Dell Streak review

Dell Streak review

T3 4
  • The Streak is back with Android 2.2 and a whole host of new features such as stages, but can it finally start climbing the ladder towards smartphone perfection and tablet excellence, T3 puts the hybrid through its paces.  

    Dell Streak review

    Love

    • New home screen widgets
    • Flash compatibility

    Hate

    • Swype operation
    • Still-slightly-high price tag
     

    The Dell Streak was a bold move from the PC manufacturer when it launched earlier this year – with a whopping five inch screen it was the first move towards an Android tablet before the Samsung Galaxy Tab came along to do it properly. But the Streak’s hybrid nature, lack of Exchange email support and the fact it only came with Android 1.6 counted against it, and users failed to flock to the innovative device

    The Android 2.2 update has brought with it a few cool new features, and one of the most visible is stages. These offer the user a group of widgets, be it on email, the web or just the most used applications, and not only do they really help with functionality, they look great on the five-inch screen.

    Speaking of the home screens, Dell has optimised the Streak to run a lot faster on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz chip, and you can really feel it. Where before it would judder and shriek at times, it’s pretty much flawless in operation when moving from app to app.

    In the six months since the Dell Streak was released the rest of the smartphone market hasn’t stood still, so things like multi-touch only working on certain applications and no inbuilt Exchange client began to jar quickly on the old Streak.
    Both of those issues have been addressed, with Dell making use of the basic Android email client (which is perfectly reasonable, if a little rigid in what you can do with it) and offering multi-touch throughout and text reflow for the internet browser.

    We’re not sure the multi-touch is still up to the task at times though, as it is prone to not following your gesture fully at times. Text reflow also can bounce about the page a bit when you zoom in, with single or double taps needed to convince the Streak to shuffle the letters around.

    Dell Streak review: keyboard and battery

    Another new feature is the overhauled keyboard, something the Streak really needed, with Swype now installed as the default method of text entry.

    The slightly erratic word prediction aside, we think that this tech is a really odd choice – swiping across the keyboard of a phone you can’t reach both sides of the screen on is a little tricky, so you quickly need two hands to text, which can be a chore.

    Battery life seems somewhat increased too with the Android 2.2 upgrade; while it’s not going to suddenly last over two days with the new OP platform, you’ll easily get a day’s charge out of it even with heavier use – using the music and video player a bit, downloading apps and surfing the internet, for instance.

    Dell Streak review: verdict

    The Dell Streak is still a great gadget because of its innovative size and operation – and it’s certainly a darn sight cheaper than the Galaxy Tab. Android 2.2 really does give it a slick overhaul, with all the features we’d expect a top end smartphone to be running (inbuilt Exchange, Flash video etc) now all present and correct.

    At this screen size it’s not going to be for everyone, and things like the Swype keyboard do still jar slightly, but overall we’d have no trouble recommending the Streak to anyone that spends most of their time using apps and browsing the internet on their smartphone. A definite improvement on the first version, the Dell Streak is definitely one for tablet fans to check out.

    Dell Streak price: 16GB £149 on a 30 month contract, or free on £40 contract, £399 on PAYG,

    Link:O2

    Dell Streak release date: Out now

     

     

  • Dell's new 5-inch Streak is a hotly-anticipated Android device, combining the functionality of a smartphone, a tablet PC, a digital camera and a satnav into a sleek, sexy package that's thinner than many of the current generation of handsets. Whisper it quietly, but there's there's even a few surprises in there to give the almighty Apple iPad a run for its money.

    Dell Streak review

    Love

    • New home screen widgets
    • Flash compatibility

    Hate

    • Swype operation
    • Still-slightly-high price tag

    Dell is adamant that the Streak is a tablet, but at 5-inches is the display too small to fulfill what's expected of a tablet? And is it to big to be taken seriously as a smartphone?


    The display is a beauty. With a resolution of 480x800 this scratch resistant LCD is bright and vibrant, while still seeming spacious enough to find a home for all your widgets and apps and still have room for the odd photo frame. The capacitive multi-touch screen isn't quite as fluid as either the HTC Desire or the iPad, but is still very responsive and accurate when web-surfing, using apps and scrolling through the homescreens on the device.

    Dell Steak: Operating system and interface

    The Streak runs on Android 1.6 (although an update to 2.2 is due this year) and initially that seems like a missed step. This means limited use of the voice-to-text functionality and no live wallpapers like on the Google Nexus One. However Dell has applied a lovely skin to 1.6. It's intuitive, logical, snappy and a real pleasure to use. Android is helped along in no small measure by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 1GHz processor, which adds a real zip to proceedings when opening apps and whizzing through homescreens. It supports multitasking too.

    Handy little shortcuts take you where you need to be quickly, with tabs allowing you to access all of your homescreens with one touch, as well as your most-used apps and connectivity options.

    Bespoke widgets, including Facebook and Twitter widgets sit alongside each other nicely, offering live feeds and status updates across both platforms.

    Although it doesn’t sync the accounts, when you update Facebook via the widgets, it prompts if you'd like to send it to Twitter too, and vice versa. Push email is basic, but very simple to set up.

    Dell Streak: Calling and the internet

    The Streak may be shaped like a tablet, but for all intents and purposes, it is a modern day smartphone. Call quality is excellent, but when emailing and texting, finding a natural typing grip is problematic - we found two-handed landscape worked best. The keyboard fine, although there's no built-in dictionary to correct mistakes.

    Browsing is a pleasant, working through pages in portrait mode is the preferred grip, especially on blogs and sites like Twitter. The Android WebKit browser is pretty good too, but Firefox would have been available on Android 2.1. As a web tablet it's great. The pinch-to-zoom multitouch works well, while pages and images render quickly thanks to the 1Ghz processor, but Dell has really missed a trick by leaving Flash off the device.

    Dell Streak: Multimedia

    One of the areas where the Dell Streak really surprised us, is the camera. It's got a 5-megapixel lens with a dual flash that produces quite brilliant results. Images are clear and sharp, vibrant and colourful with a fantastic auto focus that brought us some brilliant foregrounds and wonderfully soft backgrounds. There's also a multitude of shooting and editing options to customise your photo too. Images even look great blown up on a HD TV.

    You also get a VGA video camera and, iPhone owners look away now, a front-loaded webcam, which is great for blogging. Sadly no app exists within Android to make use of video calling yet, like Apple’s FaceTime.

    The music player interface is a little sluggish compared to the rest of the phone, and audio quality disappoints, however the 5-inch screen is great for video playback.

    Dell Streak: GPS and apps

    GPS functionality is another win, thanks to the free turn-by-turn Google navigation app, which transforms the device into a stand alone satnav. It works exceedingly well; the maps have useful layers, voice directions are accurate and clear, and a simple double tap on the screen takes you into Google Street View.

    The Android Market looks great on the device, but while it’s getting better. it's still a good few applications short of even coming close to iPhone or iPad.

    At 15cm long it is bigger than smartphone rivals, but we didn’t find it a problem, especially when you consider the extra functionality you’re getting. And the on-board battery will last about a day.

    Overall the Dell Streak is a very impressive device. It bridges the gap between smartphone and tablet wonderfully well, in fact we’d say it’s more of an iPhone rival than an iPad rival. It performs brilliantly in almost all areas, with a fine touchscreen and a great use of Android, but it really excels as a convergence gadget, with the satnav, smartphone, tablet and camera functionality offering single device solutions in all of those areas, while still slipping handily into the pocket.

    The Dell Streak is available now from O2. Data only contracts (perfect if you've got a mobile phone and want to use it as a tablet) start at £25. Voice and data contracts start at £35 a month.

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