Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

Summary: The Dell Streak is the first Android tablet from a major PC maker. Learn the pros and cons of the Streak and whether TechRepublic recommends it or not.

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The Dell Streak has finally arrived in the real world, after months of speculation and a couple false starts. It's technically the first Android tablet from a major PC maker, but it's actually a lot more like an Android smartphone than a competitor to the Apple iPad. Learn the pros and cons of the Streak and whether we can recommend it or not.

Photo gallery

Dell Streak tablet: Unboxing and comparison photos

Specifications

  • Carrier: AT&T
  • OS: Android 1.6
  • Processor: 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (QSD 8250)
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Storage: 2 GB built-in, plus 16 GB micro-SD (expandable to 32 GB)
  • Display: 5-inch WVGA, 800x480 pixels, Gorilla Glass
  • Battery: Lithium Ion 1530 mAh
  • Ports: 30-pin to USB
  • Weight: 7.7 oz
  • Dimensions: 6.0(h) x 3.1(w) x 0.4(d) inches
  • Camera: 5.0 megapixel (rear) with autofocus; VGA front-facing
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, e-compass
  • Keyboard: 49-key virtual keyboard (including number pad)
  • Networks: UMTS 850/1900/2100 MHz; GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz;
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g; Bluetooth 2.1 EDR
  • Tethering: Not available
  • Price: $300 (with 2-year contract); $550 without a contract

Who is it for?

This is my primary question with the Streak. Who would use it? I've struggled to find any really good use cases, especially for business professionals. It's too big to make it your primary smartphone, unless you only make a couple calls a week and mostly use your smartphone for messaging, apps, and mobile Web browsing. And, you're comfortable with a 5-inch tablet in your pocket or bag. The Streak could be a decent tablet for field workers who use Web-based applications to do their jobs, or if there are Android apps to handle those tasks.

What problems does it solve?

We've been hearing about the flood of Android tablets preparing to hit the market since the beginning of 2010 -- even before Apple released the iPad. However, we're over half-way through the year and no significant Android-based iPad competitors have arrived. Dell's 5-inch device is the first Android tablet from a major PC manufacturer.

Standout features

  • Solid hardware - The Streak is slim and light, but it also feels substantial enough to impress. There's nothing cheap or flimsy about it. Holding it in two hands and flipping through menus and Web pages, typing messages, reading documents, and watching video clips all feel surprisingly natural. In terms of the processor, display, RAM, camera, and other hardware specs, the Streak meets the minimum requirements we'd expect, but it doesn't exceed anything that you'll find on the top Android smartphones in the market.
  • Expanded on-screen keyboard - The smartest Android UI addition that Dell has made to the Streak is the custom on-screen keyboard that has been expanded from the standard 30-35 keys to a 49-key model (in landscape mode) that includes a number pad and takes advantage of the extra space afforded by the 5-inch screen. It's not quite as accurate as the HTC EVO's ons-screen keyboard (which just uses its extra space for bigger keys) but the number pad on the Streak is highly useful and makes this a strong data entry device.
  • Android ecosystem - The reason why people have been waiting for an Android tablet to compete with the iPad is because the Android ecosystem is everything that the Apple ecosystem isn't -- open, customizable, and free for tinkerers to experiment on. It's just too bad that the Streak shipped with an outdated version of the OS.

What's wrong?

