[Review]Samsung Galaxy Note 10: The Compact Daily Driver

Pros

  • Big screen without being big in form factor
  • Loving the S-Pen
  • Above decent audio performance
  • Doesn’t really break the bank

Price

256GB/8GB : RM 3,699

Cons

  • No MicroSD slot
  • Goodbye 3.5mm audio jack
  • “Just okay” battery life
  • 45W only works for the Note 10 Plus

Colors

Aura Pink

Aura Black

Aura Glow

Box Contents

  • Galaxy Note 10
  •  USB-C to USB-C cable
  • 25W fast charger
  • S-Pen stylus nibs and changing tool
  • AKG-tuned earphones (USB-C) with extra ear tips
  • SIM ejector tool
  • Quick start guide
  • Transparent phone case

Design Highlights

  • A premium ensemble of metal and glass sandwiched as a smartphone
  • No more 3.5mm audio jack
  • Ultrasonic In-Display fingerprint scanner
  • Weighs about 196g
  • 7.9mm thinness is yum
  • Centralized punch-hole camera is smaller than the S10’s
  • Aura-anything is great but fingerpints though

The Galaxy Note 10 is quite something to behold. Firstly, it feels like the smallest Note I have ever held. Compared to the Note 10 Plus obviously the Note 10 is smaller, but not up to a point where it feels like I have a small phone. Bezels are thin and the front-facing camera is just a cute little punch-hole top-center.  I dig those minimalist vibes, and the colors they come in. Getting the Note 10 in any color is great, and it’s a fingerprint magnet, just like most devices these days. 

It weighs remarkably light, weighing in at 167g. That probably made me feel why the device felt smaller. It weighs nearly 40g lighter than the Note 9, while just shaving off 0.1-inches in display size. Either way, this is possibly the comfiest Note to use with just one-hand, no matter the size of hand you have. 

Note 10: 6.3-inch display, 167g

Note 9: 6.4-inch display, 200g

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The bottom of the Galaxy Note 10 is similar to the S10’s, with the trade off being the 3.5mm audio jack for the S-Pen. You can justify yourself which one of the two you’d prefer, but it would have been nice to have both. 

Button placements have taken a new design route too, with the volume rocker and power button being placed on the left side of the device, making the right side bare. This took awhile to get used to, and when it’s time to change phone again, you’ll slowly start to press the empty left side of your new device. 

The top is where the dual-sim slots are, followed by the USB type-C port, microphone and speaker grill at the bottom. The speakers are loud and clear, just like the phone calls.

Overall in design the Note 10 is an aura of changing hues with a chromey exterior, making it feel like you’ve probably purchased a low-key cyberpunk phone from the future. 

Display

  • Full HD+ (2340 x 1080) Dynamic AMOLED Panel
  • 401ppi
  • Gorilla Glass 6

The Galaxy Note 10’s 6.3-inch display is great. You’re getting an edge-to-edge screen that’s lower in native resolution compared to its big brother and cousins (S10 series). The Full HD+ resolution may be out of place especially on a Samsung flagship, but it’s still sharp enough (401ppi), and more than bright enough (about nearly 800nits). You also won’t be able to scale your resolution up or down, and it’s always fixed to Full HD+. This could be Samsung’s way of optimizing user-experience and battery life. 

The dynamic AMOLED panel gives users HDR10+ capabilities, so watching HDR10 content was seamless and outright colorful eye-candy, as expected on any master-crafted panels that the Korean company manufactures. 

Performance

  • Exynos 9825 (7 nm) Octa-core (2×2.73 GHz Mongoose M4 & 2×2.4 GHz Cortex-A75 & 4×1.9 GHz Cortex-A55)
  • Mali-G76 MP12 GPU
  • 256GB + 8GB RAM

There is nothing shocking here. The Note 10 offers a smooth ride, offering superior multi-core performance over the S10’s Exynose 9820 SoC. There’s 256GB of space to play with, and 8GB of RAM keeps the One-UI user experience speedy all the time. Games play smooth and loads fast, thanks to the use of UFS 3.0 storage. 

