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Orange San Diego review: Orange San Diego

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The Good Large high-resolution screen; Slick web browsing.

The Bad Inelegant interface; Orange bloatware; Disappointing camera.

The Bottom Line The Orange San Diego serves up powerful web browsing for the price. Sadly, its slick performance is paired with an Orange interface that's fiddly and annoying. Other let-downs include a disappointing 8-megapixel camera and lashings of Orange-hued bloatware.

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7.5 Overall

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The Orange San Diego has brought the sun to Britain at last. The own-brand Orange handset is a 4-inch Android smart phone with a fistful of features. Most notably, it's the first smart phone powered by an Intel processor.

Intel usually makes the brains for computers -- you know, like in the adverts with the space men dancing and the bonnng-bingbongbingbing! Intel chime. But this is its first foray into phones.

It will set you back £200 on pay as you go, and comes with 250MB of data every month for the first year. The handset's free on a two-year contract from around £15 per month. If you're an existing Orange customer upgrading to the San Diego, you'll get extra minutes and texts thrown in for nothing.

Orange San Diego
The Orange San Diego has more orange hues than David Dickinson.

Should I buy the Orange San Diego?

While the San Diego is relatively affordable as smart phones go, it's about twice as pricey as other operator-branded budget blowers like the Orange San Francisco 2 and the T-Mobile Vivacity. Huawei's G300, currently exclusive to Vodafone, is also about half the price of the San Diego so you're clearly paying a premium to get Intel's chip inside.

This processor does deliver slick web browsing. In other areas the phone is the opposite of slick -- with a fiddly interface and Orange bloatware clogging your app tray. The San Diego isn't all fun, fun, fun in the sun.

At this pay-monthly price, your money could be spent on the perennially popular Samsung Galaxy S2 or the super-speedy HTC One S -- both of which deliver an altogether slicker experience. If you can afford to go the contract route, the San Diego isn't really worth your while.

If you want the phone on pay as you go, it's certainly worth considering but there are still plenty of alternative Androids vying for your cash -- including the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, the HTC One V and the Sony Xperia U. Make sure you consider all your options before splashing your cash.

Intel processor

The San Diego is more than just another cheap and cheerful own-brand phone from Orange. It's distinguished by being the first smart phone to be powered by an Intel processor.

This mobile's thinking is handled by an Intel Atom x86 processor clocked at 1.6GHz. That's some welly. The chip is important because the more powerful it is, the faster the phone performs tasks, from simple things like opening menus to running games or showing video. It's more complicated than simply looking at spec sheet numbers though. A processor that works in perfect harmony with the phone's software can in some cases handle tasks better than a faster chip.

Image description
The Intel Atom Z2460 processor was designed specifically with smart phones and tablets in mind.

In benchmark tests the San Diego flexed its Intel-powered muscle and generally punched above its £200 weight. On the Quadrant benchmark, which probes CPU, I/O and 3D graphics performance, the blower managed a decent 3,721 score. This beats the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the LG Optimus 2X from 2011.

Orange San Diego Antutu benchmark
Having Intel inside delivers some decent benchmark scores.

In Antutu's benchmark, which tests memory, CPU speed and graphics, the San Diego served up a total of 5,695 -- just behind the Samsung Galaxy S2. It ran GL Benchmark's standard Egypt test at a middling-but-still-not-bad-for-the-money 34 frames per second.

On the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, which evaluates a browser's speed, the phone recorded a very impressive 1,634.8ms -- beating Apple's iPhone 4S and coming within a whisker of the score of Samsung's new Galaxy S3 super-phone (lower is better in this test as it's a measure of time). In the Vellamo browser benchmark test, the San Diego delivered a pretty spiffing 1,287.

Benchmarks are all very well, but how did the phone perform in practice? The San Diego certainly distinguished itself on the web browsing front, with smooth and nippy performance -- certainly faster than the average £200 phone. Menus also swish about speedily and app downloads won't keep you waiting around for ages.

Intel claims its chip results in a more stable phone system than rival Androids. Specifically, it says its hardware and software will result in fewer app crashes. During testing, I didn't experience any so the San Diego certainly seems pretty stable.

