PROS Huge display; the latest Android OS
CONS Handset will be too big for some; too many useless Orange apps
Verdict: This is Orange's best Android handset yet - who wouldn't be impressed by that 4.3in display?
The full Orange Monte Carlo review
Orange has brought its latest Android offering to the table - the bigger brother of the already decent San Francisco. The Monte Carlo has increased its offerings (and its price tag) but you'll still be looking at paying less than £150 for a handset on pre-pay.
You'll hardly fail to notice first off that the Monte Carlo is a bit of a beast. It's not bad to look at, may well remind you of the handsets from Samsung, but all that gloss on the chassis is very likely to act as a magnet to your greasy fingerprints.
Once you've noticed its size, the other main attraction of the Monte Carlo is its huge display; the capacitive TFT screen measures an impressive 4.3 inches, the same as the pricier Samsung Galaxy S II. We were also impressed by the sharpness and clarity - all courtesy of its 480x800 resolution - okay, not quite up there with the iPhone 4's screen, but remember it's far cheaper.
Once you've managed to drag your eyes away from that impressive screen, you'll find the usual Android hard keys along the base of the device for Back, Menu and Home. A power switch and micro-USB socket are placed on one side, a volume rocker on the other (chromed plastic forms the volume and power keys). You'll find a 3.5mm audio jack on the handset's top edge.
The Monte Carlo may be big (126 x 68 x 10 mm) and yet it is lighter than an iPhone 4 at 120g - the back cover is incredibly thin, which probably helps. It's a bit strange to say, but the display may be a tad too large for the handset - anyone with small hands may find it hard to stretch their thumbs across the whole of the screen. However, we did like making a call on the Monte Carlo, it felt rather like the good old days, it was so big.
The Monte Carlo runs on Android's latest flavour (for the moment) - 2.3 Gingerbread. It all runs very nicely thanks to the 800MHz chip under the hood, whether we were running apps or roaming around the homescreen. We managed to watch YouTube videos with no lag or judder as well as our downloaded MP4 files.
If you're taking your own pictures, you'll find the snapper is far better than that on the Orange San Francisco. It boasts 5 megapixels and an LED flash that manages to do its job without washing out your low-light images. Thanks to Android it only takes a couple of swipes to upload your pics to Facebook for all your friends to see.
As we mention Facebook, be aware that it doesn't come preloaded - however, it is quickly downloaded from Android Market. For Google account holders it only takes a couple of clicks to sync your calendars and contacts.
Orange has certainly made its presence felt on the Monte Carlo - there are loads of Orange customisations and some disappointing games. A neat addition is Orange Gestures, which lets you assign up to 27 different swipes to any of the shortcuts from the home screens. All the gestures are pre-defined, but it's still a surprisingly handy tool.
Onboard is 512MB of memory, although you'll find there's only 129MB free for apps. It is pretty standard for this kind of handset, but anyone who likes their apps will need to make use of the SD card. You'll find it under the back cover and you'll have to take out the battery to get to it.
When making a call, the Monte Carlo has the benefit of HD Voice, which cuts down on background noise and improves sound quality - however, unless you're calling someone else with the same technology on their phone, it's a bit pointless.
Orange's Monte Carlo is the best of the manufacturer's range of mid-range smartphones, with the best screen for your money. It looks good, but it is a bit of a beast however, if you're willing to accept a larger handset to get a big screen, it's a decent enough choice.
PRICE - £149.99 pre-pay or free on contract
SIZE 125.9 x 67.8 x 10.4 mm
DISPLAY 4.3 inches
VIDEO RECORDING YES
VIDEO PLAYBACK YES
INTERNET GPRS, HSDPA, HSUPA, Wi-Fi
MEMORY 512MB, microSD (2GB included)
MUSIC PLAYER MP3, WAV, eAAC+
VIDEO CALLING No
3.5MM AUDIO JACK Yes
TALKTIME 300 minutes
STANDBY 12 days
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