Update: My Samsung Galaxy Note 10 impressions are well into day two, so I'm updating this article with more Note 10 camera samples taken on Saturday, including the Color Point mode that's new to Note phones (it was previously on the S10 series). Here are my updated thoughts.
I'm on my way to a full Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review, but I need more time to test things like battery life and the camera. That means I'll be doing 24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour recaps of my findings, beginning with the unboxing and updating you on my feelings toward the phone in real time.
In the last day, I got to inspect the Note 10 Plus size and build quality (it's big, but feels thinner than other Note phones), run a few performance tests, and take a few photo samples with the front and rear cameras – including some low light shots.
Samsung has made an impressive phone – but it comes with a similarly imposing price tag at a time when there are several other options out there, including several Samsung phones such as the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus. So is the S Pen stylus worth the extra cash?
Here are my early findings after unboxing the Note 10 Plus.
Refreshed Note 10 camera samples
Below, you'll find the Note 10 unboxing, but we're updating our camera test to show new photos taken on Saturday. Here's the full Note 10 photo gallery.
Ultra-wide lens – 42nd street / Chrysler Building
Regular lens – 42nd street / Chrysler Building
Telephoto lens – 42nd street / Chrysler Building
Ultra-wide lens – Empire State Building
Regular lens – Empire State Building
Telephoto lens – Empire State Building
Front camera – Wide selfie (low light)
Front camera – Regular selfie (low light)
Front camera – Color Point Live Focus mode (low light)
Rear rear lens (low light test)
Regular lens – Food shot
Don't worry, it's a beat burger
Regular lens – Food shot
Don't worry, it's a beat burger
Photos taken with the Note 10 exhibit bright and punchy colors, more saturated than the dull but color-accurate pictures from current-gen iPhones. It's a lot like I saw from the S10 Plus.
The wide-angle and telephoto lenses offer different perspectives, as you can see from the Note 10 camera samples of 42nd Street and the Chrysler Building in New York City.
You can get both 42nd Street (and an iconic NYC yellow taxi cab) in the shot and the whole Chrysler Building with the wide-angle lens. Want to get up close and personal with the Chrysler Building? The Note 10 has a telephoto lens with 2x zoom, and it's almost as good as the regular camera lens.
Note 10 marks the 1st use of Samsung's Color Point feature on a Note. It's wonderful, even if it isn't always flawless. "Act more sultry!" Me:🤷🏻♂️🤷🏻♂️🤷🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/Iq5u9G7bA4August 17, 2019
On Saturday, I tested the Color Point feature that debuted on the S10 – see the images above. This is the first time it's been on a Note phone, and while it's not perfect (notice how part of the red tomato remains in color), it's a wonderfully fun option that can spice up static pics.
I'd love to see a way to edit what's in color and what's not. Right now, it's whatever the Note 10 considers to be on the same plane as the subject. You can, thankfully, change around to different blur effects, but Color Point remains the coolest one.
I'm still using the camera in a variety of situations, and our next update before the full Note 10 review will include many photo samples and comparisons with the Google Pixel 3, iPhone XS Max and Huawei P30 Pro.
The big Note 10 camera upgrade is in its video capabilities, so I'll be testing video stabilization in side-by-side comparisons. Is it really better? Can it compete with GoPro's in-camera EIS stabilization? That's something I'll be testing on Sunday in the 72-hour update.
I need the sun to set and rise a few times before I get full use of the camera in a variety of scenarios.
Note 10 Plus unboxing
I got the Note 10 Plus in the reflective Aura Glow finish, meaning it takes on the colors of its surroundings, often exhibiting a cool rainbow effect. This is different from the matte-finish Ocean Blue and Lavender Purple colors on past Note phones.
Plastic-wrapped Note 10 Plus: Opening the Note 10 Plus box, the first thing I noticed is the phone is sitting there protected with plastic on the front and back. Yes, you can peel both sides without worry, unlike the troubled Galaxy Fold, in which the plastic film over the screen was essential to its functionality.
