Dell Streak Full Review
It's been a full 4 days now since I got my Dell Streak, so it's about time I let you know the ins and outs of Dells first ever Android tablet device - or second Android smartphone, pending on what you class it as!
I got the Dell Streak to replace my primary phone, a terribly cheap Sony Ericsson which has lasted mew through 18 of my 24 month contract. This was my first leap to smart phone (although they don't want us to call it that) since I used an N-Gage about 6 years ago. My how times have changed.
The first thing that you/everyone will note about the Streak is its size. At a glance, it looks like a large but thin slab of uber technology, the size is similar to that of a PSP. On the front, the large 5" shiny screen stands out along with glossy plastic at the edges, the back has a black matte "carbon" finish; giving it overall a very sleek and sexy look. The screen has a small > 1cm bezel around it, all underneath the glass and at its sides are the webcam, ambient light sensor and phone speaker on one side, and the 3 capacitive buttons (which provide tactile feedback when pressed) along with a small notch in the glass for the mic on the other side. Along the top edge is the volume rocker, power/lock button which has been nicely inset, and the dedicated camera button. It would have been nice for some sort of next/prev audio control, but I dare say that may have over crowded the thin edges a bit.Of course on the bottom is the propriety dock which looks strikingly similar to the iPhone/Pod, but is different in every way that matters. The ports do seem a bit unorganised on the edges, not being central with the rest of the device, but that's really only a very minor design issue and there are probably good reasons for this.
On the back of the device there is a large back panel which slides in and out of place, revealing the large battery, microSD, and tricky SIM card slot, we also have the 5MP main camera with dual LED flash and a strip to reveal the large speaker. In the middle of the panel, a silver Dell Logo proudly shines through.
That's it for the outside, many people are curious to how this product stands up as a phone next to your face, and as you can guess, it's pretty large. It is however amazingly thin, making its largeness only apparent from certain angles. I used to side-talk with an N-Gage, so this is no biggy for me. The Streak obviously has bluetooth and an included headset, so there are other ways to call if it bothers you that much. I was actually more concerned with whether it would fit snugly in my pocket or not, especially as I have some clothing with very shallow pockets!
Here is a quick video showing the Dell Streaks' size and how it fits in my jeans pocket:
Internally, the Dell Streak comes with a powerful 1Ghz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM and 2GB of internal storage; this makes for an extremely fast and limitless device. I have struggled to push the RAM to its absolute limits - even when loading up loads of applications, they all just seem to run perfectly on this hardware. The 2GB storage is a treat too, giving you more than enough storage for applications, the fact it comes with a 16 or 32GB microSD card as well for media storage means you'll never ever be short of space on your Dell Streak.
The Dell Streak has two cameras, a back facing 5MP with dual flash for taking pictures, and a standard VGA front-facing camera for webcam. The main camera takes beautiful pictures, if you look at the attachments in this thread you will see some examples of the pictures I've taken. I've actually had to reduce the Streaks photo resolution a bit so the forum could upload them :) Taking pictures themselves is extremely easy, you can just hold down the dedicated camera button to bring up the camera app, and with a touch of the screen you can bring up all the settings - digital zoom, brightness, flash etc. Notably you have to manually turn flash either on off, I've read that this is an Android thing and an "auto" mode will be available in 2.2. Also while in camera mode, you can use the menu button to switch between front and back facing camera, to take photo-booth style shots of yourself. This is however, one of the only native uses the front facing camera has at the moment. There's no built in video calling as of yet, to make other uses of the front-facing camera you need to rely on the Android app store.
Sound and Vision
The 5" Gorilla Glass capacitive touch screen is a beauty to behold. The screen clocks in with a 800 x 480 resolution, which gives you plenty of screen real estate. On the homepage itself, there is enough room for 32 application shortcuts, so you're never short on space. Viewing the web is a great experience too, I'm always apprehensive about browsing on a mobile advice, thinking will it be worth it with all the additional scrolling/zoom/panning around but on the Dell Streak - there's no need. Most sites work great in landscape mode with little panning around to fit everything in, and if a site takes you to a mobile version, you know with such a big screen you are getting the best viewing experience possible.
The screen itself uses Gorilla Glass, an ultra strong, scratch-resistant glass. I wasn't brave enough to carry out any test myself, but you can see some major pen-stabbing at Engadget. In regards to brightness, there are a number of settings from a calming dim selection to squintingly bright. The viewing angles on this screen are great too, it's possible to look at the screen from almost any angle and get the full picture along with colour clarity, that's thanks to the WXGA display.
