The Dell Streak is a device whose 5-inch display makes it either a very large smartphone or a very small tablet computer.
Whatever its classification, this model runs Google's Android OS on a 1 GHz processor, and offers Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, and a 5 megapixel camera.
The Streak is available from Dell for $300 with a two-year AT&T service contract, or $550 without a contract.
BUILD & DESIGN
This may sound odd, but how large the Streak is depends on how you classify it. If you consider it a smartphone, it's really big. On the other hand, if you think of it as a tablet computer, it's very small.
In concrete numbers, it's 6 x 3.1 x 0.4 inches (153 mm x 79 mm x 10 mm).
That makes it small enough to go easily into a pair of cargo pants -- something that's never going to happen with an Apple iPad. On the other hand, it weighs enough that you're not likely to forget which pocket you have it in.
The centerpiece of the Dell Streak is its 5-inch, 800 x 480 pixel (WVGA) capacitive touchscreen.
This largedisplay allows you to get more done with this device than you would on a smaller smartphone. It makes web browsing better, emails easier to read, and is a blessing for watching video and reading ebooks.
Colors are great, and thisscreen offers a wide range of viewing angles, so it's possible for two people to watch a movie together.
Itisn't too bad a fingerprint magnet -- it's no worse than any other item you regularly rub your fingers on.
The Streak doesn't have a physical keyboard, but its large display gives plenty of room for an on-screen one. There's room for all the commonly used punctuation marks to have their own keys, and there's a dedicated number area.
In most apps you have a choice of a landscape and aportrait version of the virtual keyboard, The landscape oneis definitely better, but the portrait version is still usable.
I wouldn't want to write a novel on this keyboard, but it's quite good enough for emails and texting.
Other Buttons & Controls
This Dell model has been designed to primarily be used in landscape mode, though most of its features can be used in portrait mode.
Built into the touchscreen are the Home, Menu, and Back buttons. These are large and easy to use -- a good thing, as they are the three most frequently used buttons on any Android OS device.
Along the top (or the right side in portrait mode) are the Power button, Camera button, Volume Up/Down rocker, and the 3.5 mm headset jack.
On the bottom is the Streak's combination data and power port. The device comes with a cable you plug into this port to recharge or to synchronize with your PC.
You also use this port with the HDMI port for viewing HD TV, but I was unable to test this feature, as Dell did not supply me with the required HD dock.
Dell's decision to create its own port rather than use standard ones was a real mistake. You can't connect any cables to this smartphone besides Dell's own, a real inconvenience for frequent travelers.
The Dell Streak is based on Google's mobile operating system on a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 528 MB of RAM. This is a combination that gives this tablet phone very good performance -- you're almost never going find yourself waiting for something to process.
But there's a hitch: this device launched with Android OS 1.6, a version that's almost a year old and is well behind the current one. This means the Streak is missing full support for voice recognition and the pinch-to-zoom gesture, though a few apps offer these features. There are also a number of third-party apps that won't run on this older version.
The Streak's lack of the latest version of Google's operating system is definitely a drawback, but it isn't a crippling problem. Fortunately, Dell is hard at work to bring Android OS 2.2 to this model.
The main reason I don't often miss a newer version of the OS is because Dell has created it's own user interface for the Streak -- a UI that I think is an improvement, if not a huge one. It adds a few enhancements without significantly modifying the standard user interface.
The only drawback to this custom UI is that it's landscape only. Virtually all apps support portrait and landscape mode, but the homescreens just offer the one.
This tablet phone comes with 16 GB of storage in the form of a removable microSD memory card. You have the option of switching this out for a 32 GB card if you want more storage and are willing to spend the money.
Wireless and Call Quality
Dell built a wide variety of wireless features into the Streak. In addition to support for AT&T's voice and 3G service, this model sports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1. plus a GPS receiver.
AT&T's 3G network provides fast data transfers when you're on the move, but you can get even faster Net access by connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot.
You can also make voice calls, but this really isn't this model's forte. Incoming calls sound fine, but callers report that this device tends to clip offthe beginningsof words I speak.
There's also the size issue -- you might want to use a headset whenever using the Streak as a phone.
The Dell Streak makes an outstanding device to take on a business trip when you don't need the full power -- and hefty bulk -- of a laptop.
It comes with a demo version of TouchDown, a very good app for synchronizing your Android OS model with Microsoft Exchange Server. It syncs mail, contacts, calendar, and notes, letting keep in touch with the office and your clients and customers when you're on the go.
However, as I mentioned this is a demo, so you have to pay $20 to use it after a 30-day trial period. And it doesn't integrate with the Android OS dialing app, so you have to make you business calls from inside TouchDown.
The Streak is also bundled with the lite version of QuickOffice, which let's you view Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, as well as PDFs. If you want to edit them -- something quite possible on the 5-inch, high-resolution display -- you'll have to pay $20 for the full version.
If you're just looking for a way to keep track of your calendar and address book, you can use the free apps that are part of the Android OS. These tie into Google online services, so you can make changes on your tablet phone or with a web browser on your desktop.
On thisdevice'slong list of features is a GPS receiver. All you need to do is use the free Google Navigation app and you have a very good in-car navigation system.
In addition to being very useful, the Streak can also be a lot of fun.
The 5-inch screen makes it a better option for watching a movie on a plane than any other smartphone, though not as good as something like the iPad. Just keep in mind, you have to convert and pre-load your movies.
Its music player is quite good -- in addition to all the basic features, it lets you create playlists and view album art.
This device can automatically synchronize its music and video files with Windows Media Player. Whether you consider this good news depends on how you feel about Microsoft's desktop multimedia app. Or you can simply connect the Streak to your PC, mount this device as a removable drive, and manually transfer your music and videos.
Another area where the large, high-resolution screen comes in handy is when reading ebooks. I installed the free Kindle app, and was quickly reading my latest purchase from Amazon. Given its size, the Streak is similar to reading a paperback book.
This tablet phoneincludes a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera on its back, and a front-facing one for video conferencing.
The rear-facing camera takes fairly decent pictures. Most of the ones I took came out looking fairly good.
The Streak has an LED flash, but it's quite weak. In my tests, it wasn't capable of making a dimly lit object close to the camera bright enough for a good picture.
This device comes with a nice addition from Dell: a set of image editing tools. It's not Photoshop by any stretch of the imagination, but you can sharpen, crop, resize, and make other tweaks.
The front-facing camera is clearly intended for video conferencing, but the Streak does not come with any software that can handle this.
Given it's large screen, I expected the Dell Streak to have a short battery life, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's actually decent -- not great, but decent.
It usually gets me through a day of average use without needing a recharge -- that includes push email from two different sources, some web browsing, and maybe a phone call.
Given its size, the Dell Streak certainly isn't for everyone, but I think there's a group of people it is right for.
If you're a hard-core smartphone user who frequently finds yourself frustrated by trying to accomplish too much on too small a screen, you should seriously consider this device.
On the other side of the coin, if you are thinking about getting a tablet computer, but you want something that will fit in your pocket, you might also think about the Streak.
On the other hand, if you're looking for an easily portable smartphone for making lots of phone calls, this definitely isn't for you.