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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

Smartphone opulence with an S Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is Samsung's biggest and most powerful phone yet, and its Aura colors almost symbolically reflect smartphone luxury top to bottom. The hand-stretching 6.8-inch display is perfectly paired with the S Pen and an extra-big battery. Sure, it's technically neither the fastest nor the best camera phone, but it's the most fun we've had testing a phone in 2019.

For

  • Massive, gorgeous screen
  • The best selfie camera around
  • Handy S Pen stylus

Against

  • Big and slippery design
  • Camera isn't 'the best'
  • Slow fingerprint unlock

TechRadar Verdict

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is Samsung's biggest and most powerful phone yet, and its Aura colors almost symbolically reflect smartphone luxury top to bottom. The hand-stretching 6.8-inch display is perfectly paired with the S Pen and an extra-big battery. Sure, it's technically neither the fastest nor the best camera phone, but it's the most fun we've had testing a phone in 2019.

Pros

  • + Massive, gorgeous screen
  • + The best selfie camera around
  • + Handy S Pen stylus

Cons

  • - Big and slippery design
  • - Camera isn't 'the best'
  • - Slow fingerprint unlock

2-minute review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus continues to push the boundaries of what phones are capable of. It has a massive 6.8-inch screen with an equally sizable price. But it's easy to fall in love with the screen and Aura Glow glass back if you're into over-the-top smartphone opulence. It's both class-leading and classy looking.

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Just like the previous couple of Galaxy Note devices, the Note 10 builds on features Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S10 line earlier in the year but this is the first time Samsung is releasing the Note in two sizes. There’s the regular 6.4-inch Galaxy Note 10 and the supersized 6.9-inch screen Galaxy Note 10 Plus.

There’s a total of five cameras on the Note 10 which include telephoto and ultra-wide lenses with features like 'Live Focus' portrait mode that has fun-to-use filters. Although the Huawei P30 Pro beats Samsung's main cameras, the selective black-and-white Color Point and Big Circles filters took our selfie game to the next level. The Note 10 Plus has the best selfie camera we've ever tested.

Samsung goes a step further with ideas we don’t necessarily need, though. Live Focus Video makes sense on paper, but test it just once and you'll realize you don't actually want distracting background blurring effects in your videos. The same goes for AR Doodle – neat to use once but highly unnecessary. It's this year's AR Emoji/Animoji.

You'll find these features and a stylus on the "normal" 6.4-inch Note 10, which has a more one-hand-friendly screen and cheaper price. But exclusive to Note 10 Plus are higher specs, a microSD card slot, bigger battery, and ultra-fast charging speeds.

Both 2019 Note phones are missing one thing: a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack. Samsung finally caved to the critically unpopular trend in an effort to make its phones thinner and pack in a bigger battery.

Now, we'll level with you on this luxury handset. What you're getting for your money is a great camera in your pocket – but it's actually not the best camera phone. And it's fast – although, technically, it's not the fastest phone you can buy, either. And while the quality of the screen is better than any other phone, it doesn’t offer a high-refresh rate.

But forget all of that – the rankings, they don't matter: the Note 10 is Samsung’s best phone and, most importantly, the most fun we’ve had using a smartphone in 2019. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Price analysis

  • Launched August 30 after an August 7 announcement
  • 256GB version: AED 3,999 / SAR 3,,999
  • 512GB version: AED 4,499 / SAR 4,499
  • Comparable to iPhone XS Max, but better storage value
Galaxy Note 10 specs

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Weight: 196g
Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm
OS: Android 9
Screen size: 6.8-inch
Resolution: QHD+
CPU: Octa-core chipset
RAM: 12GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB
Battery:  4,300mAh
Rear camera: 16MP + 12MP + 12MP + VGA
Front camera: 10MP
Waterproof: IP68
Headphone jack: NO!
Stylus: S Pen

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus release date was Friday, August 30 after being announced on August 7, and you'll pay more for S Pen-included smartphone than pretty much any other Android handset.

It costs AED 3,999, which is lower than the iPhone XS Max and comes with 256GB internal storage version instead of the measly 64GB on the iPhone. Samsung also offers a bigger screen, the S Pen, and microSD card slot. There is a 5128GB version of the Note 10 Plus, but it's AED 4,499.