Intel also points out that its chip system is powerful enough to handle relatively processor-intensive features like 1080p resolution video playback, HDMI, wireless display (wirelessly mirroring the phone's screen on another device), and a photo burst mode, without having to have a dual-core chip inside. So it's pushing higher-end features down towards the lower end of the smart phone spectrum.

Orange Santa Clara width
It might look like an iPhone but it's packing Android Gingerbread, with an Ice Cream Sandwich update scheduled.


Another important consideration related to the chip is battery life. The more powerful the chip is, the more battery juice it sucks up. Of course, once again, if the processor and the software are in perfect sync, the phone will be more efficient in its energy use.

The San Diego has a 1,460mAh battery and Orange claims it will last up to two weeks on standby -- that's only if you don't use the phone at all. The blower is good for 8 hours of talk time, according to Orange, up to 5 hours of browsing or up to 45 hours of audio playback.

I tested the battery by fully charging the phone and leaving it playing back a video over Wi-Fi, with the screen set to maximum brightness. In this test, the phone lasted a mere 3 hours 42 minutes. If you're the sort of person who uses your phone heavily throughout the day, you'll need to be careful -- dial down the brightness and make sure you set the screen to time-out after short periods of idleness.

The phone's battery is sealed inside so there's no option to carry a spare.

Design and build

At first glance, the San Diego looks suspiciously familiar, with its flat black front and back and silver band around it. Yes, it looks like a cut-price iPhone. In a way, that's exactly what it is, as you can do most of the things an iPhone will let you do -- surf the web, play with apps and games, watch movies, take pictures and shoot high-definition video.

Previously known as the Orange Santa Clara when it was in development, it's worth noting that although it bears the Orange name, the citrus-hued network isn't responsible for building this phone. That honour belongs to Gigabyte, the same manufacturer that made the Orange Boston.

Orange Santa Clara screen
Images look crisp on the 4-inch 600x1,024-pixel display.

Compared to some of the super-bright and hyper-vibrant displays slapped on phones -- such as the AMOLED screens Samsung is fond of and HTC's bright LCDs -- the Orange San Diego is a pedestrian affair. But there's a pleasing realism about its more lifelike colours. And for the money you're shelling out, it's still a nice screen.

It also has a very healthy resolution of 600x1,024 pixels -- which equates to a tasty 297 pixels per inch. That's not as high as the more pricey Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which crams a mammoth 720x1,080 pixels into its 4-inch screen, but it's still impressive.

The high pixel count means you won't have trouble making out text and icons, even when they're small. Photos and high-resolution video also look good. One small niggle is that the viewing angle isn't amazing -- so for the best view, you'll need to make sure your eyeballs are parked in perfect front and centre position.

Orange Santa Clara back
It'll last for two weeks on standby -- as if you can resist the lure of those cute YouTube cat vids for that long.

Despite the handset design being a little blocky, I'm pleased to report the Santa Diego feels very light. It weighs just 117g, so you won't feel this mobile dragging your trousers down once it's ensconced in your pocket or weighing down your wrist during marathon phone calls. It's not the slimmest phone I've ever seen, but at a fraction under 1cm thick, it'll definitely be thin enough for most people.

Along the bottom you'll find four touch-sensitive buttons, which sit just beneath the display. I found these nice and responsive. There are also three physical keys on the phone -- a power key on the top edge and a volume rocker and dedicated camera key on the right-hand side. The power and camera buttons are very low lying so they feel stiff when pressed, resulting in spongy button syndrome. I found I was having to push annoyingly hard to get them to fire.

The back of the phone is rubberised, which looks utilitarian but does mean there's less danger of it slipping out of your fingers.

Orange Santa Clara width
It's not the slimmest phone ever, but it's perfectly pocketable and very light.

You get 16GB of memory to fill with photos, movies and music. That's a pretty decent amount at this price. But do be aware there's no microSD card slot for expanding the storage. Ports wise, there's a micro-USB for charging and ferrying your snaps and other files back and forth, and an HDMI socket for plugging the phone into a big screen. There's also a micro-SIM tray and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The San Diego has a pair of speakers on its bottom edge, rather than a rear speaker. Audio can go fairly loud but does sound tinny. Call quality is excellent though -- the phone has HD voice so the people you're speaking to will sound exceptionally clear. I also didn't experience any dropped calls during testing.

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