  • Runs outdated Android 1.6 - The one unforgivable sin of the Dell Steak is that it ships with Android 1.6. Yes, you read that correctly... version 1.6. It's been over 10 months since Android 2.0 was released with the launch of the original Motorola Droid and yet Dell inexplicably couldn't get at least 2.0 on this device -- let alone 2.1 (which is loaded on many of the current Android devices) or 2.2 (the latest version, which has started rolling out to the top devices). Because the Streak is stuck on 1.6, I found that a lot of my favorite Android apps and widgets don't work with the Streak. Dell has promised that the Streak will get an upgrade to Android 2.2 later this year. It can't come soon enough, and I question the wisdom of releasing this device with a stale version of Android.
  • Inconsistent performance - For a device running a 1 GHz Snapdragon, the Streak feels sluggish at times. It's not that it's consistently slow. Some tasks are instantaneous and faster than the HTC EVO or Nexus One, but then navigating some menus and opening some apps will take much longer to load than they should, and longer than other comparable Android devices. This could be a product of running Android 1.6 or it might be related to the customizations that Dell has done to the Android UI, but it's a nagging issue with the Streak.
  • Overpriced - At $300 (with a 2-year wireless contract), the Streak is $100 more expensive than devices such as the EVO, the Droid X, and the Samsung Galaxy S, but it's only advantage over those devices is a larger screen. When you factor in that it's less portable than any of those devices, runs an older OS, and doesn't have access to many of the latest apps, it's difficult to make a case for the Streak. If you want to buy it unlocked and just use it over Wi-Fi, it costs $550. That's more expensive than the 16 GB iPad Wi-Fi ($500), which has an even larger screen (10 inches), far more software, and a much more polished user experience. Again, a tough sell for the Streak. The only comparison where the Streak looks really good is when you compare it (at $300) tablet-for-tablet with the iPad 3G -- $630 (16 GB), $730 (32 GB), and $830 (64 GB). If Dell offered a Wi-Fi only version of the Streak for $200, it would be a lot more attractive.

Bottom line for business

The Dell Streak has two things going for it: 1.) It's technically the first Android tablet from one of the big PC vendors so it has first-mover advantage, and 2.) When you get it your hands, it feels very usable and likeable. But, the Dell Streak is much more like a smartphone than a tablet and when you compare it to the other top-of-the-line smartphones, it becomes much less attractive. If you really want an Android device with a big screen that feels like a small tablet, I'd recommend the 4.3-inch HTC EVO 4G over the Dell Streak.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Tablets, Dell, Hardware, iPad, Laptops, Mobility, Smartphones

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31 comments
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  • Android 1.6

    If i wanted a device with android 1.6 I would buy a used HTC droid eris. This has got to be one of the most worthless devices that dell has ever released.
    travis.duffy@...
    • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

      @travis.duffy@... Try a Sony Dash. I think you'll find a new winner...
      Fark
    • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

      @travis.duffy@...

      If you want 2.x from _Dell_ you'll have to wait. If you want 2.1 NOW then just go to any number of sites and download it. It's a great device even with 1.6 - just check out the reviews from the UK users.

      The answer to the question of "Who is it for?" is: Business users who want convergence between tablet and phone. I'm hands free on Bluetooth most of the times now because, well, it leaves my hands free. So the Streak is not too large. It's pocketable. Really. Check out the reviews from people who use it daily.

      "What problems does it solve?" See above in general and specifically GPS Navigation. Not only do I not have to carry separate phones and tablets, I don't have to have a separate large format GPS device. An iPad sized device could do GPS but would you mount it in your car? An iPhone sized phone can do GPS but the Streaks form factor is superior.

      All that being said, I am waiting for 2.2 from Dell before buying because they have to prove they have the resources to be a major player. It's just a business decision.
      The Breeze
      • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

        @The Breeze
        Have to agree - but from my side I have a Nexus One running 2.2
        I love the large form of the Streak but do not / can not take a step back to 1.6, or even 2.1.

        Besides, I want to see if Dell is more timely with the 2.2 update than they were with the US launch....
        rhonin
  • Android 1.6 is a fail. Sad.... sad..... Dell. *NT*

    Android 1.6 is a fail. Sad.... sad..... Dell. *NT*
    visualambrosia
  • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

    Total fizzle. I think Dell has lost the scent in being a technology leader. I was quite happy with my old Dell Axim Pocket PC. But Dell hasn't been able to get things right for years and this is the Froyo on the cake.
    Olderdan
  • Weird.

    Between this and the Kin phones, it's almost as though the big boys are _trying_ to fail.

    Given the resources these companies have, why do they seem so unable to get current tech to market in a timely fashion?
    pdq
    • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

      @pdq
      Their Streak dev team consists of Wen Chen and Zhi Chen both located in Shanghai....

