Software, Dell Stage
Dell includes their Stage UI on the Streak 7, and while it doesn’t in the least offend us, it doesn’t do much for us either. You get several large widgets that are pleasing enough: social networking (Facebook and Twitter), a recent apps launcher with embedded weather, music with album view, email and web shortcuts. What’s missing are the sharp customizations Dell made for the Streak 5 running the now ancient Android OS 1.6: the contacts app that made use of added screen real estate, the improved calendar and other app tweaks. Beyond the Stage UI widgets, the Streak 7 runs pretty much stock Froyo Android OS 2.2 which isn’t optimized for tablets. In contrast, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab has wonderful customizations of key apps that make up for the phone-centric Froyo UI.
Performance and Horsepower
In terms of performance, the Dell Streak 7 felt responsive and didn’t lag or bog down for us. It feels faster than the Tab, as it should given the dual core CPU. 3D gameplay is fluid and video playback performance is excellent.
Current Android benchmark apps aren’t tuned for dual core CPUs, making it hard to adequately test synthetic speed (for example Quadrant finishes benchmarking but crashes quickly once it’s done). The NVIDIA Tegra 2 T20 CPU runs at 1GHz (2 cores each running at 1GHz), though the second core comes into play only when multi-tasking.
The Streak 7 scored 1512 on Quadrant, which is actually lower than the HTC Inspire 4G and T-Mobile myTouch 4G single core Snapdragon Android smartphones but much better than the Galaxy Tab with its 1GHz single core Hummingbird CPU (a dual core Tab is in the works).
Softweg Benchmark (tests 2D graphics only):
Linpack: 37.6 MFLOPS
The Streak 7 has 16 gigs of internal storage and a microSD card slot that’s under a plastic door beside the SIM card slot on the tablet’s right side.
Data and 4G
The Dell runs on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 4G network, joining the myTouch 4G, HTC G2 and the upcoming 4G version of the Samsung Vibrant. Data speeds are good and we averaged 3.8-5 Mbps down and 1-1.8 Mbps up using the Speedtest.net app with a moderate -89db signal. Those numbers aren’t hugely higher than the Galaxy Tab whose chipset makes some use of T-Mobile’s upgraded network though nominally it’s a 3G HSDPA 7.2Mbps tablet.
The battery isn’t user replaceable and the back cover doesn’t come off without special tools. The 2750 mAh Lithium Ion battery really isn’t adequate for all day use: the Streak 7 managed only 2.30 hours of movie playback time, and lasted 5 to 6 hours when doing everyday tasks like email, web browsing, playing music and watching a few YouTube videos. The Galaxy Tab and iPad have much higher capacity batteries and the Tab runs twice as long per charge while the iPad runs nearly 3x longer.
Adobe Flash, GPS and Cameras
Since the Streak 7 runs OS 2.2 Froyo it has Adobe Flash 10.1 support. That means you can see not only Flash ads (fortunately you can set Flash to load on-demand if you don’t want to bog down with Flash ads), but embedded Flash videos in web pages. While full Flash brings several Froyo phones to a crawl, the dual core Dell Streak 7 actually handles Flash decently. Player controls are more responsive and frame rates are quite good. It’s still not as responsive as a PC running Flash or mobile YouTube, but it’s quite usable. Score a few points for the Dell Streak 7!
The front-facing camera and mic work with Qik, T-Mobile’s current preferred solution for video chat. Quality is decent with a solid 4G signal and over WiFi. The rear 5 megapixel autofocus camera takes passable photos but quite good 720p video. The interface is a little strange: be sure to explore the tiny icons in the strip near the right hand side to find flash control, resolution and more.
The GPS behaved well in our tests and it managed to get a fix quickly even indoors. Google Maps, Navigation and Places are on board, but TeleNav is not. Thankfully, Google’s solutions do a very good job of providing spoken directions along with the usual excellent POI listings and Street View. The Streak 7's weak viewing angles are less than ideal for in-car navigation unless you can angle it just-right for clear viewing.
The Dell Streak 7 isn't a bad Android tablet, it's just not a great Android tablet. For those on a budget willing to make concessions, we definitely see a place for less than top drawer products, but saving only $50 over the life a a 2 year contract vs. the Galaxy Tab ($2/month) doesn't make a lot of sense given the Streak 7's weak display and battery life.
If you can live with the low resolution display and its terrible viewing angles, the Dell Streak 7 does bring some goodies to the table including a dual core Tegra 2 CPU and HSPA+ 4G. Like we said, it's not a terrible product. The 7" form factor is wonderful despite what Steve Jobs might think, and the Dell is portable yet offers a larger view on videos and the web. It also has an attractive design and optional HDMI out via the $70 home AV dock (the same one used by the Streak 5).
Pro: NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core CPU, HSPA+ 4G, useful bundled software, good build. Has full access to the Android Market and WiFi, Bluetooth as well as GPS.
Con: Low resolution display with poor viewing angles. Battery life is weak by tablet standards and battery isn't user replaceable.
Price: $199 with 2 year contract (data plan only), $450 without contract
Websites: www.dell.com, www.t-mobile.com