What's hot: Elegant hardware, pocketable, good price with contract.
What's not: The AT&T version is still on Android 1.6 (soon to be updated to Froyo). The Unlocked version is available with Android 2.2 Froyo.
Reviewed November 16, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Confession: I really love the Dell Streak. I picked one up at Best Buy to see what was up with one of the few pocketable Android tablets that boasted high quality materials and the ability to make phone calls. I didn't expect much, but as it turns out the Dell Streak has elegant hardware, thoughtful software customizations that make good use of the added screen real estate and excellent reception. Sure, a 5" tablet isn't for those whose primary use for a smartphone is voice calls; you can hold it to your head for calls but it is large. Perhaps not all that large: I took it on a business trip and used it in public places and airports and not one person stared at me.
The Streak costs $100 more than a high end smartphone with contract (and is priced similarly if you go sans contract), and you literally get more for your money. The Streak has a 5" capacitive multi-touch display (though multi-touch isn't implemented everywhere since our device runs Android 1.6), a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, a 5 megapixel rear camera and a front-facing video conferencing camera, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 and a GPS. In the US it's currently sold locked to AT&T and Best Buy has the exclusive for now. Dell will release an unlocked version in the US in the coming months and it will come pre-loaded with Froyo (Android OS 2.2) and Dell's Stage UI which can be disabled if you don't like it, though it looks very slick. The Streak is $299 with an AT&T contract and $549 without contract.
The hardware is simply top notch with an elegant design, large glass front, tapering edges and a metal back. In terms of materials, the Streak makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab look like a hunk of plastic. Despite its larger than phone size, the Streak isn't unbearably heavy at 7.7 ounces and the straight top and bottom edges plus coated metal back make it easy to hold securely. The capacitive buttons are backlit and are one short of the usual Android 4: there's a back button, menu button and search button but no home button. Dell has mildly customized the UI to put a ubiquitous home button at the top of the menu bar, so there's no need for a dedicated button. The only thing we don't like about the hardware? The back cover fits on very tightly and it's hard to get on and off until you've broken it in. What's the big deal? If the cover isn't fully locked in place, the Streak won't turn on. For some reason Dell put switches under the back cover that kill power if it's not in place.
The display is 800 x 480 resolution and has an accelerometer that supports portrait and landscape modes most everywhere except the home screen. The capacitive display is extremely sharp and has good colors-- this is one of the best non-AMOLED displays on the market. It's made of Gorilla glass, so it's harder to scratch too. Given the extra 1" vs. phones like the Captivate, text is easier to read without zooming and it feels like a mini-computer rather than a phone when browsing and working with email and MS Office documents.
Deals and Shopping:
Yes, it's a phone too
The Streak is a quad band GSM phone with 3G HSDPA 7.2Mbps on AT&T's 3G bands as well as 2100MHz for use abroad. Currently, the Streak is sold locked to AT&T, even if you buy it from Dell.com in the US without a contract. The Dell has an earpiece and mic, so you can hold it to your head as you would any (err, large) smartphone. You can also use the included stereo earbud headset or a Bluetooth headset. Call quality through the earpiece is average and is very good via wired and Bluetooth headsets. Reception is stellar-- the Streak is one of the stronger RF phones on the market for AT&T. We got more bars in more places vs. the Samsung Captivate, iPhone 4 and Motorola Backflip. Only the BlackBerry Torch could hold a candle to the Streak in terms of reception.
When it comes to all things data, the Streak excels thanks to its larger display, excellent Android web browser with pinch zoom (Dell tweaked Android 1.6 to add pinch zooming), Gmail client, strong email client and bundled trial of TouchDown for MS Exchange sync via Exchange Activesync. The Streak's browser identifies itself as a desktop browser, so you're not stuck looking at mobile versions of websites on that large, high resolution display. Score one for Dell vs. Samsung whose Galaxy Tab identifies itself as a mobile browser (no fancy HTML5 New York Times web page with videos for you, Tab).
Here's our video review of the Dell Streak:
Video Review of the AT&T Dell Streak Upgraded to Android 2.2 Froyo
Multimedia, Software and Performance
The Dell runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 CPU clocked at 1GHz with companion GPU. It has 512 megs of RAM (ample for Android) and 512 megs of user accessible flash storage plus 2 gigs non-accessible flash memory where the OS and built-in apps are stored. The Streak ships with a 16 gig microSD card in the slot under the battery door. Despite running an older version of Android rather than the super-speedy 2.2 OS, the Streak is a responsive Android tablet, and it should certainly fly with 2.2. The 668 benchmark score using Quadrant was just OK but not stellar thanks to the older OS version. We expect to see a several hundred point improvement with Froyo. 3D games like Reckless Racing run smoothly on the Streak.
Dell customized Android in some cases to make up for deficiencies in OS 1.6 (writing a driver to support pinch-zooming in some apps, bundling a trial of Touchdown for MS Exchange sync), and in others to enhance the big-screen user experience. The dialer is a two pane affair with both a number pad and contacts listing, and contacts are enhanced with shortcuts to email, SMS, call and more. Instead of a hardware home button we have a ubiquitous apps link in the menu bar and a two stage applications listing (a pre-defined quick pick list of commonly used apps followed by all apps). Tapping on the notification area provides notification and battery info. All in all, we like Dell's tweaks that don't add unnecessary eye candy and instead add features and organizational tools. The upcoming Froyo 2.2 upgrade will introduce Dell's slick Stage UI used on their touch screen all-in-one PCs. If you don't like the Stage UI, you can disable it and go with a standard Android experience.
A 5" tablet format phone begs to be your portable video player, and the Streak didn't disappoint. It handles YouTube HQ using Google's player just fine (sorry, there's no full Flash until Froyo) and locally stored videos ripped to suit the display's resolution played well. The speaker is very loud and clear. You can use the included stereo earbud headset as well.
GPS and Battery Life
The Dell Streak has a GPS and compass, and both were very accurate in our tests. The compass worked so well that we used it for walking directions without fail. The tablet ships with Google Maps, Navigation and Places and Navigation includes spoken turn by turn driving directions. Thanks to the large display and loud, clear speaker, the Streak is a wonderful stand-in for a dedicated in-car GPS. Google's directions are solid these days, and the robotic female voice is certainly artificial but easy to understand. We particularly like the way Navigation handles arrivals: once you're within 30 feet or so of your destination, Navigation tells you that you've arrived and switches to a street view of your destination to help you identify it.
The Streak is an Energizer bunny thanks to excellent CPU optimizations and the 1530 mAh battery. Generally a device with a 5" display and 1GHz CPU doesn't have good battery life, but the Streak easily outlasted our Samsung Captivate and other high end Android smartphones. In a typical day that involved an hour of calls, working with email throughout the day, using the web browser for an hour and playing a few YouTube videos, the Dell easily lasted us a day.
It's hard not to love the Dell Streak unless you prefer smaller, voice-centric smartphones. It's not only a voice phone but a tablet with a 5" display that makes for a better Internet and multimedia experience than 4" and even 4.3" Android smartphones. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Tab, it's pocketable, you can hold it to your head and make calls and you can use it as a phone (US Galaxy Tabs don't do cellular calls). This versatile tablet is gorgeous looking and speaks of quality. The battery door is fussy until broken in (get it completely in place or the device won't power on, or will power off if the door dislodges) though. If you need a pocket computer and Internet device first and a phone second, the Streak is enticing at $299 with contract. We can't wait to see what Froyo brings!
Price: $299 with a 2 year contract, $549 with no contract