Obsessed with technology?
Subscribe to the latest tech news as well as exciting promotions from us and our partners!
By subscribing, you indicate that you have read & understood the SPH's Privacy Policy and PDPA Statement.
Shootouts

Samsung Galaxy Note10 and Note10+ review: Substance meets Style

By Marcus Wong - 7 Dec 2019

Display, audio, and software

Display

The small front camera means you get a display that covers almost the entire phone.

The Galaxy Note10s' Cinematic Infinity Display has just a small camera cut-out right at top, so you really get as much screen as possible without a notch or pop-up camera. As with the S10 and S10+, these are Dynamic AMOLED displays that support HDR+ and go up to 1,200 nits, with a Display contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1. According to Samsung, outdoor visibility goes up to 800 nits, and the display is certified by TUV Rheinland to reduce blue light for better Eye Comfort.

It’s worth noting that only the Note10+ goes up to WQHD+ (3,040x1,440) resolution though. You can choose between that, FHD+ (2,280 x 1,080), and HD+ (1,520 x 720) in the settings, but the Note10’s resolution is fixed at 2,280 x 1,080

Here's the Note10 screen.

And here's the Note10+ screen. Almost identical, other than the size.

As with the S10 and S10+, both displays are sharp with good contrast, and nice natural colours. We had no issues reading the screens in bright sunlight, and we certainly didn’t notice any difference between panels when both phones were set to FHD+ (2,280 x 1,080). As with the S10s, the Note10s are set to the Natural option by default, but you can always push this to the Vivid mode if you prefer your images slightly warmer and with more contrast.

The screen options let you easily adjust colours and hide the camera notch.

By default, videos will play with a black bar over the front camera, but you can always enable full-screen viewing if you don’t mind having a small hole to the left. We didn’t mind that for still images, but found it a bit distracting for videos, so it’s good to be able to toggle between both options at a tap.

Like the S10 and S10+, the Note10 and Note10+ offer in-display Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors and Face recognition and we found both to work quickly and reliably, even in low light. Again, iris scanning isn’t an option now, so we’d recommend sticking to fingerprint scanning if security is a concern.

 

Audio

The supplied AKG headphones are better than most of the free headphones you get with your phones these days.

As mentioned earlier, both phones are certified for Dolby Atmos, though the option is off by default. And yes, the headphone jack is gone, so you’ll have to move to wireless or USB-C options.

Both phones seem to come with the same bundled in-ear headphones from AKG, so it’s no surprise that they perform similarly.  Nice highs, decent mids, and somewhat dry lows would be the summary. They do offer pretty good imaging though. With a recording of Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire, the headphones do a good job of keeping Keys’ vocals distinct from the backing vocals and instruments.

Activating Atmos with the headphones gives you a bit more of a robust sound, with better surround and a slightly wider soundstage. Imaging does improve in that every instrument gets more directional emphasis, so you really get a better sense of where things are going.

Given the difference in physical sizes of both phones, we expected the speaker performance to vary too, but were pleasantly surprised to found that this wasn’t the case. Both phones have stereo speakers, and the smaller Note10 plays just as loud as the Note10+, and the speakers on both phones hold up well even at maximum volume.

Activating Atmos seems to bring better resolution and imaging, so it is much recommended, even if you won’t get the full effect. It seems the phone tries to bounce sound off your hand to get a bit of a height channel, but you’d need to be in a pretty quiet area to appreciate the difference. Still, sound effects are rendered with good naturalness, so these are definitely phones that can provide a good movie viewing experience (and more so with their large screens).

 

Software

The Your Phone app lets you view your Note10 phone's contents on your computer.

Like the S10 and S10+, the Note10 and Note10+ run on Android 9.0 Pie with Samsung's new One UI, which means you get a brighter, more colourful interface with rounded menus and buttons that are focused on one-handed usage. Given the additional length of the Note10+, that’s certainly a good thing.

With the new Note10 series phones though, the focus is very much on productivity, so Samsung has given you new ways to work with both phone and computer. The most direct method is Link to Windows and this works by placing a virtual phone on your desktop that reflects whatever’s on your phone screen.

Simply have both phone and computer on the same Wi-Fi network, sign in to your Outlook account and run the Your Phone app on Windows 10. Once connected, you’ll be able to get and reply to messages sent to your phone right from your keyboard, while getting all your app notifications. This is also able to mirror your phone's screen, but that option doesn't appear till you connect your phone via USB.

You can have a much larger screen for gaming using DeX.

The other is Samsung DeX, and while it requires you to install a separate piece of software on your computer, this creates a separate window that represents your phone. Unlike the Your Phone app, you can resize this as you wish, and run both games and apps straight from your phone. When playing games, commands will be mapped to your keyboard and mouse. Audio will be piped out from your computer system so you get a full desktop gaming experience.

DeX also allows you to drag and drop files between your phone and computer without having to go through your computer’s file management system. With DeX, you can simply drag a picture from your hard disk and put it directly into the gallery without having to go through the processing of choosing to enable USB file transfer each time you connect your phone. You can check out some of these functions as we've demoed them in the video on the first page (4:30 mark onwards), or you can also view it here.

The key difference between the two is that DeX requires a cabled connection, whereas Link to Windows gives you the option for this to be wireless. While we do like the improved implementation of DeX, having to reboot an application every time we shift from using it on the computer to the phone (or vice-versa) really spoils the experience, so hopefully that can be improved in future updates.

Game Booster settings can be called up at any point while you're gaming.

Speaking of games, the new Note10 series phones come with Samsung’s latest AI-based Game Booster. This is like their old Game Tools enhanced, so you can block calls, notifications, halt auto-brightness, and even disable the Edge panel if desired.

Also, Game Booster now uses a separate processor to understand and track your gaming performance and power consumption. We’re told this data will be compiled with data from the game publisher so the phones will be able to automatically optimize performance and battery management.

There’s also a new Boot Up Booster, and this basically keeps track of your app usage patterns for the week to identify your most frequently used apps. Because the Note10+ has 12GB RAM, the 12 most frequently used applications will be stored. The Note10 however, will store four with its 8GB RAM.