S Pen: The Aura Glow version of the Note 10 Plus comes with an S Pen in a deep blue color. It's smaller and thinner than previous S Pens, but its functionality has improved, with more tech inside: a gyroscope and accelerometer have been added to enable gesture controls – that's in addition to the Bluetooth LE we saw in the Note 9.
USB-C charger: My favorite part of the Note 10 Plus unboxing was seeing the newish 25W USB-C charger, offering fast charging speeds out of the box. The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G came with the same 25W charger, but the Note 10 Plus is going to be a significantly more popular phone, so it'll be a first for many fans who are used to Samsung's old USB-A charger block and slower 15W charging speeds. There's a USB-C-to-USB-C cable included in this box, too.
Other tools: There's a SIM card ejector tool, USB-C-to-USB-C adapter, and a claw-like tweezer tool for replacing S Pen stylus tips when they wear out.
What's not here: Normal headphones. That's because the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus doesn't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, instead relying on the USB-C charging port and the included USB-C headphones for personalized audio.
Samsung is among the last phone manufacturers to axe the standard headphone port from a flagship phone. Bonus: The USB-C headphones are AKG earbuds, so they're at least of good quality if you don't opt for wireless earbuds.
Also not here: A 3.5mm-head-jack-to-USB-C adapter to use normal earbuds. They're inexpensive on Amazon if you need one.
Big, but thinner, and the punch-hole has shrunk
The Note 10 Plus is a mighty big phone – its 6.8-inch screen has me yearning for the innovation of the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It's meant for extra-big hands, whereas the 6.3-inch Note 10 screen is suitable for big-to-normal-sized hands.
The phone can fit in jeans pockets fine, but that's not the case with shorts that have smaller pockets or almost all back pockets – it's just begging to slide out when I sit down. I've had that happen to me with big glass phones like this before – and this one is even bigger.
What helps is the fact that the Note 10 Plus is 7.9mm thin, meaning it's slimmer than last year's Note 9 by almost a full millimeter. It's still easy enough to wrap in one hand without a Note 10 case, but you'll need two hands to operate it properly.
I did run into a few jarring false touches when tightly gripping this massive handset, often encroaching on the sides of the curved screen. But it's not as bad as when I first started using Galaxy Notes (starting with the Note 3), back when they had extra-sensitive displays compared to an iPhone.
The center-aligned punch-hole front camera isn't as distracting as you might think. So far, it's easy enough to ignore and is 26% smaller than the Galaxy S10 punch-hole.
The most likable perk: the outline of the front camera lights up when you take a timed selfie (as on the S10 series, but this will be a first for Note users). That's incredibly handy when you're taking a group selfie and non-Samsung-phone-owning friends need to know where to look.
Note 10 Plus performance
This is the fastest Samsung phone TechRadar has tested, and I have the Note 10 that's packing the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and 12GB of RAM. It doesn't have the souped-up Snapdragon 855 Plus chip that's appeared in a few Android phones in recent weeks, but it's no slouch.
With a Geekbench multi-core score of 10,849, it's among the fastest Android smartphones TechRadar has ever tested. But it's not the fastest phone. That title still belongs to the iPhone XS, soon to be replaced by the likely far speedier iPhone 11.
What's important is that these raw benchmark numbers tell us that the Note 10 is fast enough to run the top 3D games for years to come, and also act as a device to link up to Windows 10 and handle desktop-like apps in Dex mode. At the end of the day, the numbers don't matter nearly as much as some people like to claim. This phone is incredibly fast.
Ongoing tests for our full review
I have a lot more to say about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, and I should – this is Samsung's most advanced and most expensive non-folding smartphone. But I can't come to a final conclusion with a star rating just yet – one- or two-day reviews aren't our thing at TechRadar.
I'll be testing the Note 10 battery life, both in the lab and in real-world conditions (so far, it's excellent), and continuing to snap photos with the camera in good light, medium light, and low light. There are four cameras on the back (if you include the Live Focus depth sensors) and one embedded in the front display.
I have a few more tests to run before I stamp a final review score on this device, and figure out where it sits in our best phones list.
- The Fold will be first: Huawei Mate X release date pushed back