A good value handset with a couple of irritating features
Good media streaming
Good battery life
Screen hard to see in bright sunlight
Low resolution video recording
No Flash support
MicroSD card fiddly to get at
No bundled headphones
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When Orange released its San Francisco, we were bowled over. It was a great handset for a budget price, and it continues to be the standard by which we evaluate any Android phone that hovers around the £100 mark.
The Monte Carlo is a slightly different proposition in that it costs £150 on Orange Pay As You Go, making it a much more expensive handset than the San Francisco was at launch. You can also get it on an Orange contract for free.
And if you like the sound of what you read here, look out for the ZTE Skate – it's the same phone, but it's currently priced at around £250 SIM-free. If you go for that option, then bear in mind that there are some Orange-specific features on the Monte Carlo that won't be on the ZTE Skate.
So, what do you get for your money?
Well, on the face of it, you get roughly what you ought to for the money. There's a vast 4.3-inch screen, with 800 x 480 pixels resolution on offer. But the screen isn't as bright or sharp as some, its TFT-LCD making it almost unreadable outside in bright sunshine.
You've got the usual Wi-Fi, HSDPA and GPS connectivity, a 5MP camera and Android 2.3 operating system, so the Monte Carlo is pretty up to date.
At the heart of this smartphone is an 800MHz processor. It's not up there with speedy dual-core types, but for a phone this cheap we can't really grumble.
Construction-wise, things are OK but not wonderful. This is a big handset, measuring 125.9 x 67.8 x 10.4mm, but it's relatively light, weighing 120g. That's accounted for by the cheap plastic build, which feels ever so slightly creaky in the hand.
It's not flimsy enough to worry us too much – with the exception of the back plate, which is rather thin. You'll need to take care when you remove it, which you'll need to do in order to access the microSD card slot – which you have to annoyingly take the battery out to access.
The back plate itself is a shiny fingerprint magnet, and the front screen is barely better. Beneath it are three teeny lozenge-shaped buttons for Home, Menu and Back. The Back button doubles up as a charge indicator with red and green backlighting, and an alert light with a flashing green light.
The 3.5mm headset connector is neatly placed on top of the phone, a volume rocker is on the left and the main power switch and micro USB slot are both on the right-hand edge.