Samsung is all set to launch the Galaxy Note 20 and Galaxy Note 20 Ultra smartphones, along with a smartwatch and TWS earphones on August 5. There is a lot of excitement as to what improvements the new smartphones will bring over last year’s Galaxy Note 10-series, especially with Galaxy Note 10+ being my daily driver. But, as we still have a little over a week for the launch, let us take a step back and look at how well does the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ holds up after nearly a year.
When you get a new smartphone right out-of-the-box, almost everything runs fast and smooth. The battery also performs well, but as the smartphone starts aging, the performance starts to degrade. This is true in the case of most entry-level and affordable phones as they lack powerful hardware that can scale with extensive data storage, usage, and components aging. But with a flagship smartphone with top-of-the-line hardware, one would naturally expect optimal performance in the long run, as well as consumers, are now holding on to their devices even longer.
So, how do you gauge a smartphone’s long-term performance? Well, we believe, there are three key indicators – fluidity in day-to-day usage, battery life, and software support. Here is our “long-term” review of the Galaxy Note 10+ launched exactly 11 months ago.
Performance: Still as Smooth as Butter?
Let us begin with the elephant in the room. Under the hood, the Galaxy Note 10+ is powered by a 7nm EUV based Exynos 9825 SoC. It has an octa-core CPU with two high-performance custom M4 (Mongoose) cores (2.73GHz), in addition to the two Cortex-A75 high-performance cores (2.4GHz), and four Cortex-A55 based efficiency cores (1.9GHz). The SoC further integrates an ARM Mali-G76 MP12 GPU and a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) for on-device AI. As for memory, the device we have been using sports 12GB of LPDDR 4x RAM, and a high-speed UFS 3.0 256GB UFS interface-based NAND Flash storage. It also integrates an LTE-A Pro Cat 20 modem and dual-SIM capability.
Note-series has been my primary device since the Note 8, and have switched to Note 9, and then Note 10+. Around the time of Note 8, the performance would get sluggish after about six months of usage. Note 9 had some improvements where the performance was more refined. But the Note 10+ feels powerful and smooth as butter, even after nearly using it for a year.
My typical usage has social media apps running in the background, with me switching between them at regular intervals. I also have a stock market terminal (Zerodha Kite) app running in the background on trading days. And mostly, I am also listening to music or podcasts while working alongside always connected Galaxy Watch and the Galaxy Buds via Bluetooth.
Even after nearly a year, the Note 10+ is as fluid as day one.
Though, there are certain factors here that ensure optimal performance. The chipset with the 7nm process node ensures powerful performance as well as efficiency. Secondly, having more than enough RAM just makes it easy for the smartphone to handle the stress from multitasking to advanced gaming applications such as PUBG Mobile. At any given point, even with a few apps open in the background, there is around 3GB-4GB of free RAM. This is one of the reasons for the smooth performance. The good part is the One UI skin intelligently optimizes things based on your usage and offers optimal performance. I will talk more about it in the software part. I have more than 300 apps installed, along with other data, which consumes close to 120GB space.
Timely Software Upgrade with the Latest Security Patches
When the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ was launched in August 2019, it was shipped with Android 9 Pie with One UI skin on top. Google officially released the Android 10 update in September 2019, and in December 2019, Samsung rolled out the update to the Note 10 smartphones. The rollout time has come down, compared to three years ago where it would take almost a year. And some credit can be given to Google for bringing Project Treble to address the fragmentation issue.
Samsung has also been consistent in rolling out monthly security patches, at least to the flagship smartphones. My Galaxy Note 10+ is already running the July 2020 security patch, which is a good thing. It also gives peace of mind where critical vulnerabilities will be fixed. Now, Google has already released the Android 11 Developer Beta with the final version expected in August end or early September. It will be interesting to see if the software upgrades this time will be even faster.
A Battery that Still Sails Through a Workday
The Galaxy Note 10+ is armed with a 4,300mAh battery with support for up to 45W fast charging. Though, the in-box charger comes with 25W capacity. It takes close to 70-75 minutes to fully charge the smartphone battery. In terms of battery life, I have consistently got a full day worth juice, with some charge still left at the end of the day. But this will vary based on individual usage.
In my case, the Bluetooth is on all the time, as my Galaxy Watch is always connected to it. Also, I listen to music, binge watch, and talk to friends on Discord while gaming, all of which averages out to three hours. This is the time when the TWS earbuds are connected. Besides, I am highly active on WhatsApp and Twitter, and apps like Feedly scrolling through news and more. With all this usage, the battery can go a full day without any hiccups, giving a screen time of close to five hours.
One interesting bit I found in the One UI 2 custom skin is the ability to detect apps that I have not used in a long time and disable them. So even though I have like over 300 apps on the phone, the most used ones do not hog unnecessary battery in the background. You can manually add apps to the “Sleeping List” from the Device Care menu. I think this is a nifty addition for battery optimization. For instance, I have MyJio, Licious, and Swarm apps in sleep mode. I only need Swarm when I go to places so I can check-in. In the case of Licious, I just need it when ordering food, whereas MyJio, I only need to when recharging my phone number. Putting them to sleep means the apps will not wake up until I open it, and so the unwanted notifications will also stay away.
Battery optimizations in One UI offers perfect balance between powerful performance and efficiency.
