Value is a hotly debated topic in the TrustedReviews offices. A high price can deflate our enthusiasm for an exceptional product while a low price can get us excited about something decided average (look no further than the HP TouchPad firesale). So when a good product comes along at a startlingly low price our interest skyrockets.
The product in question is the Orange Monte Carlo (aka the ZTE Skate), an Android smartphone we first saw in February at Mobile World Congress and was confirmed for an Orange rebrand back in July. The specifications are what we would expect of a high-end Android handset: 4.3in touchscreen, HSDPA, WiFi, GPS and Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Far less expected however is the asking price: just £149.99 on pre-pay. Is it too good to be true? In part, yes.
Out of the (admittedly cheap) box, what immediately strikes us about the Monte Carlo is its construction. At 125.9 x 67.8 x 10.4mm it feels large in hand, but tipping the scales at a mere 120g it is remarkably lightweight. The upside is, despite its large footprint, the Monte Carlo isn't a pocket-ripper. The downside is the weight is a result of the cheap plastics used in construction. This is the first sign of cost cutting with the Monte Carlo and means it doesn't have the tactility of an HTC Desire S or Samsung Galaxy S2. That said our Monte Carlo sample didn't creak or bend and its home, menu and back buttons beneath the screen feel durable.
As for the screen itself, this follows a similar pattern of cost cutting but to no great loss. The panel isn't AMOLED or IPS, but it packs in a respectable 480 x 800 pixels, colours still look bright, text is sharp and the touchscreen is responsive.
Less responsive is the performance of the Monte Carlo itself. This comes down to a combination of factors. The first is the processor with ZTE having opted for an 800MHZ Qualcomm MSM7227. The company had previously spoken of shipping the handset with a 1GHz clock speed, but rather than megahertz holding it back, it is the fact the MSM7227 is a generation behind the breakthrough Snapdragon chipset - which means it doesn't perform as an 800MHz-equipped handset should.
Consequently the Monte Carlo homescreen can lag in use and transitional animations are noticeably choppy. Thankfully there is a quick way to fix it: get rid of the custom Orange homescreen. As is sadly typical of Orange the carrier has been unable to keep its fingers away from the handset's Android operating system. As a result you'll find an array of completely unnecessary, duplicate apps such as an Orange browser, maps, photo viewer, contacts backup and weather. Least useful of all is the Orange app store, which forces users to access it over 3G and has a poor selection of overpriced apps.