Smartphones with big screens are more common now, chipping away at the value of the Note 10 Plus. However, none of them utilize a stylus, so Samsung has locked up that market. 

Also, like most recent Samsung phones, you get tons of value back through offers and discounts. The Note 10 Plus comes with 3 months of Starz Play access, 25% off Accor hotel stays, restaurants and spas, and a yearly subscription to the Entertainer along with many other offers.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Display

  • Massive 6.8-inch Quad HD+ screen lends itself to the S Pen for notes
  • Center punch-hole embeds front camera inside the display
  • Doesn't offer a higher screen refresh rate
  • Beware of annoying false touches from lack of bezel

If there is one area where Samsung phones have been unmatched for the last few years, it has to be the display. All the way from the Galaxy S7 to the Galaxy S10 and the Note models in between have featured the best screens you could find on mobile phones. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus continues that trend, but with a small caveat.

The massive 6.8-inch Super AMOLED screen with Quad HD+ resolution and punchy colors is the best screen we’ve ever looked at, however, it is restricted to a 60Hz screen refresh rate which is a detail that geeks will notice. Higher refresh rates produce a more silky and smooth scrolling effect and the only phone we’ve seen that offers a higher refresh rate on an OLED screen is the OnePlus 7 Pro

Nevertheless, the screen’s sheer size that makes up the entire front of the phone with an edge-to-edge design is immersive and mesmerizing. Like most of Samsung’s curved phones of late, you will notice some amounts of accidental touches along the sides of the unit but we found them to be lower than the Galaxy S10 Plus. 

You’d think that a phone with a screen as big as 6.8 inches would be too hard to handle  but even with the mammoth screen that’s larger than the 6.5-inch screen on the iPhone XS Max, the Galaxy Note 10 is just a tad bit thinner and narrower, and much lighter. It's only a few millimeters taller but well worth that hand stretching.

Samsung's bigger-screen, smaller-body trick is that it uses a center-aligned punch hole to embed the front camera into the display. It's 26% smaller than the top-right S10 camera hole and less intrusive than Apple's 'notch.' We found it easy to ignore when watching Netflix.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Design

  • Slick glass back means you'll want a case to avoid dropping it
  • No headphone jack, but microSD card slot remains on the Plus
  • Colors: Aura Glow, Aura Black, Aura White, Aura Pink, Aura Red

We received the Galaxy Note 10 Plus in Aura Glow finish for review which, though being a finger-print magnet, is beautiful to look at by bouncing light in almost every imaginable color. It's a head-turner.

But you will want to hold onto the behemoth Note 10 Plus tightly. The massive glass front and back with a slick Aluminum frame make it slippery and extend beyond your natural grip. It’s almost a shame to put a cover on this beautiful design but well worth it to protect your investment.

The streamlined screen with the small punch-hole camera means there's no room to fit the IR scanner used in the Note 9 and Note 8 for a quick and secure face unlock. Instead, you get the same ultra-sonic in-screen fingerprint sensor, which hasn’t improved much from what we saw on the Galaxy S10 Plus. While accurate, it’s slow to recognize your finger..

There's also one less button on the rails of this year's Note. The dedicated Bixby button on the left side now also serve as a power button which drove us nuts the first few days. Samsung has traditionally put the power button on the right side of the phone which is where it’s located on Apple and Huawei devices as well. We kept reaching out for it on the Note 10 on the right as well, especially to launch the camera by double pressing it.

The traditional 3.5mm headphone jack is finally gone. Instead, Samsung uses the USB-C port so you can plug in included-in-the-box USB-C headphones. It had to happen sometime.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

S Pen magic tricks

  • The best way to jot down notes, markup screenshots and sign forms
  • Returning features we love: Remote Camera Shutter, Screen Off Memo
  • New gimmicks: Air Gestures, 'better' handwriting recognition are just okay

The Note's secret weapon is the S Pen stylus, and this year's phone comes with some neat new tricks that are more gimmicky than useful at this stage. However, it's the returning functionality that is far more persuasive.

