The Monte’s range of connectivity options is rather good by mid-range phone standards as it supports HSDPA at speeds of up to 3.6Mbit/s as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1.
The 3G and Wi-Fi support really help the Dolfin V1.5 browser. It’s pretty quick to render pages and although it doesn’t have multi-touch you can double tap on a column of text to automatically zoom in on it. Most sites we tried loaded without any problems and were easy to navigate too. As well as the web browser and social networking tools, the Monte also comes preloaded with the Palringo java client for instant messaging. This supports a range of different messaging platforms including Google Talk and AIM, and while the interface isn’t quite as slick as it could be, it does get the job done.
The music player, on the other hand, is surprisingly good and makes it very easy to browse through large libraries of tunes. Sound quality from the phone is also highly impressive and for once, the bundled in-ear headphones are actually good as they produce deep and rich bass tones and sparkling higher frequencies for cymbals and hi-hats. There’s also an FM tuner onboard so you can switch to the radio if you get bored of your own selection of MP3s.
And although the phone’s camera is a tad basic, it takes reasonably good snaps. It has a bog standard 3.2-megapixel resolution and doesn’t have an LED flash, but Samsung’s camera software is better than most and includes some neat features. For example, there’s a face detection mode as well as ‘smile shot’ where it’ll wait for the person in the frame to smile before taking the snap. You can also geotag photos thanks to the onboard GPS chip. Outdoor shots look reasonably good as colours are nice and vivid, but photos captured indoors under low light tend to come out quite grainy. The phone has a front-facing camera for video-calling on 3G networks, too.
When it comes to storage space there’s 200MB of internal memory, but the phone also has a microSD card slot tucked away under a plastic cover on the side for beefing this up. This slot is compatible with cards of up to 16GB in size.
We had no problems with the Monte’s call quality as both the mic and earpiece performed admirably and battery life wasn’t too bad either for a feature phone. We were able to get around two and a half days out of it, although this does drop significantly when you make heavy use of the GPS chip.
The Monte is a good halfway house between a feature phone and full-blown smartphone. It has impressive social networking features, a reasonably easy to use interface and good connectivity. It’s just a shame the user interface doesn’t provide an onscreen QWERTY keyboard and that Samsung hasn’t made the most of that capacitive screen by adding multi-touch support.
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