Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Lite review: the budget phablet with some compromises

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Judit Llordés
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Samsung's Galaxy Note series is one of the most unique in the smartphone landscape: Super large high-end displays, great performance and S-Pen to boost productivity. All this is accompanied by prices that have become higher and higher over time. The Galaxy Note 10 range, presented in August, started at 929 euros up to 1.129 euros. In short, devices not within everyone's reach. So the South Korean manufacturer decided to propose a cheaper variant, Galaxy Note 10 Lite.

The smartphone arrived on the market for 629 euros with 6 Gigabytes of RAM and 128 Gigabytes of internal memory. A price that makes a niche product more accessible, but which paradoxically could represent one of the critical points of this device. This is because there are some compromises to accept: plastic shell, two-year-old processor and autonomy that does not excel. At lower figures, it is possible to buy last year's top-of-the-range smartphones: I am thinking of Huawei's P30 Pro (currently at 550 euros on Amazon).

The highlight of the Galaxy Note 10 Lite, like the entire range, is the integrated stylus. S-Pen does not change from its bigger brothers, the features are the same and offers a user experience that no other device on the market is currently able to offer. I am not a fan of large or overly equipped smartphones, but I must admit that I particularly appreciated the wide diagonal of the display and the possibility of using the S-Pen which we will deal with later.

Design and display: goodbye ergonomics

Galaxy Note 10 Lite is not an ergonomic smartphone. It couldn't be otherwise. It is located halfway to the main models. We are talking about dimensions equal to 163,7 x 76,1 x 8.7 mm for a total weight of 199 grams, which fortunately is well distributed. It is by no means easy to use with one hand. The ends are practically unreachable. The less curved edges make it easier to grip and prevent the smartphone from accidentally slipping out of our hands.

If the design of the front has been borrowed from the classic one of the Note line, the same cannot be said of the rear panel. The back cover is made of polycarbonate (which makes it less slippery) and holds fingerprints a lot. The color in our possession is Aura Glow, a combination of gray that changes color depending on the light. It is also available in the Aura Black and Aura Red color variants.

The photographic compartment (consisting of three sensors and the LED flash) is housed in a square module. An aesthetic solution that I don't prefer. However, these remain personal tastes. The photographic module is almost flush with the body and therefore does not create any stability problems when placed on a surface.

In the lower part, there is the housing for the S-Pen from which it is possible to extract and store it easily without having to exert any force. To the delight of some, next to the Type-C port, the 3,5 mm audio jack is back disappeared on Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10 Plus. On the other hand, Galaxy Note 10 Lite loses the IP68 certification, present instead on the older brothers.

Let's go back to the front panel to take care of the display. Samsung's choice fell on a large and great 6,7-inch Super AMOLED Infinity-O display with aspect ratio in 20: 9 and with a resolution Full-HD + (2.400 x 1.080 pixels). Using the S-Pen on a screen of this size is a pleasure. The central hole that houses the camera does not create any kind of problem and the graphic interface adapts perfectly to the hole creating the right symmetries.

As always when we talk about Samsung, we find ourselves in front of a great display with deep blacks, vivid colors and excellent contrast. It is visible in all light conditions even on particularly sunny days thanks also to a high maximum brightness and a good oleophobic treatment. In conclusion, the visual experience is of a high standard.

There is Always-On-Display mode to view basic information with the screen off. The biometric sensor for fingerprint recognition has been placed under the display. I was not particularly impressed. I have often found it slow and inaccurate. You have to press a little harder than other devices on which you just need to place your fingertip. After some practice, however, the situation improves. It is also possible to take advantage of face recognition, entrusted to the front camera, which remains average.

Performance and autonomy: a compromise to accept

One of the aspects that convinced me less than Galaxy Note 10 Lite is the choice of processor. Samsung has chosen the Exynos 9810, the same seen on board the Galaxy Note 9 series released in 2018. It is understandable to want to distinguish the Lite versions from the top models using a different SoC, but it probably would have made more sense to opt for the Exynos 9820 present on the Galaxy S10 instead. On the other hand, S10 Lite also adopts the Snapdragon 855, a high-end processor produced by Qualcomm.

As already mentioned, the chip is paired with 6 Gigabytes of RAM and 128 Gigabytes of memory expandable up to 1 Terabyte. The passing of time makes itself felt. The smartphone was not always smooth and snappy. Some lag is visible and in some cases there were blocks that forced me to close all applications and resume what interested me. In short, for the amount requested, I would have preferred more fluidity. It is not excluded that the situation may improve with some future software updates.