The S Pen, which is now shorter and thinner than before,  is still the best way to capture and annotate screenshots on a phone, while Screen Off Memo remains the fastest way to scribble down quick notes as fast as you can pop out the stylus. No need to turn the Note 10 display on.

Remote Shutter returns from the Note 9, and it's the best way to take photos from a distance thanks to the S Pen's Bluetooth LE capabilities. New with the Note 10 Plus is the gyroscope and accelerometer for even more magic via 'Air Gestures.'

Air Gestures allow you to zoom in and out of the camera view with a clockwise-counterclockwise rotation, and swipe through menus using a left and right flick motion. Getting these new functions to work took almost too much training.

The S Pen allowed us to become the maestro of taking selfies, conducting the camera app to snap in multiple modes and take an endless parade of fun Live Focus shots. It worked for the most part, except you really need a tripod for this- are you really going to carry around a tripod for a smartphone, though?

The other new S Pen feature is better handwriting recognition. It kind of works, but mistakes still happen. Shortcuts and abbreviations are obviously harder for the phone to recognize but full words in our somewhat legible handwriting were picked up correctly.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Five cameras

  • Not 'the best' but the most fun cameras to use, with normal, telephoto, ultra-wide, and depth-sensing lenses on back
  • 12.3MP main camera benefits from Night Mode, but still bested by the Pixel 3 in lowlight
  • Ultra-wide and 2x zoom telephoto lenses offer more interesting perspectives, something not on the Pixel 3
  • 'Live Focus' Color Point and new Big Circles portrait filters make this the best selfie camera around

There are four cameras on the back of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, with the main 12MP camera capturing scenes with the bright and punchy colors Samsung photos are known for. It's solid, albeit almost exactly like the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus camera. 

Low light photos look better than ever thanks to a dedicated Night Mode. In this mode, we do see less aggressive smoothing, but more noise as exposure is increased. In most dark scenarios, we found it to be a better trade off. However, the Huawei P30 Pro continues to be the best camera we’ve tested. While the Note 10 can produce impressive shots during the day, the P30 Pro remains the overall winner with its nighttime and low-light shots.

What stands out the most are the Note 10 Plus 12MP f/2.1 telephoto and 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lenses. They offer photos at varying perspectives, while a VGA Depth lens (exclusive to the Note 10 Plus) aides in applying 'Live Focus' bokeh to photos (the smaller Note 10 relies on software blurring).

We were able to capture scenes in new ways: up close without distortion via the 2x zoom telephoto lens, and cramming more in frame thanks to the wide-angle lens – without having to back up to get everything in the shot.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Note 10 Plus ultra-wide lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Note 10 Plus regular lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Note 10 Plus telephoto lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Color Point filter

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Color Point filter

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 camera

(Image credit: Future)

Color Point filter

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

Ultra-wide lens – cropped and light edits

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

Ultra-wide lens – cropped only

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

Ultra-wide lens – original

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

Regular lens from the same angle (not wide enough)

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Lowlight test (lots of skin smoothing)

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Lowlight test (Night Mode)

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Lowlight test

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Color Point

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Regular camera: low light test

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Telephoto lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Regular lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Telephoto lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Ultra-wide lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Regular lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Telephoto lens

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

Regular lens

The other highlight is the small punch-hole that embeds a 10MP front camera in the screen. With fun-to-manipulate Live Focus filters on selfie photos, we were able to make subjects (often us) really stand out.

Color Point returns from the S10 series to be our favorite filter, but there's a new one we like almost as much: Big Circles. This fresh software-produced bokeh filter blurs the background with distant lights taking on a natural-looking bulbous shape.

The Pixel 3 also offers excellent selfie photos, and we appreciate Google's use of two camera lenses on front, with one for wide-angle group selfie photos. But overall, we had more fun using the Note 10 Plus front camera and everyone we showed was wowed by the selective-black-and-white Color Point filter.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

(Image credit: Future)
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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 plus camera

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 plus camera

(Image credit: Future)

We found the differences between the S10 Plus and Note 10 Plus still cameras to be minimal. Video is where Samsung's newest phone breaks new ground – if you ignore the silly features that distract from what's really good.

