I haven't used a Samsung Galaxy Note in a while. The reason? The oversized dimensions and I have never felt the need for a feature like the S-Pen. The Note 10, however, with its more compact body than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus, intrigued me.
- ✓Design and build quality
- ✕Battery life
- ✕Non-expandable memory
- ✕No headphone jack
Two colors and a single memory configuration
The basic Galaxy Note 10 has 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, which is not expandable. It is offered as a dual SIM smartphone and costs $949. Just to clarify, the Galaxy Note 10+ has 12 GB of RAM and costs $1,049 with 256 GB of storage and $1,199 with 512 GB. The Note 10 Plus is also a dual SIM smartphone, and the memory can also be expanded.
The first truly ergonomic Note
'Small Note10' might seem like some kind of an oxymoron to some, but in my case, it was precisely its more compact design that impressed me. This model offers a body of 151x71.8x7.9 mm, weighs 168 grams and is really ergonomic and easy to handle with one hand.
I find it much more enjoyable to use than the Huawei P30 Pro. If there's one thing I'd do better it would be to make it a little less squared, a few more Huawei Mate 20 Pro curves would make it even more manageable.
For the first time, Samsung decided to make the Note in two variants and the Note 10 is the more compact variant between the two but also the first 'small' Note from the South Korean company. The first Note ever, released in 2011, measured 146.9x82.95x9.65 mm, weighed 178 grams and integrated a screen with a diagonal of 5.29 inches (the screen of the Note 10 is 6.3 inches). It was slightly shorter, but it was wider, thicker and heavier, the same as the Note 3 Neo, released in 2014, one of the smallest of the brand.
The Note 10, from the design side, convinced me: beautiful, well finished, and usable with one hand
It still sounds a bit strange to me to think that this Note 10 is smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus and, as I have already pointed out on other occasions, I think that Samsung should focus on a single line consisting of several variants, with and without S-Pen.
But back to the Note 10! The physical keys, volume and Bixby button, are all on the left: something you'll have to get used to if you're used to using a smartphone with keys on the opposite side. This choice does not convince me, I would have preferred the power button along the top edge. But it's a personal matter: take the Note 10 in your hands and see for yourself whether or not this layout works for you.
The SIM card tray is located at the top while at the bottom, where we have the USB-C port, a speaker and the housing for the S-Pen, perfectly integrated into the body of the smartphone and easy to pull out. The photo compartment protrudes slightly from the body but the smartphone does not dance when resting on a flat surface. Compared to the Plus version, there is no support for microSD cards. Instead, there is IP68 certification.
The model I tested is the one in Aura Black, which is still elegant, even if the Aura Glow variant is definitely more original. It's a matter of taste in this case too! Overall, the design of the Note 10 convinced me: beautiful, well finished, usable with one hand, not particularly slippery, and really makes a good impression.
An AMOLED display worthy of a Samsung
Note10 integrates a 6.3-inch Dynamic AMOLED panel with a resolution of 1080x2280 pixels. Unlike on the Plus version, you don't get a quad HD+ resolution, but you won't notice the difference. The screen does not house the notch but a hole that compares to the Galaxy S line, and is located in the center. The first days of use did not convince me so much but then I got used to it. You can also "hide" it by using a suitable wallpaper.
Excellent color reproduction, visibility from different angles, depth of blacks and brightness level. The Note10 on the display side only confirms Samsung's ability in this area: playback of videos, photos and any content will find justice on the screen of this Note10. For the next generation there is one thing the brand might consider offering: a 90Hz refresh rate. Currently offered by OnePus 7 Pro, it will arrive in 2020 on other flagships.
The Always-on Display also allows you to show info about the music you're listening to
In the dedicated display settings, you won't have many options but you can activate the blue filter, activate night mode that will simply set a dark theme so as not to tire your eyes too much, and choose between the natural or vivid screen mode.
The screen supports HDR10+ and allows you to swipe the edge for quick access to your favorite apps. A little treat for lovers of customization is the ability to set a different character type as the cooky Choco for example (I used it in the days of the old Galaxy S3 mini!). Then there is the Always-on display that also allows you to show information about the music you are listening to.
Underneath the display is the ultrasonic fingerprint reader, which is fast and accurate enough. For now, I have found better performance with the one offered by the P30 Pro, but you will be satisfied also by the one offered by Samsung.
One UI with a slice of Android Pie
Android 9 Pie is running on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 with One UI version 1.5 and security patches updated to September 1. I've never been a real fan of the Samsung interface but it's nice to see how it's getting better year after year. It is also much more convincing in terms of fluidity and design.
Having the S-Pen is not bad at all.
One UI offers many possibilities thanks to the integrated features: game Launcher for gamers, dark theme, wallpapers and downloadable themes, unlocking via fingerprint or face, a personal area to keep hidden apps and sensitive files, gestures, Bixby (for some it could be an advantage, to me Google Assistant is preferable) and the S-Pen. With the Note 10 you can rest assured from the security side and also from the side of notifications, the management is great.
Samsung's magic nib needs no introduction on the Note line and continues to improve. For me it has never been a really convincing reason to buy a Note but having it available is not bad at all. I used it mainly for taking notes at meetings, events or while I was out and about with friends, or as a remote control for taking pictures. There's another use I enjoyed: signing documents with the nib! Some of you may find it useful, even when associated with gestures, but from that point of view, I was unable to appreciate it. For now at least.
An Exynos 9825 and 8GB of RAM
The Exynos 9825 octa-core processor made with a 7nm process runs on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 I tested. The GPU is a Mali G76MP12. There's 8GB of RAM (four less than possible on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus) and 256GB of internal storage UFS 3.0 that is not expandable.