      :)
      rhonin
    • Agreed

      @pdq <br>I was thinking something along the same lines. How can Dell and Microsoft really be THAT out of touch and behind the curve? All faboi rantings aside - really, how can 2 such large companies release such duds in the 21st century? It boggles the mind... :O
      naibeeru
  • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

    Actually, this is more expensive than the 3G ipad at $630, because you need a two year contract, whereas it's a monthly deal for the iPad that starts at just $15. You're paying more for the Streak over that time, at least the full $550.
    melgross
    • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

      @melgross

      But the Streak is cheaper than a phone AND tablet - which it is.
      The Breeze
      • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

        @The Breeze It is definitely cheaper than having two devices but can it really fill both needs? I find it hard to really call this a tablet due to it's size. I have not used one so I am not talking from experience so it could change after I actually do.
        non-biased
  • Bottom line - Android's not ready for tablets

    The reason Dell did this strange 5" phone/tablet hybrid? So they can have official access to the all important Android App Market. <br><br>The reason we haven't seen official "Android tablets" from big name manufacturers yet is because Google has set certain hardware requirements for Android OS. To keep a level of consistency. These requirements are meant mainly for Smart Phones accessing the Android Market Place, not tablets, yet. Like a specified minimum screen resolution (max 854x480 which is lower than an iPhone 4 res 960 x 640), camera, a certain number of navigation keys, integrated GPS radio etc. OEM's have to pass a certification test if they want access. And without Apps, face it these Android tablets will be basically pointless to consumers. Plus none would be optimize for the larger size as we've seen so far with cheap generic tablets from China (dog slow). Dell wanted a tablet but had no choice but to create this hybrid, that will end up failing. <br><br>Blame Google for dragging there feet here. Maybe there mind is set on Chrome instead.
    dave95.
  • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

    hehe even the eris has 2.1
    turrenti@...
  • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

    Apple's platform is not closed. It is curated to protect users. And that's the way I like it.
    scotty321
    • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

      @scotty321 And the curated fence is only about a foot high, so if users want to step over it, it's pretty easy.
      Partners in Grime
      • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

        @Partners in Grime <br> a foot high?.......depends on your viewpoint I guess. <br> I see it more like 200 feet.<br> <br> I like to use flash as I would visit a site that uses it almost daily, - HTML5 is an ongoing work, and is expected to remain so for many years, (2022 the expected final completion date), in the meantime apple should allow us the option of using flash, just like on the mac's.<br><br>Also there are so many good applications out there that you can't access from the iDevice's, further walling you in.<br><br>If your idea of easy is the "jailbreak" - apple then goes to lengths to punish you for doing that and constantly stopping it with software changes.<br><br>A foot high my foot!
        toviz@...
      • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

        @toviz<br>A foot is a foot, regardless of viewpoint.<br>That said, it is unfortunate that you feel it necessary to keep perpetuating factually inaccurate memes, made worse by tortured grammar.<br><br>Flash is used in very few sites, beyond its use for banner ads, and of the few remaining, most of THOSE (those that are well programmed) have HTML versions. But if you love Flash so much, you are free to get devices that support it. This is TOTALLY irrelevant to the topic of walled gardens. This is like saying that Windows 7 is a walled garden, because it does not support CoCo OS9 programs.<br><br>"expected to remain so for many years, (2022 the expected final completion date),"<br><br>Um, commas and parentheses are the same things, and NEVER occur adjacent to each other.<br><br>While 2022 is a hypothetical date put forward by Ian Hickson, it has NO official significance, and has NOTHING to do with when HTML5 sites will begin to appear (matter of months) your FUD notwithstanding. If you knew anything about the specification process, you'd know that.<br><br>"Mac's"?!? Really? Easy on the over use of apostrophes. Apostrophes are not there just for some sort of contextual flavouring. They serve a grammatical function. In fact, they serve only ONE grammatical function, the indication of removed letters. They are NOT used for plurals.<br><br>"Also there are so many good applications out there that you can't access from the iDevice's, further walling you in."<br><br>This is true of ANY platform. Are you claiming Windows is a walled garden because it does not let you run Coleco ADAM applications?!?<br>And again, ease up on the apostrophes if you don't know how to use them!<br><br>As for jail breaking, the process is often begun by using bugs. How is Apple punishing users by fixing them?<br>Please cite a SINGLE instance of Apple "punishing" users for jail breaking.<br><br>A foot high wall is a foot high. That you can't get over it says something.
        DeusXMachina
      • thanks for the English lesson