Note 10 video benefits most from its 'Super Steady' optical image stabilization (OIS). Our side-by-side comparisons with an iPhone XS Max and Note 9 show Samsung's newest phone offers smoother video. It won't make you ditch something like the DJI Osmo Mobile 3, but when gimbal-free, you'll have the least shaky video out there.

The return of Samsung's video editor, now retooled for 2019, is a welcome addition. It's built into the gallery app and easy to use, almost as if it's a simplified version of Adobe Premier Rush. And it pairs nicely with the S Pen for fine-tuning edits on the timeline.

Live Focus Video seems like a natural progression, since we do love to use Live Focus photos. Blurring the background behind moving subjects is cool at times, especially when isolating a colorful subject against a black-and-white scene with Color Point or making your room appear on the fritz with the static-filled Glitch filter. 

But Live Focus Video is a bit too inconsistent to readily use outside of a "Hey doesn't this video look neat?" social media post. Unlike Live Focus photos, you shouldn't use this until the edges of foreground subjects are a little more defined. It's better than the very similar feature on the LG G8, but that's not saying a lot.

Zoom-in Audio also serves a purpose – amplifying the subject you’re zooming into. Samsung analogized the feature to boom mic. However, we found this just made everything in a room louder, not just the subject we were zooming into.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Battery

  • More than all-day battery life with the default Full HD resolution
  • The 4,300mAh battery capacity is the largest on a Samsung phone
  • 25W charger included for fast charging, but compatible with 45W

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus battery life will get you through more than a day, and it charges much more quickly than previous Samsung phones.

We had 20% to 30% battery life after heavy use thanks to the hefty 4,300mAh battery capacity. That's roughly what we saw with the Galaxy S10 Plus, which had a smaller battery capacity, but also a smaller screen.

More-than-all-day-battery achievement is aided by Samsung's power management having been greatly refined over the years and the fact that the QuadHD+ display resolution isn't on by default – it's set to 1080p out of the box.  

You won't notice the difference between 1080p and Quad HD+ resolutions outside of VR, but also off by default was the helpful Always On Display setting. We turned it on because seeing the time and lockscreen notifications at a glance made a difference in our appreciation of the screen day-to-day. It didn't hurt battery life much.

Samsung finally upgraded its Fast Charging capabilities to 45W, a dramatic increase from the 15W wall chargers we're used to using. In the box, however, you're getting a 25W charger, which we found to be a fine improvement for most people. We went from 0% to 100% in 70 minutes with the 25W charger.

The 45W charger that's sold separately is promising to replenish your Note 10 Plus battery for all day use in just 30 minutes and it's another Plus-exclusive feature you won't find on the normal Note 10. We haven't tested this out yet, but it costs $50. We'll update this Note 10 Plus review when we get one in.

Wireless charging has also improved to 15W, which is good news because the 12W cap on the S10 'Fast Wireless Charging 2.0' speeds series felt slow. But if you bought Samsung's 12W Wireless Charger Pads Duo, you'll need the new 15W stand to make use of the higher speeds.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Interface

  • Samsung's One UI interface makes it easy to reach menus on big phones
  • Dex works sans a dock – just plug the Note 10 Plus into a laptop via USB-C
  • We'd like the see Mac/PC Samsung apps for Apple-like 'Continuity'
  • 'The new Bixby' is the same AI that has trouble understanding us

Samsung's software has been redesigned to be logically laid out on such a tall device – everything is easy to reach within its menu system, and the camera app is among the most robust without feeling overly complicated.

The clean One UI interface lines most navigation options on the bottom half of the Note 10 Plus screen, within thumb's reach. Everything on the device is well-laid-out. That's, sadly, not the case when extending Samsung's software beyond the phone.

Samsung Dex now offers a dock-free desktop view of your phone on a computer by simply plugging a USB-C cable between the Note 10 Plus and a PC or Mac. There's also a new Link to Windows mode for receiving notifications and messages on PCs. That'd all be a win if drag-and-drop functionality weren't a bit buggy.

