I had a feeling this review would go badly and begged our local Samsung for the smaller Note 10 so I wouldn’t start off with nagative bias. I got the Note 10+ instead and it came without the supplied cover in the box. Oh boy.
Let’s get something out of the way: this is the most powerful phone that Samsung has ever produced. The Note lineup, to me at least, needs to be the most capable phone on the planet. And by my measurement, this is not it. Now that you know my versict, let’s see how I got there.
At R22 500 on sale many buyers will choose between this and a new laptop. To be fair, if you can afford to buy this phone cash, then you probably already have a pretty sweet computer set-up and this will complete your ecosystem. You could also be taking this on contract and then end up paying a mere R20 000 in device fees over the lifetime of your commitment to the network carrier.
What do you get in return for that money, though? An above average phone camera that covers all the modern focal ranges of standard, ultrawide and 2x telephoto. A battery that will last you a full work day and into a significant part of the evening. An S-Pen that hasn’t had any significant improvement to the writing latency and general pen experience since 2017, but you can use it as a remote now. A so-so computer replacement that can co-opt your Windows laptop or MacBook screen in a pinch, or connect to a large display with full mouse and keyboard functionality.
Most of those features are now available on the Galaxy S10+ that retails for R4 000 less, courtesy of the latest software update. You obviously lose out on the S-Pen, but if you were really that attached to the hardware the deal would be a non-starter to begin with.
And if you were the kind of person who couldn’t imagine life without the input stylus, then what if I told you that Samsung removed the 3,5mm audio jack and didn’t include the USB-C adapter in the box, so now you need to buy a separate product and seek out one that has a digital to analogue converter (DAC) built in. That or you’re stuck with the middling headphones that come in the box.
To be clear, that means no easy fix for content creators trying to plug in an external microphone when trying to use the device’s “Pro-grade video camera.” And that’s really the problem here: Samsung’s marketing is all about using this as a content creation tool because it includes a barebones video editor in the software (another trick the S10 gets in the new software update). Yes, you’re probably shooting the best video quality in Android land on this device, but without native manual controls or easy ways to augment that footage with more professional equipment you’re not gonna get far.
If you watched my video you know how this ends. Samsung is rumoured to discontinue the Note product line in favour of its new folding form factor… Which makes sense because the Korean giant clearly ploughed all of its R&D into the Fold and merely recycled the S10 for the Note 10. This puts it out of step with its competition. You see, the Galaxy S9 dual aperture camera was the 2018 trick, which the company then repeated for the Note 9 while it added functionality to the S-Pen. The triple camera was the 2019 trick and then it called the same play from 2018.
Apple, meanwhile significantly upgraded the iPhone camera quality alongside the addition of the ultrawide lens, then it also added in significantly more battery capacity by removing one of my favourite features (RIP 3D Touch, you will be missed). Samsung fluffed the Note 10 so badly that the initial promo video claimed the metal frame to be stainless steel when it clearly wasn’t.
If this is the last Galaxy Note device we get, then good riddance. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good device for a particular user and getting the little one almost makes sense for me, but it’s hilarious overkill for most people that actually gets you less hardware for your money than if you just bought the S10+ or last year’s Galaxy Note 9, which gained all of the handwriting recognition talents through a software update.
I think the only winner here is existing flagship Galaxy device owners who will see their smartphones gain new abilities through Samsung’s commitment to software updates.