Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus: Just short of being the best Android phone you can buy

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The Indian variant of the Note 10+  runs on Samsung’s in-house Exynos 9825 chipset, which keeps up with its international Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 variant. (Reuters)

Often called the “everything phone”, the Galaxy Note line is by far the crown jewel in Samsung’s smartphone portfolio. The device can boast of a legitimate fan-base for Note devices, akin to Apple’s iPhones. However, Samsung has found it just as difficult to keep up the yearly update cycle as any other company.

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus brings Samsung’s new design language to the Note but it doesn’t change too much from last year’s Note. Now there are buttons on the left side of the device only, which might prove inconvenient for long time Note users who are used to the lock button being on the right.

As it was with Samsung’s last three flagships, the Note 10 Plus has an excellent display—ahead of Apple, Google, OnePlus, or pretty much anyone else. The fact that it’s a huge 6.8-inch bezel-less display makes it all the more attractive.

The Indian variant of the smartphone runs on Samsung’s in-house Exynos 9825 chipset, which keeps up with its international Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 variant. You might find benchmark tests that place the Exynos slightly behind the Snapdragon version, but it really makes no difference for regular usage. In fact, this is easily the fastest Samsung smartphone we have ever used, though it doesn’t feel as fast as the considerably cheaper OnePlus 7 Pro.

On the flip side, the cameras remain the same. If you’ve liked Samsung’s camera so far, you will like this one too. It produces slightly oversaturated photos, really bright low light images that lack details and focuses really fast. However, if you put this against a Pixel 3 or Huawei P30 Pro, the Galaxy Note 10 is at best the third-best camera phone among these flagship devices.

For one, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is weak (with respect to flagship class devices) in indoor fluorescent lights. It softens details and loses sharpness in such conditions. The Note 10 Plus also has limited capabilities in its bokeh mode, which blurs the background but is nowhere close to the iPhone’s capabilities. If the camera is paramount for you, the Google Pixel 3 and Huawei P30 Pro are the ones to go for.

You can also control the Note 10 Plus’ camera through gesture controls (using the S-Pen), and the good thing is that they do work. They’re useful when you have the phone propped on a tripod or are clicking a group selfie with the phone placed somewhere. These gesture control also work with some other apps. While widespread support will depend on third party developers, it makes the S-Pen slightly more useful for those who don’t need the writing part of its utility. That said, the gestures need much more depth for the S-Pen to really be a remote for the Note 10.

You could question the removal of the headphone jack too, but with more audio companies moving towards wireless headphones and speakers, the future of audio is certainly wireless, and Samsung can’t be blamed for following industry trends or cutting costs.

In sum, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is certainly Samsung’s best smartphone today. But it is not a real upgrade to last year’s device. It’s an upgrade for those who have two-year-old Galaxy Notes. That said, for anyone looking for an Android flagship, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus is certainly worth considering. It is the most premium Android phone today. It’s fast, has good battery life and has very few weaknesses.

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