I’ll be honest, when I first started seeing the leaks for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10, I was worried. There were a lot of things that seemed like red flags to me, like the lack of microSD expansion, the apparent lack of a stereo speaker setup, and obviously the death of the 3.5mm headphone jack. They were all terrifying things Note users didn’t want to hear about.
But when the South Korean electronics giant unveiled their Note 10 duo, I think a lot of us sighed a breath of relief because things weren’t as bad as we thought it was going to be. In fact, I think it turned out way better than I had hoped, which is great news. That said, there are certainly still polarising aspects about the new Notes, chief of which I think has to do with the fact that we now have two of them.
That’s why I’m writing this. As someone who’s done two deep dives into the history of this illustrious device–and as someone who has grown to admire the idea of the Note–here are five things I like and dislike about the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+. In case it isn’t already immediately clear, this is an opinion piece. Feel free to disagree with me, but be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
With that out of the way, let’s begin with one of my favourite things about the Galaxy Note 10.
What an incredible looking screen
I know I harp on, every single year, about how good Samsung’s screens look like but I think they’ve really outdone themselves with the Galaxy Note 10. And I think that’s down to two things: The first is the fact that it is a gosh darn phenomenal display from a technological standpoint. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising because of Samsung’s fantastic track record with that aspect of a smartphone.
But, the thing that really made my jaw hit the floor was how well they captured that idea of the “future phone”. You know, the rendered concepts of those all-screen smartphones we saw back in the day? Those that looked too sci-fi to be believable but we wanted to believe them anyway?
And I know that the Note 10 is not a bezel-less smartphone. I know that there is a small chin and forehead and little bezels at the side. Plus, I’m not the same person I was a few years ago. I’ve seen phones like the OPPO Find X, the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3, and I thought I wasn’t going to be impressed by another “bezel-less” phone until I saw a real bezel-less smartphone. But none of that changed how much my eyes widened when I saw the Galaxy Note 10+ for the very first time on video, and again the first time I held it in my hand at the Samsung Experience store in The Gardens (they didn’t have any review/loose units for me).
Sure, I’m certain it has a lot to do with the fact that this phone has one of, if not the highest, screen-to-body ratio of any production smartphone. But, I think that a big part of delivering on the experience is also down to how Samsung did it. How they were able to curve the screen closer to the edge to almost entirely hide the bezels, and how well they trimmed the forehead and chin so it doesn’t break that bezel-less illusion.
Then, there’s the tiny single selfie camera in their Infinity-O display layout. While I was initially apprehensive about the camera sitting dead-centre, in retrospect, I think putting it right in the middle actually helps contribute to the feeling of bezel-less-ness because it pulls attention away from the corners of the phone (where the bezels are usually the most visible).
This screen is bonkers, and I absolutely love it.
But, I also love how well it keeps what makes a Note a Note
A lot of people call the Galaxy Note the “everything” phone, and for the most part that has been very true. As someone who gets asked by a lot of people about what phone they should buy, the easiest Android phone to recommend has almost always been whatever Note flagship was new that year.
I recommend phones to people–especially those who simply wan’t a good phone–based on how reliable those handsets are. Samsung’s Galaxy Note handsets have almost always been reliably one of the most powerful phones, with one of the most capable cameras, one of the best screens, one of the best battery lives (well, most models do), with the capable ecosystem and after-sales of a brand like Samsung to back it up. Plus, they’re chock full of meaningful features like the S Pen, microSD expansion, and whatever the latest feature fad is. And all of that makes a Note really easy to recommend.
From what I’ve seen so far, the Galaxy Note 10 delivers on all of these criteria. It is unquestionably a proper Galaxy Note that’ll appeal to its hardcore power user fan base, as well as the more casual user. The biggest difference this time around is that while the hardcore Galaxy Note user will get everything they need with the big, powerful Galaxy Note 10+, the more casual customer doesn’t have to go down that path. They can opt for the other Note.
