Our full Galaxy Note 10+ review is underway, but that doesn’t mean we need to hold back our thoughts as we go. We’ll have a complete and comprehensive Note 10+ review in due time, but until it’s finished, we want to give you a peek into what our thoughts are on the phone at various milestones.
The latest update here comes after three full days of use with the Note 10+ for both myself and Hayato, so you’re really getting a two-for-one deal here. The extra time has given us a better feel for the phone, and let us start to settle into a groove. Now we have more impressions of battery life, camera performance and more — and even though these aren’t final thoughts, it has a lot more weight now than our first impressions after only 24 hours.
If you’d like to go back and see those first impressions, you can hit the bottom of the article to expand our first thoughts after just a day with the phone. Then work your way back up to the top for our better-formed ideas after multiple days.
Read on, and check back in for our future updates to the review!
Using the Note 10+ through the weekend helped solidify a lot of my initial feelings on the phone, and let me start to put my foot down on others.
Battery life is consistently good, but this isn’t a two-day phone.
Battery life has so far been good, and consistent, but not mind-blowingly spectacular. Just like the Galaxy Note 9 and S10+, the Note 10+ is incredibly consistent with its battery life from day to day, and also throughout the day. The battery drains at a pretty consistent rate no matter what you’re doing, saving you from the anxiety of seeing your percentage drop dramatically after using it heavily. It doesn’t seem to matter what you do, the Note 10+ just carries on without big drops.
So what’s that translate to in hard numbers? A typical 16-hour weekday landed me at around 20% battery when starting to wind down and get into bed. That naturally includes lots of emails and social media updates, camera use, streaming music or podcasts over Bluetooth, everything syncing freely, with the always-on display enabled. (“Screen on” time was between 3 and 4 hours, for those who like that stat.) On Saturday and Sunday, where things are considerably more casual, I landed with more like 30% at the end of the day. Again, verygood, and I never had worries about my Note 10+ dying before I was ready to sleep; but this isn’t going to be anywhere near a two-day phone unless you go deep into the power saving modes.
The cameras didn’t make leaps from the S10+, which is both good and disappointing for a top-tier phone.
I obviously knew roughly what to expect from the camera experience on the Note 10+, but I suspicions have been confirmed: the cameras perform incredibly similarly to the Galaxy S10+. The main camera is reallyconsistent, sharp and colorful. The ultra-wide camera exhibits the same color profile and nearly the same quality, keeping it top of my list of ultra-wide cameras. The telephoto still gets the job done when you want the unique perspective of a zoomed-in shot, but it tends to over-sharpen a bit and create some chroma noise that isn’t present in the main camera; there’s a bit more of a trade-off there than I’d like.
I’m sorry to say that Samsung’s shortcomings in ultra-low-light photography continue with the Note 10+. The telephoto and ultra-wide cameras are basically useless in the dark, so you have to stick to the main camera, but that’s not too surprising. What is surprising is that Samsung still doesn’t know how to handle dark scenes. It continues to take the approach of just upping the ISO and slowing the shutter speed, which produces ho-hum results on a tiny sensor. This includes the “Night Mode,” which just takes the same formula and turns it up further — you get a brighter photo, but one that’s noisy and no better in terms of colors or dynamic range. You don’t get clarity, smoothness and depth of color anywhere near what Google’s Night Sight provides. It’s as though Samsung’s completely missed the boat on the computational photography improvements other companies are multiple generations into at this point.
The one big step forward here is Samsung’s touted improvements to video stabilization, which so far are incredible. We’ll have a lot of video clips to share in our complete video review, but suffice to say Samsung wasn’t bluffing when it said stabilization was greatly improved. Whether you’re walking down the street, on a bike, in a boat or in a car, the Note 10+ takes all of the movement out — and it even stands up to panning, which can often throw off software stabilization algorithms. Without doing a side-by-side comparison to know for sure, my feeling is this stabilization is on the same level as the Google Pixel 3.
The rest of the experience is rounding out exactly as I expected. Software and app performance has been impeccable, with nary a slowdown or stutter. With a few more days of tinkering I have the software mostly where I want it to be in terms of settings, disabled apps and feature changes. Samsung’s keyboard is still inexplicably terrible, so I’ve switched to Gboard, but I’m content with its default launcher and theme. And yes, the fingerprint sensor is … the same as it always has been on the S10 series. It’s kind of slow, and frustratingly difficult to consistently use on the first try with its small recognition area — particularly in the direct sun, because the always-on display is a bit too dim to easily see the fingerprint location.
Overall, a few days in, there aren’t many monumental revelations to be found with the Note 10+ — it’s great at all of the things I expected it to be, and a little disappointing where I expected as well. And that isn’t surprising, because Samsung is so dang consistent with everything it does nowadays. The Note 10+ appears to be another wonderful Samsungphone, which means it’s going to be in the running for the best Android phone just like its predecessors.
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