SAMSUNG UNLIKELY raised too many eyebrows with the reveal of the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+.
Thanks to the huge number of leaks building up to Wednesday's launch, some courtest of Samsung itself, we knew exactly what to expect from the flagship duo; 6.3in and 6.8in Infinity-O screens, improved S Pen functionality, the addition of 5G and souped-up performance thanks to Samsung's prematurely-outed 7nm Exynos 9825 SoC.
Still, while the smartphone duo may lack surprises, they're arguably Samsung's most impressive - and, er, undoubtedly its biggest - Note smartphones to date.
The Note 10 and Note 10+ don't look too dissimilar to last year's Galaxy Note 9. Though available in new Huawei-esque colours - Aura Glow, Aura Black, Aura Pink and Aura White - the overall feel of the device remains unchanged; expect the same sturdy, premium feel in hand, and, er, expect the slippery, fingerprint-prone gadget to slip out of your hands if you're not gripping onto it tight enough.
The Note 10+ isn't the easiest handset to grip though, as with a hefty, yet gorgeously-vibrant 6.8in Dynamic OLED screen at its forefront - the largest Samsung has included on a smartphone to date - it's an unashamedly beefy device. Though it adopts a teeny-tiny punch-hole cutout and is skinner than the Note 9 before it at 7.9mm thick, it's both taller and wider, which can make clasping it comfortably with one-hand somewhat difficult (read: impossible).
The smaller Note 10, on the other hand, with its 6.3in screen, is surprisingly easy to operate one-handedly and sat comfortably in our skinny jeans pocket.
Around the back of the phone, you'll find a triple-lens camera setup on the Note 10 and quad-camera arrangement on the Note 10+, and both now sit vertically a la iPhone XS. You'll also notice that the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner has been binned, with Samsung unsurprisingly opting for an under-screen fingerprint scanner. Though we're yet to give it a go, Samsung tells us that it's positioned 33 per cent higher on the Galaxy S10 and should, in theory at least, be less fiddly to operate.
Elsewhere, many of you will be pleased to hear that the much-maligned, oft-accidentally-pressed Bixby button has also been ditched. Instead, the newly-repositioned power button doubles-up as a Bixby launcher too, with a long-press firing up the dunce-like assistant.
The Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ ship with an "all-new" S Pen; we say all-new, but it's the same stylus that ships with Samsung's newly-shown-off Galaxy Tab S6.
The "reimagined" S Pen, which, er, looks the same as the S Pen before it, packs Bluetooth LE, enabling new features such as 'Air Actions' - gesture controls that let you operate the screen from a distance of four meters.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature is the ability to turn hand-written notes into a PDF in just a few clicks. Thanks to an update to Samsung's Notes app, hastily-scrawled messages - trust us, our handwriting is awful - can be quickly and impressively-accurately translated into text and exported to a number of different formats including Word doc, PDF and image.
It's likely a bunch of new weird and wonderful stylus features will start to crop up soon, too, as Samsung has announced that it'll be opening up its S Pen SDK to third-party developers.
Elsewhere, the new pen-like accessory boasts better battery life than before; while we've yet to put this to the test, Samsung tells us that the new Lithium-titanate battery will deliver 10-hours of standby time and will re-juice in just "minutes".
Performance and software
On paper, the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ should offer a decent performance boost compared to last year's model. Both handsets come stuffed with Samsung's 7nm Exynos 9825 CPU, which Samsung tells us offers 42 per cent and 33 per cent gains in CPU and GPU performance, respectively. We weren't allowed to benchmark the devices, but - as you'd expect - the handset showed no signs of struggling during our hands-on time.
There's some under-hood-tomfoolery going on to ensure the handset doesn't start to stutter too; Samsung's "Intelligent Performance" feature continuously optimises the device's battery, CPU, RAM and temperature, and the handsets also come equipped with the "world's slimmest" vapour chamber to stop the Note 10 from overheating.
The handsets pack also pack 8GB RAM and 256GB storage or 12GB RAM with 256GB or 512GB storage, respectively, and the Note 10+ also comes with the added bonus of a larger 4,500mAh battery (compared to 3,500mAh) and a microSD slot that supports up to 1TB additional storage. Unfortunately, neither handset sports a 3.5mm headphone jack, with Samsung finally making the switch to USB-C.
And of course, it wouldn't be an Android smartphone released in 2019 without the addition of 5G; only the Note 10+ will boast 5G support, however, and Samsung tells us the model will be made available only in "select regions."
The Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ run Android 9 Pie, topped with Samsung's One UI. As we've said in recent reviews, the new skin is a huge improvement over Samsung's anxiety-inducing TouchWiz UI of old; the interface is more stripped-back and operating the handset feels more intuitive. Of course, though, you'll still find plenty of pre-loaded guff and duplicate apps; Samsung continues to push its own Health and browser apps, for example, despite Google offering better alternatives.
Some of the Note 10's pre-loaded guff comes courtesy of Microsoft, naturally. A new partnership between the two firms now sees Microsoft's 'Your Phone' app pre-loaded on the smartphones, enabling a "seamless connection" - we haven't tested it, yet - between your Windows PC and your Note device and enabling you to access content such as your messages and notifications.
DeX is still included naturally, with the Note 10 and Note 10+ able to transform to a desktop interface simply by hooking it up to a PC via USB-C; Samsung tells us Windows 7, Windows 10 and macOS devices are supported.
As previously mentioned, the Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 fuss up the ante in the camera stakes; the smaller model packs a triple-camera array comprising 16MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide-angle and 12MP telephoto lenses, while the Note 10+'s quad-lens setup adds in a 'DepthVision' ToF sensor for adding 3D-depth effects to images and video.
While a huge step-up compared to the dual-lens offering on the Note 9, this is essentially the same setup you'll find on the Galaxy S10+ and S10+ 5G. That's no a bad thing, though; as we noted in our S10 review, the triple-camera setup is just as impressive in the real-world as it sounds on paper, producing sharp, detailed, dynamic images that look like you've spent 30 minutes tweaking them in Photoshop.
Samsung has, naturally, added a bunch of new features to its camera app too. Live Focus Video lets you blur, or change the colour of a videos' background, and Zoom-in Mic lets you focus audio on a specific subject; the latter worked impressively well during our noisy hands-on sesh. There's also a new tool called AR Doodle, which is just as nonsense as it sounds and lets you track drawings to a person on video.
The Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ are - on first impressions, at least - another triumph for Samsung. Sure, the flagship duo might not be as feature-stuffed as some were hoping, and the larger model will undoubtedly be too large for some, but the models bring with them some important refinements that make them the best Note flagships out of Samsung to date.
Of course, we'll reserve our full judgement until we get the handsets in for review. µ