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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review: The most premium Android phone for your money

Here's exactly how to use these Note 10 Plus camera tricks.

No headphone jack and scrambled buttons

The Note 10 Plus quits the headphone jack, which is going to ruffle some feathers. It was also inevitable -- all phone-makers are shifting to the USB-C port only, thus requiring USB-C or wireless headphones. But for people who invested in some really good headphones, or other accessories, this is going to be a colossal pain. 

There's no dongle in the box, something that Samsung could have easily included as a goodwill gesture. Samsung's pair of USB-C AKG headphones in the box work fine. As with the embedded battery kerfuffle of 2012, we'll complain about the loss of the headphone jack, and then we'll get over it and move on.

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The new all-in-one power/lock/Bixby button moves to the left.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Another early headache is the button placement. Lefties will love that the power/lock button is now on the left under the volume rocker, but if you're used to this button on the right, it's going to change how you unlock and power off the phone. It's also confusing at first to double-press it to quick-launch the camera app. But, I got used to it in a couple days.

This button also houses Bixby Voice, which you launch by pressing and holding. If you keep Bixby on, it means you take screenshots with a quick press of the volume down and power key. A long press gets you the power-off screen. There are other ways to turn off the phone, too, and you can reprogram this side key to open any app, or to power off the phone the old way, with a long-press on the lock button alone. I suggest a trip to the Side Key settings.

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The 4,300-mAh battery takes you from early morning to late night.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life truly lasts all day

I was really impressed with the Note 10 Plus' battery life on its 4,300-mAh battery. It took me from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. with a little life left to spare, and the phone consistently powered up from 0 to 100% in about 65 minutes. That's on the 25-watt charger that comes in the box. 

You can also buy a 45-watt charger from Samsung for $50, which promises to give you about 70% charge from zero in a half hour. Samsung notes that this charger is less effective for people who like to top up their batteries at the high mark; you'll see greater speed gains if you charge from empty.

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The power is in the pen.

Angela Lang/CNET

Keep in mind that these results were on a new phone that's been used for a week. Battery capacity typically degrades over time. Your phone's battery life may also vary depending on how you use it. I typically hotspot phones twice a day during my commute, which is a strain on resources, alongside streaming movies and maps navigation. 

On a performance note, the Note 10 Plus was as fast as any other phone running on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, both in real world testing and benchmarking results.

Gesture controls aren't just a gimmick

The S Pen takes on a new job with remote control. You can press in the stylus button and flick your wrist to do stuff from far away. The best scenario is when you have your phone on a tripod and use the S Pen to switch cameras and shooting modes. It worked really well for selfies and group shots. Press the button once to take a photo or start/stop a video. You can also zoom in, but you're unable to refocus.

In Spotify, I was able to control volume, play/pause and skip or rewind tracks using the S Pen. That works well if you're using your phone to control music through some Bluetooth speakers at a party, and you don't want to cross the room every time to adjust the volume or track. S Pen gesture controls will work with native Samsung apps and select apps like Spotify -- hopefully more app developers will jump on board.

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Samsung throws down again Apple, Huawei and Google.

Angela Lang/CNET

Note 10 Plus versus the competition...

Note 9 or Galaxy S10 Plus: There'd be nothing wrong with updating from either of these phones, but the improvements and refinements are small enough that I'd still caution to wait a year, especially if you're interested in 5G. Networks will be more stable and it's a good bet the Note 11 will be 5G by default. Also, the cameras on the Note 10 Plus are nearly identical to the S10 Plus.

Galaxy Note 10: You could save yourself $150 and get this lighter, smaller variation (6.3-inch screen instead of 6.8). There's no AR camera (not a loss), and it has a smaller battery (3,500 mAh), less RAM (8GB versus 12GB) and no microSD card slot (it still has 256GB of storage). This could be a really compelling buy. Stay tuned for a comparison review.

iPhone 11, Pixel 4, Huawei Mate 10: These future phones are still weeks away, but if you're going to see a phone get close to toppling the Note 10 Plus, it'll be one of these three. The iPhone has the edge with face unlock, and Apple often introduces interesting new camera features. (Here's how we think the Note 10 and iPhone 11 will compare.)

Google and Huawei are particularly strong on low-light photography and for the first time, the Pixel 4 will have multiple rear cameras. Huawei's optical zoom is also the very best of its class.

Note 10 vs. iPhone XS Max vs. Huawei P30 Pro


Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus iPhone XS Max Huawei P30 Pro
Display size, resolution 6.3-inch AMOLED; 2,280x1,080 pixels 6.8-inch AMOLED; 3,040x1,440 pixels 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688x1,242 pixels 6.47-inch OLED; 2,340x1,080-pixels
Pixel density 401 ppi 498 ppi 458 ppi 398 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.94 x 2.83 x 0.31 in. 6.39 x 3.04 x 0.31 in. 6.2x3.0x.3 in. 6.22 x 2.89 x 0.33 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 151 x 71.8 x 7.9 mm 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm 157.5x77.4x7.7 mm 158 x 73.4 x 8.41 mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.93 oz.; 168g 6.91 oz.; 196g 7.3oz.; 208g 6.77 oz.; 192g
Mobile software Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie iOS 12 Android 9.0 with EMIU 9.1
Camera 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra-wide angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto), 3D depth (HQVGA) 12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 40-megapixel (standard), 20-megapixel (ultra wide), 8-megapixel 5X optical periscope zoom, TOF (time of flight) sensor
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel 10-megapixel 7-megapixel 32-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, or Samsung Exynos 9825 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, or Samsung Exynos 9825 Apple A12 Bionic Kirin 980 processor
Storage 256GB 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
RAM 8GB 12GB Not disclosed 8GB
Expandable storage No Up to 1TB No Up to 256GB with proprietary NM card
Battery 3,500 mAh 4,300 mAh 3,174 mAh (unconfirmed by Apple) 4,200 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen None (Face ID) In-screen (optical)
Connector USB-C USB-C Lightning USB-C
Headphone jack No No No No
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) Water-resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID; Memoji Camera night mode, 40w Huawei SuperCharge, 15w wireless charging, reverse charging, IP68 water-resistant
Price off-contract (USD) $949 $1,099 $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB) Converts to $1,135
Price (GBP) £899 £999 £1,099 (64GB), £1,249 (256GB), £1,449 (512GB) £899 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,499 AU$1,699 AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB) AU$1,599

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