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Hands on: Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 review

Samsung’s latest phablet is here, and it’s the first in the Note line to feature an all-screen display, although it looks different to the Galaxy S10 or Galaxy S10 Plus.

Its edge-to-edge display technology is still called Infinity-O, but here the cutout for the front-facing camera is situated in the center at the top of the phone’s screen, rather than at the top-right. This placement of the single circular lens creates a distinctly cyclops-like look – an eye gazing out at you like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This is the first time in a while that Samsung has chosen to introduce two Galaxy Note phones at the same time. There’s the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 – that’s the one you’re reading about right here – and it’s joined by the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.

The Note 10 Plus has a noticeably larger display, and is therefore bigger in general, and it comes with a few upgrades under the hood and in the camera department compared to the standard model. 

Before we get started, be sure to check out our video hands on...

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 release date and price 

Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 10 at its Unpacked event in New York on August 7, and you're able to pre-order it around the world now. The Galaxy Note 10 release date is August 23 in the US, UK and Australia.

If you’re pre-ordering in the US, you’ll get $100 credit for Samsung’s online store. Samsung isn't offering a similar deal for those in the UK or Australia though.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

In Australia, though, pre-ordering the handset from Samsung or any of the major retailers will get your a bonus AKG N700 Wireless Headphones valued at AU$499.

If you're buying the phone outright, the Galaxy Note 10 price is set at price tag set at $945 / £869 / AU$1,499. We've put together a selection of the very best deals you can buy below.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 design and display 

The biggest design change compared to other Samsung phones is the introduction of a full-screen display with a punch-hole cutout for the front-facing camera at the top-center of the screen – the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus both have the selfie camera at the top-right.

The Note 10 has a 6.3-inch AMOLED display with a Full HD resolution, coming in at 2280 x 1080 pixels, with 401 pixels per inch. It includes HDR 10+ technology, and considering that Samsung hasn’t opted for a QHD display here we’re impressed with how the display looks. 

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus (left) and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 (right) in Aura White

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus (left) and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 (right) in Aura White

(Image credit: TechRadar)

We were using the phone in natural sunlight, and we weren’t able to test the quality of the display in an indoors environment, but out of doors it looked impressive.

Whether that will remain the case when you’re comparing the handset to other Samsung phones is unclear, but video we watched on the display appeared vibrant and clear.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Some may not be fans of the central placement of the camera sensor, but it’s arguably a lot less intrusive than the notches you get on other popular phones, like the iPhone XS.

The Note 10 isn’t just smaller than the Note 9, it’s also lighter and thinner. It measures 72 x 151 x 7.9mm, and at 168g it’s one of the lightest flagship Samsung phones available.

This is a Note that’s designed for those with smaller hands, who want the top-end features such as the S Pen stylus but don’t want a gargantuan phone that’s difficult to hold.

That said, this is still a big phone, and those with smaller hands will likely struggle to use it one-handed – don’t expect it to be as easy to use as handsets like the iPhone SE or Sony’s Compact line of Xperia phones.

As on the S10 and S10 Plus, Samsung has embedded the fingerprint scanner under the screen here, and it’s slightly higher than under-display scanners on some other Android phones. This feels like a more comfortable place to put it, as your thumb naturally falls on this area when you’re using the phone.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

On the bottom edge of the phone you’ll find the USB-C connector in the center, with a speaker and the S-Pen slot sitting to the right of it. The top edge of the phone is uninterrupted apart from the SIM tray.

The left-hand edge of the phone is home to the volume rocker, and the power button below this. Samsung has opted to kill the Bixby button that has appeared on a lot of recent Samsung flagships – to activate that feature you now just hold down the power button for a few seconds, which is a far more efficient solution.

The frame of the phone is a premium metal, while the back is made of glass. Your color options are Aura Glow (a combination of blue and white), Aura Black and Aura Pink, but it’s currently unclear which markets will get which colors.

We particularly liked the Aura Glow variant, the color of which changes depending on the light you’re using the phone under.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 camera 

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

If you’ve used the Galaxy S10 or S10 Plus, you’ll find that the Galaxy Note 10’s camera isn’t an exciting upgrade over those phones. It’s using the same combination of a 16MP ultra-wide lens, a 12MP regular lens and a 12MP telephoto lens.

