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Orange San Diego hands-on review

Our hands-on impressions of Europe's first ever Intel powered smartphone
Fri Jun 01 2012, 10:55

THE INQUIRER attended UK mobile operator Orange's launch of its San Diego smartphone and got some hands-on time with the Intel powered device ahead of its 6 June release.

Here are our first impressions of the device and the chipset, which Intel will be hoping is the start of a successful assault on the mobile market.

Orange San Diego back

Intel chip performance
The San Diego's most unique feature is its single-core Intel Medfield Atom Z2460 1.6GHz processor, which makes it the first device in Europe to have an Intel chip.

Intel claims that its chips are optimised for Android, meaning that its single-core processor should match most Android dual-core processor devices' performance.

Though we didn't get a chance to fully put the device through its paces during our hands-on, we have to say the San Diego was far slicker than we expected, loading applications quickly and responding to commands instantly.

Web browsing was also smooth, with pages opening quickly. Admittedly done over a decent Wi-Fi network we were impressed at how smooth the San Diego ran and we're looking forward to testing out the device over 3G to see how it performs in the wild.

Design and build
The San Diego features a 4in 600x1024 resolution display that looked legible and crisp.

The one problem was checking its colour balance, with the Orange launch event taking place in a fairly sun-washed environment, making the device screen at points look dull - though given the conditions this would most likely have happened to most devices.

In terms of dimensions the San Diego is pocket friendly, measuring 123x63x9.9mm and weighing 117g. In hand the device felt quite nice, with its slightly curved sides letting us get a sturdy grip on it.

Externally the device houses HDMI out and microUSB ports and a headphone jack. The device also features three external physical buttons. The power button sits on the top right of the device, while volume and photo buttons line its right side.

Orange San Diego side

The one thing that made the device feel slightly less than high-end was its plastic chassis. While the device did feel fairly solid - much more so than its Orange's earlier Monte Carlo - we really weren't convinced it would survive an accidental drop unscathed.

Orange remained fairly tight-lipped about the San Diego's battery, simply promising that it will boast eight hours of talk time and last 14 days on standby.

While not stellar compared the like of the more expensive Motorola Razr Maxx, if true the San Diego's battery performance will be significantly better than the Monte Carlo. Its battery was abysmal, struggling to make it through the day even without using 3G or WiFi.

Operating system
Like most devices in the sub-£300 price bracket, the San Diego will be released running Google's outdated Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system.

Orange San Diego operating systemThe skin we saw running on the San Diego was close to identical to the one seen on the Monte Carlo. This is no bad thing, as outside of a bit of Orange bloatware the user interface is quite clean, keeping overt graphical flourishes and annoying widgets to a minimum.

The San Diego is full of Orange apps and features, housing the company's Orange Wednesday and Your Orange apps and supporting its custom Orange Gestures input commands.

We are disappointed that the first Intel Phone in Europe won't be released running Android 4.0 ICS. This is mainly as it will likely hamper the Intel chip's ability to shine, with Android 2.3 Gingerbread being significantly less demanding than Android 4.0 ICS.

Luckily Orange has confirmed the device will be getting an Android 4.0 ICS update soon after launch.

Camera and storage
The San Diego comes with a generous 16GB of internal storage. However, unlike the Monte Carlo, the San Diego doesn't feature a microSD card slot, meaning that you won't be able to upgrade 16GB, which is a shame.

The San Diego has 8MP rear-facing and 1.3MP front-facing cameras. Though we didn't get a chance to try the cameras outside, we were impressed by how well they worked.

Orange San Diego cameraThe rear-facing camera was particularly swish, with images captured looking crisp and boasting decent colour balance. Even when taking photos in dark corners the photos remained crisp and weren't overly grainy or whitewashed.

What's more, the device's physical photo capture button meant we didn't have to awkwardly adjust how we held the device when taking photos.

Another nice touch is the camera's burst mode, which lets it capture images at 10fps.

Overall we're optimistic about the San Diego and are looking forward to getting the chance to really put it through its paces to see just how well an Intel processor works on an Android smartphone.

The San Diego is set for release in the UK on 6 June on a £15.50 per month on a two year contract or £200 upfront on a pay as you go deal. µ


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