Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max: Specs comparison

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus vs. iPhone XS Max: Which is worth your $1,000?

There’s a new Galaxy Note range in town, and Samsung’s super-sized flagship is coming in two models for the first time — the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the Note 10 Plus. The Note 10 Plus is the larger of the range, and it’s packed to the brim with the latest hardware, a newly redesigned S Pen, and an almost completely bezel-less hole-punch display.

Although the Note 10 Plus is joined by a smaller Note 10, we’re ranging outside of Samsung’s stable in this particular matchup. Samsung may be prolific, but the match we all want to see puts the new Note against a stalwart foe: The iPhone XS Max. This large-screened beauty is one of Apple’s finest, and it’s eager to get to grips with the latest and most powerful Note flagship. Is the Galaxy Note 10 Plus the right new phone for you, or should you be putting aside all your dollars for the iPhone XS Max? We found out.

Specs

Samsung Note 10 Plus
Apple iPhone XS Max
Size 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9 mm (6.39 x 3.04 x 0.31 inches) 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (6.20 x 3.05 x 0.30 inches)
Weight 196 grams (6.91 ounces) 208 grams (7.34 ounces)
Screen size 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 6.5-inch Super Retina HD OLED True Tone display
Screen resolution 3040 x 1440 pixels (498 pixels per inch) 2688 x 1242 pixels (458 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie (under One UI) iOS 12
Storage space 256GB, 512GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot Yes No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Apple Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Apple A12 Bionic
RAM 12GB 4GB
Camera Quad-lens: 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle, 12MP variable aperture wide-angle, 12MP telephoto, and DepthVision lens rear, 10MP front Dual 12MP (with dual OIS) rear, 7MP TrueDepth front camera
Video 2160p at 60 frames-per-second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 2160p at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C Lightning
Fingerprint sensor Yes, ultrasonic in-display sensor No, Face ID only
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,300mAh

45W fast charging (25W charger included)

15W Qi Fast Wireless Charging 2.0

3,174mAh

Fast charge capable (Additional charger needed)

7W Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Apple App Store
Network support All major U.S. carriers All major U.S. carriers
Colors Aura Glow, Aura White, Aura Black, Aura Blue Silver, Space Gray, Gold
Price $1,100 $1,100
Buy from Samsung Apple
Review score Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Note 10 Plus uses the flagchip of the year — the Snapdragon 855. It’s a very fast processor, and it’ll perform extremely well for gaming and apps alike. But the iPhone XS Max is no sluggard with Apple’s A12 Bionic processor to provide supremely snappy performance and super-smooth gameplay. This is likely to be close.

What of battery life? The Note 10 Plus has the larger battery, sporting a 4,300mAh capacity compared to the XS Max’s 3,174mAh. We haven’t had much time with the Note 10 Plus’s battery yet, but based on the S10 Plus’s performance, we’re expecting a day’s use with some spare — though the larger screen and resolution may mean a lower result. We’ll have to test it to be sure. The XS Max also managed a day’s use on a single charge.

Speaking of charging, both phones come with strong fast charging capabilities. The Note 10 Plus caps out at a super-fast 45W rate, while the XS Max maxes at 30W. The Note 10 Plus comes with a 25W charger that Samsung claims charges from empty to 100% in under an hour. That’s much better than the XS Max, which … er, doesn’t come with a fast charger at all. Both also have wireless charging.

We’re loathe to award this category based purely on charging speed, so we’ll need to wait and see how the Note 10 Plus’s performance and battery life stack up against the iPhone in the real world.

Winner: Tie

Design and durability

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we doubt many would deny that both these phones are beautiful. The iPhone is nothing if not iconic, and the notched edge-to-edge display and gold-effect glass body are stunning. The Note 10 is similarly beautiful, but for very different reasons. There’s no notch here — just a centrally placed punch-hole display — and the display stretches over the entire front of the phone. It’s almost completely bezel-less and it’s jaw-dropping.

So they’re both good looking, but are they durable? Glass is always going to be fragile, and you’ll want a case for both. Thankfully there’s strong water-resistance here. Both phones sport a solid IP68 water-resistance that mean they can both survive a drop in the pool.

These two are both beautiful for very different reasons, and they’re pretty even on the durability front too. We can’t pick between them.