The speaker on this thing is ace. It produces a lot of sound and can easily fill a room with your music, you could probably take a shower and this thing in the same room for a sing along, not that I've been tempted myself! for those who are wondering, the speaker is located on the back of the device and is revealed by a discreet mesh strip next to the cover as shown on the left in the picture below.
Android 1.6 is what brings this together and even though it's not the latest version by a long shot that doesn't mean it can't bring the best out this device. Dell have gone to the effort to put an extremely customised UI on top of Android, giving a different homescreen experience and streamlining the software for tablet use. The home screen now consists of 3 (but more can be added) "rooms" that are
Dell have also provided us with some custom RSS widgets, as well as Facebook and Twitter - which they really needed to do as the official Twitter app is for 2.2 and above. These widgets all integrate well eachother and the services they are linked to, with Facebook actually stating my status updates coming "via Dell Streak" which is a very nice touch. This shows us that Dell have put a lot of time and effort into adjusting 1.6, which could explain why a customised 2.2 UI may not be ready just yet.
The operating system itself runs very smoothly on the hardware, things are quick to load and the device seems very snappy, especially to install/remove apps and navigating the home screens. A minor issue is that with the homescreen being fixed to a landscape orientation, it sometimes clashes with apps that only work in portrait mode - such as Spotify - meaning sometimes you have to keep switching the device around.
Another element of Android that Dell have customised is the keyboard, because Dell have intended this to be a tablet you hold in landscape mode, the landscape keyboard has been expanded to include a few extra keys and even a numpad:
There have been mixed reviews across the web on this keyboard, personally I like it. When holding the Streak in two hands, my thumbs can cover the entire keyboard, however it would be slightly more comfortable if the delete/backspace key was along the top row instead of in the bottom corner, also it's not that often you use the number pad! That said, this expanded keyboard is very useful and even has left and right keys to move the cursor around the text. In landscape mode you get a lot more auto-suggested words come up than you would in portrait mode, which comes with a keyboard that seems very much untouched.
Android 1.6 on the Dell Streak certainly isn't as much of a disappointment as you might think, Dell have put some real work into the UI and along with 2.2 and whatever Dell has in store for that, it will no doubt push Dell Streak to the top of the Android 2.2 device pile.
In the box you get a number of accessories: A silky pouch/case, USB-to-proprietary port lead, a USB-to-AC lead (with EU and UK adaptors) and some ear buds with various rubber attachments. Sadly no sign of Dock or Case, which has been spied in a few places around the net.
The silky case is a snug fit, and will protect mainly the back of the tablet from scratches and nasties. The front itself probably doesn't need much protection, what with the Gorilla Glass and all. The earbuds aren't really my cup of tea, but with a standard 3.5mm jack you can stick in any set of headphones you'd like.
A slightly disappointing aspect of the proprietary port is that you only actually get one lead that will fit it in the box, essentially making the lead as valuable as device itself. It would have been nice to get a Port-to-USB and a Port-to-AC cable instead of the adaptor, but as more accessories arise such as the dock, I'm sure this problem will soon fade out.
Below is my unboxing video, showing the included accessories:
Battery life of the Dell Streak is very impressive. With heavy use a full charge will most certainly see you throughout the day and into tomorrow. My first main experience of testing the battery was a long day of out and about with Spotify, various Apps, web browsing via Wifi all on medium brightness throughout the day and I still had over 30% battery left when it came to bed time. The Streak comes with a number of software controls to help maintain battery life in a handy widget, so from the homescreen you can control Brightness, Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS and background data. There is also an airport mode which switches off all wireless activity to really squeeze the juice out of the battery. One amazing feature that came with Android is a battery usage monitor: it tells you which parts of the Streak are using how much battery since you last unplugged it - extremely useful for adjusting your Streak usage for battery longevity. In all fairness, if you use your Streak a lot you may need to charge your Streak over night. I find this is the case with most smartphones out there at the minute, but at least there are enough tweaks on the Streak that you can make to prepare it for a marathon if you're not going to have access to a charger for a few days.
