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Dell Streak review

by Russell Barnes

The Dell Streak. Is it a tablet, or is a smartphone? Get your answers on a postcard, but not before checking out Linux User & Developer’s review…

So who exactly is the Streak for? There’s no definitive answer, but it certainly ticks the boxes for the early-adopting gadget fanatic. This is partly thanks to its nonconformist 79.1 x 152.9 x 9.98mm dimensions and its wonderfully realised 800×480 screen that’s perfect for video (even if its bundled video player is not – it’s certainly in need of an update). Thanks to some shrewd software bundling, we’re quite confident Dell has designed it quite specifically with mobile professionals in mind, however. It comes pre-loaded with QuickOffice (with file format compatibility for a wide range of office applications) and TouchDown (which – via Exchange ActiveSync – can pull down email, contacts and calendars into one place).

More evidence for it supporting the office worker on the go comes courtesy of the Nuance voice control app, which can be used in conjunction with the bundled hands-free kit to voice-dial contacts or call-in entirely new numbers. Though performance of the latter was far from flawless, we can see the advantage of having the Streak in a cradle on the dashboard, ever ready to make calls, look up locations or hand out point-to-point directions. The size of the screen makes it an excellent satnav and in landscape mode the dialler has massive numbers that lend itself perfectly to making business calls on the move.

Dell Streak review

As useful as it is to have so much screen real-estate to play with (and we’re sure many developers could really utilise the extra space), it’s unfortunate that Dell seemingly didn’t put as much time and effort into the skinning of Android 1.6 (the Streak is due for an upgrade in line with modern handsets any time now) as it did with the construction of the device itself. Some of the widgets smack of sheer laziness, with Facebook and Twitter apps that look like Windows 95 throwbacks. In this respect Dell really must try harder.

Verdict: 4/5
For us the Dell Streak performed best as an eBook reader, satnav, gaming device and web browser. Though perfectly suited to hands-free calls, we weren’t at all comfortable holding it to our ear. Battery life just shy of ten hours was more than acceptable, though there’s clearly much work to be done on the software side to really make it shine. Give it another few months for software spit and polish, however, and the Streak will be a serious contender as our primary mobile device.

New info: UK customers can expect to see the Android 2.1 update (with 720p video recording) sometime in September.

Click here to read more reviews from Linux User & Developer, or see what else featured in issue 90 of Linux User & Developer…

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    • MikeFM

      I think the 5″ size could be decent enough but until Android gets it’s act together so it’s interface isn’t clunky I can’t see it being a big hit. One of these companies needs to get it through their heads that all Android tablets will be doomed until somebody really cleans up the user experience. Do that and pair it with halfway decent hardware, especially a nice looking screen with accurate touch, and you’ll have a competitor. Software is at least as important as hardware.

      Of course why should it be a surprise. There were no decent phones, PDAs, or tablets before the iPhone so why should they grok the difference now. They don’t even get it enough to copy someone else.

    • Bob Harvey

      I’m very tempted by this thing – the main thing that puts me off is the appalling customer service I have had from Dell – But with Android 2.2 out and 3.0 announced I won’t be buying anything that still ships with 1.6.

      According to Dell’s web site it has A-gps, and the last two A-gps devices I had could only use the GPS if a data connection was available, making navigation variably useful. None of the reviews I have read discuss this issue.

      I’d use a bluetooth headset for making phone calls anyway, so the usefulness as a phone would be fine. And as I get older I appreciate larger screens anyway. In that regard this might have been made for me.

      It’s only a shame that, in a device this big, they have not included a dual-sim capability, to let me insert sims from my company and private phones. I suppose that is because they are trying to sell the thing through phone companies, a discredited and wretched business practice. Given how badly O2, Orange, and Vodaphone mangle other handsets, I can’t see why anyone interested in serious android – and this is a serious android machine – would want to wear teleco handcuffs, especially at this price. on O2, for example, you can’t even make phone calls – theirs is data only.

      According to Electric Pig it uses a proprietary charging connector – why? – with replacements costing £40. But they also report two days use between charges, which sounds very attractive indeed.

      At £449 this thing is more expensive than many laptops, which somehow can’t be right.

      So, a very desirable device but not without compromises – supplier reputation, OS version, pricing, flexibility. I’ll pass, for now.

    • Karen

      @Bob Harvey
      ” on O2, for example, you can’t even make phone calls – theirs is data only.”
      I have the Streak on contract with O2. I am unsure as to where you have got the information that it is data only, as mine is perfectly capable of using to make calls.

    • Puskow

      Check the price of the blackberry bold 9700, it’s going for 320-350 pounds. And the damn phone can’t connect with any of its applications such as the yahoo/hotmail messenger or even the opera over wifi if the sim has not been provisioned for the blackberry network. And yet they want you to pay the the price of a laptop for the phone. I’ll go with the dell for 449 instead of the crappy blackberry.

    • logan

      good review. i like my new streak. it’s easy to manuever and the apps are fun. it’s got great games and it helps me with my business. great unlocked cell phones. the wifi and email are great for keeping in touch with my clients. my wife and daughter love theirs for the games. keeps em quiet in the car :) seems some people have a problem with the size but i’m ok with it. much better than my tiny unlocked blackberry phones. anyways i got 3 and i like it. ipad was too big and my old pearl was a little ant compared to this. also got my phone unlocking and blackberry unlock codes for free! got my last couple streaks at pretty good. 2 thumbs up on this device.

    • tmorgan

      I bought a Streak 5 for CDN $0.11 and the standard price 3yrs voice/data plan from Rogers.

      Step 1: Calibrate the touch screen or just choose factory reset to solve the unresponsive screen. (Power off phone. Power On while holding both volume up/down pressed. In the menu choose calibrate screen by pressing camera-button. Wait 3 minutes without touching the screen)

      Step 2: Charge your phone battery. Go to settings and get the correct URL for Android 2.2 operating system. It’s better to dowload it on your PC and then rename the 163 MB file to “Update.pkg” so it can be dropped onto your SD card. Use the process in step 1 to update the package. It takes 10 minutes and when it reboots you press the green lock and slide finger up to the green dot to unlock the device.

      HD MKV converted with DivX Converter 7.1 using a 720p profile but size modified down to 800×480 aprox gives the best audio/video quality for playback. It can do 1024×576 but audio goes out of sync.

    • As the medium is not limited to any particular
      geographical or demographic region, advertising on internet
      radio would give the business an international audience base.

      Listening to Internet radio is a breeze for anyone who’s familiar with the World Wide Web. Turn on iheartradio and then look at a different app, your station will keep playing and you can control everything from the “running apps” menu (double-click the home button).