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Dell Streak First Impressions

Posted on 07 June 2010 By Steve Chippy Paine


Thanks to JKKMobile, I’ve had a Dell Streak for a few days and ahead of the live review session tonight, it’s time to give you some first impressions.

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I don’t have a full retail version here so it’s only fair to point out that the firmware isn’t final on the device but having said that, it’s close, it’s useable and actually, it’s quite good!

Starting with the look and feel, it’s a great first five minutes. The glass screen blends nicely into the glossy, stylish casing. The shiny metal rear only helps to make you feel you’ve got a quality device in your hands. Compared to the Archos 5, it’s a step ahead. The 5” (true 5” – bigger than the Archos 5) screen looks stunning with blacks and clarity that you’ll never see on a resistive touchscreen device and rarely see on a smartphone. In portrait mode you get get a comfortable one-handed experience that serves very well for reading Tweets, Google Reader, Emails, maps and ebooks. This is a very very nice 30-50cm one-handed experience. Flip the device round into landscape mode and you move into a more productive stance with the on-screen thumboard providing good input capability. The keyboard is offset due to having a numeric pad on the right side but I’m getting used to it and finding the numeric pad to be as good as a 5th row. It’s a shame there’s no stand though. 5” is good for seat-back videos.

Sizing is going to be a major issue for most on the Streak. My wife loves it and wants to upgrade to it as her phone straight away but she, like many other women, keeps her phone in her bag. For those that keep their phone in their pocket, you’ll have to think about it carefully because it’s not that comfortable. Holding the device to the ear might be a problem for some too as it’s relatively huge but for me, someone that doesn’t use voice that much and would be proud to show off the device, that’s not an issue.

In terms of specifications, the Streak impresses with a 1Ghz Snapdragon processing platform, 5MP cam with dual-LED flash, 2GB storage, micro-SD slot (no hot-swap), GSM, UMTS, Wifi and BT connectivity, compass, GPS, ambient light sensor, accelerometer and capacative Android buttons on the frame. There isn’t a dedicated search button but you will find a two-stage shutter focus/release button and a volume rocker switch. All seem to be high quality.

As for software and usability, I’m loving it. Browsing is (relative to other smartphones) in the top league and the user interface is fast and fluid. Having the full Google Android experience makes so much difference and it highlights the major issue with what i’m calling ‘unfinished Android products’ like the Archos 5. The included photo and video application is welcome although it lacks codec support. I was impressed that it could play back a 6.5Mbps WMV 720p file that most netbooks would choke on. I was less impressed that it couldn’t handle some H.264 files, Divx and a few other files I have in my test suite. The Archos wins that round!

As for battery life, it’s looking better than expected. Despite the large screen, it runs for about the same amount of time as the Xperia X10 which, in turn is an hour or so behind the HTC Desire. You’ll need to take the (proprietary) USB charging cable though, a back-up battery or a back-up phone!

It isn’t all good though because the Streak highlights the big problem with Android. The browser is not up to scratch. Go to Google Docs to try and do some work and you’re met with a brick wall.

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This isn’t the Streak’s fault, it’s just that Android doesn’t offer a full internet experience yet and with the Dell Streak being so big and Internet-centric, you’l hit these brick walls more often than on other devices. It’s not good enough and getting the full browser experience (including Flash) needs to be a top priority.

Other notes:

  • GPS doesnt appear to have A-GPS support in this firmware but Android uses Google Location to assist applications. Full GPS capabilites take a little longer to sync-up than with other phones i’ve used.
  • Mono speaker is clear
  • Screen brightness is very good. You can use this for short-term sessions in the sun.
  • Camera is typical Android – OK in daylight – Poor in low-light.
  • Video, in daylight, is reasonable quality. Here’s a sample although it appears to have lost some quality in conversion to YouTube. The original H.264 file is better.

Overall, the Streak is performing as expected. It’s an interesting take on convergence although one gets the feeling that voice is only there to satisfy Googles applications-suite requirements. If you compare it to Nokia’s take on convergence which centers around a smaller screen, you get the feeling that this form-factor is better. Of course I’d like a slider keyboard on the Streak but I’m prepared to take a hit in this case because I might go and buy a retail version of this to replace my Xperia X10. There’s still room for improvement in the camera department but despite that, I’d still call the Dell Streak the best mobile internet device yet. As for it’s use as a phone, that’s up to you. I’ll just be dropping a data card into this and continuing to carry my N82 for voice, SMS and the Xenon-powered night-time camera.

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More information, links (including a few early reviews of full retail versions) available in the information page.

21 Responses to “Dell Streak First Impressions”

  1. Does it include a Bt connection? If it is the case, then it would be possible to connect it to a BT keyboard. I have been tested a N1 with bt keyboard and it’s a delight. Suddenly productivity is boosted. A N1 with BT keyboard let you leave your netbook at home or office in a good number of scenarios.

