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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 review: The best Galaxy phone to buy right now

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Galaxy Note 10, or Note 10 Plus? For the first time ever, Samsung announced two sizes of the same Note phone, with only a few differences beyond their screen dimensions and price. Finally, we can answer the questions we've been chewing on since Samsung's reveal: do the differences matter, and which phone is the better buy? 

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The Good

The Galaxy Note 10 brings the best of Samsung's Note line in a compact body that sells for the right price.

The Bad

It lacks a microSD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Bottom Line

Despite missing a few minor features, the Note 10's size, price and specs add up to the best all-around Samsung phone you can get right now.

While the 6.8-inch Note 10 Plus impresses in nearly every way, I'm happy to say that the cheaper, smaller 6.3-inch Note 10 is the best pick for most. 

Its large screen gives you room to do what you want without being too cumbersome to hold (case in point: I dropped it a lot less than the Note 10 Plus), and the features it trades off -- no depth camera on the phone's back, no microSD card slot, less RAM, a smaller battery -- all even out when you consider the Note 10's relative portability and $150 price savings compared to the Plus. 

The Galaxy Note 10 costs $949, versus the Note 10 Plus' $1,099 starting price (both with 256GB). In the UK that's £869 versus £999, and in Australia it's AU$1,499 versus AU$1,699.

Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus look incredible

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As usual with Samsung variants, the two phones share the most important core features, from a crystal-clear AMOLED screen and appealing design to the Snapdragon 855 chipset and S Pen stylus. They both have the same main rear- and front-facing cameras, fast charging with an included 25-watt charger, water-resistance (IP68) and the ability to wirelessly charge another Qi-enabled device. They run Android 9 and will be upgradable to Android 10 -- no word on a timeline yet. (Scroll to the end for the full specs comparison.)

And how does the Note 10 match up to Samsung's other Galaxy phones, like the Galaxy S10 Plus, cheap-premium Galaxy S10E and "fast" handsets like the Note 10 Plus 5G and Galaxy A90 5G? If you're comfortable with a $1,000 budget  -- or with waiting for deals -- it simply delivers the best design and meaningful feature set for the price. That's so long as you can adjust to using wireless or USB-C headphones. Honestly, I just learned to carry the included headphones with me. 

Read more: Best headphones for Samsung Galaxy Note 10, Note 10 Plus  

As for Samsung's loftier devices, we recommend holding off on 5G phones until the networks are more developed and the handset prices come down.

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Both Note 10 phones are great, but only one's the better buy.

Angela Lang/CNET

How the Note 10 and Note 10 Plus compare

  • The smaller Note 10 is easier to hold and use.
  • Note 10 Plus' larger screen is better for watching movies and reading stories.
  • Note 10 Plus' depth camera only works with mediocre 3D scanning and AR measuring apps right now; you don't need it for portrait photos or portrait video.
  • No onboard storage on the Note 10 is a shame, but 256GB is more than enough for most.
  • Battery life lasted 18 hours in our video loop test in airplane mode, versus the Plus' 21 hours.
  • The smaller Note 10 doesn't support Samsung's $50 after-market 45-watt charger.
  • Most people won't notice the Note 10's 8GB of RAM versus the Plus' 12GB.

Both Note 10 phones also have some issues with the edge-to-edge display sometimes registering mispresses that it should reject, which means you might launch or close an app by accidentally touching the screen.

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Watch this: Galaxy Note 10 versus Note 10 Plus: We determine the better phone

For everything else, from the solid camera quality to the striking finish of the Note 10 in Aura Glow, read my full Galaxy Note 10 Plus review.

Galaxy Note 10 versus Note 10 Plus


Samsung Galaxy Note 10Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
Display size, resolution 6.3-inch AMOLED; 2,280x1,080 pixels6.8-inch AMOLED; 3,040x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 401 ppi498 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.94 x 2.83 x 0.31 in.6.39 x 3.04 x 0.31 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 151 x 71.8 x 7.9 mm162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.93 oz.; 168g6.91 oz.; 196g
Mobile software Android 9.0 PieAndroid 9.0 Pie
Camera 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultrawide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultrawide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto), 3D depth (HQVGA)
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel10-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, or Samsung Exynos 9825Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, or Samsung Exynos 9825
Storage 256GB256GB, 512GB
RAM 8GB12GB
Expandable storage NoUp to 1TB
Battery 3,500 mAh4,300 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screenIn-screen
Connector USB-CUSB-C
Headphone jack NoNo
Special features S Pen stylus; Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68)S Pen stylus; Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $949$1,099
Price (GBP) £899£999
Price (AUD) AU$1,499AU$1,699
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9.1

Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 9Camera 9Battery 10