Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus Review: Power Of The Pen And Much More

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Software, UI And Camera Performance

When it comes to general software and operating system refinements, Samsung's One UI has come a long way in recent implementations on the company's 10th generation premium devices. Personally, I'm not particularly fond of One UI's overly-colorful, high contrast icons and control buttons, but that's a beauty question that is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. We will say One UI is light-weight, fast and dialed in with just the right level of feature differentiation these days, sans that bloaty, reinventing the wheel feeling we've had from previous generation Samsung setups. Nay, the software config here is pretty tight, actually. 

galaxy note 10 plus home screen one ui

What's perhaps less than intuitive and might take a bit to get used to, is the fact that the left-mounted button underneath the volume rocker of the device is now, by default, the Bixby button. Out of the box, the only way to power cycle the phone is to hit the power control menu pull-down or activate a far less convenient volume down and side button simultaneous combo to activate the power option menu. Alas, if you drill down to the Side Key configuration settings, you can set the Side Key Press and Hold option to trigger a traditional Power Off menu, which we highly recommend. You can also configure a double-tap to trigger the camera, or open Bixby. We'd offer the latter is probably more practical if you're a Bixby user, leaving the camera activation for traditional display tap access. And of course you can always just holler at Bixby with a "Hey Bixby" to get the job done there if you're so inclined. 

Galaxy Note 10 S-Pen Features: Useful Enterprise Productivity Features, Others A Novelty

galaxy note 10 plus air actions s pen
Moving right along to the S-Pen's Air Actions feature, you can control high level functions of the Note 10+, like its camera and media playback, with the S-Pen. Take a picture with a single press of the S-Pen button while in the camera app, or hit play/pause while in Spotify or Pandora with a single press, or a double tap for next track, along with air gestures for similar control functionality. Functionality with these features was occasionally a little janky but still serviceable. The bigger picture here is how useful they may be for you in the long run. I can see hitting the S-Pen button for a positioned selfie or group shot, with maybe a reach action of advancing a PowerPoint slide with Samsung's powerful DeX functionality, but beyond that Air Actions still feel like novelty. Who knows, maybe we're off base and need to live with this functionality a bit more, but that's our current perspective of these features that were introduce back with the Galaxy Note 9.

Samsung DeX Screen Shot
Samsung DeX - Picking Up Where Windows Continuum Left Off

What is certainly not novelty, however, is new-found functionality with the Galaxy Note 10 series S-Pen input. Digital Text Conversion now allows your hand-written notes to be converted to text right on the screen virtually instantly. This functionality is also coupled via sharing and Microsoft Word. Here, Samsung and Microsoft's close partnership pays dividends for Note users and you can literally scribble out a quick now that converts to a Word file for instant transmission to other team members. There are myriad use cases for this simple functionality in the workplace, and in various industries from the enterprise to healthcare. It truly is the next evolution of tightly coupled mobile device pen input, and once again Samsung brings real innovation to its S-Pen implementation as well as additional value proposition.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Camera - More Features Than Any Shutterbug Could Hope For

depth vision camera smell the russell 2

When it comes to smartphone camera features, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ packs a dizzying array of additional functionality beyond its standard, wide angle and telephoto shot modes. Its rear-facing DepthVision camera can be used in the Quick Measure app to quickly size-up objects you target in its reticle. You can also use this camera as a 3D scanner to capture subjects in 3D that you can then later add to photos or videos. And of course there's AR Doodle, which lets you track a live subject in video mode and then doodle on them, or the environment around them, while the camera continues to track the subject perfectly. Similar to the shot above of Yogi, which is actually a Galaxy Note 10 Live Message capture, AR Doodle can add some fun effects to live video capture. Game-changing? No. Entertaining and fun for Instagram perhaps? Sure. 

galaxy note 10 plus standard camera
pro camera
live focus video

In standard shot mode, the Galaxy Note 10+ is more than well-equipped, with a flexible Auto mode that offers standard, wide angle and telephoto zoom shots, as well as a powerful Pro camera mode with full DSLR-like controls for exposure, ISO and the like. Also on board is Samsung's excellent Live Focus portrait mode and Color Point portrait mode shooting, as well as a new mode for Live Focus Video shots that let you apply background bokeh blur effects to video footage.

Here's a gander at some Galaxy Note 10+ still shot production versus a few competitive captures, in both indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. Then we'll look at some specialty portrait mode Live Focus shots and ultra-low light Night mode shots.

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Galaxy Note 10+ (Above) - OnePlus 7 Pro (Below)
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flower live focus hanging flower live focus
Galaxy Note 10+ (Above) - OnePlus 7 Pro (Below)
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Galaxy Note 10+ Wide Angle Shot
With indoor, mixed-lighting shots, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ produces low noise, nicely exposed shots with Samsung's usual slightly over-saturated and sharpened detail, while the OnePlus 7 Pro doesn't quite keep up with respect to exposure and light capture, but seems to deliver more balanced colors. When it comes to portrait mode shooting, it's no contest however, with the Galaxy Note 10+ producing noticeably more defined separation between subject and background, while the OnePlus 7 Pro produces and almost marco-zoomed effect from the exact same measured distance in each shot. Backing away from the subject further with the OnePlus 7 Pro (to match the framing of the Note 10+) resulted in a slight loss of fidelity as well. 

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Galaxy Note 10+ Stunning Color Point Live Focus
It also seems as though Samsung's Color Point Live Focus shots are improved by the Galaxy Note 10+'s DepthVision camera, producing the impressive shot above, with near-perfect color capture for the target subject and a blurred black and white effect for the rest of the scene. Where previously we'd see notable color bleed in some Color Point shots from from Galaxy S10 series, the Galaxy Note 10+ shows just a slight hint of color outside of the shot subject that's reflecting on the table from the adjacent window. 

galaxy note 10 night mode op7 pro night mode
Galaxy Note 10+ (Left) - OnePlus 7 Pro (Right)
In our Night mode shot comparison, the Galaxy Note 10+ has slightly better exposure and color balance than the OnePlus 7 Pro, but perhaps with a bit too much sharpening and a slight bit more noise in its rendering of our fireside scene. Either way, both cameras here capture impressively-good night shots. Further, the Galaxy Note's still camera prowess, in general, is maintained in the Galaxy Note 10+, with arguably the best portrait mode Live Focus shooting and excellent Auto mode still reproduction indoors or out, in either low light or daylight settings. 

In regards to video recording, the Galaxy Note 10+ also delivers best-in-class performance, with crispy 4K60 and 1080p60 video capture, as well as an innovative Super Steady mode that's improved in the Note 10 series over the Galaxy S10 series, especially when you're looking to minimize shake from walking while shooting. We did notice some odd audio capture here or there that may be attributed to the Galaxy Note 10+'s Zoom in Mic three-directional microphone setup. This feature is supposed to target audio amplification on the subject target, so perhaps that was the cause. We need to experiment more with this to be clear, however, as it's best utilized in settings where you're looking to capture a subject that is directly in front of the camera, rather than our narrated behind camera demos above. We'll circle back on this hopefully in the future. 

But enough of this pixel snobbery, let's fire up some performance benchmarks...

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