Dell Streak 5 Review
Good: The Dell Streak offers an unprecedented combination of processor power, screen size, and design quality. Support for 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth hit all the wireless sweet spots, while photo, camcorder, and calling capabilities blur the boundaries between tablet and phone.
Bad: Battery life isn’t great, the touch-screen keyboard is awkward, music quality is below average, no FM radio, and the position of the camera tends to cloud photos and video.
The bottom line: The Dell Streak is the first Android tablet worth taking seriously, though its size puts it on the fence between tablets and smart phones.
• OS: Android 1.6
• Processor: 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (QSD 8250)
• RAM: 512 MB
• Storage: 2 GB built-in, plus 16 GB micro-SD (expandable to 32 GB)
• Display: 5-inch WVGA, 800×480 pixels, Gorilla Glass
• Battery: Lithium Ion 1530 mAh
• Ports: 30-pin to USB
• Weight: 7.7 oz
• Dimensions: 6.0(h) x 3.1(w) x 0.4(d) inches
• Camera: 5.0 megapixel (rear) with autofocus; VGA front-facing
• Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, e-compass
• Keyboard: 49-key virtual keyboard (including number pad)
• Networks: UMTS 850/1900/2100 MHz; GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz;
• Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g; Bluetooth 2.1 EDR
• Tethering: Not available
• Price: In India Rs 34990/-
At 6 inches wide, 3.2 inches tall, and 0.35 inch thick. It breaks the norm for Smartphone dimensions, yet it’s nearly a third the size of Apple’s iPad tablet.
The 5-inch capacitive touch screen is covered in a seemingly indestructible Gorilla Glass, developed by Corning, though the tapered edges to the left and right of it use a more conventional scratch-resistant plastic. These same edges also conceal three soft keys (back, menu, and home), an earpiece, microphone, and a front-facing VGA-resolution camera. We carried the Streak loosely in a messenger bag for weeks, along with keys, loose change, and an iPod, and failed to make a dent or scratch in its finish.
On the flip side of the Streak you’ll find a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with an integrated LED flash. The camera is awkwardly placed, so your left hand tends to obscure the lens when holding the Streak in its prescribed landscape orientation. Anyone with common sense will, of course, reposition their hand before snapping a photo or recording video, but the fingerprints left on the lens through regular use do tend to cloud the image quality.
The back of the Streak also includes a small speaker grille at the edge of a large battery cover. Along with a removable, rechargeable battery, the Streak battery compartment also offers access to a SIM card slot and the included 16GB microSD memory card. Both the SIM and microSD cards can be swapped out quickly, but removing the door to the battery compartment will automatically shut down the Streak as a safety measure. A cold boot after removing the battery cover takes about 40 seconds.
The bottom of the Streak offers a 30-pin connection, which is similar to (but not compatible with) the iPad’s. A USB cable compatible with the connection comes included, along with a wall-charging adapter. The 30-pin connection is also compatible with Dell’s AV dock accessory, which is sold separately and includes connections for HDMI, mini-USB, and audio line-out.
Only problem about the design are the physical buttons on the Streak. They are all non-descriptive. The worst is the physical shutter button which attempts to mimic a digital camera’s shutter release by focusing when you have it pressed down half way. That part works fine, but try to push it down all the way to activate the shutter and take a picture and you’ll find that you have to push down way too far. The button actually has to recess into the Streak’s housing to trigger a photo, which is not only awkward to do but also tends to because you to move the phone a bit before you take your photo. (Shake effect)
Finally, slim buttons for volume, power, and camera mode run across the top edge of the Streak, along with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack (in-ear headphones come included). The only problems with the buttons is that the power and camera buttons have an identical shape and are place directly next to one another, making it easy to confuse them.
The Streak runs a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon system-on-chip processor that’s partnered with 512MB of RAM. This ARM-based SoC is plenty zippy, but if you plan to argue with iPad users be cautious because we found the iPad a bit faster during Wi-Fi-connected web page loads.
You’ll find 2GB total of non-user-accessible storage (it’s dedicated to the OS and apps), and the Streak comes with a 16GB microSD card for all your accumulated data (32GB cards are supported). You also get built-in hardware GPS, and both a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera for stills and video, and a low-res front-facing camera for video chat applications. On the iPad, you won’t find a camera of any persuasion, and GPS is only included in the iPad 3G versions.
