Review: Samsung Highnote (Sprint)

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Short Version: The $99 Samsung Highnote is a capable music phone with a 3.5mm headphone jack and built-in stereo speakers. If music’s your thing, the Highnote could serve you well.

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Overview and Features:

  • Candy bar phone with a face that slides up to reveal a numeric keypad and down to reveal integrated stereo speakers
  • Built-in clickwheel for easy navigation of menus and music
  • GPS, Bluetooth, and high-speed EVDO data connections
  • Two-megapixel camera
  • Sprint Music Store and Sprint TV compatible
  • Includes 1GB microSD card and 3.5mm headset w/ microphone
  • MSRP of $99 after two-year agreement and $50 mail-in rebate

What’s good?

This is a phone for music lovers, first and foremost. If you want a phone that’s good for texting, surfing the web, watching streaming video, taking photos, and/or making calls all day long, then this is not the phone for you. But if you want a well-priced, compact phone with a surprisingly great clickwheel, a full-size headphone jack, and a built-in speaker, then the Highnote is right up your alley.

At $99 after rebate, the Highnote makes a great little portable music player that can download songs directly to the included microSD card. The clickwheel is reminiscent of the mechanical wheel on the first-generation iPods and the wheel found on some of the SanDisk Sansa players. It rotates to let you flip through menu items and also registers up, down, left, and right presses too. I found it to be one of the easier methods I’ve ever used to navigate through a cell phone’s interface.

The actual phone itself is built solidly and makes for an attractive little device. You’ll be able to pocket this thing with ease and the battery lasts a fairly long time between charges. Sprint claims close to six hours of talk time and with general daily use, I only needed to recharge the Highnote every other day. Of course, your mileage may vary – especially if you use it for music all day. In that case, you’ll want to charge it nightly.

Music sounded pretty good when using a $400 pair of noise-cancelling headphones. It’s not going to blow you away by any means, but it won’t disappoint unless you’re an audiophile of Kobrin-esque magnitude.

What’s not so good?

The included speaker, accessible by sliding the phone’s face downward, is a nice feature to have but it gets pretty tinny once you get the volume up to a decent level. It’s okay as a quick way to share audio with others but other than that, you’ll likely want to use headphones most of the time.

And again, don’t expect too much out of the Highnote aside from the music functions. It does GPS pretty well and the high-speed data is nice to have for e-mail and web browsing, but the phone’s small screen and keypad make any serious web stuff an afterthought. Sprint’s music store is easily the best online feature, making great use of the EVDO pipe, but using Sprint TV to stream video was an average-at-best experience thanks to the tiny screen and the phone’s relatively anemic processor.

Recommendation

The Highnote is a good choice for an inexpensive, compact music phone with direct-to-device downloads and a very useful clickwheel. The integrated speakers are a nice touch, but the tinny sound they output at higher volume levels will make you appreciate the full-size headphone jack all that much more.

Samsung Highnote [Sprint.com]

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