Tech review: Samsung Galaxy Note10 and Note10+ the epitome of phablet

Apart from the difference in screen sizes, both smartphones look almost identical with their front and back made of Gorilla Glass 6 in a solid metal frame that is only 7.9mm thick.
Apart from the difference in screen sizes, both smartphones look almost identical with their front and back made of Gorilla Glass 6 in a solid metal frame that is only 7.9mm thick.PHOTOS: SAMSUNG

For the first time in five years, the Samsung Galaxy Note phablet series comes in two screen sizes - 6.3 and 6.8 inches. The Note10 and the larger Note 10+ will be available on Saturday (Aug 24).

DESIGN AND DISPLAY

Apart from the difference in screen sizes, bothsmartphones look almost identical with their front and back made of Gorilla Glass 6 in a solid metal frame that is only 7.9mm thick.

The button below the volume rocker on the phone's left is no longer the Bixby (Samsung's voice assistant) button, unlike the Galaxy S and previous Note models. It is now the power button, which I prefer given I hardly use Bixby.

There are thus no buttons on the right side, which takessome getting used to, as most smartphones have their power button on the right.

And yes, there is no more headphone jack - a move that is inevitable with more users having wireless headphones. Samsung has bundled a pair of the very capable AKG USB-C wired in-ear headphones with the Note10 smartphones. My only quibbleis the lack of a bundled USB-C headphone jack dongle for those who want to use wired headphones.

Both models are available in colours described asaura glow (version tested) and aura black, basically the colour of the phones' back. The Note10+ comes with an additional finish - aura white.

I find aura glow the most alluring, as it reflects light like a prism into rainbow colours. The back of the phone is a smudge and fingerprint magnet though, but you will probably get a case to protect it.

Unlike its predecessor Note9, which has thick bezels at the top and bottom, the Note 10 smartphones look like a full slab of display withtheir super-thin bezels and curved sides.

This is achieved by having a hole-punch front-facing camera, which is sited at the top centre of the display. This hole-punchgap is pretty tiny, and you will probably not notice it most of the time.

Plus, the gap's central position means the battery, network, Wi-Fi and sound icons can stay at the right side of the top status bar, instead of being pushed towards the middle as is the case for the S10 smartphones, with whichthe hole-punch camera is at the top right.

Instead of the rear fingerprint sensor found in Note9, the Note10 models have an embedded ultrasonic fingerprint sensor near the bottom of the screen. It works much better than the ones on the S10 and S10+ smartphones, but there werea few instances when I couldn't unlock the phone with it.

The Note10's 6.3-inch display has only a full HD+ resolution of 2,280 x 1,080 pixels, less than the resolution of the Note9's (2,960 x 1,440 pixels).

But the 6.8-inch display of Note10+ has a much higher Quad HD+ resolution of 3,040 x 1,440 pixels. This is the best display on a smartphone that I have seen. Games, videos and pictures look just fabulous, with vivid colours, great contrast and high dynamic range.

On the other hand, the Note10 is better for one-handed use, so it is a case of choosing between having this convenience and a bigger display.

S PEN

The S Pen, the differentiator of the Note series, now lasts10 hours on a single charge, compared to the 30-minute battery life provided by theNote9's S Pen. So your presentations can now last much longer when using the S Pen as a slides clicker.

Like with its predecessor, clicking on the S Pen's button allows you to remotely take a picture. But the new S Pen has new tricks called Air actions that allows you to control the device using gestures while wielding the stylus in camera mode.

For instance,rotate the stylus clockwise in the air to zoom in with the camera and do the opposite to zoom out. Change the camera mode by wavingthe stylus left or right.

However, it is difficult to execute the air gestures as they require users to time the pressing (or releasing)of the S Pen button with the gestures correctly. Otherwise, you could end up taking photos instead of zooming.

Less finickyis the function that converts handwriting notes to digital text. Select the function in Samsung Notesand tap on your handwritten notes to convert them into text that can be exported to Word or in the PDF format.

 
 
 

Another highlight of theS Pen is AR Doodle, in which you can doodle on someone's or your own face from the smartphone's screen in real time. The doodles will move according to the movement of the face. This should be funfor those who create a lot of short videos but I don't see myself using it regularly.

I am more interested in 3D scanner app that allows you to scan any object into a digital 3D model. Unfortunately, this app is not available at press time and only works with the Note10+.

CAMERA

The Note10 and Note10+ have gained an ultra wide-angle camera - with a coverage of 123 degreesand great for capturing landscapes - in addition to the wide-angle and telephoto cameras that are also found in the Note9.

The Note10+ has an additional time-of-flight camera - called DepthVision - for 3D mapping (in the 3D scanner) and to aid in thegauging of distances between camera andsubjects (for bokeh effect or background blur).

Comparing the portrait photos taken with bokeh effect turned on, the background blurring looks more natural in the Note10+ than the Note10.

But both Note10 smartphones are capable of shooting superb still images with great dynamic range and punchy colours. Autofocusing is fast and accurate.

