Samsung HighNote on Sprint SlashGear Review

Sprint recently announced the Samsung HighNote, and we've certainly been surprised at what this phone has to offer. The HighNote is a music-based phone just as the name implies. It appears to be a hybrid of the LG Chocolate and the Samsung Juke, but it far outperforms both.

The HighNote comes in a small package, measuring 4.0" x 1.9" x 0.6" and weighing 3.5oz. The phone has a 2-inch, 172 x 220 pixel display; the 2-megapixel camera supports video as well as having a digital zoom and night mode. Although the device only has 32 MB of internal memory, it is made up for with a microSD card slot. The HighNote includes GPS, 2.0 Stereo Bluetooth and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Include in the box is a standard wall charger, data cable and headset with a 3.5mm input that allows you to place calls and listen to music. Other contents include the 'getting started' guide, user manual, product registration card, feedback form and a very handy microSD card adapter for computer use; the Rant comes with a 1GB microSD card. Interestingly enough, Sprint appears to be going green: they include an envelope to use to send in your old phone for recycling.

The HighNote is very well built, no more dropping your phone and accidentally destroying the slider. The scroll wheel spins freely within the beautifully laid-out face keys. The big twist with the HighNote is the hidden speaker, just slide the screen down to reveal one of the loudest speakers we have seen in a phone.

Navigating the menus is straightforward on the HighNote, the main menu is displayed at the bottom of the screen with sections listed in a line. As you scroll left and right through the options the contents of a section will pop up when you stop, displaying everything in a quick, easy to read list. A convenient shortcut menu completes the GUI, making quick navigation even easier for the user.

Messaging is a breeze with the dedicated text key, just hit it once to start composing a new SMS. All of your text messages are threaded, displayed just as you would see them in an instant messaging window. Threaded text messaging is an idea that has really caught on in the last few months, and we're pleased to see it move from smartphones through to feature-phones and more basic handsets. Email on the HighNote is very simplistic, there are no advanced features let alone an option to have a signature attached to your email.

Browsing the Internet on the HighNote is not a walk in the park, pages take a very long time to load, with the phone often running out of memory before the entire page is displayed. The part of the webpage that we were able to load however looked as it should, but with a screen so small it would be very hard to navigate.

Now we get to the heart of the HighNote: music playback. Sliding the screen down will reveal the hidden speaker and also activate the Music, TV and Games quick launch menu. Playing music and creating playlists is a very easy task; while playing a song its album cover art is displayed, and if you have other songs in the same playlist as the song you are listening to a slight rotation of the scroll wheel will allow you to cycle through the available music. While watching video on the HighNote's small screen is not the most enjoyable, the video playback was not of poor quality. Videos looked relatively good, considering the screen resolution, and we found ourself wishing for either an AV out option or, at the very least, a bigger, higher-resolution display. During a video turning the scroll wheel will raise and lower the playback volume.

Bluetooth on the HighNote connected with all the headsets we tried, quickly and without any trouble at all. Call quality with Bluetooth – as well as without – was very loud and crisp. The speakerphone on the HighNote is considerably loud for such a small device, however the louder it became the more clarity was lost.

The battery lasts all day with medium usage and plenty of talk time. Browsing the online store is pretty quick with very little waiting time, videos stream to the handset with no hang-ups at all. The hidden music speaker is extremely loud for such a small device, however with high volume the tone is very sharp and at times ear-piercing. We found that it sounds better with the phone closed as it has a fuller tone. The HighNote includes a car mode: at the press of a button the phone will read any incoming text messages to you.

Overall we recommend the HighNote to any music lover who needs a little of both worlds. Those who are looking for a phone with a user interface that is pleasing to the eye are going to be disappointed with this phone. We do not recommend this phone to those who surf the Internet or use email frequently, who would likely be looking for a larger display, better keypad and, most importantly, improved software. However it's perfect for listening to music on the go wherever you are. Call quality is very good and dropped calls are few and far between. We give the Samsung HighNote a 7.4 out of 10.

The Samsung HighNote is available on Sprint now, priced from $99.99 after a mail-in rebate and with a new two-year service agreement.