We compared Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus to determine which one you should buy — and the more affordable Note 10 is the winner

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Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

Galaxy Note 10 vs Note 10 Plus 4x3

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Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

  • Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10 Plus smartphones have arrived.
  • The phones are similar in many ways, so you may not be sure which one is right for you.
  • We’ve highlighted the key differences between the two big-screen phones to help you decide which you prefer.
  • Neither Note is a bargain, but you can find excellent deals on both phones at Samsung, as well as all major US carriers, Best Buy, and Microsoft.
  • While power users who need a massive screen or a significant amount of storage may want to splurge on the Note 10 Plus, we suspect that the lower-priced Note 10 is the better buy for most people.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus are finally here. For the first time, the company has released two versions of its giant flagship smartphone: The $949 Note 10, and the $1,499 Note 10 Plus.

The phones have a lot in common, but there are some important differences. Here’s what you should consider when deciding which one to buy.

Design and display

samsung galaxy note 10

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

This will surprise no one: The Note 10 Plus is large. Sporting a 6.8-inch screen, it’s larger not only than the Note 10, but also than any Note to date.

The Note 10, by contrast, is actually smaller than the Note 9, with a 6.3-inch screen. That’s a heck of a lot of extra screen and could make a difference if you’re using your Note for gaming, video editing, or art.

On the other hand, casual users may appreciate the more compact model. The Note 10 doesn’t feel like a giant, cumbersome phone. At 5.93 ounces, it’s remarkably light and comfortable to hold. The Plus is only a bit heavier at 6.9 ounces, but I could feel the difference. As someone with small hands, I could barely keep hold of it – most people won’t be able to use it with one hand.

Both phones have a dynamic AMOLED+, HDR10+-certified screen made of Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass 6. The Note 10 Plus has a higher-resolution screen, however, at 1,440 x 3,040 pixels to the Note 10’s 1,020 x 2,280 pixels. You may notice the difference if you’re looking hard for it, but most people won’t.

Finally, there are slight differences in color availability. Both Notes come in Aura Black, Aura White, and the iridescent Aura Glow, but only the Note 10 Plus comes in the dark Aura Blue. If you’re dead set on a blue phone, the Note 10 Plus is your move.

Cameras

galaxy note 10 cameras

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Samsung

Samsung slapped the same sensors and lenses that are in its Galaxy S10 on the Note 10 and 10 Plus. In other words, these phones have excellent cameras.

In both devices, you’ll find a triple-camera array on the back. You get a 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens with a 123-degree field, a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom. There’s a 10-megapixel camera on the front.

The Note 10 Plus has an extra sensor that helps create portrait mode-esque depth effects. Apart from that, both cameras have the same advanced features, including a Live Focus Mode that auto-focuses on subjects while you film video, and a Zoom-In Mic feature that filters out background sound while you record audio.

Until we’re able to test both phones more thoroughly, we can’t speak definitively to the difference in photo quality. But unless you need to shoot a lot of high-end portraits, the extra sensor isn’t likely to tip the scales either way. Both phones’ cameras are top notch.

Specs and performance

samsung galaxy note 10 10

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Both phones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipset (not to be confused with the upgraded 855+, which will power some competing flagships, including the Asus ROG).

The Note 10 Plus differentiates itself in three areas. First, RAM: The Note 10 Plus packs in 12GB of RAM, while the Note 10 only has 8GB. In theory, this means you’ll better be able to multitask and run apps in the background with the Note 10 Plus. However, unless your current phone is lagging, or you find yourself constantly having to re-open apps, 8GB of RAM is likely enough for you. For context, the iPhone XS Max and Pixel 3 XL both have just 4GB RAM, while the Note 9 has 6GB.

Second differentiator: storage. This is one area where the Note 10 is an upgrade from the Note 9: It carries 256GB, while the Note 9’s base model had just 128GB. However, the Note 10 lacks a MicroSD-card slot, so you’re stuck with the 256GB that you get.

The Note 10 Plus comes in 256GB and 512GB variations. It also has a MicroSD slot, meaning you could add up to a terabyte of storage to it if you were so inclined. I imagine 256GB is more than enough storage for most people – but if you need more than that, get the Note 10 Plus.

Finally, the Note 10 Plus is the only model that’s compatible with 5G. Note, however, that the Note 10 Plus 5G costs $1,299 for 256GB and $1,399 for 512GB, and is a Verizon exclusive. Unlike the regular Note 10 Plus, it isn’t available in blue.

Battery life

samsung galaxy note 10 7

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

The Note 10 Plus has the biggest battery of any Samsung flagship yet, clocking in at a whopping 4,300mAh. The Note 10 has a smaller battery not only than the Note 10 Plus, but also its predecessor the Note 9, at just 3,500mAh.

This means we can expect the Note 10 to last longer, but we can’t say how much longer until we’ve gotten the chance to test both. For perspective, the Note 9, with a 4,000mAh battery, lasted around 11.5 hours, so you can expect the Note 10 to last a bit less, and the Note 10 Plus to last a bit longer.

Pricing and (early) conclusion

galaxy note 10 samsung

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Samsung/YouTube

Arguably, the biggest differentiator between these two phones is the price.

The Galaxy Note 10 is $949, a discount from the $999 Note 9. The Note 10 Plus is $1,099 for the 256GB version, $1,199 for the 512GB version, and $1,299 and $1,399 for those models with 5G respectively.

My guess is that most shoppers are choosing between the $949 Note 10 and the $1,099 or $1,199 versions of the Note 10 Plus. And there’s no denying that the Note 10 Plus packs in a number of improvements. The question for you is: How much are those improvements worth?

Let’s be clear: The Note 10 is not really the Note 10. The Note 10 Plus is the true Note 10. It’s an improvement from the previous Note, the Note 9, in every way. The phone that Samsung has named the Note 10 is really the Note 10e: It’s cheaper than the Note 9, and while it’s an upgrade in some categories (storage, processor, S-Pen features), it’s a downgrade in others (including battery, display resolution, and price).

The Galaxy Note lineup has always been for power users. The Note’s target customer knows how much RAM is in the phone, the screen’s resolution, and the size of the battery. The power user is taking action photos, shooting and editing video, gaming, and using all the fancy augmented-reality features the S Pen has to offer.

If you’re one of these users, you’re upgrading from the Note 9, and you want the next big Samsung flagship, you should be getting the Note 10 Plus. If you’re someone for whom an extra 256GB of storage, an extra 4GB RAM, 5G, a fancy camera lens, or a half inch of extra screen space makes a big difference, the Note 10 Plus may be worth a few hundred extra bucks.

I would contend, however, that this is not the case for most people. If you mostly use your phone for texting, Netflix, Instagram stories, and the occasional game of Words With Friends, you don’t need 512GB of storage. You don’t need a 4,300mAh battery. The Note 10’s screen resolution and RAM, while not the best Samsung has to offer, will probably suit you just fine. Your Instagram stories will still look great.

For most people, the Note 10 Plus offers bonuses, but not necessities. You’ll have to decide whether those bonuses are worth $150 or $250 – for me and many others, they’re not, but they may be for you.

Preorder the Galaxy Note 10 from $949.99 at Samsung

Preorder the Galaxy Note 10 Plus from $1,099.99 at Samsung