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Intel's Medfield finally tips up in Orange San Diego

An interesting processor in a forgettable phone
Thu May 31 2012, 13:09

MOBILE OPERATOR Orange has announced the San Diego, the first smartphone to arrive in the UK with an Intel processor.

orange-san-diegoIntel's Medfield Atom processor and its reference design was shown off at this year's CES trade show, however it took Orange and its partners a further six months to release a smartphone using Intel's chip. Orange's San Diego smartphone is being pitched as a low-cost smartphone that has mid-range features, and on the surface it doesn't disappoint.

Orange's San Diego smartphone is a middle-of-the-road handset featuring an Intel Atom Z2460 single-core processor that supports Hyperthreading with access to 16GB of storage, covered by a 4.03in screen that has a seemingly random 600x1024 resolution. While the Orange San Diego might have a pedestrian processor and screen, its photographic capabilities are impressive with an 8MP camera that can shoot 10 frames per second and capture HD 1080p video, while the front-facing camera is 1.3MP.

Orange has done well with the San Diego's hardware, however the device feels cheap to hold. The San Diego's back is made of flimsy plastic and although it might look a little like an Iphone, once held it is very apparent that there is a gulf in quality between the two devices, though one can rightly argue there is also a large price gap too.

The biggest problem for Orange is that it has decided to ship the San Diego with Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread, though an Orange representative told us that Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) will arrive, but only in October, at which point Android 4.0 ICS will have been out for almost a year.

Intel's decision to showcase its Atom processor in a relatively unimpressive smartphone is a questionable strategy. While Orange has priced the San Diego keenly, there are other smartphones that are cheaper, such as Nokia's Lumia 710 and Huawei's Ascent, and the Orange San Diego doesn't have anything that makes it stand out, while costing a bit more.

Intel has a major disadvantage, as Graham Palmer, country manager for Intel UK and Ireland admitted. Palmer said that Android phones with Intel chips can run 70 per cent of the apps available, and while that is a lot there is always the chance that the app that users want the most simply won't run on Intel powered Android phones.

We played around with two San Diego units and were told that the unit we were dappling with our fingerprints was an engineering sample, and it showed. Google Play crashed several times and we were consistently unable to run any benchmarks on the processor.

Both Orange and Intel claim good battery life figures for the San Diego, but we weren't able to test the claims in the short time we had with the device. However, if the San Diego can compete with devices of similar screen size in the battery life stakes, then that will vindicate the firm's perseverance with the x86 architecture.

Orange said it will launch its San Diego smartphone on 6 June and that it will cost either £200 upfront on pay-as-you-go or £15.50 a month on a 24 month contract. µ


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