Samsung's Galaxy Note 10 is the most 'Android' phone you can buy


Samsung Galaxy Note 10

  • Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 is an easy sell for Galaxy Note fans.
  • It has the latest specs for powerful performance, a massive 6.8-inch screen, the S Pen stylus, great battery life, a beautiful design, a super fast charger, and it’s priced like phones that are less capable. 
  • The one thing that disappoints is the camera. Samsung appears too eager to enhance your photos, resulting in an overly processed look. 
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Galaxy Note fans already know that they love Galaxy Note phones, so the main question is whether they should upgrade to the Note 10. 

The Galaxy Note 10 is the best in the series. Of course it is — every new Note that came after your own model is the best in the series. The Note 10 runs on the latest and fastest chips, has the biggest screen, and comes with a few minor updates.

There are a couple meaningful updates in the Galaxy Note 10 that I’m sure previous Galaxy Note owners wish they had: the ability to convert handwritten notes into text, and the ability to search through your notes using keywords.

Otherwise, Note 9, or even Note 8 owners don’t have too many reasons to upgrade. The update mentioned above is great, but getting the Note 10 just because of those new features seems a little expensive and drastic. Regardless, the choice to upgrade from whatever you have now is yours at the end of the day.

Galaxy Note newcomers may be lured by the flashy Note 10 “Aura Glow” photos that are all over the internet. For those potential buyers, here’s what you need to know: It’s the most “Android” phone there is. The Android operating system is maleable, and Samsung takes full advantage of that core Android feature with the Note 10. The company has customized Android to do things that other phones can’t, not even Google’s own Pixels. 

As a result, the Galaxy Note 10 is a veritable powerhouse productivity machine with its massive 6.8-inch screen, high-end specs, and, of course, the S Pen stylus. If you ever waited to do something on a laptop because your smartphone’s screen is too small for that task, and your finger taps too inaccurate and clunky, you might want to take a look at the Galaxy Note 10. 

Really, the key here is the giant screen and the S Pen. The screen gives you more comfortable visibility for what you’re doing, and the S Pen gives you that pinpoint accuracy to do more intricate things. And the features that are enabled by the S Pen are a result of Samsung’s own customization of Android, not Google’s. 

On top of that, the $950 starting price for the regular Note 10, and $1,100 for the Note 10 Plus, is pretty standard in today’s smartphone prices. It’s not a bad price for such a versatile device. 

At this point, I’ve spent a little over a week using the Galaxy Note 10. Read on for a more detailed breakdown of what it’s like.

SEE ALSO: Samsung phones have the best screens, but they’re set to a lower resolution than they’re capable of by default — here’s why

No doubt about it, the Galaxy Note 10 is a pretty device, and it’s lighter than it looks.

The Note 10’s selfie camera hole right in the top center of the screen is very easy to ignore, and it’s better than any notch. Check out those incredibly narrow bezels, too.

The Note 10 Plus has the largest screen on a smartphone at 6.8 inches, and yet the phone itself doesn’t feel that much bigger than other large-screened phones. It still won’t appeal to people who prefer smaller phones, at which point there’s the regular Note 10 with a 6.3-inch screen to consider.

The screen is the best in the business. It’s set to 1080p resolution by default, which helps with battery life. And yet, I never felt like I needed to switch it to the sharper 1440p resolution option.

The battery life has been great on the Note 10 Plus. It still needs a daily charge on most days, but I only need to charge it once on weekends when I use smartphones less. And the new, super-fast charger means it’s not tethered to a cable as much.

The 4,300mAh battery in the Note 10 Plus gives you comfortable battery life, and it’s charged quickly with Samsung’s new 25W charger included in the box. In one test, it lasted almost 16 hours with three-and-a-half hours of screen-on time with 31% remaining.

The Note 10 Plus runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chip with 12 GB of RAM, so it handles everything effortlessly.

I haven’t missed the headphone jack, as I only use wireless headphones these days, but that can be an issue for some. Still, the included USB-C earphones are actually pretty good.

Sorry, wired headphone fans: Samsung didn’t include a 3.5mm headphone jack dongle with the Galaxy Note 10.

The ability to take handwritten notes on the fly with the S Pen is easier than tapping away on a screen. Plus, you can convert your handwritten notes into digital text, and you can search for notes based on keywords, which is tremendously useful.

I’ve found that the S Pen is perfect for anyone who wants to do more intricate things on their phones with more accuracy than their fingers can provide.

There’s a new S Pen Air Actions feature that’s more gimmick than anything else. It’s designed to let you control the camera by waving around the S Pen in the air, but it’s finicky and not that useful.

The in-display fingerprint scanner is still too slow and temperamental compared to regular rear-mounted fingerprint sensors. It’s difficult to tell where to put your finger, even with the ambient display enabled, and it often has trouble recognizing my fingerprint. Unlocking the Note 10 should be easier and more comfortable.

The Note 10’s ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor is slow compared to “old fashioned” rear fingerprint sensors. Ultrasonic sensors are designed to read fingerprints regardless of moisture or dirt on your fingers, which is meaningful, but I feel like this is an unnecessary innovation, at least until it’s as fast as regular fingerprint sensors.

The Note 10’s camera is heavy on the HDR enhancements, making many photos look bad or photoshopped, especially those taken outdoors.

Here’s an example of one outdoor photo taken with the Galaxy Note 10:

Galaxy Note 10 photos009

This photo looks fine at first glance, but it’s not what I saw in real life at all. The greens are completely off, and it tries to even out the lighting too much.

In short, Samsung is trying too hard to “enhance” your photos. 

Read more: I’ve been testing the Galaxy Note 10’s camera for almost a week, and it’s clear that Samsung is trying way too hard to make photos look good 

However, the Galaxy Note 10 does get points for its incredible indoor photos.

In fact, the Note 10 seems to take better photos indoors than outdoors.

And I love ultra-wide cameras.

As much as the Galaxy Note 10 lets you do more, I found that the camera lets it down, especially if your smartphone is your primary daily camera. However, the way photos look is subjective, and you’ll have to decide for yourself if the Note 10’s camera is good enough for you.