Pricing and Availability
I purchased my Dell Streak outright initially from the Carphone Warehouse for £429, it came with a 16GB card, and all the accessories listed above. It was however locked to O2. The Streak is also available from O2 themselves on a range of contracts, from 2 years to 30-day rolling, you'll have to shell out the full price of the tablet (£399 for O2) on anything shorter than a 18 month contract. It was actually quite difficult to get hold of on launch weekend and either into the week after, with only the bigger stores getting any stock in, and not all of them lasting long!
The main deal breaker with the Streak is actually the fact it's locked to exclusively to O2. O2 aren't necessarily a bad carrier, but with 18/24 month contracts being the norm over here at the moment there is often never a good time to have to switch. You can however, but the streak outright and run it without a sim card with no troubles. I actually got a £10 a month rolling data contract with O2 so when I do go out an about I can use their data without it being much of a commitment.
As for unlocking, O2 have stated to a couple of customers that they will unlock the device after 12 months, which considering you can buy the product out right for £400+, is a bit of a joke. I've also taken it to some of the independent unlockers, and they've said it's too early to know how to tackle this thing. I feel this is the major downfall of the Streak, and the one thing preventing me from giving up my current mobile phone completely and being a full time Streaker :)
Should you get one? This choice is down to you, here are the main points that I think you should consider:
Currently this device only has Android 1.6, but with Dells customised UI & keyboard it is still extremely impressive; I really can't wait for 2.2 and to see what Dell will do with it.
So that's it. If a tablet PC for browsing is what you want, the Dell Streak should fit perfectly, if it's a replacement smart phone you want, the Dell Streak can cater to all your needs there too - as long as O2 is on your side.
If there's anything else you'd like to know about, simply ask the question in this thread and I will oblige!
The iphone 4 claims 10 hour of video. I am wondering how long the mini5 can do. Can it last for two full movies?
The GPS is built in :)
Can you buy extras and sell them here / no contract for us Yankees?.....you know somebody had to ask
edit, I see there's no unlock option as yet, though I'm sure that'll come. Thanks again for the reviews!
I'd like to offer an alternate opinion. I had one of these the 1st weekend and returned it. For me the hardware was great but the software really let it down. I do not like the keyboard, all that space and they add a numeric keypad, the buttons seem the same size as on the smaller phones so bigger makes no difference when typing.
Next apps and widgets, I use to have a HTC Hero, the Dell was missing the weather widget and calendar widget, ok that's Dell leaving them out they were 2 of the main good points of the OS. In general Android apps are very disappointing. A simple example compare the XBMC remote on android to the 1 on the iPhone, the iPhone leaves it in the dust ditto for Monopoly.
Next email, I can get google mail obviously but not IMAP email from the work server it crashes. I'd have to pay for Touchdown or wait till the OS update, whenever they get around to that. I don't like the idea of paying for something that should already work out of the box. Also Hotmail, again the iPhone has mbox mail which works great, nothing like that exists for Android. Yes you can connect using pop but it doesn't mark messages as read or let you move messages to different folders. Aso you can forward to gmail bu ti like having a separate hotmail account.
The last problem I had was video, with a brand new Streak copy a film to the memory card and try to play it without any extra apps. I couldn't, I had to download extras, a video player or a file browser. To me that is hardly video playback out of the box, yes very easy to overcome but really it just reeks of poor testing and being rushed out.
I really want to like Android and the Dell Streak but I felt really let down. In 1 day I was reaching for an iPhone. I hope/want it to be better with Android 2.2 but I still think I will be disappointed by the apps.
I think the keyboard is something you learned to get used too, I've certainly got a lot better since my first use in the last week. I could hardly type at all on it. I think I'm a bit more lenient with keyboards though as I have 3 Dell Minis, and have had to adapt to each of them differently with their unique and compact keyboards.
With the OS I can see your points, I admittedly haven't any experience with mass syncing like you're describing, just a gmail account which went smoothly. I did actually have some trouble with contacts - and just turned of syncing and added the 30 numbers I want to keep on this device myself.
2.2 really does have a lot more features, including better exchange support.
I'm use to the Dell mini keyboards, have mine hackintoshed, I can't help thinking bigger screen = bigger keyboard but instead they just added more keys I was disappointed. I really want to think 2.2 will be much better I'm sure the OS will be but it's a while off still. Today a user needs to suffer 1.6 NO exchange support and broken IMAP support. Apps I'm also sure will get better as time passes but again right now its the poor cousin.
I really want to like it but I ended up reaching for my work iPhone. Maybe in 3-4 months it will live up to the potential but when i had it I felt disappointed.
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