    But, alas, you are right. The mess between android and chrome OS is stopping the correct evolution of Android browser, or at least it is what it seems to me. It’s funny: even with Android 2.2. you cannot edit a google doc.

  2. turn.self.off says:

    that browser thing is really puzzling, as the google docs works, tho slow, and the spreadsheet wants me to go list mode thanks to small screen, on my n800 using tear (tho i suspect it could also work in the recent opera mobile test).

  3. czarnikjak says:

    Chippy, i cant agree streak makes great converged device(good MID yes)
    If im to pay penalty for carrying such a big device with me all the time, i would expect FIE from it to justify it. At the moment even much smaller devices like N1(with froyo) and n900 are closer to FIE then streak(i dont mind double tap to zoom text).
    my milestone on 2. 1 Offers comparable experience i would say without size penalty, thats convergence in my mind.
    cant wait for N8 however, as android still feels a bit like public beta, and camera performance is not acceptable.

    • Chippy says:

      Hi czarnikjak
      I didn’t say that Streak makes a great converged device did I?
      “It’s an interesting take on convergence.”

      I agree with you – FIE should be included for a converged device
      but you say Milestone with 2.1 is convergence? It has the same FIE issues as the Streak so i’m not getting your point?

      • czarnikjak says:

        I anserwed you in wrong thread below, sorry…
        Thats what happend if you use converged device to do something :)
        (I,m typing from my milestone)

  4. tal says:

    Steve – what is interesting to me please – is whether that means that you think that the Streak will also be your favorite over the N5?
    If so it means a lot about productivity too …

    • Chippy says:

      It’s funny, when I defined my own ‘Carrypad’ it was very much a consumer device. Then, I started working in mobile tech which meant I needed the FIE.
      You have a good point – if I buy the streak, does it mean I don’t need FIE any more?

      I know I need Android somewhere in my life. The X10 proved that it brings me benefits. I know that I also need FIE in my life – that’s why I still use the UMID. I know that I also need a good mobile internet camera too – that’s why the N82 is in my life.

      The option for me at this point is to drop the X10 and the Archos 5 for the Streak. I think that would work because I still have the UMID and I stilll use my N82 for voice/sms/cam. I can swap out the Streak for the UMID at any point I need to do work. It would be an almost impossible choice between Streak and UMID because both have unique features.

      Kinda confusing, I know!

      • medah4rick says:

        good choice chippy. i knew all along that the streak was the carrypad. isn’t there android apps that use google docs? there are iphone apps that sync to google docs so im sure there are android versions as well.

  5. Xr7z says:

    Android & ChromeOS are not interfering with eachother, when Gogle mentioned 1 day that the 2 would merge they just meant that Android will have a full fledged Chrome browser built in. it will offer the best of both worlds, cloud & local.

    • Chippy says:

      I agree, Chrome OS will be a branch of Android with a full browser for more powerful devices.

      • czarnikjak says:

        Hi chippy,
        What i ment is that my expectations are raising with size of the device, so what i can accept on pocketable Milestone, is not enough on device like Streak.

  6. tal says:

    Is it true that the 1.6 OS doesn’t support Google Navigation?
    If so I will definitely wait for it to have Froyo before buying.

  7. modano says:

    just want to point out that it plays h264 video perfectly, if it is encoded in baseline.
    main and high are the non supported profiles.

  8. susu says:

    Do you have any idea when it will be available unlocked for continental Europe?
    Dell communication is rather poor on that matter.
    Thanks

  9. Rob says:

    You mentioned its good in sunlight, is it good enough to take the place of a kindle, able to read in direct sunlight?
    Thanks

  10. Matthew Flook says:

    Can music be listened to while running the Google Navigation app? If so, can the music be controlled at all, or does that require flipping out of navigation and into a separate UI for music? I’m looking for a solution similar to TomTom on the iPhone which gives you media controls right in the nav interface.

    Secondly, does this thing support USB host/on-the-go for external thumb or hard drive storage? That could make it a killer in-car entertainment and nav system.

  11. Charbax says:

    Archos 5 Internet Tablet starts at £179 at Amazon.co.uk, 186 euros in the rest of Europe, while Dell Streak “might” sell for over £429 or over $500 on pre-paid (maybe not even unlocked) in few countries. Archos has been available worldwide for over 9 months, thus Archos is about to come out with their next generation based on 45nm processors (Dell Streak uses a previous generation 65nm processors). Surely the access by Dell to Foxconn’s exclusive capacitive touch screen (possibly) is a good thing, it enables the broad availability of such 5″ capacitive screen. But I wouldn’t be so sure Capacitive is all that much better than resistive. I tried the Dell Streak for a few minutes, I don’t know if it’s cause it had a crappy pre-installed Android keyboard at that moment, but in my testing I can still type text much faster with my Archos 5 IT’s reistive screen using my finger tips and nails than with the flat finger on capacitive Dell.

    Anyways, I find it great Dell is hereby promoting this market segment much broadly, that Dell is thus copying Archos this way and that this device segment can thus get all that much more positive promotion on the blogs.