Winner: Tie

Display

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

As befits their names, both of these phones have large screens. The iPhone XS Max has a 6.5-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 2688 x 1242 pixels. It’s bright, vivid, and beautiful. But the enormous 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display on the Note 10 Plus is one of the best displays around. It boasts a maximum resolution of 3040 x 1440 so it’s super-sharp, and it’s flawless.

Finally, we have our first clear winner; iPhones have always had excellent displays, but Samsung’s current panels are the cream of the crop.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Camera

samsung galaxy note 10 plus vs iphone xs max selfie camera

You’ll find two lenses on the back of the iPhone XS Max — a 12-megapixel primary lens with an aperture of f/1.8, and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with an aperture of f/2.4. It takes some great shots, and is worth inclusion on our list of the best camera phones. The selfie lens around the front is a 7-megapixel TrueDepth lens, and it takes some great selfies.

But it’s up against some seriously impressive camera tech, as the Note 10 Plus has pushed the envelope even further with a quad-lens system. It’s comprised of a primary 12-megapixel lens comes with variable aperture (so it swaps between f/1.5 and f/2.4),  an ultra-wide-angle 16-megapixel lens with an aperture of f/2.2, a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with an aperture of f/2.1, and a fourth DepthVision lens that’s used to capture depth data for more accurate portrait shots. There’s also a 10-megapixel selfie camera around the front, and it supports Samsung’s night mode for low-light selfies.

We’ve not had much chance to play with the Note 10 Plus’s camera, but based on the S10 Plus’s strong and versatile camera, we predict the Note 10 Plus’s extremely capable suite will be the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Software and updates

iPhone XS Max
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Thanks to years of improvements, it’s been a long time since Samsung’s interface was a serious downside of its phones. The Note 10 Plus runs Android 9.0 Pie with Samsung’s One UI interface laid over the top. It’s smooth and intuitive, and it has some great gesture controls too. But iOS 12 on the iPhone XS Max is just as good, with snappy performance, a huge app store, and some excellent new additions. It’s a close match between the two in software, and your choice will likely be personal.

But look at updates and it’s anything but personal. Apple is the benchmark for snappy and long-lasting software support, and regularly updates 3-year-old devices with the latest OS updates days after they’re released. By contrast, Samsung often takes upwards of six months to update its latest flagships, and phones over 2 years old rarely see the latest Android updates. Apple’s update game is extremely strong, and it wins this round.

Winner: Apple iPhone XS Max

Special features

samsung galaxy note 10 plus vs iphone xs max ar drawing

As flagship phones, you’re not lacking special features in either of these phones. The iPhone XS Max is equipped with Apple’s latest technology, including Face ID facial recognition, AR-powered Memojis, Siri Shortcuts, and more. The Note 10 Plus benefits from Samsung’s legacy of special features, including Bixby, VR support, and features from the S10 range, such as the in-display fingerprint scanner and Wireless PowerShare.

But it’s the S Pen that gives the Note the advantage. It’s been redesigned with beveled edges for more comfort, and comes with a host of new features. You can use it to draw on people’s faces in AR, use Air Actions to control the screen (like swiping left and right to swap camera modes or drawing circles to zoom), and you can convert handwritten notes into text by using Microsoft Word. It’s also got an improved Dex desktop mode that can be activated by plugging it into a laptop’s USB port.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Price and availability

The iPhone XS Max is currently available with prices starting at $1,100 for the 64GB model. As an Apple flagship, it works on every U.S. carrier, and is available from a large range of stores. The Galaxy Note 10 Plus will be available for pre-order from August 8, and the phone will be available for purchase in stores from August 23. Like the iPhone, the Note 10 Plus starts from $1,100.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

After a hard-fought battle, it’s the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus that gets the win. That’s in large part down to Samsung’s incredible screen technology, the versatile camera suite, and the glut of special features — including the S Pen. But it’s a close match, and the iPhone is not far behind. Pick the iPhone XS Max and it won’t let you down in camera or screen quality, and there are plenty of features to boot. The XS Max’s raw power seals the deal, and should mean Apple fanatics won’t feel short-changed. But in terms of answering which phone gives you better bang for your buck, it has to be the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus.

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