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Samsung Galaxy Note 20 vs. Galaxy Note 10: A noteworthy upgrade?

It’s Unpacked season, which means Samsung will introduce its latest smartphones, smartwatches, and other tech for you to drool over. Today, the company unveiled its newest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20. The phone is a follow-up to last year’s Galaxy Note 10, which introduced a smaller design to the Note family.

So how much of a difference does a year make in terms of hardware, performance, camera, and battery? We break down the two phones to help you make the right choice for your next Note upgrade.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Note 20
Samsung Galaxy Note 10
Size 161.6 x 75.2 x 8.3 mm (6.36 x 2.96 x 0.32 inches) 151 x 71.8 x 7.9 mm (5.94 x 2.83 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 192 grams (6.77 ounces) 168 grams (5.93 ounces)
Screen size 6.7-inch AMOLED 6.3-inch AMOLED
Screen resolution FHD+, 20:9 ratio 2,280 x 1,080 pixels (401 pixels per inch), 19:9 ratio
Operating system Android 10; One UI Android 10; One UI
Storage 256GB 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
RAM 8GB 8GB
Camera Triple lens 12-megapixel wide, 12MP ultra-wide, and 64MP telephoto rear, 10MP front Triple lens 12-megapixel wide, 16MP ultra-wide, and 12MP telephoto rear, 10MP front
Video 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 960 fps, 720p at 7680 fps, HDR 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps, HDR
Bluetooth version 5.0 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display Yes, in-display
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 4,300mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Fast wireless charging (15W)

Wireless Powershare

3,500mAh

Fast charging (25W)

Fast wireless charging (15W)

Wireless Powershare

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon
Colors Mystic Bronze, Mystic Green, Mystic Gray Aura Glow, Aura Black, Aura Red, Aura Pink, Aura White
Prices $1,000 $950
Buy from Samsung Samsung
Review score Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When it comes to hardware, there are two discernable differences between the two phones: Size and build quality. The Note 10 drew a lot of attention last summer, being one of the first “compact” Notes that Samsung released in years. Its 6.3-inch display is smaller than the Note 20’s 6.7-inch display and is curved instead of flat. Though the Note 20 is the successor, the flattened display is surrounded by a plastic body, not glass. This may be a turnoff for some, but the material has a matte finish, which makes the phone look and feel sleeker than the Note 10. That means it’s also not as susceptible to cracking as a fully glass phone. The side buttons and S Pen slot have switched sides on the Note 20. This is a step-up ergonomically, especially for right-handed users.

Both devices are IP68 certified for water and dust resistance and have 60Hz refresh rate panels. While the Note 20 fixes some nitpicks that users had with the Note 10, the plastic build is underwhelming for the $1,000 asking price. For a little less, the Note 10 brings an all-glass design that feels more premium and sits comfortably in your hand. It all comes down to whether you prefer a larger, flat display or a smaller and curved one. We’re calling this round a tie.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, and charging

Corey Gaskin / Digital Trends

It should come as no surprise that the Note 20 performs better with day-to-day tasks than the Note 10 — just not by much. The former has a Snapdragon 865 Plus or Exynos 990 processor, depending on where you buy it. Both chipsets bring improved CPU and GPU performance versus the year-old Snapdragon 855 and Exynos 9825 found on the Note 10. Even then, the 8GB of RAM on both devices is sufficient enough to power you through any app or game. You also get an ample amount of internal storage with 256GB on either Note — a great size for phones that lack Micro SD card support.

Having great battery life is a must especially when the Note series is targeted toward power users. The Note 20 has a beefier 4,300mAh cell (versus the Note 10’s 3,500mAh), which plays well with the 60Hz display. Even with its larger screen, the phone should comfortably last you a day before needing a charge. But when you do, you’ll have the options of 25W fast charging or 15W wireless charging.

Better overall performance and a larger battery capacity give the Note 20 the victory this round.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Camera

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As usual, Samsung has made updates to its smartphone cameras this year, starting with the S20 series. The momentum is in full swing as the new Note 20 gets a spec bump in the camera department. It has a 12-megapixel main sensor, a 64-megapixel telephoto lens, and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide. The cameras come with a new hybrid laser autofocus system not found on the older Note 10, and you’ll also be able to snap some crisp shots with the telephoto lens capable of 3x zoom. That’s not to dismiss the Note 10’s camera, as it performed very well when reviewed last year. Pictures come out sharp and colorful, and you get the extra Samsung goodies like Zoom-In Audio, Hyperlapse, and AR Doodle. However, the Note 20 has taken everything great about the Note 10’s camera and ratcheted it up a level.

If you’re eyeing a Note device with the best camera available, then look no further than the Note 20.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Software and updates

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both devices are running on Samsung’s One UI skin, layered over Android 10. One UI was designed for these tall-display phones and makes it easy to navigate around with one hand. It’s not the cleanest flavor of Android — you still have the usual Samsung additions — but is highly customizable. There are some notable features exclusive to the Note series like Air Commands and Air Actions that let you make the most of that magical S Pen.

In terms of updates, you can expect both devices to receive two major software updates and periodic security patches at the minimum. The Note 20 is newer so long-term support will be greater than the Note 10 if you’re buying either device today. Both phones demonstrate how intuitive and handy the Note experience has become. You won’t go wrong with either, and we can’t really separate the two.

Winner: Tie

Special features

John Velasco / Digital Trends

Normally, the S Pen would be the standout feature when comparing a Note device to any other. But in this case, the Note 20 outshines its opponent with 5G capability and a few exclusive features. In partnership with Microsoft, the Note 20 will support Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a monthly subscription that lets you play popular gaming titles straight from your phone. It’s also capable of switching to DeX mode wirelessly. Improved S Pen latency is the icing on the cake.

On the other hand, the Note 10 doesn’t have as many features that can’t be found on the Note 20. The only difference worth noting is the rainbow of colors that the phone comes in, like Aura Red, Aura Pink, and Aura Glow.

If you want all the bells and whistles of the Note 10 and some more, go with the Note 20.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Price and availability

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 will be available on August 21, starting at $999 (850 British pounds) for the 256GB model. You can snag one for yourself at Samsung or any major carrier store. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is available right now, starting at $949, though pricing and availability may vary due to it being a year older.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 20

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 is our overall winner. It’s a decision that should come as no surprise as Samsung has made some noticeable improvements with the Note series this year, from a more powerful Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset to the updated camera system.

However, there are reasons why the Note 10 may still be the better device for you. Last year, the phone marked a new beginning for Samsung by giving users the best of the Note series in a smaller package. The Note 20 has deviated from that with a size similar to the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus, so the Note 10 is still a compelling offer if you want something compact. Or if you don’t see yourself making much use of the S Pen, the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8 are also worth looking into. But if you’re stuck between picking up the new Note 20 or the older Note 10, the Note 20 is our pick.

Editors' Recommendations

Kerry Wan
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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