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