What gets us the most is this: important apps, including Samsung Notes, don't have a good desktop edition. If we write something down and we want to bring it up on a PC or Mac, there's no reliable way to do so. Samsung's not going to win us over without the robust continuity software that Apple has between its devices.

Here's another non-surprise: Bixby is, well, still Bixby. It continues to not hear what we're saying. Every time we try a new Samsung phone, the first thing it says is “Meet the new Bixby,” and yet it’s the same mediocre voice assistant. Every. Time.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

  • One of the fastest Android phones, but not actually 'the fastest'
  • 12GB of RAM is more than enough for Dex desktop web browsing
  • 256GB or 512GB of internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot for expandable storage (not in the smaller Note) 

As you’d expect from a new Note, the 10 Plus is a fast phone- we ended up with a GeekBench multi-core score of 8,483 in our tests. Sure, last year’s iPhone and a few other Androids are faster, but that’s mostly about bragging rights at this point.

We found Samsung's 12GB of RAM more than enough to mirror Dex desktop mode and full browser support with many tabs open at once. The Note 10 Plus also features a vapor cooling chamber designed to handle today’s 3D games and whatever comes next.

One more perk exclusive to the Plus that’s not on the normal Note: this version retains the microSD card slot for expandable storage. That’s in case the 256GB or 512GB internal storage configurations aren’t enough for you.

Who's it for?

You watch videos on your phone
It's common to see people watch Netflix, YouTube and Instagram Stories during their commute. If you count yourself among them, this 6.8-inch screen is the ultimate way to take it all in and ignore everyone around you.

You're a rabid selfie taker
The Note 10 Plus has the best selfie camera simply because it's fun to use the S Pen Remote Camera Shutter and Live Focus filters like Color Point and Big Circles.

You're an avid note taker
The S Pen lends itself to people who like to take handwritten notes or sketch things out. The remote extras on the S Pen are nice, but at its core, it's a great stylus for fine-tipped note-taking.

Who's it not for?

You want a reasonably priced phone
There are phones for half as much money that do a lot of the same tricks and have big screens. Therefore the value isn't here if you're on a budget and won't make use of the S Pen or five cameras.

You want a one-hand-friendly phone
As much as we love the Aura glass back, the material and size of the Note 10 Plus is going to be problematic for notorious butterfingers. It'll stretch your hands to new lengths.

You want the best photos possible from the main camera
Samsung once again provides a great camera experience, from five different lenses to a robust camera app. But its main camera isn't always as good as the Huawei P30 Pro, especially in low light.

Not convinced by the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus? Check out our Comparison Slideshow for alternative to this phone.

Competition

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The smaller Samsung Galaxy Note 10

The Note 10 Plus has a smaller sibling: the "normal" Note 10. It has a 6.4-inch screen and smaller size, a max 1080p resolution and 8GB of RAM (this doesn't matter), and 3,500mAh battery (this does matter). It comes with a 25W charger in the box, but it lacks support for the 45W charger, and there's no microSD card slot. There's also no Depth Vision camera (bokeh is done via software). 

But everything else matches up with the Note 10 Plus. You have the same S Pen and fun-to-use Live Focus filters. For the cheaper price and more one-hand-friendly size, that may be worth it. Just remember it's limited to 256GB in most regions, including the US.

• Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 10 review

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Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS Max got the most mentions of any other phone in our Note 10 Plus review, and rightfully so. It's Samsung's chief competition at this ridiculously big size and price.

There's no stylus and the cameras are weaker than what you'll find on the new Note, but Apple's software ecosystem is what we're hoping to see one day from Samsung. The fact that the Notes you take aren't accessible on reliable desktop software makes us want to flee in iOS-Mac software.

Read our iPhone XS Max review

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Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

Image Credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Google Pixel 3 XL

The Google Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3-inch screen and the ugliest notch we've ever seen on a phone. But it's cheaper than the Note 10 Plus and has a better main camera, if that's what you're after. We do prefer the smaller 5.5-inch Google Pixel 3 if screen size doesn't matter to you (it's a bit easier to hold), but you may want to wait it out for the Google Pixel 4 at this point.

• Read our Google Pixel 3 XL review