Since Mobile World Congress earlier this year, the Orange San Diego (previously known as the Santa Clara), has benefited from some slight revisions. The whole frame is now much more solid, and there's no longer any hint of a creak. The soft-touch backing, while a magnet for scratches and dings, helps to separate it from an army of glossy sub-$300 Android devices, but it's certainly not the most imaginatively designed phone. The shape lies somewhere between the Galaxy S II and iPhone 3GS, although the substantial bezel below the screen stops the phone from being quite as hand-friendly as the latter. It's simply not a pretty phone, and we lay the blame on the ho-hum build materials. The black body is ringed with a silver border, and while it didn't chip during our use, it's not a particularly fancy finish. The 10mm edge houses the volume rocker, micro-SIM slot and two-stage camera button on the right, micro-USB port at the bottom, and mini-HMDI output along the left side. A fiddly power switch resides along the top edge, but once you gain purchase on them, all of the physical buttons are responsive -- including the camera button, which will also quick-launch into the camera.
The San Diego is home to an 8-megapixel / 1.3-megapixel camera duo, both of which can be controlled using either the physical key or touchscreen. The primary, rear-facing shooter is also capable of recording 1080p video. The four capacitive buttons are clearly signposted in daylight, but will also light up if the environment dictates. Thankfully, despite the lightweight tinkering from Orange, both Android Gingerbread shortcuts remain intact, with a multitasking screen accessible by holding the home button. Storage space comes in at just under 11GB -- with no option for expansion. In fact, the whole phone is sealed up -- so there's no easy option to change the battery either. (It is possible to wrench off the back cover, but the battery still isn't the in-and-out kind.)
The San Diego's 4-inch screen was a pleasant surprise. While there's no Super AMOLED Plus or Super LCD 2 fanfare, it's sharp and rich, although wider viewing angles introduce some gentle discoloration. But for a low-to-middle-ranger, the 1024 x 600 screen was plenty serviceable, and at full brightness was just about manageable in full daylight.
While Intel seemed to pride itself on the camera skills of its reference design, we can't agree. If ever there was a phone to demonstrate that a camera's performance can't be measured by megapixels alone, then the San Diego is it. While some effort was made on the software side to ensure the phone is capable of burst capture, we were left underwhelmed by the blurry results. Perhaps we've been spoiled recently, but the image quality certainly doesn't measure up to the standards of other earnestly-priced phones. Colors were often washed out with subjects appearing dull, while less-than-favorable lighting resulted in hefty doses of noise. This time, we won't blame it on the often cloudier climes of the UK as color reproduction indoors was also meager, and a good deal of detail often got lost in translation. Having said that, there were flashes of decent imaging, but these moments were rarer than we'd liked. Performance in macro mode was generally better than other settings.