 2019
SMARTPHONE INTRO

I've been buying the latest and greatest smartphones since the early HTC days and have owned just about every significant Samsung smartphone release since then. Every year I will stray over to other manufacturers to see what the big and small players are up to. Most, but not all of the time, I find myself right back to my Samsung phone as the daily driver. Which is usually a Note. Now that Samsung has released another Note series for an increasingly high price, let's see how it does. In particular against my Note 9 that it's replacing.

PROS:
+ Excellent build quality
+ The high-resolution OLED display somehow looks even better than before
+ Superfast performance; zero lag
+ Much improved speakers that you can *feel*
+ The bezels continue to disappear; nearly all-screen
+ Core functions, such as phone calls, still work great
+ Lots of internal storage + expandable storage
+ Generous battery that truely lasts all-day
+ Fast wired and wireless charging for those very heavy phone usage days
+ The ever-useful stylus continues to evolve
+ 3 Camera Lenses for any scenario
+ Great picture & video quality with some useful features

CONS:
- Hole punch camera is distracting
- The in-screen fingerprint reader takes a few steps back from the physical sensor
- RIP headphone jack
- Price keeps going up

DESIGN

Compared to the Galaxy Note 9, the Galaxy Note 10+ feels much more substantial than I expected. It has more heft and somehow even more solid feel to it. In particular with the Samsung OEM cases. Which are also expensive, but continue the high-quality impression of what you are holding in the hand.

The left side has the volume up/down and power button. The bottom is USB-C port and stylus holder. The rest of the phone is fairly clean and simple. I prefer power on the right, but it's easy enough to get used to after a few hours. I opted for the white version to mix things up and I like it. It still provides a nice high-end look all while resisting visible fingerprints (and probably scratches) than most darker and shinier colors.

Even with a 6.8" display, it's still roughly the same size as the Note 9. There is now simply less bezel. But due to the squared corners, it never feels small. If you aren't already used to large phones, this will take some getting used to. And as manufacturers continue to slowly push the size of phones combined with no more bezels to shrink, this is probably about as large as I expect a mainstream phone to go. Any further and folks are going to have issues.

SOFTWARE

Long ago this used to be Samsung's weakest point. They'd throw lots of half-baked features with no optimization, resulting in lots of lag and bloat. Those days are long gone. Samsung nailed that down with the Galaxy S9/Note 9 series. Except with the Note 10, it's even faster, and smoother. Which I suspect much credit goes toward the Snapdragon 855.

I should note that I am a fan of Google's Android Experience. But every time I jump over to a Google phone (or another brand), I immediately start to miss all of the small but very useful features Samsung has built into their phone. The game launcher, scene optimizer, multiple lenses, display quality, high-end specs, etc.

And honestly, after easily disabling Bixby, there isn't that much bloat. Disable/Remove a few random apps like Facebook and I'm good to go.

PERFORMANCE

As noted above, the performance is absolutely fantastic. Usually while going through initial setup or installing apps, these phones tend to get very laggy. This was probably the only time I saw a hint of lag, but surprisingly minimal. In that, I could easily and quickly perform other tasks while downloading and installing apps, games, music, etc.

Each year as performance increases, the need for synthetic benchmarks decrease. I think they still serve a purpose in limited use-cases for a "reliable" baseline. But today, I'm not going to bother. This phone is fast and can do everything you want.

DISPLAY & AUDIO

The 6.8" WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display combined with some significantly improved speakers are simply the best upgrades from previous phones. Watching high-resolution content on YouTube or Netflix look and sound fantastic. I found myself glued to the screen during my demo session with various clips.

Even the icons on the desktop almost pop from the screen. As though they are right there touching your fingers.

The speakers finally have some force behind them as well. Allowing you to "feel" the vibrations in your hand. And yes, they are quite loud. With Atmos-enabled they provide a great stereo separation effect.

I'll also mention there is an included screen protected. It's very thin but it's quite unobtrusive. I usually remove these. But since it virtually covers the entire screen and provides a smooth swiping experience, I'll leave it for now.

