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Samsung Highnote

At a Glance
  • Samsung Highnote

    PCWorld Rating

The Samsung Highnote for Sprint is a unique two-way slider phone with great audio features for music lovers. But some design flaws make navigation on the Highnote tricky, and video quality is mediocre at best.

The slim Highnote (available in blue or red for $99 with a two-year contract) can slide in two directions: Sliding up reveals a dialpad, and sliding down exposes the phone's built-in stereo speakers. Measuring 4 inches by 1.9 inches by 0.6 inch, the phone fits comfortably in your pocket or your hand. And at 3.5 ounces, the Highnote isn't hefty. Though the phone is easy to slide with one hand, it has a solid build that prevents it from sliding open when you don't want it to.

Call quality in San Francisco was very good. I heard no static, no distortion, and very little background noise on my end. Parties on the other end reported the same characteristics and said that my voice had enough volume without being too loud. In the PC World Test Center's battery life tests, the Highnote managed 6 hours, 14 minutes of talk time on a single charge, which is on a par with other midrange phones' battery life.

A bright, 2-inch, 220-by-176-pixel screen takes up about half of the phone's face, and a scroll wheel with four soft keys resides below it. A dedicated camera key, a music app key, and a USB/charger jack lie on the left spine, while a microSD slot, a hold button, a volume rocker, and a 3.5mm headphone jack occupy the right spine. I was relieved to see the standard headphone jack, since many new high-end phones, such as the LG Lotus for Sprint and T-Mobile's Android-based G1, lack one.

The scroll wheel works smoothly and makes navigating through your media library or apps a breeze. Coordinating the soft keys with their functions can be tricky, however, due to the large gap between the controls and the Highnote's screen.

The Highnote promises excellent music features, and it definitely delivers. The music application can sort music by song, artist, or genre. You can create playlists, change the color of the player's interface skin, listen to your music in shuffle mode, and view album art on the Now Playing screen. The app has a number of different sound modes (Normal, Classic, Pop, Jazz, Rock) called "equalizers," which is a bit of a misnomer because you can't manually adjust them to your liking. There are also three 3D Sound modes--Dynamic, Surround, and Wide--so you have plenty of options to play around with.

In my hands-on tests, I found sound quality through the included headphones to be very good overall. Sound piped through the built-in speaker was decent, but not terribly impressive. My primary complaint is that the volume rocker lacks gradation, and the sound goes from quiet to loud within a few steps.

The music app also has a link to the Sprint Music Store. I was pleased to find that songs download quickly over Sprint's EvDO connection. The Highnote comes preloaded with a Pandora app, too, but you have to pay $3 a month for it after the four-day trial period ends.

Regrettably, the Highnote's video quality was no match for its audio quality. The handset comes with Sprint TV and YouTube apps; but video looked grainy on either one, and playback was jerky. This weakness is especially disappointing because Sprint TV has a good variety of clips and the Highnote's screen is ample enough for comfortable viewing.

The Highnote, along with the LG Lotus and the Samsung Rant, utilize Sprint's One Click interface, a customizable overlay that runs on top of the phone's own OS and resembles a smart-phone interface. One Click consists of up to 15 shortcut tiles, lined up in a row at the bottom of the screen. You can add, delete, or rearrange the shortcut tiles to your liking. As you navigate through the tiles, submenus for the appropriate application pop up. Among the available tiles are Internet, Messaging, Music, and--my favorite--Google, which gives you a shortcut to services such as Gmail and YouTube. Overall, I found One Click extremely intuitive and efficient.

The 2-megapixel, 4X zoom camera can take pictures in any of four resolutions and three quality settings. It has a few advanced features, such as brightness and white balance controls, spot metering, and a night shot mode. I took a few indoor and outdoor shots, and I was impressed by the image quality. Photos were very clear with little noise and none of the graininess typical of pictures taken with phone cameras. The one drawback, however, is that the camera does not have a flash, so you must shoot only in brightly lit environments if you want good photos.

First and foremost, the Samsung Highnote is a music phone, and it certainly impresses with its good audio quality and generous array of features. Despite the tricky controls and mediocre video quality, the Highnote is a great phone for any music lover.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Highnote has a variety of great music options, but navigation can be tricky and video quality is unimpressive.

    Pros

    • Great music playback features
    • Unique two-way slider design

    Cons

    • Mediocre video quality
    • Navigation is counterintuitive
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