What's Good: Very music-friendly; loud and clear speaker; 3.5 mm (standard) headphone jack; stereo bluetooth; comes w/ 1 GB microSD and accepts 16 GB; dedicated music button; Sprint's One Click carousel interface; Sprint TV and Music Store capable; GPS; click-able scroll wheel; SD adapter for quick swapping.
What's Not Good: One music button is better than no hardware media controls, but I'd prefer the scroll wheel act as a jog/shuttle, and that some other buttons served as play/pause/skip. I like One Click, but would prefer hardware media control. That's it.
Bottom Line: If you like to use your phone as your primary MP3 device, the Highnote is definitely worth consideration ? especially if you want to listen without the aid of headphones or a car adapter. This one is squarely aimed at music lovers, and nearly all aspects of the phone reflect this. The scroll wheel on the face of the device is not for music control. I want to get that out of the way because this false hope caused me some brief disappointment with what turns out to be a great little music player.
Make/Model: Samsung Highnote (M630)
Network: CDMA 800 / 1900
Data: 1xRTT/EV-DO (3G)
Size: 4.0" x 1.9"x 0.6" (102 x 48 x 15 mm)
Weight: 3.5 oz (99 g)
Form Factor: Slider with bi-directional vertical action.
Display: 2? TFT; 262k colors, 176 x 220 px
Memory: Comes with 1GB microSD, accepts up to 16 GB
Notable Features: Face slides up for keypad access, and down to reveal speakers; dedicated music button for quicker media control; a driving mode that includes computerized reading of text messages among other features; 2.0 MP cam with 4 X digital zoom, video capture, and night shot - no flash.
Sprint and Samsung are unleashing the specialists this season, and the Highnote's role is obvious. It's $99.99 after rebate with a contract, and is ready for nearly all the cool services Sprint has to offer; Sprint TV, Sprint Music Store, wireless back-up, etc.
It's capable of messaging and simple browsing, but the Highnote is acutely focused on music. The loud external speaker sounds great, and I've never used a phone so self-reliant in the music department. If you are having a picnic at the beach or waiting at the bus stop, a little player with instant access to new tunes is pretty handy.
It looks and feels like a sturdy phone, but the price is low enough that you shouldn't feel the need to shelter it. I love the standard Samsung has set for phones in this range; serve a purpose and serve it well... and don't break after two months of use.
The Highnote comes in red and blue varieties. I've got my hands on a blue one, and it's quite attractive, I must say. (That line was meant to be read in the voice of Ed Grimley.)
The face slides up and down, revealing alternatively, a keypad and a set of speakers. The pad includes the standard twelve, plus a driving mode button, a call history/voice command button, and a text button for instant access to a composition screen. If you jump from a message to the music controls via the music button, hitting the text button will prompt you to select the previous message or a new one. Nice. One of those neat, unexpected little features Samsung manages to squeeze in to each release.
The face, when closed, offers a scrolling, click-able wheel; two context-sensitive buttons; a menu/O.K. button; talk, back, and end/power buttons. The right side of the phone is where the shutter and music buttons are, as well as the miniUSB port.
The left side is home to a volume rocker, hold button, microSD slot and standard headphone jack. There's also a lanyard clip point at the top of the left side. There's a 2 MP cam on the back, but no flash. It can capture video, and there is a 4X digital zoom.
Inside is a 960mAh battery, which should offer close to six hours of talk time. If you are using the speakers like you should be, you'll get less than that. Still, a nightly charging will be fine for all but the most obsessive users.
The software is the new standard for Sprint; One Click with the customizable carousel, desktop widgets that Sprint calls Bubbles, Sprint TV and Music Store access, and a sheen uncommon for phones in this ballpark.
Let's dig in.
I complained about the number of steps required to get to the music controls on Samsung's Rant. This issue has been partially addressed in the design of Highnote. I should say that it's been almost entirely addressed. I guess the only way to satisfy me on this front would be to create an MP3 player that incidentally works as a phone.
The Highnote's music button bounces you from any place in the software to the Sprint Music Store, which is where the play/pause/skip controls are. The first time the music button is used in a session, it takes a couple of clicks to get the music going. After this though, the music button functions as it should; it takes you from whatever you're doing to the music controls, and then right back to what you were doing before. Still, I would like dedicated hardware controls.
Phone calls are clear on the Highnote. I haven't had any reception problems, even in bad areas. And the voice quality was fine. It wasn't exceptional, but it was good for this phone. I consider it a good value.
What I think is a software noise gate causes cut-outs for your contact when there's a lot of background noise on the Highnote end. This was a negligible problem, and I mention it in the interest of being thorough.
My only real complaint regarding phone use is that sliding the face back over the keypad after hitting send disconnects calls. It feels more natural to have the phone closed when talking. If you call someone from your contact list with the phone already closed, it works fine. But if you are actually entering in the digits to make a call, you must leave the keypad out.
I downloaded two songs from Sprint's Music Store to test the audio performance. I must have listened to Werewolves of London ten times by now. It sounds great. For speakers so small, they really can pump.
The Highnote is a cool toy, and there's something charming about a portable music-box with its own speakers. Those who are without a car or like walking will probably feel the same way. I like being portable?not just quickly transferring myself to and from nearly identical habitats at work, in the home, and in the vehicle. If you know what I mean, you'll appreciate the Highnote as well. Headphones are great at times, but some music is meant to blend with the environment.
The Highnote has features standard to most other Sprint phones. They have all been briefly addressed in other sections of this review. No need to repeat them. This one is about music.
Highnote's physical resemblance to some popular dedicated MP3 players may be misleading: you will not be effortlessly skipping tracks via the face controls in the middle of an IM conversation. Still, it's got some unique and nifty features that result in quicker music access than you'll find in most phones. It really is a fun gadget, and I think my preconceived notions about the scroll wheel being for music are the source of any control-related qualms.
All of the phone's functions are adequate for a device in this price range. The web browsing is weak, but what would you expect? This is not a smart phone. If you don't need a QWERTY or touchscreen, there's no reason to blow your cash.
Those looking for a solid phone that can reliably perform basic functions will be very happy with the Highnote. Its rich media features feel like a bonus. Realistic shoppers will likely be quite impressed with the music playback. If you've grown accustomed to high-end phones with endless software options, you may be in the wrong neighborhood. But if you miss the sound of music in the open air, give the Highnote a spin.