The autonomy is not particularly surprising, although it is still sufficient to cover a working day. On particularly busy days, it may be necessary to recharge in the early evening. The 4.500 mAh battery with 25W fast charging support allowed me to arrive in the evening after 17 hours from the last charge compared to 5 hours of active display. No wireless charging.

Connectivity is complete and don't forget NFC, 3,5mm audio jack, dual-SIM support and Bluetooth 5.0. The charging port is Type-C but has no video output, so no compatibility with Samsung DeX.

Software and S-Pen, the stylus makes the difference

Galaxy Note 10 Lite arrived on the market with Android 10, this means that it is one of the smartphones that will be updated to the future Android 11 (here the first list of upgradeable devices). The green robot system is customized with the One UI 2.0 graphic interface. The functions, therefore, are the ones we have come to know: one-hand mode, navigation gesture, video editor, the sidebar to quickly access your favorite applications and themes. Without forgetting Smart View which allows you to transmit the contents of your smartphone to external devices, such as smart TVs and PCs.

As already mentioned, there is the difference the S-Pen which is identical in form and function to that of the older brothers. You can take notes directly on the lock screen of your smartphone and then convert them into a Word, PDF, image or text file. It is possible to remotely control the photographic compartment: just click once or twice on the stylus button to open the camera, take a photo or switch between the rear and front cameras. The functions are many: make screen cuts to be able to save them, move them on the screen or write on them; create animated messages; translate a portion of text; draw and much more.

There are some software goodies such as the noise of the simulated writing via audio that increases and decreases according to the pressure we exert. Although the sensation is obviously different from the traditional one with pen and paper, I must admit that it is pleasant to take notes with the S-Pen and that - even those who try it for the first time - will realize that it's easier than you can imagine.

I have always been skeptical about the real usefulness of a stylus, but it is an accessory that can be useful on different occasions depending on the various needs of the user. Personally, I don't like and don't know how to take notes efficiently on smartphones and for this I found myself using the S-Pen more than I imagined. After all, this is the real added value of Galaxy Note 10 Lite and - in my opinion - Samsung has hit the mark in presenting an economically more accessible smartphone without detracting from the peculiar characteristic of the Note series.

Satisfactory photographic sector

Good news from the photographic sector. Galaxy Note 10 Lite can count on a triple rear camera: 12 Megapixel main sensor (f / 1.7 and OIS), 12 Megapixel telephoto lens (f / 2.4, 2X optical zoom and OIS), 12 Megapixel wide angle (f / 2.2) . A configuration that really offers a lot of versatility depending on your needs.

The smartphone guarantees great shots in the daytime with a good dose of detail, vibrant colors and wide dynamic range. I noticed some difficulties in separating the details in cases of bundles of the same color, such as plants and trees, but the photos obtained are appreciable and in line with the price range of belonging. We are not at the levels of the big brothers, but we must not forget that Galaxy Note 10 Lite is positioned in a totally different segment. Satisfactory results also from the telephoto lens capable of retaining a good dose of detail, as well as the wide-angle camera.

As often happens, the result drops a bit at night despite being able to get some pleasant shots. There is the night mode which often enhances the scene by increasing the light, showing details that have been lost in the simple shot and reducing digital noise. The shots are still sharp and with a good management of artificial brightness. Also good shots in bokeh mode with the subject appearing naturally cut out. Videos can be recorded up to 4K resolution at 60 fps.

Selfies taken with the 32 Megapixel (f / 2.2) front camera are of a good standard. With portrait mode, however, I noticed a tendency - in some conditions - to recreate less natural colors as well as cut out inaccurately. At night, there is some digital noise and there is a noticeable loss of detail. Again, we can take advantage of the night mode. In general, however, it is a photographic sector that has convinced me a lot.

Conclusions: who should buy it?

Galaxy Note 10 Lite is not a smartphone for everyone. The dimensions are important and the price is not contained compared to what is offered. To make the difference there is certainly the S-Pen, the stylus that offers all the functions of the more expensive Note 10 and Note 10 Plus. This is the real reason to buy the new Samsung smartphone. If you want a device that is ergonomic and that makes autonomy its strong point, it will be better to look elsewhere.

At 629 euros you will still take home a smartphone that can offer you a user experience that other devices cannot guarantee. In addition to the S-Pen, you will have a large and excellent AMOLED display and a versatile and satisfying photographic compartment in practically every situation. The compromises to be accepted are: two-year-old processor that does not always offer top performance, autonomy that does not excel and no support for Samsung DeX. Thankfully, it can already be found on Amazon at lower prices. If you are not fond of the stylus, the alternatives in this segment are many and for every need: P30 Pro, OnePlus 7T or the Galaxy S10 Lite itself.

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