Orange San Diego review

Orange San Diego review

T3 3
  • The Orange San Diego is the first phone to include Intel’s Atom chip, which promises better battery life, faster browsing and full HD movies

    Orange San Diego review

    Love

    • Powerful handset
    • Sharp screen
    • Lightweight and strong

    Hate

    • Awful keyboard
    • Dated Android
    • Worrying battery niggles

    Intel is one of the biggest names in tech, but despite producing 70% of the world’s PC processors, smartphones have eluded the US giant. Until now.

    The Orange San Diego sports one of the maker's Atom chipsets, but can it match the new quad-core monsters like the iPhone 4S, HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S3?

    Orange San Diego: Build

    The Orange San Diego is a strange mash-up of stories, in one compact 4-inch smartphone. On the one hand it’s packed with Intel’s latest mobile processing technology, and on the other, it’s a budget handset for Orange customers who can’t fork out for the biggest and baddest phones, like those in our list of the best smartphones around.
     
    In the hand it feels like the latter, and it’s adorned with a soft black plastic that feels durable, yet inexpensive. It’s light yet strong, and tips the scales at a solid 117g, but feels solid and reassuring to hold.
     
    Unlike other handsets, it follows the Intel reference design closely, and that means there’s four buttons along the bottom of the screen for back, home, search and menu. If you’re used to using Android with three buttons it can be confusing and it doesn’t help that they’re poorly labelled.

    Orange San Diego: Features

    For a handset that costs a shade under £200, there’s a good range of features to be found. Firstly, there’s an 8MP camera, which is packed with settings, effects and tweaks. Shutter lag is almost non-existent, evidence that the Atom processor is doing its job.

    Despite the wealth of features, photo quality left a lot to be desired. Our shots looked washed out and grainy in anything but perfect light, evidence that the sensor has been scrimped on.
     
    The San Diego runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which is also disappointing. Back at MWC we were personally assured that an over-the-air update to Ice Cream Sandwich, but there’s no word on when this might be. What’s more, with the soft keys present, we can’t see a good fit between the two operating systems.
     
    The on-screen keyboard was also dreadful, with tiny buttons made even smaller with extra buttons added to the side.

    The positioning of many of the keys was also bonkers, with settings and SHIFT keys placed in the bottom right, with the symbol toggle key awkwardly situated two keys in, which made it a pain to punctuate.

    Even after a few days of use, we still frequently miss typed, and it ruined our entire experience with the Orange San Diego.
     
    The San Diego comes with 16GB of internal storage with no option for expansion via microSD, so if you’re a hungry media and apps user, you might want to look elsewhere.

    Orange San Diego: Screen

    For a budget handset, the San Diego has an excellent screen. The 1024x600 resolution is extremely sharp, with bright colours that looked excellent in our video tests. Colours were well represented if a little pale.

    Of course, it’s no match for the iPhone’s Retina Display, nor the AMOLED screens of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, but at a fraction of the cost, it’s a good pay off.

    It’s head and shoulders better than other budget handsets such as the LG Optimus L3, in terms of sharpness, resolution and colours, and watching YouTube videos was a genuinely pleasing experience.

    Despite the sharpness, the screen’s high resolution did make icons small and text hard to read. If you like a big clear display, this is not the handset for you.

    Orange San Diego: Performance

    We can’t review the Orange San Diego without talking about that Intel chip at the beating heart of the handset, so prepare yourself for the technical bit.
     
    The Intel Atom Z2460 is a single core 1.6GHz chip, which is a world apart from any other smartphone chip. It’s of the x86 ilk, which basically means it has more in common with the chip in your PC than your iPhone 4S. Remember netbooks? Yeah, that.
     
    Intel says that the 22nm architecture is more power efficient than its competitors, which use larger die sizes. The Intel Atom chip can also stagger its power usage, giving you power when you need it, and stepping back when you don’t.
     
    One of Intel’s boasts is that browsing speeds were improved from the use of the Atom chip, and we were impressed. Pages were rendered extraordinarily quickly, and that’s in no small part due to the chip.
     
    This performance was backed up in Sunspider, with the San Diego thrashing the iPhone 4S in Java performance.
     
