Orange San Diego – introduction

The market for budget Android handsets has hit a growth spurt recently, with the the HTC One V and Nokia Lumia 710 offering up cheaper smartphone experiences for users who aren't looking for the beastly quad-core innards of a Samsung Galaxy S3 or HTC One X.

Can the Orange San Diego – manufactured by little-known Taiwanese firm Gigabyte – take on its budget competitors and offer decent bang for your buck? We find out.

Orange San Diego – design and build

The Orange San Diego's 117g weight means it's light in the hand, and its rounded corners, bottom speaker placement and surrounding silver band all lend the handset more than a passing resemblance to the Apple iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

There's no metal or brushed aluminium here, though, with plastic running throughout the Orange San Diego's body, and the pair of brash Intel and Orange logos emblazoned on the rear might grate with aesthetes. On the other hand, the soft-touch matte black rear puts us in mind of the BlackBerry Playbook, and no bad thing. It gives the phone a tactile finish that feels better in the hand than its budget price suggests, although it obviously can't hold a candle to the costlier HTC One X's single-piece aluminium frame.0

The quality of that rear is let down by the stiff, cheap-feeling power, volume and camera buttons, but overall we're quite impressed by the build: there's only a slight hint of flex and creaking in the body and it's a decent package for the price.

Some users might find the Android soft-keys on the front to be a little messy, and we could have done without the little-used Android search key, which seems to have been phased out by most other manufacturers.

There's a headphone jack up top, a micro USB flanked by two speakers on the bottom and a handy micro HDMI port. A micro SIM slot graces the right-hand side next to a much-appreciated dedicated camera button.

NFC is another welcome surprise included within the Orange San Diego and is a bonus given its price tag, and although lack of expandable storage might be an issue for media hogs, 16GB of onboard memory should be sufficient for causal use.

Orange San Diego – screen

The Orange San Diego has a generous HTC One V-beating 4in 1024x600 screen, packing in a respectable 297ppi (in comparison to the HTC One V's 267ppi). The screen hits the 4in sweet spot for easy one-handed use, and we had no ergonomic complaints during our time with the handset.

The LCD screen is bright and sharp enough, and only a little zooming is required to make browser text really readable. Colours do however appear to be very washed out, faded and dull compared with top-end handsets, giving websites and photos a pale outlook.

Orange San Diego – power and connectivity

The Orange San Diego is the first UK phone to harness the power of Intel's Atom processor, and at 1.6GHz, its clock speed is higher than the 1.4GHz processor of the higher-end Nokia Lumia 900 and 800. It's considerably faster (on paper) than the 1Ghz processor offered by the HTC One V, too.

Navigating through Android Gingerbread is a smooth enough experience, with multitasking and switching between apps raising no complaints and only the occasional hint of lag between homescreens.

Running Grand Theft Auto III, however, proved to be too much of a challenge for the Orange San Diego, with massive amounts of screen tear, frame rate drops and seizure-inducing juddering and lag, resulting in an unplayable mess. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem, but it's telling that the 'slower' HTC One V offers up a smoother (although still not perfect) experience. Stick to more standard, less intensive Android titles like BMX Boy and the San Diego is perfectly capable.

Orange San Diego – browsing

Web browsing on the Orange San Diego is a surprisingly fast affair, with fluid scrolling and zooming throughout, and automatic text re-flowing when zooming in and out of paragraphs also poses no problem for Intel's silicon.

Coupled with the 4in screen, the Orange San Diego offers a very reasonable browsing experience that manages to surpass the HTC One V's comparatively stuttery surfing skills.

Orange San Diego – camera and video

Despite our initial excitement at the Orange San Diego's dedicated shutter button, we found ourselves waiting a while or having to press it more than once to fire up the camera app, presumably due to its physical stiffness rather than the software. We also found shots taken with the 8MP camera to be grainy and noisy, even in very bright lighting conditions. Photos taken in low-light are even worse, despite the LED flash. Either way, the San Diego won't be replacing your compact camera anytime soon.

1080p video recording on the Orange San Diego is a little more successful, with decent levels of detail picked up in recordings. Playback can appear a bit shaky during fast movements, though it's decent enough overall for casual use.

Orange San Diego – Android Gingerbread

Although an update to Ice Cream Sandwich is promised, you'll be getting Gingerbread when you start up your San Diego. Orange has skinned the OS in a predictably tangerine-hued theme, which we quite like, and there are a few useful widgets for things like displaying text messages and phone settings at a glance. It's not the most ambitious customisation of Android, but it's not garish or distracting either.

Orange San Diego – battery life

We ran a video on loop in MX Player, with the San Diego's Wi-Fi on and the screen set to 50 per cent brightness. The 1460mAh battery finally packed up after five hours and 20 minutes. Given its compact dimensions and affordable price-tag, that's a very reasonable result, and means all but power users should be able to get through a full day without reaching for the charger.

Orange San Diego – verdict

Ultimately, how you feel about the San Diego depends on your expectations. Hoping for a £200 gaming powerhouse that can also replace your compact camera is an exercise in future-gazing, but for everyday use and the odd bit of casual gaming it's worth considering, especially given the fast and fluid browsing experience and (admittedly slightly dull) large screen.

Stuff says... 

Orange San Diego review

The Orange San Diego lacks a stellar camera or serious gaming grunt, but punches well above its price