I think I need to explain before I start, I own an Orange San Francisco but I have rooted it and installed a custom ROM. I will start off with the Orange San Francisco review and score it and then talk about what I’m using now and then score it again as the ZTE Blade, which is what my phone now tells me as does Google Marketplace.
The San Francisco…
I wanted a cheap Android machine. I kept looking at the Flipout as it was really cheap unlocked and I wanted to use my contract simcard. Before I took the jump I Googled the Orange San Francisco as this was the phone I really wanted but it’s locked to Orange. Within seconds I found out that it was the easiest phone in history to unlock and it’s free to unlock. So I went for the phone I wanted.
I turned on the San Francisco and came across the worse looking UI I have ever seen and yes I did use Windows ME. The screen is sexy as hell but the UI used icons designed for a much, much lower resolution and it looked woeful. I checked out the Orange App Store and found that games like Uno, which are about £2 on the official marketplace are £5. Orange your pricing is outrageous. To make it worse Orange tried to hide the real Marketplace.
The phone uses a 600Mhz ARMv6, which is a nippy little CPU. It flies through the UI with ease and it great for video playback, well I say video playback using the included media software, I have found that a AVI player runs like a slide show. So yes you will be to re-encode your videos. There is also the GPU, Adreno 200 which makes games run like a dream (will get to Angry Birds and 3D performance later).
The design of the phone is standard, but somewhat sexy. It does feel plasticity but that’s what you get for the money you pay for the phone. The Camera is only 3.2 Megapixels, so it’s not going to replace your camera but it’s OK for the odd snap here and there. The Camcorder is awful. Again this is about how little you are paying for the phone. It’s under the £100 mark.
Score: 7/10 Until…
So I ripped out the ugly Orange UI and got myself to Android 2.1 and removed all the Orange Bloatware… That was easy. The next thing that crossed my mind was how hard could it be to change to a custom firmware. So I did, took less about 20 minutes.
Before I go any further, I would like to say that I am using Swedish Spring RLS5, which is a Android 2.2 FroYo Custom ROM, it comes packed with Google Apps and some extra toys like No Frills CPU Control. It’s based on the leaked 2.2 update from China. Now I could upgrade to a 2.3 Gingerbread Custom ROM, but I’m happy with what I have got.
Android 2.2 on the ZTE Blade and yes that’s what the system now calls itself in the System Settings, is like the machine has a new life. I tend to keep my CPU at about 670MHz as this is great for games and for battery. On the subject of games and performance…
Angry Birds: The game runs very smooth. Sometimes when there is a lot of physics on screen it can get a little slow.
Quake 3 (for Droid): Very Fast… 36.82fps!
Linpack: MFLOPS 7.343; Time 11.42 Seconds; Norm Res 5.68
An3DBench: Score 5392
SNesoid: Smooth, some sound lag. Nothing special.
So from a gaming and performance point of view this little machine is somewhat of a monster. I can’t hide from the clear issues like the poor camera or that I can play Jet Car Stunts because of the CPU ain’t a ARMv7, but still the machine really does the job I need and want from it. Android 2.2 is needed, because the run from SD card support is a must.
I do view my phone as a ZTE Blade now. It’s nothing like the Orange San Francisco I got at the start and I’m damn proud of that. I do itch to play better mobile games and I can see myself grabbing a iPod Touch 4 at some point but it will just be for mobile gaming as well as videos (I own a lot of classic Doctor Who via iTunes). The phone is now what I wanted it to be. It’s mine. All MINE!