Although the Samsung Monte looks higher-end, once its in your hand it feels a little flimsy.
The lack of a virtual QWERTY keyboard meant we had to rely on a more traditional T9 keypad, which proved to be a tricky affair.
The Samsung Monte boasts a three-inch capacitive touch-screen, Wi-Fi capability and links to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, as well as A-GPS.
Despite its high-end credentials, the Samsung Monte struggles to support its software.
An average battery life of 298 minutes talktime and 454 hours standby.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:58:28 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
A feature list that belies its appealing price tag, including a capacitive touch-screen of a calibre rarely found at this price point.
Though it looks high-end from afar, upon closer inspection the Monte?s build does feel a little flimsy.
Another week, another Samsung touch-screen phone. If that sounds like criticism, it’s not meant to be. It’s merely an observation that the Korean manufacturer’s conveyor belt has been churning out tactile handsets left, right and centre. Having turned their attentions briefly away from the Genio range, Samsung is introducing the world to the Samsung Monte, another “affordable touch-screen phone”, but with a lot more going on under the bonnet.
The Monte bears a certain resemblance to another Samsung stalwart, the Jet. The edges of the Monte are slightly more tucked away, but with its polished black bodywork and silver trim (it’s also available with an orange lining) they’re more siblings than distant relatives. This is no bad thing, as the Monte, like the Jet before it, is quite the looker. However, pick the Monte up and you’ll suddenly be reminded of the phone’s entry-level price. It feels plastic and while this maintains a featherlike weight, we actually prefer our phones to feel a little heavy as this gives it more gravitas as well as piece of mind that it could survive the odd drop on the floor.
One of the highlights of the Monte is the capacitive touch-screen. There’s nothing revolutionary here mind. What is noteworthy is that for a handset of this calibre, it is both refreshing and appealing for a capacitive touch-screen to be included in its arsenal. We’ve mentioned it numerous times in the past, but capacitive touch-screens are far superior to the resistive variety due to the fact that you can breezily swipe across the screen when scrolling pages or moving icons. A good example of this is when flicking between the Monte’s three home screens, all of which can be customised with an array of widgets and shortcuts. We also liked the fact that you can flick in a continuous motion rather than reaching the third screen and then having to come back the other way. Sadly there’s no multi-touch facility on the Monte, which is another bonus usually found with capacitive touch-screens.Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface is present, though rather than have the pull out sidebar on the left hand side, there is now a widget icon on the top left hand corner of the home screen. Press this key and a scrollable menu will now appear at the bottom of the display. It works in the same way as the aforementioned side bar, in that you drag and drop your favourite widgets onto one of the three home screens, but we actually preferred this new approach as we felt the sidebar was getting a bit dated.Measuring a respectable three-inches, we’re baffled by Samsung’s decision not to include a virtual QWERTY keyboard onboard the Monte. Even when using the phone in landscape mode, to enter a web address for example, you’ll have to rely on the old fashioned T9 approach, with a keypad squeezed into the right hand side. Kudos to Samsung for including dedicated keys for ‘www.’ and ‘.com’, but still we’d have rather a QWERTY keyboard.
Browsing the web was actually a disappointing affair. Perhaps our expectations were too high after we were both pleased and surprised in equal measure to find both HSDPA and Wi-Fi on a handset available for little over £100. Web images were not the crispest we’ve encountered, and even when using a Wi-Fi connection the Monte struggled to load pages in tandem with our scrolling. In fact, we’d recommend choosing the mobile optimised version of most sites you visit, particularly if they’re very image-centric, as this greatly improved loading time. That said, when streaming content on the BBC iPlayer we enjoyed a near perfect viewing experience with no lag or buffering occurring. Zooming in and out of pages also proved a tricky affair. Rather than giving you the option of using the volume keys as de facto zoom controls, to beam into a particular image or text, you’ll need to hold your finger on the screen and then slide up to zoom in and down to zoom out. It works in theory, but if we zoomed in too far for example, to suddenly change direction invariably resulted in confusion and on occasion an accidental press of a hyperlink.Social networking integration has become part and parcel of any handset worth its salt, so it’s no huge surprise to find the Samsung Monte packing shortcuts to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Feeds from all of these sites can be published directly on the home screen, though to update them you will need to manually press the green ‘refresh’ button that hovers over them. All your instant messaging needs are also well catered for, with the excellent Palringo preloaded onto the handset, enabling you to natter away on the likes of Facebook Chat, Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger. However, be warned that again you’ll be typing your messages with a T9 style keypad.
The Samsung Monte’s camera is mediocre, with a 3.2-megapixel snapper and a lack of flash meaning you won’t be trading your DSLR anytime soon. We’re also concerned with the potential damage the protruding camera lens may endure. That said, there’s a host of settings to play with, with the ‘Sports’ mode particularly impressive at capturing finer details of moving objects. There’s also a decent video camera that can be easily fired up by pressing the icon in the top left hand corner. With fast fixing, fast routing A-GPS onboard the Monte, we were able to find our way around with the aid of Google Maps, while Google Latitude enables you to display your own location to selected friends as well as see where they’re residing.
It’s important to keep the Samsung Monte in perspective. This is a handset that falls unequivocally in the low-end price bracket. For the handset to therefore include high-end features such as HSDPA, Wi-Fi, a capacitive touch-screen and A-GPS, Samsung deserves praise. Yet we can’t help but feel the Samsung Monte is effectively mutton dressed as lamb. The bodywork feels a little cheap and though the handset has the specs, the features fail to live up to their billing.