    The Antutu benchmark scores put the San Diego in the middle of the road with a score of 5463, which is a fraction of the quad-core power of the Samsung Galaxy S3. However, as the Atom processor is only single core, it’s not a fair comparison, and we couldn’t find the limits of the Z2460 chip.

    Orange San Diego: Battery

     

    We got decent day-to-day battery use form the Orange San Diego, and we were able to easily last the day with heavy use. With any modern smartphone, two days of battery life is a pipe dream, but the San Diego never stopped short of a full day’s use.

    However, in our stress tests, which involved lopping HD video until the battery gave out, the San Diego was dismal.

    The phone got very warm and gave out after a pitiful 202 minutes. In the same test the Nokia Lumia 900 managed 407 minutes, but day-to-day, battery performance was worse.

    We put this down to Atom chip’s power throttling. The chip was obviously working overtime to process HD video, and that could cause the dismal score. If you’re a basic user you won’t have any problems, but if you regularly watch video or play games, you might find the San Diego dies before you get home.

    Orange San Diego: Verdict

    The Orange San Diego is a well-built and powerful budget handset. However, usability niggles such as the small screen, the awful on-screen keyboard and the worrying battery performance under heavy strain means that Intel’s first outing isn’t inside a world beating handset.
     
    Orange San Diego availability: Available now

    Orange San Diego price: £15.50 (24-month contract), £199.99 (PAYG)

  • The Orange San Diego Android phone, previously codenamed Orange Santa Clara, is the first European handset to feature an Intel Atom chipset

    Orange San Diego review

    Love

    • Powerful handset
    • Sharp screen
    • Lightweight and strong

    Hate

    • Awful keyboard
    • Dated Android
    • Worrying battery niggles

    The Android Gingerbread-powered Orange San Diego sports an Intel Atom processor Z2460 that been designed for zippy performance that doesn't drain the battery too much, going up against affordable rivals such as the LG Optimus L3 and the Sony Xperia U.

    Orange San Diego: Build

    Measuring in at 123 x 63 x 9.99mm, the phone isn't one of the slimmest around, but it's no monster either and fits neatly in the hand, while it tips the scales at 117g.

    The matte rubber back of the phone gives a little more grip than you might get from shiny plastic, although it does make it painfully obvious that this is a mid-range handset that doesn't look half as slick as its more expensive rivals.

    We also found that the power button and the camera shutter button felt a little cheap and that pressing them didn't always work the first time round.

    Orange San Diego: Features

    There's 16GB of memory on board, with no larger capacity handsets offered. What's more, there's no option for a memory card so the memory isn't expandable.

    The Orange San Diego features a particularly strong camera offering in the form of an 8MP snapper that has a burst mode that takes up to 10 picture in under a second. It also offers a x8 digital zoom, image stabilisation, low light capture and 1080p video. You'll also find a lower-specced 1.3MP camera on the front.

    There's also an HDMI out for hooking up to any compatible HD kit along with a micro USB port, while Orange has gone for the microSIM option.

    Orange San Diego: Screen

    At 4.03 inches, the screen isn't as large as the bohemoths found on the likes of the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S3, but it still big enough to comfortably browse the web and shoot the odd picture or video. The 600x1024 can't compete with the retina display of the iPhone 4S, but it's perfectly acceptable for a phone at this price point.

    Orange San Diego: Performance

    We found the OS to be relatively speedy, but obviously not on a par with top-tier phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X. The 1.6GHz processor seemed to handle general operation pretty well although there was no web connection so we weren't able to test out the all-important web browsing but we'll take a closer look as soon as we get our mitts on a full review unit.

    Although the handset will launch with Gingerbread, Orange tells us that an update to Ice Cream Samdwich is expected by the end of the year.

    Orange San Diego: Battery

     

    According to Orange, the battery will offer up to 14 days on standby but that's something we'll look at more closely in our full review.

    Orange San Diego: Verdict

    The Orange San Diego certainly looks like a promising mid-range handset and it'll be interesting to see how the first Intel-powered phone to hit UK shores performs.

    Orange San Diego availability: 6 June

    Orange San Diego price: £15.50 (24-month contract), £199.99 (PAYG)

    Hands-on review by Libby Plummer

    • Orange San Diego preview
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  • Orange San Diego

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