The Streak hardware also includes a 3-axis accelerometer, though the user interface doesn’t make very good use of it (more about that later).Apart from the three capacitive buttons (back, menu, and home) and a mic on the right, you’ll find four physical buttons along the top ridge — volume rocker, power, and camera (two-stage button i.e. press half-way to focus). The 3.5mm headphone jack is right next to the volume keys, which can be a nuisance if your headphones rock a straight plug.
To grill the battery, we had the Streak connected to 3G (HSDPA) only, continuously played music, had background sync enabled (including the Face book widget, RSS widget, and Twicca), occasionally browsed the web on it, and took a few photos and videos. Guess what? Surprisingly — especially given the screen size — we managed to get almost ten hours per charge! On a more realistic usage like less music playback and more reliance on Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, we even squeezed out at least 12 hours of sweet battery juice. This certainly makes the HTC Desire look feeble with its mere six-hour gig from a similar usage.
The Streak currently runs version 1.6 of the Android OS. Code-named Donut, this build is actually two generations behind the current-best iteration, version 2.2, aka Froyo. Dell has announced it will upgrade to Froyo later this year, and when that happens, users will be able to enjoy improvements in Google Maps and Microsoft Exchange, as well as HTML 5 and Adobe Flash 10.1 support, among other optimizations.
The Streak includes an accelerometer, but it’s not put to good use, at least not in screen-orientation management. We love the fact that the iPad can literally be held in any position, and the home screen and most apps will reorient themselves right-side-up to whatever position you’ve thrown at them. There’s really no top, bottom, left and right in iPad orientation. Most of the time, this is pleasing and convenient.
The Streak, meanwhile, has a home screen fixed in landscape mode, and you can’t even flip it 180 degrees and have that landscape view re-orient when the device is upside-down. Likewise, even when you’re in an app that supports a portrait view, you still need the device oriented with the power button on your right — just like in landscape mode; there is only one functional orientation.
We also have quibbles with the Streak’s basic UI navigation experience, and it’s difficult to say whether the problems should be ascribed to the outdated Donut OS, the fact that we’re trying to use a large phone as if it were a tablet, or Dell’s interface hacking (Dell has tweaked the home screen into a Dellified version of the stock Android UI). We’ll just say that in a sufficient number of built-in apps, you have to do a lot of Menu and Back button tapping to get where you need to go.
The Streak does, in fact, include some winning software and interface features. We love — the ability to drag-and-drop music files to and from the Streak. You can even drag-and-drop files you purchased via the Streak’s preloaded Amazon MP3 Store app.
And then there’s Google’s voice search support, which is enabled in many apps (to name just a few: Browser, Maps, Contacts, IMDb, and YouTube). Just hit the microphone icon, clearly enunciate the term you want to search for, and Google will magically (and with a pretty good success rate) return what you’re looking for.
The Streak’s keyboard has received criticism for including a number keypad when in landscape mode. Apparently, people who practice two-digit thumb typing have been hitting the number keys by mistake. OK, sure, yes — that can happen. But because numbers are so integral to the data-entry process (especially when it comes to password input), we’ll happily make the tradeoff. Plus, because the Streak is an Android device, you can download alternative keyboards to find one that suits you better, which speaks to the overall freedom of the platform itself.
And, finally, we couldn’t close out the software section without mentioning that the Streak supports multitasking. As of this writing, the iPad does not. The streak’s lack of FM radio is another point to look down.
Some key missing features on streaks were, Firstly No numpad-free keyboard as an option in Settings. Secondly while the Calendar app may look delicious on the five-inch screen, we were surprised that the entries in week view mode bear no text description, whereas the 3.7-inch Nexus One (with Froyo) manages to pack in those details. Finally, we’re puzzled by the missing contacts pictures — we were expecting the Streak to pull photos off Facebook, and the box has definitely been ticked for this in Settings.
It’s a smart phone with a large & sexy screen loaded with lots of stuff. The Streak is a power pack of apps, Wi-Fi, 3G & great camera. It is the missing link between tablet & smart phone. And don’t forget its awesome experience to watch your favorite movies on a 5-inch screen anytime & anywhere.
So guys give it a try!!!
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