The Android platform is making huge strides and Dell is not one to miss the opportunity of getting onboard. The Streak is the company’s first attempt at creating a bona-fide tablet/smartphone hybrid. But does this gizmo bring the same level of quality and value for money the computer giant has built its reputation on, or does it fall flat on its face?
Is it a bird? Is it a phone? Is it a tablet?
The answer to these questions doesn’t become immediately apparent until you pick up the Streak in your hands. It’s certainly not a bird, that much we can confirm.
But it is not quite a phone either. Not unless you want to hold something that could be mistaken for a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bar against your noggin, hilarious though it would be.
No, the Streak could probably best be described as a tablet/smartphone hybrid. The reason being, it looks simply too big to be a phone and a tad too small to be tablet.
Then again, I’m not aware of any arbitrary size requirements for tablets, so to dismiss the Streak for its size would be an even greater injustice than Pluto being kicked off the planets club.
If there is one thing that’s abundantly clear about the Streak, it’s that it’s a mighty fine looking device.
At first glance, its dark, metallic exterior will remind you of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But look closer and you will notice the gorgeously sculpted curves, the slick aluminum enclosure with matte-finish, super thin magnetic latch and perhaps the most eye-catching feature of all - the five-inch capacitive touchscreen.
And while it’s decidedly larger than your standard smartphone, thanks to the sturdy build quality and slim design that could give Naomi Campbell a run for her money, the Streak is still small enough to fit into a regular-sized pocket and will slip into a purse with greater ease.
In landscape orientation the device is just right size to be an excellent portable media player and even slightly resembles a PSP.
Held upright, there are three buttons at the bottom: home, menu and back, which are capacitive and provide force feedback. However, there is no navigation trackball or trackpad to speak of, or even a dedicated search button, which is a surprising omission for any Android device.
At the heart of the Streak sits a powerful 1GHz Snapdragon processor that has become something of a regular fixture on Android kit these days. The standout feature however, is undoubtedly the massive five-inch 800 x 480-pixels TFT display that is great for watching movies at 720p resolution, and for once, even when you’re outside.
Unfortunately, the built-in speakers don’t complement the screen too well, so you’re better off plugging in some good quality headsets into the 3.5mm audio jack.
Like most high-end smarties, Streak brings a range of features, including Wi-Fi (b/g) and Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity. The latter should come immensely handy if you do decide to use the device for talking.
There are two cameras, a five-megapixel dual LED snapper on the back and a front-facing VGA for video calling. Both can capture video but tops out to VGA unlike 720p recording capability found in the current crop of smartphones.
It is the back camera that perhaps disappoints slightly. While there are a variety of advanced settings and shooting modes available, the picture quality is somewhat lacking for a camera of its resolution, mainly due to fact that the flash is pretty ineffective in dark conditions.
In a well-lit area it does an adequate job and the integrated image editing software is pretty fun to play around with. Just don’t count it replacing your digital compact.
In terms of storage capacity, the Streak comes with 2GB of internal memory coupled with a pre-installed 16GB microSD card, which can be expanded to 32GB.
The launch models come loaded with the old Android 1.6 (Donut), which is a bummer. But Dell has promised an update to Android 2.2 (Froyo) later this year.
Unfortunately, this also means there is no integrated Microsoft Exchange support. Instead you’re stuck with TouchDown, which isn’t the greatest looking app out there.
There is however integrated Google Voice support throughout the system, which for the most part works really well. Voice-controlled directions and turn-by-turn navigation are provided by Google Maps, but lacks pinch-to-zoom support, which makes no sense whatsoever.
While there is currently no integrated solution for video calling in Android, Google recently purchased a company that specialises in video conferencing software. So keep your eyes peeled for something similar to iPhone’s FaceTime becoming available for Android in the not-too-distant future.
Like most Android manufacturers, Dell has also added its own touch and UI enhancements to the skin. The most significant of which is probably the status bar at the top of the screen, which contains three tabs to only one, the notification bar, found on most Android phones. The leftmost tab pops open a window to add or delete additional home screens and displays the most recently opened apps at the bottom. The notification bar sits in the middle but for some reason missing the ‘pull-down’ gesture. The rightmost tab gives you a range of quick settings such as the ability to switch Wi-Fi on and off.
A few widgets were also thrown in for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and a Dell-branded analogue clock.
All in all, the software offering in Streak is weak to say the least, which is especially disappointing considering this is actually a damn impressive piece of tech and meant to serve as a powerful tablet.
One can only hope that’s something will change once Froyo arrives.
Ease of use
The integrated Google Voice search functionality in Streak, albeit imperfect, does make life a lot easier and something I can see myself use quite frequently.
The gigantic capacitive touchscreen is super responsive and the speed and ease of surfing the web on the device is stupendous on both Wi-Fi and 3G.
Dell has used every bit of the screen real estate to alleviate the frustration of typing on an onscreen keyboard. However, the lack of any auto-correction does mean you’ll still make the odd mistake.
Another nagging issue is the placement and sensitivity of the buttons when the device is held sideways. I’ve lost count the number of times I accidentally pressed the back button when browsing the web or playing a game.
Aside from these minor niggles, a poor camera and outdated software, the Streak still managed to win me over with its aesthetically pleasing design, great web browsing capability and massive screen.
Considering this is Dell’s first foray into the Android world, it’s a pretty impressive effort. But it’s not exactly cheap either and will run you down £399 on O2 Pay as you go.
If you are in the market purely for a smartphone but want a screen big enough to watch movies in and camera that takes great photos, you’re probably better off getting a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. But if you want an ultra-portable tablet/media player that doubles as a phone, the Dell Streak is a pretty attractive option all round.
- 5-inch (130 mm), 800 x 480 multi-touch capacitive touchscreen
- 153 x 80 x 10 mm 220g
- Android 1.6 (Donut)
- HSDPA, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, GPS with A-GPS
- 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and dual LED flash
- MicroSD slot expandable up to 32GB
- 3.5mm audio jack
Overall Mark: 8