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8 Aug 2019

Five things you need to know about the Galaxy Note 10

Samsung also unveils the Galaxy Watch Active 2, and Tab S6

Samsung has unveiled its newest duo of smartphones: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and 10+, loaded with the largest screen, highest spec camera and most advanced stylus to date. It also comes with one of the biggest price tags.

With its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 9, significantly discounted since launch and still widely available, has Samsung done enough to attract a big audience for this phone?We deep dive into the specs to see how they compete with the old guard, and the newer premium smartphones on the market.

See how Samsung fares in on our round-up of the best mobile phones from our tests.

The five biggest talking points on the Note 10 and Note 10+

Just shy of six months after introducing the game-changing Samsung Galaxy S10 series to the world, Samsung put on a similarly flashy display for the official unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 at its Unpacked event on 7 August.

The biggest talking points from the launch are the addition of another model (the Note 10+) to its historic one-man line-up and the nearly 7-inch display housed in this model, which stands as one of the biggest we've ever seen.

But those additions aside, what else will you get if you upgrade to one of the shiny new Galaxy Note 10s?

A choice of sizes

For the first time in the Note's history, Samsung announced that it will be launching two smartphones instead of one, giving purchasers the option to commit to the gargantuan Note 10+ or opt for the more compact Note 10, but with a couple of compromises. Unlike the Note 10+, it only has one storage configuration of 256GB, and one fewer camera lens on the back.

Design-wise, the Note 10 is not only smaller than the Note 10+ but it's also the narrowest Galaxy Note that Samsung has made to date, measuring at 151 x 72 x 7.9mm, which is in fact smaller than the Galaxy Note 9 (162 x 76 x 9mm).

Larger displays, smaller bezels

In a series that's known for its large devices, it's no surprise that the display is a huge talking point on the new Notes. The Note 10 has a 6.3-inch screen, which is modest for a Note upgrade considering that the Note 9's screen is 6.4 inches. But if you want a large device, the Note 10+ has more than enough to give: it houses an absolutely massive 6.8-inch display (above), which borders on tablet territory.

Samsung boasts that these new models have the 'highest screen to window ratio ever on a Note', with the window referring to the small hole for the front camera, which is carefully positioned in the centre of the screen to cause minimal interruption. Samsung has also reduced the size of the window camera to increase the display size, as well as reducing the bezels on the phone, to provide the fullest view experience.

A new and improved 'S Pen'

One of the biggest draws of the Note devices is their stylus, that offers an alternative method of operating the phone. The Note 9's S Pen brought us remote control, allowing you to control apps by connecting the pen to the phone using Bluetooth.

But the Note 10's S Pen goes a step further. It preserves remote control functionality but also combines motion tracking, so waving your S Pen around actually controls the phone.

It works on the camera app, for switching between camera modes with the dial at the bottom of the display (ie Portrait Mode to Live Focus), and switching from the front to rear camera, enabling you to operate your camera from a distance. Motion control also works with apps like YouTube so you can play, pause or control video solely with the S Pen, without touching the phone.

It still preserves its primary functions like writing directly on the device, but now your handwritten compositions can be converted directly into Word or PDF files. This function is also available to convert handwritten notes in 'dozens' of languages.

Some handy camera functions

For those that have watched the roll out of the Samsung Galaxy S10 range, the camera setup on the Note smartphones may ring a bell. The Note 10 has three lenses on its rear (16Mp ultra wide angle, 12Mp telephoto and 12Mp wide angle) and a single front camera (10Mp selfie camera).

Its specs appear almost identical to the Samsung Galaxy S10 but the Note misses out on the dual pixel functionality of the S10's 12Mp wide-angle and 10Mp front camera lenses. The Note 10+ differs only by adding a 'DepthVision' lens onto the rear of the phone.

In terms of features, an important one that the Note 10 (above) will introduce is bokeh for videos. Bokeh allows you to create blur and by adding it to the Note's video capturing app, you can now blur the background of a video to focus on the subject, just like you can with pictures.

There are various other new camera features, including an improved zoom function which zooms in on sound when you zoom in on a video.

What you won't find on the Note 10

It's not all good news when it comes to features - what's missing will, for some people, be as important as what's been introduced.

An immediate dealbreaker for some, the biggest feature that's missing is the 3.5mm headphone jack. After standing strong for many years while the trend began to grow, Samsung has given in and adopted a USB-C jack on its new phones. You will get USB-C headphones in the box or you can connect Bluetooth headphones to the phone.

There's also no micro-SD card slot, at least on the standard Note 10, which is a little strange considering that means it maxes out at 256GB. Note 10+ users, who can buy models with up to 512GB of storage, still get the option to add more.

