Class-leading Samsung Note 10 the real deal

Noel Campion is impressed by the excellent quality photography and video the South Korean giant offers

Video is still one the Note 10’s strong points.
Video is still one the Note 10’s strong points.

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I’ve always been a big fan of the Samsung Note series, right since I reviewed the original, way back in 2011. It’s hard to believe a phone with a 5.3-inch screen was considered a phablet at the time when today, it’s considered an average-sized display. In the last eight years, screens have gotten bigger while the bodies have shrunk in size. The Note 10 has a screen an inch bigger than the original Note, and yet, it’s the baby of the Note 10 family.

Note 10 has a 6.3-inch OLED screen, with a resolution of 2280 x 1080. The Note 10+ has a 6.8-inch display with a resolution of 3040 x 1440. The drop in resolution is not discernable and by default, all Samsung phones run at 1080.

Where it really counts the Note 10 display is class-leading. It has high contrast, excellent colour saturation, support for HDR and it can get incredibly bright. The sum of all these part is far more important to how good a display looks, much more than just the resolution.

Watching movies on this display, especially in HDR is stunning. The blacks are deep with incredible detail in shadows, while highlights don’t get blown out. Colours are vividly rich without looking oversaturated and while the screen is bright, it can be dimmed really low too for late-night reading in total darkness.

Instead of a notch, there’s a punch-hole cutout located right in the centre of the top of the screen for the front-facing camera. I do like this better than having it located off centre like the Galaxy S10.

Under the hood, the Note 10 sports the snappy, Snapdragon 855 powerhouse and a base storage of 256GB — just as well because there’s no option to increase this due to the lack of a microSD card slot. You also get 8GB of RAM instead of the 12GB found in the Note 10+. I never found it to be an issue during my time with the Note 10, but your mileage may vary especially if you like to have a ton of apps open at the same time.

The Note 10 has a base storage of 256GB.
The Note 10 has a base storage of 256GB.

One of the most important features of any smartphone these days is the cameras. In the case of the Note 10, you get a 12MP main, 12MP with a 2x zoom lens and a 16MP ultra-wide lens. The Note 10+ has an extra time-of-flight sensor to assist depth sensing. Despite the Note 10 missing out on the latter TOF camera, it still features the new Live Focus video mode. This allows for all sorts of special effects in video mode where the subject can be isolated from the back. There are five in all - Blur, Big Circle, Spin, Colour point and Glitch, all of which are pretty cool, but ultimately, they’re more of a nice to have than something that you’ll use very often.

Like the S10, the Note 10 camera system is incredibly flexible and now includes a Night mode, which was first introduced in the Huawei P20. This is an amazing feature that works really well when used in the dark with limited light. The only caveat is that both you and your subject need to be still for a few seconds while the photo is being captured.

Portrait mode produces impressive results that most will love. Samsung seems to apply some skin smoothing and tend to open up shadow areas resulting in a flatter, less contrast image. This is intentional to make the subject more flattering albeit less realistic.

Video is still one the Note 10’s strong points with excellent video quality up to 4K at 60fps, super slow-mo at 960fps and image stabilisation up to, but not including OIS at 4K 60fps.

Face unlock is a quick and reliable method for unlocking the Note 10. The in-screen fingerprint sensor works fine but isn’t 100% reliable. Also, you have to place your finger in the correct location on the screen, which doesn’t light up to show you until you’ve pressed the screen first.

Landscape photo taken with Samsung Note 10 of Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula.
Landscape photo taken with Samsung Note 10 of Dunmore Head on the Dingle Peninsula.

Battery performance isn’t as good as I’ve seen on the Note 9. That being said, the 3,500mAh battery should be enough to see most through a heavy days use. A nice bonus is that you now get a 25w Super Fast charger in the box.

And then there’s the S Pen, the reason people will buy a Note over the standard S10. You can use it to take quick notes, sign digital documents, create animated gifs, sketch and edit photos and videos with greater control and precision.

During the last few weeks of using the smaller Note 10, I kept feeling I was missing out on having the larger Note 10+. I supposed I’ve come to expect each new Note to be the biggest, fastest and most crammed with all the latest tech Samsung iconic flagship has to offer. However, even the smaller Note 10 is a big phone. The Note 10+ is gargantuan and definitely not for everyone but for those who get what the Note series is all about, will choose the latter over the former. Of course, that’s a very subjective point of view and I’m sure some will love the option of a smaller Note 10.

Available now €970

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