DeX functionality is present too, letting you run apps natively on your computer’s screen by just connecting the provided USB Type-C cable and installing the DeX desktop app on Windows or Mac. User experience was rather limited, being able to only run a small number of apps with some hiccups. Hopefully some updates will clean this up and make DeX a smooth experience for all flagship adopters. 

Battery

Battery life was really “Just okay”. Packing a 3,500mAh battery pack, the Galaxy Note 10 managed to drop to 15% under constant heavy-mixed use of social media, games, video recording and listening to music for about 13 hours, concluding that a single charge can take you through a day’s work and play.

Charging though, I like. The bundled 25W charger is a step up of the previous generation of adaptive fast-chargers, zapping from flat batt to 55% in 30 minutes. As expected the transfer rates dip towards the end, and it took about over 90 minutes to get a full charge. Oh, and the charging brick is now USB-C to USB-C too, which gives it that push in current. It’s a shame that only the Note 10 Plus supports up to 45W fast-charging, but we’re satisfied with what this little brother can do anyway. 

Camera and Video

Rear Camera

  • 12MP variable aperture f/1.5 = f/2.4 Main sensor
  • 12MP f/2.1 telephoto
  • 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide

Front Camera

  • Punch-hole 10MP sensor with f/2.2

Both Note 10’s pretty much carry the same camera setup, with the difference being that the Note 10 Plus has an extra ToF camera for dedicated depth measuring instead of relying on the main/telephoto sensors.

Just like the S10, both sensors offer OIS (optical image stabilization). which helps a lot capturing less blurry photos and less-shaky video. The Note 10 introduces new AR features for the camera, where you can doodle drawings in real-time using the S-pen to create unique, drawn-through videos that can be seen as a new medium for creativity. Just take a look at our video test and you’ll see what we mean. 

The S Pen has been improved with “Air Gestures”, letting you control your zoom and capture images without touching the screen. 


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1x

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Wide Selfie
Wide Selfie

Normal Selfie
Normal Selfie

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Wide-angle
Wide-angle

Low-light
Low-light

Night Mode
Night Mode


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Camera image quality is consistent and life-like, with just a good mix of everything, from saturation to sharpness, making it as realistic as possible. The versatility of the camera should not be anything unfamiliar to even S10 series users. Pro-mode has a lot to offer, and having a variable aperture help in taking shots in all sorts of scenarios, be it up-close or wide and far. 

Night mode isn’t too shabby too, as there were some dark shots that were made too bright so hopefully an update could possibly make it a little less aggressive. 

Live Focus is something new, adding bokeh effects to both video and photo. The Note 10 was able to handle demanding environments, consistently providing accurate bokeh without leaving strange highlights on the outline of the person. 

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I have a lot to say about video. Especially the Super Steady mode. Stabilization is really good, up to a point where some people asked what gimbal I was using in a blind-test. It’s a very capable video-recording device, capturing up to 4K 60FPS and 960FPS in 720P Super Slow-mo. 

The flagship is capable of delivering top-class dynamic range and color, along with plenty of detail front and back. This would be the ideal pick-up device for vloggers and content creators wanting to quickly make some back-up rolls or are just plain lazy. Although we lose external mic-recording capabilities because there’s no more 3.5mm jack, the Note 10 was able to compensate with mic-zoom, a feature where the mics beam-forms to zoom to an area where you want to record, focusing audio in that area. This reduces but not eliminates background noise, which is highly appreciated. 

https://youtu.be/PZ3LuzfgFwI

Verdict

Essentially, the Note 10 is S10 (Now with S Pen!). There’s no audio jack and microSD storage, but that’s all to get upset about it. 

The smaller form factor didn’t sacrifice screen real-estate at all, and it’s a lot easier to carry around and fit in your pocket. 

256GB is really a lot of space, and 8GB of RAM keeps your apps and games running all-time smooth. 

My YES goes to the cameras for both photo and video. Super Steady is able to work well if you have forgotten your gimbal at home, and AR Doodle is cute but not something people will just buy this device for. The asking price of RM 3,699 is nothing shocking for a flagship Samsung, so the Galaxy Note 10 could be the ‘do-all’ daily driver you’ve been looking for. 

 

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