These should combine to deliver a fantastic photography experience, if they work as well as on the Galaxy S10 range. We had a limited time to test the cameras during our hands-on review, but from what we saw they seemed to capture images that looked every bit as good as those from other recent Samsung phones.

Most of the Note 10’s improvements in the camera department are in its video recording capabilities. The image stabilization technology has been improved, and there’s a new feature called Live Focus Video, which enables you to capture ‘bokeh’ background blur effects of the kind were used to seeing in portrait-mode stills.

Live Focus Video on the Galaxy Note 10 allows for a bokeh mode on... well, live video. Here's how it looks: pic.twitter.com/w479u4ceCvAugust 7, 2019

You can make a subject pop out from their background in other ways too, for example by keeping your subject in color while making the backdrop black and white – again this is an effect we’ve seen for stills, but it’s a new idea for video.

On the Note 10 this is all achieved through software, but the Note 10 Plus uses a separate DepthVision lens to work its magic – so if this sounds like a must-have feature for you, it’s likely to work better on the larger phone.

This is how AR Doodle looks on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus. It's sort of like Instagram or Snapchat filters, but you make them yourself with the S Pen #Unpacked pic.twitter.com/fS1MJksms9August 7, 2019

Another feature is called AR Doodle, which enables you to write over the top of moving images. This works in a similar way to filters on Instagram or Snapchat with its augmented reality tech, but this is instead designed so you can create your own images using the S-Pen.

The front camera is in the center of the display, and it’s a 10MP sensor. We've yet to have much time testing this out, but we'll be sure to dig into how well it works in our upcoming full review.

 Samsung Galaxy Note 10 specs 

As this is a Galaxy Note phone, the S Pen stylus is here to let you take notes, draw on the screen and more. If you’re after a phone with a stylus, this is one of the few devices currently available, and the others are mostly other Note handsets.

Improvements to the S Pen for the Note 10 include gesture controls that allow you to control certain apps, such as the camera, video or gallery, by moving the S Pen in different directions.

This is currently limited to Samsung apps, but the company is allowing third-party app developers to access this feature, so we may see third-party applications begin to use it in the coming months.

Those in the US will have access to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset inside their phone. If you're in the UK (and other countries around the world) you'll get the newly announced its Exynos 9825 chipset, which is built using 7nm EUV technology.This essentially allows Samsung to make a chipset that’s smaller yet more efficient, and the company has chosen to include the new chip in the Note 10.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Call of Duty: Mobile running on the Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The phone is packing 8GB of RAM, and it’s only available with 256GB of storage – there’s no microSD support, and Samsung says this is to help keep the size of the device down. That’s plenty of space for the average user, but if you want more you’ll have to opt for the Note 10 Plus, which comes with 512GB of built-in storage as well as microSD support.

Another feature that’s been dropped in the effort to keep the Note 10 slim is the 3.5mm headphone jack. This is the first time Samsung has dropped the jack from its top-end phones, and some will be unhappy with the decision. You’ll be able to use the USB-C port at the bottom of the phone for certain headphones (including a pair in the box), but it may mean you’ll have to replace some of the cables you current use.

Samsung has opted to put a 3,500mAh battery inside the Note 10. We’re yet to hear how that battery will perform, but we’ll be sure to put the battery through its paces during our full review.

Wireless charging is on hand, and you’ll also be able to use Samsung’s Wireless PowerShare feature to charge compatible devices like headphones, smartwatches or other phones from your Note 10.

Looking for a phone with 5G support? The Galaxy Note 10 isn’t it – you’ll have to opt for a more expensive 5G version of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus to be able to get that support onboard.

Early verdict 

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Samsung’s first attempt at a smaller Note device means the loss of a few of the top-end features that some of those who opt for the company’s premium range are looking for, but this is a fantastically designed device that’s one of Samsung’s best phones yet.

If you’re looking for an easier-to-hold Galaxy Note phone, this may be it. If you’re looking for the most powerful device that Samsung offers, you’ll want to check out the Galaxy Note 10 Plus instead.

That said, the Galaxy Note 10 already looks to be one of the best phones that Samsung has ever created and it's immediately one of the top choices on the market if you're desperate for a stylus that works with your phone.

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