Samsung’s Note 10 Plus 5G hits nearly 2Gbps on Verizon’s network

Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G is Samsung’s latest phone to support the next-gen network, and to test it out, I visited Providence, Rhode Island, one of the earlier cities to get Verizon’s Ultra Wideband 5G.

It’s worth noting that the Note 10 Plus 5G is almost exactly the same phone as the Galaxy Note 10 Plus: it’s just 2 grams heavier and supports 5G. Check out our Note 10 Plus review for in-depth impressions of the phone.

Before we go on, I’ve tested multiple 5G phones on various carrier 5G networks already, so here’s a handy list if you want to read more:

But first, what is 5G?

It’s important to understand exactly what 5G is before diving into our Note 10 Plus 5G speed test results. 5G is the next mobile network generation following 4G LTE. It will deliver much faster internet speeds as well as lower latency, and these improvements, in turn, will spur radical change in various industries. It will bring us closer to fully autonomous smart cars, for example, but that’s just one slice of the pie. You can read our 5G primer for more.

T-Mobile 5G test
T-Mobile’s 5G Antenna on top of a building. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

All the major U.S. carriers are using different types of spectrum in their respective 5G rollouts. Verizon and AT&T are using millimeter wave (mmWave), for example, which means they are deploying 5G nodes that deliver super-fast internet speeds. mmWave offers among the fastest speeds you’ll see, but the downside is that range is short, and there’s poor building penetration. Sprint is using the 2.5GHz spectrum, also known as mid-band, and it has slower speeds than mmWave but greater range and penetration. T-Mobile is relying on low-band, which has even slower speeds than mid-band, but the furthest reach.

Each carrier will ultimately rely on using a mix of all these spectrum variants down the road, but this is just the start of the rollout. Don’t expect blanket 5G coverage for several years — 4G LTE will still play a crucial role in our everyday lives.

You need a 5G smartphone to use 5G, which means you have to upgrade your phone. We have a list of all the 5G phones currently available if you want a peek.

The test

As mentioned earlier, Providence isn’t covered with 5G. There are specific locations with 5G nodes, mostly on Thayer Street. They’re easy to identify: small white boxes on top of a pole.

The fastest download speed I hit using the Note 10 Plus 5G was 1.7Gbps, and that was standing somewhat near the 5G node. For comparisons, I used the standard Note 10 Plus on Verizon’s LTE network in the same spot, and it hit 122Mbps in download speeds. The difference is staggering.

Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

But I ran into the same issues I’ve seen with my previous tests on mmWave networks. I walked down two blocks from the node and tried another speed test using the Speedtest Ookla app. The result? Around 590Mbps. The third block away, I hit 120Mbps while still connected to 5G. The standard Note 10 Plus on LTE hit 82.2Mbps — 5G was still faster, but you can see how quickly speeds fall after moving just three blocks from the 5G node. Thankfully, if you stick around a block from a node, I consistently hit speeds higher than 1Gbps, which is a great improvement over my previous Verizon 5G tests.

Then I stepped inside a coffee shop and saw my 5G symbol on the Note 10 Plus 5G’s status bar immediately drop to 4G LTE. It’s disappointing, but building penetration won’t change until Verizon starts deploying other types of spectrum, or comes up with some other unique solutions. Alternatively, you could just wait for Wi-Fi to get better.

Wait until 2020 or 2021. There will be better coverage, a more stable network with consistent speeds, and hopefully cheaper 5G phones.

Most of these pains will eventually be fixed as Verizon’s 5G network matures. Nevertheless, real-life download tests are still impressive. PUBG: Mobile took just 21 seconds to download from the Samsung Galaxy Store — two seconds faster than my similar test back in Chicago on the Galaxy S10 5G. The Google Play Store still isn’t optimized for 5G speeds, so if you try downloading an app there it will be slow.

Downloading Netflix’s Bird Box took longer than I thought — around 1 minute and 30 seconds — whereas in Chicago it took an impressive 25 seconds (more or less). It’s still orders of magnitude faster than LTE: on the standard Note 10 Plus, at the 2-minute mark, the download was still below 10 percent. As you will be able to download content significantly faster on 5G, people will be more prone to download shows and movies for on-the-go consumption.

What about upload speeds? While the network in Providence delivers 5G uploads, the results are still showing 4G LTE speeds. Verizon said it will take time to improve, but the fastest speed I hit was 70.5Mbps. Upload speeds wildly fluctuated, though.

The takeaway

Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G costs $1,300 for the base model, which is a lot of money. I don’t think it’s worth investing in a 5G phone just yet, even if you are in a city with 5G areas. My reasoning isn’t just because they’re expensive, but also because the devices are not interoperable. That means if you swapped carriers, your Note 10 Plus 5G that worked on Verizon won’t work on Sprint. You’ll need to buy the same exact phone, but through Sprint. They’re not sold unlocked yet.

Wait until 2020 or 2021. There will be better coverage, a more stable network with consistent speeds, and hopefully cheaper 5G phones.

With every 5G city I visit, I get even more excited each time with the prospect of blazing fast speeds all the time, no matter where I am. I see snippets of the immediate future: quickly downloading a season of a whole show within seconds at the airport before boarding my flight; watching a YouTube video on my commute without having to deal with buffering; playing high-end games powered by cloud computing on my phone. These aren’t just ideas anymore — they’re gradually becoming real scenarios, and it’s just the start.

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