I'm sure the memory offered by the device is sufficient for most users, however, the absence of microSD support on an expensive flagship makes you flinch a bit. Just because it limits the user's freedom, but maybe it's just a whim.
Otherwise, I had no problem with the Note 10. Gaming, video, daily tasks, and everything else went smoothly without overheating or lag. I only had problems with the PassMark memory test, which froze several times. The Note 10 is a good companion for adventures and 8GB of RAM is, in my opinion, more than enough. In terms of connectivity, the Note 10 offers LTE up to 2 Gbps, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC. The picture is therefore complete.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 in benchmark tests
|3DMark Sling Shot Extreme||3DMark Sling Shot Vulkan||3DMark Sling Shot||3DMark IceStorm Extreme||Geekbench 4 (Single/Multi)||PassMark
|Note 10||4905||4146||4923||52058||4501/10397||- /72578|
|Note 10 Plus||4907||4777||4338||54663||3652/10234||19065/72588|
Clear sound but no headphone jack
The Note 10 does not offer a headphone jack. This, along with no upport for microSD, is one of the shortcomings that can be blamed on the brand. For the rest, the Note 10 does a good job on the audio side: the volume is high and the sound is clear. Calls are also clear. The bottom speaker and the integrated earpiece along the top edge provide an enveloping audio experience.
The headphones supplied, from AKG, are not bad but I mainly used wireless headphones. I have paired several headphones with the Note 10 and the process has always been quick.
A good camera, but not the best
The camera configuration of the Note 10 is the same as that of the Samsung Galaxy S10: a triplet consisting of:
- 12MP standard lens, variable aperture ƒ/1.5-2.4
- 16MP wide-angle lens, ƒ/2.2
- 12MP telephoto lens, ƒ/2.4, with 2x optical zoom
The Note10, therefore, renounces the ToF sensor compared to its Plus variant. The front of the Note 10 houses a 10MP lens with ƒ/2.2 aperture.
What about the final experience with this camera then? The Note 10 offers good shots, especially when the lighting conditions are good or at sunset. It can capture moments with the right light and with colors very close to the natural ones, without overdoing it, and capturing the moment better than other flagships . Shooting is quick and the app is easy to use. Samsung has integrated goodies into the camera app such as the Live Focus function, which allows you to blur the background in both photos and videos, and the Instagram function for more immediate sharing.
The Note 10's camera is one of the best, but not yet the best.
For night shots, although the dedicated mode does a decent job, it fails to match Huawei P30 Pro. I found myself with shots that were more blurred and noisier than those made with the Huawei smartphone. In the darker areas, it can offer more detail, this must be recognized, but the overall image is, in my opinion, less compelling. Although the Note 10 offers a good experience, there is something that still does not do as well as its rivals. Even at zoom level, it stops at 2x compared to the 5x of the P30 Pro.
On the video side, Samsung manages to get noticed. The smartphone allows you to shoot video in 4K at 60fps, even if electronically stabilized are only from 4K 30fps. Even on the audio side, videos perform really well, making the Note 10 the ideal companion for concerts where you are quite close to the stage (if you are too far away, you'll probably prefer the zoom of P30 Pro or Oppo Reno 10x Zoom).
3500 mAh on Note10 is not enough
The battery is the only real sore point on the Note 10: 3,500 mAh is not enough, despite the presence of the Exynos 9825 chip. You'll have to charge it every day, not always a night either. I used the Galaxy Note 10 during the IFA and had to charge it every afternoon for fear of being left dry late at night. I dusted off the power bank that I hadn't used in a long time for fear of being without a usable smartphone.
The battery is the sore point of the Note10
The Note 10 consumes power like a hungry animal: even without doing anything with the device, the charge level quickly drops faster than other devices such as Huawei P30 Pro and Huawei Mate 20 Pro. As with other devices, the use of the camera affects power consumption, but this is normal. Mark Battery Work 2.0 reported a result of nine hours and 51 minutes on the PC test.
Charging takes place via the USB-C 3.1 port, also used for the DeX function that moves the action to a PC. The Note 10 supports 25W fast charging (45 on the Note 10 Plus), 15W wireless and 9W reverse wireless.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 technical specifications
|Dimensions:||161.9 x 76.4 x 7.8 mm|
|Battery size:||3500 mAh|
|Screen size:||6.3 in|
|Screen:||2280 x 1080 pixels (400 ppi)|
|Front camera:||10 megapixels|
|Rear camera:||12 megapixels|
|Android version:||9 - Pie|
|Internal storage:||256 GB|
|Removable storage:||Not available|
|Chipset:||Samsung Exynos 9820|
|Number of cores:||2
|Max. clock speed:||2.7 GHz
|Connectivity:||HSPA, LTE, NFC|
An almost perfect smartphone
The Note 10 is a great smartphone for which it's easy to lose your head. Careful design, perfect size, excellent performance, a valuable screen, a mature and updated system in terms of security and an excellent camera. And then there's the S-Pen, which makes your smartphone different from any other smartphone.
If the absence of the headphone jack and microSD card slot can be excused, the battery performance weighs a little more on the final evaluation of the device. I'm really sorry, because I thought the Note 10 could be the best smartphone of the year considering the overall package, but it's not.
If you make intensive use of your smartphone you will not like to find yourself in the afternoon having to recharge your smartphone. If you love the Note line, the Note 10 Plus has a more powerful battery that solves the problem, while also offering the ability to extend the internal memory, if you are interested.
But if you've been bewitched by the Note 10 you'll probably buy it regardless of its battery and, in that case, you can be sure that you've made a good purchase even if you have to arm yourself with a power bank. Just consider that if the S-Pen is not so important to you, you can buy Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus online for a lot cheaper these days.