If we had to pick a favourite flagship Android phone then the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ would come fairly high up our list. It hits all the important points you want from such a device, wrapped into a eye-catching design, with innovative S Pen stylus integration.
Now, Samsung thinks its time to give its most flagship range a watered-down model: the Galaxy Note 10 Lite. It's adds a 3.5mm headphone jack, but takes away some of the power and therefore prowess of the more senior flagship.
On the one hand it makes perfect sense to deliver a more affordable Note, while on the other it's an oddity to dilute a flagship range. Here's what we made of the Note 10 Lite during our hands-on time at CES 2020.
- 6.7-inch Super AMOLED screen, 1080 x 2400 resolution
- Dimensions: 163.7 x 76.1 x 8.7mm / Weight: 199g
- Colour options: Aura Glow, Aura Black, Aura Red
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Integrated S Pen stylus
For whatever reason, flagship phones seem to enjoy ditching the headphone jack. The Lite, on the other hand, brings that absence back, as you can see from the bottom of the device in our photos gallery. To the opposite corner is where the S Pen stylus lives, tucked away neatly in the body, which is a key feature for the Note series.
While the Lite maintains that key feature, it doesn't offer the weather resistance of the flagship models. How much will that matter to most? Well, perhaps not so much. Just don't drop the Lite in a puddle.
Here's where things get a little confusing: the Lite is the middle-size model, its 6.7-inch screen sandwiched between the smaller 6.3-inch Note 10 and larger 6.8-inch Note 10+. Got it? The aspect ratio is also different, being a little wider, but the Lite doesn't really take a hit on the resolution front.
Which may have you wondering: "what exactly is so 'light' about the Lite?". Not a huge deal, upon reflection. The phone feels well made, the finishes are attractive, the Infinity-O display keeps the front camera largely out of sight. It's only the rear camera unit that's a little less sightly, more akin to a Huawei P30 Pro lump than the neat strip of the flagship Note 10.
- Exynos 9810 processor (10nm octa-core: 4x 2.7GHz & 4x 1.7GHz)
- 128GB & 6GB / 8GB RAM (region dependent)
- Android 10 OS; One UI 2 software
- 4,500mAh battery, fast-charging
Because the Lite is a little wider and thicker than the other Note 10 devices, it also has a much larger battery capacity within. That will likely solve the biggest complaint many had about the flagship models, which is great, but it's also baffling to offer the better innings from the supposedly less desirable phone. It's a good thing for those who might buy one, but it's perplexing to position these devices in this order.
On the power front the Lite is also a little more trim in what it offers. But that's not to say it's weak by any means: the 6GB/8GB RAM is ample, while Samsung's own Exynos 9810 processor seems to manage just fine. We do need to run it through its paces a good amount more, though, as the demo units at Samsung's CES 2020 stand are hardly representative of daily use. The same stands for battery life, but we'll bring more info as and when we know how long-lasting the Lite is as a result of this specification.
- Triple rear camera system:
- 12 MP, f/1.7, 27mm equivalent, optical stabilisation (OIS)
- 12 MP, f/2.4, 54mm (2x zoom), OIS
- 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm (ultrawide)
- Front-facing camera: 32MP, f/2.2, 25mm equivalent
Now back to that rear camera lump. It's not too pretty on the eyes but, again, its triple lenses makes for a capable solution. All lenses are 12-megapixels, so it doesn't have flagship resolution or an ultra-resolute sensor on offer here, but that's part and parcel of buying a mid-range device rather than a top-end one.
The three cameras range from wide to ultra-wide, while a 2x zoom lens delivers a medium focal length to help get subjects closer up in the frame. It opens fast, operates fairly well, and even includes optical image stabilisation on the two units that benefit from it.
The front-facing camera is actually a step beyond its Note cousins, too, with a 32-megapixel resolution outshining those more premium devices. Great, yet odd.
At first we didn't think we'd like the Samsung Galaxy 10 Lite very much. Taking a flagship and watering it down - just as Huawei did with the Mate 20 series, the Lite model not making much sense at all - seems like a self-defeating game.
However, having seen the handset, and mulled over it for a little time, it's the kind of mid-range device that offers a fair chunk of the flagship setup, without excessive compromise. No, you don't get water resistance and the rear camera unit isn't pretty or quite as capable. But you do get a larger battery capacity than either flagship, a 3.5mm headphone jack, too, while the core Note experience continues thanks to the inclusion of an integrated S Pen stylus.
So while we, as technology journalists, may instinctively scoff at the idea of this phone - it is somehwhat perplexing, really, to undermine a flagship series - we suspect that the general public will flock to it. With an anticipated £600/$800 price point and not too many compromises, the Lite has more heavyweight potential than we initially thought. We'll see whether those conclusions remain true when we get the phone as our own, to bring you a full review verdict.