Orange San Diego review

The UK's first Intel-powered smartphone is fast, yet reasonably priced, making it a great option for Orange customers

Our Rating 
4/5
Price when reviewed 
185
inc VAT

Specifications

Android 2.3.7, 4.0in 600x1024 display

The Orange San Diego (previously know as the Orange Santa Clara) is the first Intel-powered smartphone to be released in the UK, and is being sold exclusively by the network operator. It's based on a reference design by Intel, using the Medfield chipset, and so is identical to the handsets we saw at CES and MWC earlier in the year - where it impressed us on both occasions - see Intel Medfield smartphone - Benchmarked and Hands on and Orange Santa Clara - First Intel-powered UK Android phone - Hands on

Orange San Diego

Finally it's a reality, the Intel-powered smartphone

It may be a sign of the times that we finally have an Intel-powered smartphone, but it's even more telling that it's running the Android operating system. This comes in the same year that we are finally seeing Windows running on ARM architecture, traditionally the home of mobile devices - with Microsoft Surface being a key example. It's a topsy-turvy world we live in today, then, and one a long way from the Wintel computing dominance of old.

INTEL INSIDE

Back to the Orange San Diego, it more specifically uses an Intel Atom Z2460 chipset with a 1.6GHz single core processor, supported by 1GB of RAM. It may only have a single core, but in our usual SunSpider JavaScript benchmark it still performed incredibly, scoring 1,326ms. Rendering the BBC page was equally impressive, as the whole page loaded in just over a second. Previously we'd seen it whip through 3D games and play 1080p video without breaking a sweat, and its no different in this final model.

Medfield demos

A demo of a 3D shooter running smoothly on the handset back at CES in January

In general use it's pretty smooth, but not as slick as flagship handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X. However, it's hard to make direct comparisons as the San Diego is hamstrung by an older version of the Android operating system, namely 2.3.7. This isn't a surprise, as the processor's x86 instruction set differs from the usual ARM one, and so the operating system has to be reworked to run on it.

A knock-on effect of this is that not all apps run on the San Diego, the vast majority of the ones we found were games, and they were clearly marked in Google Play so there's no will it or won't it work frustration. That said, if you're a keen gamer, then the San Diego isn't the best choice. Everything else we use regularly worked fine, with the exception of Android 4 only apps such as Chrome.

Orange San Diego

No Android 4 yet on the San Diego, and no date for its release

Speaking of Android 4, an update to the operating system has been promised, though with no date we know better than to get too excited. We're still awaiting updates for some phones, even though they were announced soon after the OS's launch late last year.

Of course, we all know that Intel can make fast and powerful processors; it has been doing that for decades. The real question is whether it could make an x86 mobile processor that was suitably power-efficient, and the answer appears to be yes. The Orange San Diego scored a very respectable five hours and 45 minutes in our video playback test. Given that Intel has used a very typical 1,600mAh battery in this handset, that's a respectable score. It can't compete with the Samsung Galaxy S3, with its almost 10 hours of playback, but that handset has a much bigger battery (2,100mAh) a lower-power OLED display, and is much more expensive as a result.

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