        @DeusXMachina<br>I'll admit my English is not the best grammatically, and I will take on board the corrections, but it should not be the main point of the discussion. I'll try to do better.<br><br>Firstly the meme that flash is used in only a few sites is something apple would have its customers believe, I disagree on that score as I almost daily use it, as previously stated. <br><br>Secondly HTML5 is still being developed and the hypothetical final date of 2022 indicated was to illustrate the immaturity of it, the fact that some HTML5 sites will begin to appear this year doesn't alter that.<br>The end result is that devices not able to use flash will be unable to access a lot of content for awhile yet. Hence my comment that apple should give us the option in the meantime.<br><br>Thirdly in regards the walled garden of the "iDevices", my main complaint is the forced use of iTunes and the store. That is a bit like having purchased a car of a particular brand, you must only buy your fuel & oils from fuel stations owned by that brand. <br>Maybe the driveway service is very good, but paying a higher fuel price and not having access to other fuel types offered elsewhere is a downside.<br> <br>Lastly, punishment from apple for jail breaking comes in the form of cancellation of warranty and no further software improvement upgrades if you want to keep doing it.<br> I only raised the issue due to @Partners in Grime comment on it being easy, the act maybe easy, but not the consequences as mentioned above.
        toviz@...
      • RE: Dell Streak review: Sizzle or fizzle?

        @toviz
        "Firstly the meme that flash is used in only a few sites is something apple would have its customers believe, I disagree on that score as I almost daily use it, as previously stated."

        Whether or not you personally use flash,and at what frequency has no bearing on the issue. The only relevant facts are the data, and the data are quite clear that it simply is NOT true that flash is pervasive. The main driver of flash numbers on the web is YouTube, and for that there is the YouTube app. The VAST majority of the remaining flash content is ads. I use a mac daily. I have no illusions that this has any bearing on their market share.
        And again, not having HTML content to back up a flash site is just bad site design, pure and simple. But all of that pales in the face of the fact that millions of people on iDevices, as well as almost every mobile device on the planet get by without flash just fine.

        "the hypothetical final date of 2022 indicated was to illustrate the immaturity of it, the fact that some HTML5 sites will begin to appear this year doesn't alter that."

        Sorry, but that date does nothing to indicate its level of maturity, and OF COURSE HTML5 sites beginning to appear alters that. Per se. The standards process is long and drawn out, and most of the final stages have nothing to do with its deployment. The only thing that matters is whether or not a given HTML5 application exists, and if the platform you use supports it. The fact that HTML5 apps are imminent speaks directly to this. They will come out in droves regardless of whether the standard is finalized, and they will work on the majority of devices they target. That is the ONLY fact that matters.

        As far as the walled garden is concerned, again, there is no wall around HTML5 content. And not need to use iTunes, so it moots your argument. Your analogy falls apart, because nothing in the iTunes ecosystem forces you to use only appStore apps.

        "Lastly, punishment from apple for jail breaking comes in the form of cancellation of warranty and no further software improvement upgrades if you want to keep doing it."

        And since the iPhone can be returned to factory settings if need be, this argument is moot as well. Jailbreaking IS easy, and the consequences are nowhere near as dire as you make out.

        Look, I have no doubt your intentions are fine, but you are grossly misinformed as to your understanding of the iPhone and the issues you cite. You clearly are not speaking from personal experience, and are simply repeating things you have read elsewhere. You should seriously consider the sources of your information, as they are grossly inaccurate, to say the least.
        DeusXMachina