Yes, there are two Notes this time, and I like the small one a lot
The bigger a smartphone’s screen gets, the more I wished all that bezel-shaving genius gets applied to a smaller handset. Since the Galaxy S8 series, I’ve always been more fond of the smaller of the Galaxy S duo. I think that had the best form factor where it wasn’t too small nor too big, and that was an option I never got with the Galaxy Note phones. Until now.
When I held the regular Note 10, I immediately fell for it. It just felt so right in my hands. The footprint, the screen size, the way it looked–practically perfect. There was finally a small Note for people like me.
And, I think having a smaller, more affordable Note 10, also makes this line more accessible to those who have been hesitant to try out the Note simply because of its size. People who have hung on to their smaller iPhone X, Huawei P30 or even Galaxy S9 and S10. I think it’s a great idea that opens this line up to potentially even more mass appeal.
Sure, there are differences between the Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10+, but I think Samsung did a much better job splitting the bigger one from the smaller one than, say, Huawei did. While picking up the Huawei P30 felt like the company was punishing you for wanting the smaller device, the Note 10 split doesn’t feel as bad. Samsung doesn’t force you to sacrifice on the Note’s core experience the way Huawei does.
That said, this split–or at least the way Samsung chose to do it–is a little bit of a double edged sword.
Because they could have split it better
As much as I agree that they definitely did a better job at splitting the difference than Huawei did, you’re still giving up a couple of major features if you opt for the smaller Note 10. You get a lower-resolution Full HD+ display, slower 25W fast-charging and perhaps most crucially, an absence of microSD memory expansion. Now, I understand that the battery will inevitably be smaller because there’s less space, but the other compromises don’t really make sense to me.
That last bit is probably the most perplexing to me. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 tops out at just 256GB of internal storage while the Note 10+ can be configured to 512GB of storage. Wouldn’t it make a little more sense to give the storage expansion option to the smaller Note 10 instead? Or at least just include it for both.
You might think that I’m being a little harsh right now, but I only say this because I know Samsung can do better. In fact, Samsung did do better with the Galaxy S10 and S10+. So it’s honestly a little disappointing that they didn’t because at this point the smaller Galaxy Note 10 looks a lot more appealing to me.
Then, we’ve got the biggest bummer of them all
RIP 3.5mm headphone jack. Samsung was pretty much the last bastion of hope when it came to high-end flagship smartphones with the 3.5mm headphone jack and I know a lot stuck with them because of this one feature. But, on the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+, that legacy jack is now a thing of the past. It’s gone, and that’s pretty upsetting because Samsung’s “everything” phone is now a little less everything.
I know it makes sense from a business standpoint because now that the port is gone, Samsung can sell you Bluetooth headphones like their Galaxy Buds. But, I don’t know, couldn’t you still include a 3.5mm headphone jack anyway? Bluetooth headphones are still more convenient that wired ones regardless of whether you have the port or not.
Their defense is that they simply didn’t have the space for it, but I don’t know how much I really buy that. If they wanted more space for a bigger battery, I wouldn’t have minded if they made the phone a little thicker instead of killing the headphone jack. Plus, to make matters worse, I don’t even think they include a 3.5mm adapter/dongle with the Galaxy Note 10.
That being said, as much as I despise this exclusion, I don’t think this will be a deal-breaker for many. I think that once people start using the smartphone, they’ll eventually adapt to the 3.5mm-less life like I–and most of us here at SoyaCincau–have. And I’m a staunch 3.5mm kind of guy.
I say this because, at the end of the day, the Galaxy Note 10 still has way more going for it than it does going against it. I initially wanted to make a much longer list than this, but after thinking everything through, there simply wasn’t that much to dislike about the Note 10. Samsung has done a pretty good job with this handset and I honestly can’t wait to test it out for myself. What would you want to know in a full review? Drop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them. Also, if you have anything you like/don’t like about the Galaxy Note 10, let me know that in the comments below too!
Photography by Rory Lee on the Sony A7 III.