Review: Samsung Highnote
Even though Highnote is compatible with Sprint's streaming TV service, its screen isn't as high quality as expected. While about average in brightness, it is below average in color reproduction and clarity, and has a surprisingly narrow viewing angle.
None of these negatives affect menu drilling or other non-graphic activities, but video looks polarized off-angle, and small text such as on-screen identifications for talking heads is nearly unreadable, even when switched to full screen mode.
Using the phone in and around varying parts of New York City, Highnote pulled in signal in impressive places, deep into train tunnels and high-rise elevators, as well as fringe reception areas (such as my apartment).
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Highnote dropped some of our test calls to an otherwise reliable cellphone (the T-Mobile G1), and signal didn't stay consistent during calls, with audible shifts in reception even when stationary. Reception during a conversation with another Sprint subscriber was especially inconsistent.
Highnote voice quality is akin to that old Catskill complaint – the food is terrible but large portions: voices were thick and muddy but with plenty of volume. On cell-to-cell calls, the mud is exacerbated by the usual cellphone warble and intermittent dropouts. At the other end of a landline call, we got reports of over-modulation – the voice signal overwhelmed the ability of the phone's speaker to produce clear conversation, resulting in garbled sound and a slight buzz.
Ringtone volume also was above-average loud, which means you'll be able to hear Highnote ringing even if the phone is in a pocket or a bag.
However, the slide down stereo speaker vastly improved matters. Voice quality was so much cleaner and clearer that you'll be tempted to use the speaker instead of the earpiece. Just make sure you lower the volume.
Highnote's speakerphone also is full duplex. Neither I nor my co-conversationalists experienced any dropouts when two people talked over one another.
Music sound through the speaker also was excellent, considering we're talking about a cellphone speaker. There's plenty of small clock radio-like room-filling volume, again with the buzz of over-modulation when pushed to its upper loudness limits.
In admittedly unscientific tests, Highnote lasted around 4:45-4:50 for talking on a single charge. While this battery life falls far short of Highnote's rated 5.6 hour talk time, it's still about an hour more talk time than you'll find on most phones of any kind or price.
Sprint does not release standby, music or video play time ratings. I got around 12.5 hours of continual music playback, which is about average for non-iPhone music phones.
Highnote's battery meter is a bit misleading. It hangs on at three and two bars bar segments for a while, but it'll move from one bar to low-battery-beeping in half the time. If you're at two, you're probably down to about an hour of talk/usage life and you'll want to think about jacking in.