One marmite feature that some may celebrate losing is the Bixby button, which was first introduced on the Galaxy S8 and appeared on previous Note 9 and Note 8. You can still access it on your phone, but will no longer have to worry about hitting it by accident, or wishing there was a more functional way to map it to something more useful.

Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 vs Note 10 and 10+

Ultimately it seems clear that this is a fairly iterative upgrade from Samsung. Nothing wrong with that per se - radical innovations don't come along every year, but the high price will mean some difficult questions need to be asked as to whether those new features are really worth the cost. Let it not be forgotten - the Note 9 is still sitting in the wings looking mightly attractive thanks to its significantly lower price tag, and a quick look at the specs shows that you may not be missing out on an awful lot.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9Samsung Galaxy Note 10Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
Screen size6.4-inches6.3-inches6.8-inches
Display resolution (pixels)1,440 x 2,9602,280 x 1,0803,040 x 1,040
Rear cameras12Mp, 12Mp16Mp, 12Mp, 12Mp16Mp, 12Mp, 12Mp, TOF
Front cameras8Mp10Mp10Mp

Save a third and get a Galaxy Note 9

While a fair few people will be eyeing up the Note 10's improvements with wide eyes, others might prefer a consolation prize of saving up to over £300. You'll be missing out on upgrades like the rear camera's ultra-wide angle lens and the new S Pen's functionality, but get your headphone jack back, plus a guaranteed micro-SD card.

The almost one-year-old Galaxy Note 9, which originally launched at £899, is now available to buy for around £650. That's £250 off the original price, or around a third off the price of the Note 10+.

Or stick with the S10 or S10+

If you're in the market for a new flagship Samsung smartphone and you haven't been blown away by the Note 10, you might want to turn your attention to one of the Galaxy S10.

There's no S Pen for navigating or handwriting messages in cursive but you will get some upgrades where its other specs are concerned. You'll get a dual front camera with the S10+ (10Mp and 8Mp) and S10 5G (10Mp and 3D depth lens) while the Note 10 smartphones only have one front lens (10Mp).

There are more rear lenses on the S10+ and S10 5G, with the 5G configuration hosting a quad-rear camera set up to the Note 10+'s triple camera.You also won't have to worry about the lack of micro-SD card slot for additional external storage or the headphone jack as both of these features are intact with the S10s, even the S10e. In terms of price, despite being launched in March this year, there are already some discounts floating around on these models. We round up some of the places that you can grab a bargain if you're opting for a Galaxy S10 smartphone.

Samsung also launches new 5G Note, smartwatch, tablet

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G

Another big announcement at the launch was an unprecedented addition of a third model to the Note line-up - the Note 10+ 5G. Much like the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, this model is 5G ready and while very few details were revealed about the phone, we do know that it will mirror the key display and camera specs of its 4G alternative, the Note 10+.

At present, it will launch in the United States first and there is no reported date on when it will launch internationally. As expected, it's slightly more expensive, at £1,199 for 512GB of storage and 12GB of Ram.

While the headline launches of its event were the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and 10+, the tech giant also discussed some of its other new devices to help form the 'Samsung Ecosystem'.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Just six months after the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active (£245), Samsung is bringing out a successor.

Like the original, the Samsung Galaxy Active Watch 2 is stylishly slim and neutral, and doesn't look at all like a hefty fitness watch. This one comes in two sizes: 44mm and 40mm for smaller wrists. It also now has what Samsung calls a 'digital bezel': a touch-sensitive strip around the outside of the screen.

Features such as Bluetooth, GPS, sleep monitoring and NFC for mobile payments were all present in the original. Updates for this version include real-time coaching through Bixby and an improved heart rate monitor and accelerometer. You'll also be able to use it to take ECG readings - as you currently can with the Apple Watch Series 4 - although this feature won't be available at launch, and Samsung hasn't said when it will be. And you can use it to watch Youtube videos (although it seems more likely that you'd pull out your phone if there was a video you want to watch).

There are more customisation options here too. Samsung says it has made the band more easily interchangeable, so that you can keep switching between styles. It has also introduced a feature called 'My Style', which you can use to create personalised watch faces of your own outfit by taking photos with your phone.

There are special edition versions too. Samsung has partnered with sports brand Under Armour to create the Galaxy Watch 2 Under Armour edition for runners. This one can be paired to Under Armour running shoes to give you real-time stats and coaching. There's also an LTE version, which you can use to make calls directly from your watch without your phone.

As with Samsung's other watches, the Active Watch 2 runs off Tizen, and it's compatible with both iOS and Android phones.

The Samsung Galaxy Active 2 will start at $279. The UK price and launch date haven't been announced yet, but we'll update this story when we know more.

Galaxy Tab S6

Finally, the all-new premium tablet, the Galaxy Tab S6 was on display, offering some intuitive S Pen features of its own, and a slick looking design. Read more in our earlier reveal of the Galaxy Tab S6.