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Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus vs Note 10 Plus: Is newer really better?


If you’ve got £1,000 burning a hole in your pocket and you’re in the market for a flagship smartphone, it’s highly likely that you’ve at least entertained the idea of using a Samsung flagship. On the surface, the best £1,000 Samsung handset right now seems to be the Galaxy S20 Plus 5G, but it’s not quite as simple as that. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G has the same price tag, but different features wrapped in a different package.

So, we’ve got a slightly older, power-user smartphone versus a newer, mainstream-focused handset. Which £1,000 5G Samsung flagship should you buy? Here are my thoughts on the Galaxy S20 Plus vs Note 10 Plus.

See: Galaxy S20 Plus review | Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

Hardware: Subjectivity

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus ports macro 2

On the surface, the Galaxy S20 Plus and the Note 10 Plus share the same basic formula. Both are glass sandwich slabs with thin bezels, aluminum rails framing the displays, ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanners, IP68 water and dust resistance, and center-aligned punch holes.

Continue reading: Can we stop it with the comically big phones now?

There are, however, minor differences in design that drastically change the way the phones look and feel. For example, how the displays mold to the chassis. The Galaxy S20 Plus has widely rounded corners. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus, on the other hand, features tighter, steeper curves — a trait featured by Galaxy Note phones for some time now. Looks are subjective, but I much prefer the Note’s sharper and more aggressive look compared to the S20 Plus’ rounder aesthetic.

samsung galaxy s20 plus review display in hand 1

The curvature to the sides produced a pronounced difference in ergonomics. Samsung decided to drop the sharper-feeling frame for flatter sides on the Galaxy S20 Plus and I’m in favor of that choice. This decision made for a nicer hand-feel in my opinion.

If you want the S Pen, you have to buy the Note.

By far the biggest reason that you’d consider a Note 10 Plus is the S Pen — a staple in the Galaxy Note series. The stylus is a Note-only feature. The S Pen is useful for taking quick notes, marking up screenshots, and signing documents. I switched my work device to the Galaxy Note 8 purely for the S Pen.

Continue reading: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Redux: In the shadow of the Note 10

For those who aren’t so fussed about their phone having a built-in stylus, the Galaxy S20 Plus is built just as well as the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. Moreover, the S20 Plus comes in 10g lighter than the Note, making it slightly less weighty to lug about.

Display: A significant lead

samsung galaxy s20 plus review theme park app 2

Another rather significant disparity between the two titans is the display tech being used. There’s no denying that the Galaxy Note 10 Plus’ mammoth Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED panel is stunning, and one of the best displays ever found on a smartphone. Compared to the ultra-smooth 120Hz display found on the Galaxy S20 Plus though, I can’t help but feel like the Note is a step behind, despite its otherwise excellent display characteristics.

The 120Hz display of the S20 Plus is nearly identical to the Note 10 Plus in terms of size and resolution, but has double the refresh rate. This translates to a fresher and snappier device that feels worlds newer than the 60Hz refresh rate found in the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. Day-to-day, this upgrade is going to be an obvious one that crucially affects how the device feels. Scrolling and swiping — things that we do all the time on our smartphones — look and feel that much better. This does come at a price, however, as by running your Galaxy S20 Plus at 120Hz, you will experience a significant hit to battery life compared to keeping it in the 60Hz mode.

Performance: Negligible differences, for now

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus back upright 7

The Galaxy S20 Plus naturally has a newer processor at its heart; a Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990, compared to the Snapdragon 855 or Exynos 9825 in the Note 10 Plus. In the Geekbench 4 benchmark, both the Exynos and Snapdragon-powered S20 Plus handily gain leads over their Note 10 Plus counterparts. Whether you’re going to notice this difference day-to-day is another matter, as benchmarks aren’t the be-all-end-all of performance. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is not a slow phone in any sense of the word, so performance shouldn’t be a deciding factor between these two handsets.

Continue reading: Here’s what Samsung says about Exynos Galaxy S20 being weaker than Snapdragon

However, that’s only taking into account the current performance metrics. By going with the more powerful phone now, you’ll be able to hold onto more speed for longer. This is more important if you plan on upgrading more than two years from now. In that case, a phone deemed overkill now can mean longer-lasting performance.

There are two versions of the Galaxy S20 Plus with the Exynos chip: the 4G unit and the 5G unit. This isn’t super well-known, but by going with the Exynos 5G variant of the Galaxy S20, you’re able to get more RAM. The S20 Plus 5G comes with 12GB RAM vs the 8GB that is found in the regular handset. This puts the memory figure on par with the 12GB found in the Galaxy Note 10 Plus. This comes back to long-term performance, since right now you don’t need more than 8GB, but you may benefit from this spec in a couple of years.

Is performance the biggest reason to pick one or the other? Right now, no. But going forward, having newer hardware should help with longevity — which is important if you upgrade your phone every two or more years.

  Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G
Display 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED
3,200 x 1,440
20:9 ratio
120Hz refresh rate at 1080p
60Hz refresh rate at 1440p
HDR10+ certified
6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED
3,040 x 1,440
60Hz refresh rate
HDR10+ certified
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 or Samsung Exynos 990 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 or Samsung Exynos 9825
RAM 12GB 12GB
Storage 128, 256, 512GB 256, 512GB
MicroSD Yes, up to 1TB Yes, up to 1TB
Cameras Rear:
-Wide-angle: 12MP, f/1.8, 1/1.76″, 1.8µm
-Telephoto: 64MP, f/2.0, 0.8µm
-Ultra-wide: 12MP, f/2.2, 1.4µm
-VGA time-of-flight sensor

3x hybrid optical/digital zoom,
Super Resolution Zoom up to 30x

Video:
-8K 24fps
-UHD 4K 60fps
-FHD 240fps
-720P 960fps

Front:
-10MP, f/2.2, 1.22µm, AF

Rear:
-Wide-angle: 12MP, f/1.5-2.4, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm
-Telephoto: 12MP, f/2.1, 1µm
-Ultra-wide: 16MP, f/2.2, 1µm
-VGA time-of-flight sensor

Video:
-UHD 4K 60fps
-FHD 240fps
-720P 960fps

Front:
-10MP, f/2.2, 1.22µm, AF

Battery 4500mAh
25W Fast charging
Fast wireless charging
4300mAh
45W Fast charging
Fast wireless charging
IP rating IP68 IP68
Software One UI 2.0
Android 10
One UI 2.0
Android 10
Dimensions and weight 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8mm
188g
162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm
198g

Cameras: The gap widens

samsung galaxy s20 plus review rear cameras close up 3

Galaxy Note 10 Plus

  •  Rear:
    • (wide) 12MP, f/1.5-2.4, 1/2.55-inch
    • (telephoto) 12MP, f/2.1, 1/3.6-inch
    • (ultra-wide) 16MP, f/2.2, 1/3.1-inch
    • Time of flight (ToF) sensor
    • UHD / 4K at 60fps
  • Front:
    • 10MP , f/2.2, 26mm, 1/3.2-inch
    • UHD / 4K at 30fps

Galaxy S20 Plus

  • Rear:
    • (wide) 12MP, f/1.9, 1/1.76-inch
    • (telephoto) 64MP, f/2.0, 1/1.72-inch
    • (ultra-wide) 12MP, f/2.2
    • Time of flight (ToF) sensor
    • UHD / 4K at 60fps
  • Front:
    • 10MP , f/2.2, 1/3.2-inch
    • UHD / 4K at 60fps

Smartphone camera hardware has been improving at a great rate as of late, particularly with regards to optical zoom and sensor size. This is where the S20 Plus is able to create a significant gap between it and the Note 10 Plus. The former’s main camera sensor is much bigger, enabling much better image quality in all scenarios, but particularly in low light, due to the bigger individual photosites which can help massively in HDR and night shot processing. The jump up in sensor size is rather significant, at 1/1.76 inches up from 1/2.55 inches.

Even from a versatility standpoint, the newer device is more advanced. For instance, with the S20 Plus you get a longer 3x optical telephoto lens instead of the 2x found in the Note 10 Plus. This will give you more reach when zooming, therefore increasing the image quality significantly within the zoom mode at 3x. This is because the phone doesn’t need to digitally crop and enhance as much when the hardware can do the heavy lifting.

The S20 Plus’ better camera tech helps it pull ahead of the Note 10 Plus.

This extension in versatility continues to smartphone video. The Galaxy S20 Plus is among the first to feature 8K video capture. It can snag 8K at 24fps, versus the Note 10 Plus’ limit of 4K at 60fps. The S20 Plus has the Note 10 Plus beaten on the front camera, too; it can record 4K at 60fps, compared to the Note’s 4K at 30fps.

That’s not to say that the Galaxy Note 10 Plus’ camera is bad by any means. It’s still a great camera setup, it’s just not quite on the level of the Galaxy S20 Plus. I would argue that the Galaxy S20 Plus captures more dynamic range. Meanwhile, the Note 10 Plus seems to balance the white balance better, creating a much cleaner look that’s easier on the eye.

Image quality is a toss-up between the two, and the aesthetic of the photos is subjective. I personally prefer the S20 Plus’ flatter look, but you might prefer the punchiness of the Note 10 Plus. If you want the device with the more powerful and versatile camera, however,  the Galaxy S20 Plus has your back. For me, the Galaxy S20 Plus had the win in this category.

Battery and charging

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus bottom ports 1

The Galaxy S20 Plus and Note 10 Plus have 4,500mAh and 4,300mAh batteries, respectively. From what we’ve seen, the difference in real-life battery life is negligible.

The real difference can be found in the charging tech. While both phones ship with 25W chargers in the box, the Note supports up to 45W fast charging — a significant increase in charging speed (charger optional). It’s enough to put the Note 10 Plus in the lead. Wireless charging and reverse charging are the same at 15W and 9W, respectively, for each phone.

Galaxy S20 Plus vs Note 10 Plus: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus S Pen vs Samsung Galaxy Note9 S Pen

What it all boils down to is what type of user you are. If you’re someone who can’t live without the S Pen, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G is a no-brainer, with its massive display, executive-styled design, faster charging, and still-impressive set of specs. However, if you want the latest specs in a more mainstream housing, the S20 Plus 5G ticks a lot of boxes. You’re getting newer and more versatile cameras, a much faster and fresher-feeling 120Hz display, and some of the best build quality in the game.

The clever thing to do, however, would be to wait for the Galaxy Note 20. It’s highly likely that the Note 20 will have the best of both worlds — a high refresh rate display, newer cameras, and the fabled S Pen. Just don’t expect it to fit into the budget we have today.

Buy the Galaxy S20 Plus 5G if the most important things to you are perceived speed and cameras. The S20 Plus handily beats the Galaxy Note 10 Plus in these areas. Along with the updated internals, comes a fresher-feeling user experience that will stay quicker for longer.

Buy the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G if what you want is an out-and-out flagship. The S Pen is a unique feature that some will find crucial in their day-to-day lives. As an overall smartphone package, it’s got everything you need, even if it’s not as up-to-date as the Galaxy S20 Plus.

That’s it for our Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus vs Galaxy Note 10 Plus comparison. Which one do you prefer?

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