Samsung Galaxy Note 10+: If you like it big and bold, this Note’s for you
Tech review: Big screen, great camera, and the S-Pen is worth writing home about
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 smartphone: The S Pen is once again the star of the show. Photograph: EPA
Product name: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
Where to buy: www.samsung.com/ie/
Once mocked because of its size, Samsung’s Note seems to have dragged every other phonemaker along with it. These days, it’s more common to see a five-inch-plus phone screen than a four-inch one, and our phones have become the tool of choice for everything from work and photography to entertainment and socialising.
It’s not just about the screen size, though. If it was, the Note range should have been cannibalised by the growing size of the regular smartphone range; the latest Galaxy S10+ has a 6.4-inch screen and the 5G version of the phone pushes that to 6.7 inches.
Instead, the Note continues to sell well, with some owners even refusing to give up the Note 7 when Samsung recalled the model over battery issues, and forcing Samsung to push out software updates that disabled the phone on certain networks and in some cases drastically reduced the battery life.
There has to be a reason that the Note continues to sell well even in a sea of phones that are starting to look and feel very similar to each other.
One of the most obvious differences between the Note and the flagship smartphone range is the S Pen. The stylus has evolved from the early days – when most of its smarts was down to a button on the side – to the current all-singing, all-dancing bluetooth-enabled pen that includes air gestures.
This year there are two versions of the Note; the one reviewed here is the larger Note 10+, with a 6.8-inch screen, a quad camera set-up and a bigger battery than the Note 10.
Aesthetically, the Note 10 has something in common with the S10 family. The display is the Infinity O display debuted with the S10, ditching the notch for a hole punched out of the display to accommodate the camera. And that AMOLED display is impressive, stretching almost from edge to edge of the case, meaning Samsung can squash a massive screen into a slim phone. The 10+ is still a big phone, but if you are a Note fan there is a good chance that you won’t be fazed. The Note has always gone a little bigger than we are strictly comfortable with, and we’ve always adapted. There are obvious limits to that, but the Note 10+ hasn’t hit those for me yet.
You can drop the background out to black-and-white, for example, leaving the subject in colour
The review model is also one of Samsung’s most unusual colours – Aura Glow. It looks like chrome until the light hits it, and then you see a rainbow of different colours show up, depending on the light. It’s hard to describe, but it’s an impressive effect. It’s a shame that the phone will inevitably be covered in a protective case – it’s lovely, but the risk of smashing that screen outweighs the aesthetics. Protective case it is.
Samsung does well on its cameras, as previous versions of the Note and the flagship Galaxy S range have shown in the past. The Note 10+ is more of the same. You get great still photos, impressive video footage and some intelligent camera features. Live focus, once reserved for the still camera, has now been adopted for the video camera. You can drop the background out to black-and-white, for example, leaving the subject in colour, or blur it out to make your subject stand out.
That comes with some improvements to sound for video. Sound zoom cuts out background noise, so when your video conditions are less than perfect – more often than not for the average video – you’ll still get good sound.
As a work device, the Note 10+ also gets the thumbs-up. The S Pen makes it easy to take notes, even without unlocking the device, if you need to jot something down. The handwriting recognition – limited to about two pages at a time – was reasonably accurate, picking up about 90 per cent of my scrawl accurately.
The air gestures can be useful, if a little gimmicky. Some of the more useful ones are being able to control the camera without touching the phone, for example.
But some of the gestures feel very finicky, though, and take a few tries to get – it would be easier and quicker to just touch the screen instead of persevering.
You can shoot and edit video on the device, with some decent editing tools at your fingertips
If you are a fan of the Note, you’ll already know about Dex, Samsung’s way of bridging the gap between mobile and desktop. This year, Samsung has partnered with Microsoft so you can connect your phone with your PC, get notifications on your laptop, enable screen mirroring and receive calls without having to look at your phone. It’s another way to make sure you are always connected – that may not necessarily be a good thing, even if it works well.
When it comes to entertainment, the Note 10+ also has some points in its favour. You can shoot and edit video on the device, with some decent editing tools at your fingertips, and Adobe has some software optimised for the Note 10. It’s like a mini editing studio in your pocket. It’s no slouch on games either, tackling some power-hungry mobile games with ease.
Battery life is impressive, and Samsung’s fast charging will come in particularly useful when you need a power boost in a hurry. The S Pen is once again the star of the show, distinguishing the Note 10 and its productivity features from the standard S10+.
The not so good
Air gestures can be awkward at times, even though they are supposed to make your life easier.
The ability to record picture-in-picture while screen recording will be handy for presentations and demo videos.
If you are already a Note fan, 10+ is the Note you need.