Orange San Diego review

15 Jun 2012

Intel's first smartphone processor makes its debut, and it's a good one too

Price when reviewed 
199
4

As the the first Android smartphone to sport an Intel processor, the Orange San Diego is a big deal; surprisingly, though, Intel seems determined not to make a fuss. The first phone featuring its new "Medfield" mobile processor is a bland, budget handset; pick it up and it doesn't immediately inspire - it feels light and plasticky.

With the new Atom Z2460 inside, however – Intel's “Medfield” platform – the San Diego is more interesting than it looks. Seven years in the making, this new Atom processor is set to be the foundation of Intel's future mobile strategy.

It's a single core design, based on a 32nm process, and it runs at a nominal 1.6GHz. As with its netbook and desktop counterparts the processor is Hyper-Threaded allowing it to simulate two cores, and has a form of Turbo Boost (dubbed Intel Burst Performance Technology), which allows the processor to up its clock speed when needed.

Orange San Diego

In tests, the Atom Z2460 proved more than competitive with ARM-based Android smartphones. The browser-based SunSpider test returned a time of 1,436ms – significantly quicker than the iPhone 4S and on a par with the Samsung Galaxy S III. Browsing the web on the phone felt very snappy indeed.

In Quadrant, a result of 4,022 is up there with the very best again, and all this grunt doesn't come at the cost of battery life. The San Diego had 50% remaining on the battery gauge after our 24-hour smartphone test, which is on the low side of average.

The catch is that the Atom Z2460 is an x86 processor, and although the majority of Android apps are written in CPU-agnostic Java and will run without further intervention on the San Diego, a significant proportion are written using native ARM code. In those cases, the phone uses a binary translator to execute apps, but not all of these apps will run – an estimated 30% according to Intel.

That's the bad news; the good news is that all but one of the apps and games we tried ran without a hitch. Reckless Racing HD was playable with the odd glitch, Angry Birds Space played, and New Star Soccer played too. Only Shadowgun refused to play ball.

Orange San Diego

It isn't all about the processor, though; the display is good too. It has a 4in diagonal and a resolution of 600 x 1,024, giving a pixel density of 297ppi – not far behind the iPhone 4 and 4S' Retina display (326ppi). Although the colours aren't particularly vibrant it's a great screen in a £15 per month handset. Maximum brightness at 383cd/m[sup]2[/sup] is perfectly acceptable, if not as searing as on many flagship phones these days.

The 8-megapixel rear camera isn't the best, tending to produce rather noisy, low contrast snaps indoors; but with a bit of luck and some good light, outdoor snaps are achievable. We don't like the ugly Orange front end, which here goes hand in hand with Android 2.3.7; the battery isn't removable; and there's no microSD slot to add to the San Diego's existing 16GB of storage either.

Other than that, though, the Orange San Diego is a phone we could quite easily live with on a day to day basis. It's cheap, it's compact, it has a decent screen and general performance and battery life is surprisingly good. The first smartphone with Intel inside has been long in the making, but it looks like it was worth the wait.

Details

Price ex VAT £166
Price inc VAT £199
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £15.50
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider www.orange.co.uk
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 63 x 10.5 x 123mm (WDH)
Weight 118g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard On-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 1,000MB
Camera megapixel rating 8.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.0in
Resolution 600 x 1024
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android