Samsung Monte review

The Samsung Monte has the looks and the specs, but does it have the brains?

The definitive Samsung Monte S5650 review
The definitive Samsung Monte S5650 review

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Samsung monte

The Samsung Monte sports a 3.2-megapixel camera on the rear, and a small front-facing camera for video calls. There's no flash to be found, but video recording is available.

There's a number of scene modes to be found in the camera app, including Portrait, Landscape, Night, Sports, Sunset and Text.

Shooting modes also feature, with continuous shooting and panorama shots available, among others.

The rarely-useful Smile mode is here too. This generally requires such ridiculous facial contortions from your subjects that we were prepared to gloss over it, until we discovered that it actually works quite well.

Yes, it would still completely miss the Mona Lisa, but it'll pick up both forced and genuine enthusiasm, which is something even people can't manage sometimes.

Other options shown on screen include white balance settings, a self-timer and exposure tweaks.

Delve into the Settings menu, and you'll find the ability to alter the quality of shots, the few effects that are loaded, and the exposure metering ('Centre-weighted' by default, with 'Spot' and 'Matrix' available).

It's in here that you'll find the ability to turn on the geotagging option – using the phone's built-in GPS capabilities to mark the location a photo was taken.

The camera's interface is probably the touchscreen's strongest moment. It makes finding your way around all these options easy and intuitive.

In fact, it's the camera app that makes us think all the other touch problems aren't the hardware's fault, because here we never once hit a wrong button.

Getting to the camera is just a matter of hitting the shutter button from the home screen, and it's ready to take a shot in about two seconds.

There's up to 4x digital zoom, which is manipulated using the volume rocker, on the opposite side of the phone to the shutter controls. In practice, this is just as awkward as it sounds, but it's not an insurmountable inconvenience.

Samsung monte

CLOSE UP: The blue flowers nearest the camera suffer from a lack of definition. They may look washed-out compared to the darker blue flowers in the mid-ground, but they're actually just a lighter colour, and the reproduction is accurate

Samsung monte

COLOUR: The pink flowers in the foreground don't pop quite as much as they should, but they stand up well in the background

Samsung monte

CONTRAST: The fence almost completely disappears in the darkest part of the shot on the left, and the reflecting sunlight isn't handled too well – the lens flare washes out the top-left corner of the image – but overall the Monte maintains the colours of the different cars rather well in the light and dark

Samsung monte

DETAIL: A huge amount going on in this shot, but there's a really impressive amount of detail evident

Samsung monte

ZOOM: The maximum 4x digital zoom makes this squirrel look as if he's had a watercolour filter applied

Samsung monte

EXPOSURE: The automatic exposure settings do a surprisingly good job of finding the detail in this tree and the birds perched on it, despite being shot against the bright, blue sky

Samsung monte

INDOORS: Under a single fluorescent light, the Monte has taken a good enough image to see the threads in the rope, but the animals' fur is ill-defined, and there's no detail to be found beyond the brightest parts

Samsung monte

PANORAMA: We tried to get this image a few times, and this was the best of the attempts. There's still some blurring where the shots haven't stitched properly, but on a landscape it would be less noticeable than on the crescent's uniform lines (click here for high-res version)

Samsung monte

SPORTS MODE: Probably the Monte's finest hour – the rapidly moving seagull is perfectly crisp, as is its shadow and even the reflection (albeit distorted by the duck's ripples). Unfortunately, the whites are completely crushed, removing much of the detail on the bird, but we were impressed nevertheless

The Monte also records video at a heady 320 x 240 resolution at 15 frames per second, with the 4x zoom still available. Handily, it records in MPEG-4 format, meaning videos can be played easily on a computer or media player.

This video shows an impressive ability to handle light and shadow in one shot (just like the still camera), but some colours, like the blue balloon, are a little washed out.

The fast movement of the seagulls appears surprisingly smooth for 15fps (actually 14.48 according to our analysis, but who's counting?). Unfortunately, artifacts are rife, with a cluster of misplaced pixels blurring every wingbeat, and also causing a loss of detail in the background.

Colour banding is evident in some of the darker parts, but is impressively absent from most of the lighter areas.

It would be rather charitable to describe any part of this video as 'detail'. We're at the maximum 4x digital zoom again, and there are times when the squirrel becomes abstract art.