S Pen: Mightier than the Sword?
Now, while the above parts that I talked about are key indicators to gauge the long-term performance, let me shift focus to other important stuff. Starting with the S Pen, which is the heart and USP of the Note-series. It has been a good addition, and more functional than the earlier iterations.
While I do not use the gyro features to zoom in and out in the camera app, or play/pause music, as my smartwatch does that, the S Pen itself is a handy tool in different situations. Let me explain that in detail. Recently, I had visited a furniture shop and was looking for a TV cabinet unit. The shop owner did show me different readymade patterns, but I had something else in mind and asked him for a couple of days to get back.
I went back to the drawing board (Samsung Notes app) and just started sketching how I want it to be. The moment I was done I just had to share the image with him in the form of an image file. If this was some other phone, maybe I would have scribbled it on a paper using a pen/pencil, clicked a photo, and sent it to him. These little things add a great value proposition to the Note-series.
S Pen has vastly improved over the years, from being a stylus to a unique, functional addition.
Cameras: Consistent and Reliable Performer
The cameras on the Galaxy Note 10+ may not have higher megapixel count like most other flagships today, or even Samsung’s own Galaxy S20 Ultra with 108MP sensor. But there is something that they are still good at – being consistent and reliable. Before the pandemic hit, I have traveled to different places for holidays and was able to capture some memorable moments – be it in daylight or lowlight.
I like the option of having versatility in terms of shooting modes with four different camera sensors – where there is a wide, ultra-wide, and 2X telephoto option, along with a depth sensor. The front camera sensor with auto-focus helps get clearer selfies even in challenging lighting. Below are some photos I clicked over this past year from the Galaxy Note 10+.
The quad cameras on the Note 10+ clicks great photos irrespective of the lighting conditions.
DeX: Another Interesting Addition
While not a lot of people give importance to the DeX Mode feature, I think it does deserve a shoutout. There is a lot of research and development that goes into creating such features. It transforms your phone into a PC (sort of). All you need is a monitor or a TV and use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Samsung also rolled out a DeX app for Windows and macOS that lets you run Android apps under the PC environment.
But I found this feature useful when I was on a trip and sitting inside a hotel room, looking to watch a couple of episodes from the OTT platform on a bigger screen. Of course, it needed me to carry Type-C to HDMI dongle, which is always in my bag. So, it was just about hooking up the same to the hotel’s TV using HDMI cable.
Even without a mouse and keyboard, you can browse the internet, view your Word, PDF, and Excel files and photos on a big screen. Well, you can even play music on your favorite apps and get louder audio using TV speakers. As you can see in the above image, I am taking a final look at the content I wrote (Word app), I’m also browsing on Chrome, listening to music on Spotify, and taking a closer look at a chart on the stock market app.
DeX is a powerful feature baked into the One UI with improved usability.
Sturdy Build and Premium Design
One of the things that I admire about the Galaxy Note 10+ is the design, and that back with Aura Glow color option. Even after one year, I simply cannot stop flaunting the phone in front of my friends. I also like how the weight is equally distributed, and it is even lighter than the Galaxy Note 9. The overall build quality is good too, and even though I do not use the phone with a case or cover, it has held up the wear and tear quite well.
Samsung Pay has been a Lifesaver
I have mentioned this in my previous reviews of the Galaxy S & Note series as well. Samsung Pay with MST technology has been a lifesaver for me on several occasions. Just a week ago, I took my bike out to fill petrol and check the air pressure in the types. And I generally pay via mobile wallets, so I was not carrying cash or cards. Out of luck, the mobile wallet payment was not working, and by the time the guy could tell that to me, petrol was already filled. But luckily, the MST technology was of a big help here and I could make payment using my debit card, without physically having it. This is one of the unique features that Samsung flagship phones have, and I think more companies should also adopt this.
Samsung Pay is an excellent addition that makes peer-to-peer money transfer and utility bill payments simpler.
Some Areas of Improvement
The entire Galaxy Note series has always billed as a powerful productivity tool. And with AI & Machine Learning that all tech giants are working on, you could have expected Samsung’s Bixby to give a tough fight to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant. The initial version of Bixby was pretty good, and had big potential, with a lot of voice commands that not a lot of other AI assistants supported.
Sadly, Bixby 2.0 is a disappointing upgrade that took away the key voice features. And it does not even have on-device processing for simple commands. I mean, at least things like increase/decrease volume, turn Wi-Fi or Bluetooth On/Off, and so on should at least work without connecting to the internet, like in the case of Google Assistant.
Even the assistant screen on the home screen (swiping left to right) could have been better. I’ve replaced that with Microsoft Launcher and that works better than One UI launcher. In fact, given Samsung and Microsoft partnership, if you are invested in the Microsoft ecosystem of apps – Office 365, Outlook, and more, I would suggest switching to Microsoft Launcher.
Conclusion: The Galaxy Note 10+ is Still A Powerful Option Today
As I mentioned above, the Galaxy Note 20 series is set to launch soon. And like me, I hope many others will be excited and looking forward to the new phone. But those on a tighter budget may find it reasonable to go for last year’s Galaxy Note 10-series when it gets a price cut. It is still a beast of the phone with sheer-power that can handle all your needs, be it gaming, productivity, or photography.
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