There was a lot of chatter when Dell released the Streak, their new Android device a few months back. Now, some of that chatter is starting up again, no doubt because the device has just been released over in the States (isn’t it lovely when us Brits get a product first?).
You may have noticed that so far, I’ve called it a ‘device’, rather than a ‘phone’ or a ‘tablet’, because essentially, it isn’t either. Not from my point of view anyway. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Let’s find out in this Dell Streak review shall we?
Dell were quick to tag the Streak as a ‘tablet’ in the build up to its release. Take a look at the box, and underneath that gaping photoshop error is the text “Dell 5″ Widescreen Tablet”. For me, though, that sentence in itself is somewhat contradictory. 5 inches is too small to be a tablet as far as I’m concerned, but it’s way too big for a phone, and this is where we encounter some real usability issues.
Before diving in to the negatives, however, lets take a look at what you’ll find on the outside of the phone. To the right of the screen are three capacitive touch buttons, that work similar to the ones underneath the screen of Google’s Nexus One. Also on the front, there is a call speaker, ambient light sensor, and a front facing camera, which is a big pro in my books. Around back, you’ll find a 5MP camera alongside the battery compartment, which slides off rather nicely to reveal the battery, SD and SIM card slots.
Considering this is a Dell product, the design is surprisingly pleasing in the aesthetics department, and the chassis is comfortable enough to hold with two hands, although it feels a little awkward with one.
There’s no getting away from the fact that consumers are indeed buying the Dell Streak as a mobile phone, though. It’s available on the O2 network here in the UK, and if you’re paying for a contract with phone calls and text messages, then you’re going to want to use what you’re paying for! There is the data only option available, but I struggle to see why someone would opt for a Streak over the Samsung Galaxy Tab or Apple’s iPad.
When using the Streak alongside something such as the iPad, I struggle to see how it could be called a Tablet. Similarly, it feels incredibly unnatural putting this thing against your ear as well; I will admit to feeling somewhat awkward walking down the street and making a call to someone using the Streak, and quite frankly, I would have been more comfortable talking to a brick wall.
On the software side of things, the Streak runs Android. If you’ve been using the ‘mobile phone’ since its release, you will have become accustomed to Android 1.6, as opposed to the much loved Android 2. This looks set to change though, as Dell are hoping to roll out Android 2.1 to Streak devices before the end of this week.
There are an abundance of applications included with the device, as you’d expect from Android. Some of the highlights include the ever popular Quickoffice, which is a great app to have for viewing documents and spreadsheets on the go. One very useful aspect of the theme is the app drawer, as you can set your favourite apps up for quick access. Unfortunately, this also means another tap on the ‘more’ button if you want to view more applications.
Although it excels in certain areas, such as the well worked skin, the upcoming Android upgrade, and an overall nice look, the Dell Streak seems to be having an identity crisis. Is it a phone, is it a tablet? I don’t know, and to be honest I don’t think Dell know either.