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Samsung Monte review

What Mobile
July 28, 2010

Touchscreen, check. GPS and Wi-Fi, check. A fresh instalment of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, check. So why is the Monte positioned towards the budget end of the range?

Samsung is targeting the cash conscious youth market with this affordable model that’s primed for social networking. The Monte is well-priced for a fully-featured touchscreen handset and available from most major UK networks, our particular review sample was branded for Virgin Media, where the handset is free on contract or £159.99 on Pay As You Go.

The device itself is neatly proportioned, with shapely contours and a rounded back to ensure it’s comfortable to hold. It comes in black with a choice of either an orange or silver coloured trim. On the front fascia three large physical buttons (call, back and call end) sit below the 240×400 pixel, 3-inch capacitive touchscreen. On the left side is a volume controller and on the right a microSD card slot, together with camera shortcut and screen lock buttons.

Pressing a ‘real’ button to unlock the screen is a far better solution than having to swipe the display itself, in my opinion, but Samsung has also included its Smart Unlock option here, whereby you can free the lock by drawing a predefined letter of the alphabet on the screen. Other letters can also be set-up to speed-dial a contact or to open an application of your choice.

Plus points

On the inside the Monte features a brand new incarnation of Samsung’s innovative TouchWiz interface, version ‘2.0 Plus’ to be precise, that allows for even more customisation than before. An update of TouchWiz 2.0 (the system that appeared on the Jet and Omnia HD), this latest instalment discards the strip of widgets on the left hand side of the home screen and instead arranges them in a scrollable channel along the bottom. This channel only appears when you tap a button at the top left of the screen.

It’s not exactly a radically different approach and the bar still only displays six widgets at a time, but I suppose it does make scrolling through them less of an effort. As before you are able to fill three different home screens by dragging and dropping various widgets, and you can scroll through these screens with a sideways finger-flick. It sounds like a marvellously expansive solution, but given that some of the widgets are unnecessarily large you can normally only get two or three to a screen anyway. Incidentally, to remove a widget you simply drag and drop it back onto the widget channel.

The same principle of customisation applies to the main menu interface, which features an array of icons spread over three screens that you can also rearrange into your preferred order. So it takes a bit of effort initially to get everything in place, but ultimately it’s worth the hassle because once it’s organised your most frequently used functions will be just a few flicks and taps away.

On the menu

As you probe deeper into the menu you realise it’s standard Samsung fare, with a familiar well-organised structure, happy colours and a nice plain, legible font. The capacitive screen is very responsive to the touch and enables you to scoot round the menus with ease. Tapping out a text message or email isn’t much fun though, as there’s only a virtual numeric keypad with T9 prediction rather than a full QWERTY version. It’s rather puzzling why Samsung didn’t incorporate a full keyboard for messaging because there’s an accelerometer in place to support widescreen viewing, but for some reason this functionality is limited to the web browser and video player. Probably a budget issue.

Keeping in vogue with many of today’s handsets the Monte is geared heavily towards social networking and features dedicated widgets for Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, YouTube and Twitter. Also onboard and taking advantage of the handset’s GPS capabilities are Google Maps and Google Latitude. The latter enables you to share your location with friends, whilst the addition of geo-tagging lets you imprint captured photos with their geographic location. With so much online activity readily available, just ensure you’re signed up to a cost-effective data tariff. The device also supports Wi-Fi which might be a better option.

In terms of other multimedia there’s a standard music and video player, supported by a 3.5mm headphone jack and a decent supplied set of noise-cancelling buds. The 3.2-megapixel camera isn’t particularly special, it doesn’t include a flash but it does have smile shot and a panorama mode.

If you’re strapped for cash and not in the market for a fully-fledged smartphone, the Samsung Monte is a competent touchscreen alternative.

Verdict

Despite its low-end billing the Samsung Monte offers high-end features such as Wi-Fi, GPS and HSDPA, yet these are offset by an average camera and a limited accelerometer (only functions for video and web). The new TouchWiz 2.0 Plus interface offers a fresh set of customisation options for the three different scrollable homescreens, with the widgets now appearing along the bottom of the display rather than the left hand side. With a responsive screen and lots of social media options onboard, the Monte is worth considering as a cheap smartphone alternative.

Ratings (out of 5)

Performance: 4
Features: 4
Usability: 3

Overall: 4

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