There is also a Night mode, which vastly improves the sharpness of night shots with minimum noise artefacts. While this mode is better than the one onthe iPhone XS, it is not as sharp and noise-free as the Google Pixel 3's Night Sight mode.

A new feature is the Live focus video function. It is similar to the Live focus photo function found in newer Samsung smartphones, which lets the user focus on a subject against blurred or monochrome backgrounds, only now applied tomoving images. In addition, Live focus videohas an edgy, distorted background effect called glitch.

Another interesting addition to the Note10 series is the zoom-in microphone that is able to zoom in to the audio source you prefer.

To test, I shot a video ofmy nephews watching YouTube on their phones, with one sitting 5m away and the other next to me. When I pinched on the screen todirect the zoom-in microphone at the nephew who is further away,I could hear the audio from his smartphone more clearlythan that from his brother's phone.

PERFORMANCE

Both the Note10 and Note10+ have the same Samsung Exynos 9825 octa-core processor. However, the Note10 has only 8GB of system memory compared to 12GB in Note10+.

In the GeekBench 4 benchmark test, the Note10 scored 4,520 (single-core) and 9,288 (multi-core), while the Note10+ scored 4,513 (single-core) and 10,646 (multi-core). By comparison, last year's Note9 scored 3,760 points (single-core) and 9,094 points (multi-core).

In real-lifescenarios, apps launch instantly and feel super responsive on both smartphones. Playing games such asthe popular survival shooter PUBG Mobile and mech game War Robots feel smooth with the graphics looking superb.

Plus, the Note10 supports the latest guise of Samsung's DeX technology, which allows certain Samsung smartphones to have a desktop PC-like interface.

Connect the Note10 to a PC (or Mac) and you will be able work on the document or spreadsheet in your Note10 using your PC's monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Previously in Note9, the DeX mode only works when connected to a monitor or TV.

I connected the Note10 to my 2016 Apple MacBook Pro in DeX mode without any issues. And it allows me to play Android games,, such as PUBG Mobile and War Robots, on the laptop.

BATTERY LIFE

The Note10+ has a 4,300mAh batteryand the Note10 a3,500mAh one.

Battery mileage depends on your usage of course.For me, both smartphones easily sailed through my regular work day, which included regularly checking Facebook and Instagram feeds and replying to e-mails and messages. Both have around 45 per cent of battery life left at the end of the day.

In avideo-loop battery test, the Note10+ slightly betteredthe Note10, clocking 17 hours 45 minutesto 17 hours 30 minutes. The Note9 lasted 15 hours 27 minutes in this test.

NOTE10 OR NOTE10+?

The Note10 continues to be the epitome of the ideal phablet. The Note10 is great for one-handed use, but my personal pick is the Note 10+for its longer battery life, gorgeous display and slightly better camera.

FOR

- Sleek design

- Gorgeous display, especially the Note10+

- Superb all-round performance

- Handwritten words to digital text function a boon

- Long battery life

AGAINST

- S Pen air gestures difficult to master

- Phone's backis a smudge and fingerprint magnet

- No USB-C headphone jack dongle

- No microSD card slot with theNote10

SPECS/SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10

Price: $1,398 (256GB); available on Aug 24

Processor: Exynos 9825 (Quad-core 1.9GHz, Dual-core 2.7GHz, Dual-core 2.4GHz)

Display: 6.3-inch Full HD+ Dynamic Amoled, 2,280 x 1,080 pixels, 401 PPI pixel density, HDR10+ certified

Operating system: Android 9.0

Camera: 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 12MP f/1.5 - f/2.4 wide-angle, 12MP f/2.1 telephoto (rear); 10MP f/2.2 (front)

Memory: 256GB (non-upgradeable); 8GB RAM

Battery: Non-removable 3,500 mAh

Weight: 168g

RATING

Features: 4.5/5

Design: 5/5

Performance: 4.5/5

Battery life: 5/5

Value for money: 4/5

Overall: 4.5/5

SPECS/SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE10+

Price: $1,598 (256GB, version tested), $1,898 (512GB); available on Aug 24

Processor: Exynos 9825 (Quad-core 1.9GHz, Dual-core 2.7GHz, Dual-core 2.4GHz)

Display: 6.8-inch Quad HD+ Dynamic Amoled, 3,040 x 1,440 pixels, 498 PPI pixel density, HDR10+ certified

Operating system: Android 9.0

Camera: 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, 12MP f/1.5 - f/2.4 wide-angle, 12MP f/2.1 telephoto, VGA DepthVision (rear); 10MP f/2.2 (front)

Memory: 256GB or 512GB (upgradable up to 1TB via microSD); 12GB RAM

Battery: Non-removable 4,300 mAh

Weight: 196g

RATING

Features: 5/5

Design: 5/5

Performance: 5/5

Battery life: 5/5

Value for money: 4/5

Overall: 5/5 [ST Tech Editor's Choice]