And last I'll briefly mention the hole punch as it does have a negative impact with the multimedia experience. Anytime there is a bright scene around that area, my eyes are immediately drawn to it. This needs go away sooner rather than later.

CAMERAS

As the camera count increases, so too does the usefulness, functionality, and flexibility. The rear now has a 16MB ultra-wide camera, 12MP wide-angle camera (normal), and 12MP telephoto camera. The introduction of wide-angle is super useful and one I use very often. Each camera captures excellent pictures.

I told my Pixel 3 and don't have it for comparison today. Are there better cameras available? I'm sure there are. But unless you are really comparing back-to-back, I doubt you'd notice. In particular, if you like to record video. That's one area the Pixel and some other phones don't do as well. The stability and clarity when recording 4K @ 60fp is excellent. Combined with solid audio recording and you've got a great overall camera package.

I'm not into selfies, but that 10MP camera is somewhat mandatory these days. It's unfortunate it has resulted in a small but very noticeable hole in the screen. Which as noted above, is absolutely noticeable. In either case, it takes solid pictures as well. No complaints there.

FINGERPRINT READER

Unfortunately, there is another negative feature change. With the Galaxy Note 9, and virtually every other phone with a physical reader, you can just rest your finger and quickly unlock/wake your phone. With Samsung's implementation of the in-screen reader, you have to press firmly and wait a second for it to register. And if it doesn't read your fingerprint right away, it may be a few seconds or repeated attempts.

If the screen is turned on, it does tend to be quicker. But you still need to press firmly and wait longer than in the past. I'm really hoping a software update improves this. Otherwise, I may just go back to the power button and a pin.

DEX & "YOUR PHONE"

There are a lot of other software features, but I did want to highlight these two as they are unique and stand out for me. I got used to Dex with my last Samsung phone. And there continue to be minor but useful improvements. Dex is surprisingly useful if you want to do some light work. When I'm on-the-go I can easily plug in a USB-C to HDMI cable, Bluetooth keyboard/mouse and have a portable desktop experience. You can also now use a normal USB cable and windows app to access Dex, it's just not ideal for games and multimedia.

I've got personal and work e-mail, browser, youtube, office apps, and a range of other tools. I don't need to do video or photo editing on the go. And I found this can meet just about any task I need or want to do while traveling. This is a little more useful on a tablet, but in a different way, as the keyboard is already included. Less to travel with.

And then there is the new Your Phone feature. This is a little more "early stage" in development, but still handy. Just plug in a USB cable to any Windows PC and you can mirror what's on your phone. You also have direct access to messages, but the mirror function is nice. You can interact with your phone, on the PC. All while charging it.

I'd like to see more dedicated ports into this app. But being able to see and respond to any notification is great. Just don't expect to play games or smoothly stream youtube.

THE PHONE

That's right, this is still a phone. And as such, it needs to make phone calls! And other core functions. As I use this for both personal and work, this is a critical but often overlooked feature. While it may feel like more of a check-box item, I've had more than a few phones over the years that still fail in this arena.

I'm pleased to report that phone calls and text are excellent. Speakerphone works well. No issues with hearing anybody and vice versa. The radios appear to be good quality. Bluetooth is reliable as well as wi-fi, which is very fast. I'm easily pushing 300-400Mbps up/down with my Google Mesh Wireless network.

CONCLUSION

So how exactly do you justify a $1,100 phone? Honestly, you really don't justify it. At least not in the traditional sense. My Note 9 would have continued to serve me well for another year. But we buy these phones because they're interesting, they entertain us, and they make life a little bit easier. And considering the significant percentage of time many of us spend on these portable gadgets, it starts to make sense that we want to allocate more budget towards them.

While it's not perfect (no phone is), I still believe Samsung has enough features, functionality, quality, and performance for me to "justify" the Galaxy Note 10+'s price and keep it as my daily driver for another year. I'll still grab a few more phones that intrigue me between now and the Note 11, but I'd be surprised if they truly replaced this one. If they can, I'd welcome it.
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