Samsung
By Patrick Lucas Austin
August 30, 2019

In Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+, the larger brother of the new Galaxy Note 10, you’ll find the logical follow-up to Samsung’s previous pair of what the company calls its “flagship” Android smartphones. You’ll also find a smartphone that, with improvements to its ever-present integrated pen, can do more than you might think, and help you get a little more done each day. At $1,099, you’ll be paying the price for a phone that pulls out all the stops at a time when smartphones hundreds of dollars cheaper are, frankly, good enough for most people.

Yes, the Note 10+ is a powerful device, one that might make you reconsider how much luxury you want to keep in your pocket. But, like anything, you get what you pay for. And you get a lot out of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.

From top to bottom, the Note 10+ exudes high-end, unsurprising considering all its bells and whistles. On its face, which is all screen, is a high-resolution 6.8-inch display Samsung dubs its Infinity-O display, which includes an unseen and highly accurate fingerprint sensor for easy access, along with a tiny front-facing camera built into the screen itself, rather than the frame. If you’re not someone who thinks every pixel matters, you’ll probably never notice it when you’re watching something on the Note 10+ — it supports the latest HDR10+ video format to keep your corneas tantalized with more vivid colors and darker blacks — but for the more meticulous, the tiny black hole feels like the tiniest scratch in the Note 10+’s impeccable chassis.

On the inside you’ve got up to 512GB of built-in storage, with the option to add a terabyte more via MicroSD card. The USB-C connection and wireless power-sharing feature put it ahead of rival devices like the iPhone in terms of functionality and compatibility; you can charge AirPods (or another iPhone) using a Note 10+, no cables required. The 12GB of memory in the Note 10+ is certainly overkill, but that overkill also means you’ve got more than enough horsepower to do any serious mobile work. Or desktop work, for that matter.

That memory helps when you’re using Samsung’s productivity-focused software, like DeX, Samsung’s desktop-friendly operating system for use with an (optional) keyboard and (required) monitor, or any PC or Mac. It gives you a more familiar-looking environment in which to move files like photos directly to your computer, or a larger space to work with the Android apps on your device. Understanding why one might use DeX as opposed to the computer in front of them is a hard sell, but the idea has legs as long as you’re willing to make a few changes to your workflow for the benefit of hopefully leaving your laptop at home. However, don’t worry if you find using windowed Android apps too troublesome to navigate with either the screen or your S-Pen stylus.

The triple-camera arrangement on the back really lets you know the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ means business when it comes to taking pictures, and those photos don’t disappoint. Various photo and video modes, including night and macro shots, super slow-motion, and an enhanced directional microphone mode for capturing audio from faraway sources give you more ways to capture your day (or evening). The rear depth sensors also make for better augmented reality-laden shots and effects. While additions like AR effects feel like a parlor trick, all those components add up to a camera system that gives you better portrait shots and fewer noisy night scenes for your Instagram feed.

Samsung’s slide-out S-Pen stylus has gone through a few upgrades. You can still pop it out and quickly jot something down on the Note’s always-on display, or use it as a remote camera shutter if you’re trying to stage the perfect picture. But now you can use its new gesture controls to bounce between front and rear cameras with a flick upward, or zoom with the trio of rear lenses by spinning it in a circle. It’s basically a magic wand, one Samsung wants you to use in your daily life, from brainstorming ideas to taking notes in your morning meetings.

While converting handwriting to text is a feature that’s been around for ages, Samsung’s accurate conversions and ability to quickly save your thoughts as a Microsoft Word file for editing later make the Note 10+ a great alternative to the pocket notebook. The always-on display lets you start writing as soon as you pop the pen out of the phone. That intuitive feature makes it a perfect place to write down bits of information or capture bursts. Writing my morning pages on glass with a surface area smaller than a child’s board book is not my idea of a comfortable workspace, but writing down a few notes about what I want for dinner this weekend is the perfect job for the S-pen.

Buying into the S-Pen ecosystem requires you get to know Samsung’s own ecosystem, which still doesn’t compare to the offerings from Google and Android, or Apple and iOS. Unless you’re a full Samsung convert, willing to don the smart watches, use its smart home devices, or buy its smart TVs, a lot of these apps and additions feel extraneous, and just add another layer of complication to a device already unorthodox in its offerings. Samsung has nailed the laundry list of hardware features for the past few years. It’s the software that needs some more polish, especially when people now more than ever are concerned about the software they buy into, and who owns whatever data they decide to share.

Hardware that surpasses the competition, a trio of cameras for every environment, and a stylus that does more than write all make for a smartphone that exists to keep you occupied. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ pretty much sticks the landing, too. This phone will definitely satisfy those looking for power with a dash of polish, who want a big screen for gaming, streaming, texting, recording, and everything else you’d want to get done. Just try not to drop it.

Write to Patrick Lucas Austin at patrick.austin@time.com.

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