Dell Streak 5

Dell first showed off the device, akin to a large iPod touch, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The slate-style device was briefly flashed by executives from Dell, as many companies introduced their own tablets before Apple’s official unveiling of the iPad…….

The Dell Streak 5, Dell’s Android powered 5″ smartphone/tablet (we’re not sure which), is officially coming to the US in unlocked form next month. We’ve also heard it will conclusively be available (and free) on contract in the UK, a model that will no doubt made its way to the US as well.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard much about the Dell Streak / Mini 5 , but it seems like the plus-size phone (or mini-size tablet, whichever you prefer) went on a bit of an undercover media promotion tour last week: Viacom MTV exec Greg Clayman tweeted that it’s “amazing,” while Rob Enderle brought one to the set of John C. Dvorak’s Cranky Geeks and said it would launch for around $300 on contract. What does it all mean? We’re assuming it’s being shown off in an effort to drum up some content partnerships.

The Dell Streak is an Android tablet, that comes with voice capabilities and a pretty solid weight: 220g. The device is 9.98mm thick and its display is a WVGA touchscreen with a 800 x 480 pixel resolution. There will also be a HDMI dock available for Streak, allowing users to hook the unit up to a HDTV and if you’re wondering about the specs, they include a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM.

We’ve talked about Dell’s upcoming entry into the full blown tablet scene with the 7″ Looking Glass and also a full iPad-fighting 10″ model, but the more publicized and arguably more intriguing Dell Streak 5 is coming first. This 5″ Android powered device is some kind of crossbreed between a tablet and a smartphone, being described by Dell as “the largest internet device that fits in your top pocket.

Dell are at pains to insist that the Streak is an Android-powered tablet with voice capabilities – we’re guessing it’s easier to position your new device when you’ve basically got the segment to yourself – but in reality it’s more difficult to classify. Contrary to expectations it’s surprisingly pocket-friendly; its 220g heft will make your jacket hang unusually if you opt for the inside pocket, but we dropped it into our front jeans pocket with room to spare. If you prefer your trousers to look sprayed-on then you may have issues.

Of course, as slim as the Streak is, it’s still bigger face-on than your average Android smartphone. That’s to accommodate the 5-inch WVGA 800 x 480 capacitive touchscreen, and after a short while you won’t begrudge the dimensions; the display is bright and crisp, and the touchscreen responsive. Physical controls are limited to power, volume and the camera shortcut along the top edge, together with three touch-sensitive keys running down the right-hand bezel for back, menu and home. The 3.5mm headphone socket is annoyingly placed on the top edge, while on the bottom there’s an even more frustrating proprietary connector used for recharging and synching the Streak.

There’s also a microSD card slot, 2GB of system/application storage space and support for quadband GSM/EDGE and dualband 900/2100 UMTS/HSPA. Plus, you get Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, GPS, Wi-Fi b/g, an accelerometer, ambient light and proximity sensor and a digital compass. Camera-wise, there’s a 5MP sensor at the back of the slate, complete with dual LED flash and accompanied by a front VGA cam. Find out why the device is cool,

For instance, there’s no Live Wallpaper, no MiFi-style 3G connection sharing over WiFi and no support for multiple Google accounts. More frustrating, 1.6’s support for Exchange servers is hopeless; Dell preload a 30-day trial of Touchdown, which promises contacts, calendar and mail sync, but we do think they should’ve stumped up for a full version. Still, you do get Google Maps Navigation – complete with turn-by-turn spoken directions – and the newer version of the Android Market with app screenshot support.

It was in the first half hour of using the Streak that we realised how well trained the iPad had us. Yet to set up WiFi and sitting in a patch of London’s GPRS-only coverage we stared, waiting, for a webpage to load for thirty seconds, until we realised we could navigate elsewhere, play with something else, and leave it loading in the background

This is the true meaning of multitasking, it dawned on us; not easily switching between apps “frozen” in state, but hopping from one function to another knowing that something is still churning away in the background. Apple does a great job of presenting the negative aspects of this – that churning is always blamed for using up battery life and CPU cycles – but has conceded only grudgingly, with the introduction of streaming music app background support, that there are positive qualities to it as well.

Palm’s webOS is perhaps the best mobile example of all this: when you zoom out to see the running “cards” on the Pre, each is not just a snapshot of the app but a real, functioning window on what’s going on. Video can keep playing, webpages loading, emails drop into the inbox. There’s no mistaking that multiple things are taking place, that the system is still serving you even if your eyes can’t be everywhere at the same time. Android may lack the intuitive visuals, but the core functionality is the same, and when you’re trying to squeeze five tasks into the grabbed couple of minutes at a bus stop, in-between meetings or in the hallway, anything that lets you maximise that time is a godsend.

As well as browsing, the Streak’s sizeable display is ideally suited to media playback. Unfortunately, Android’s regular video capabilities haven’t been boosted in the way we’d like to have seen; the Streak will play H.263, H.264, 3GP, MPEG4 and WMV content, but there’s no native DivX or Xvid support. That makes dropping in new media a little less streamlined than it could be (plug in via USB and the Streak can be mounted like a regular external drive). Still, once you’ve got a file the tablet can handle, we didn’t notice any issues with blurring during fast-moving scenes. Similarly, YouTube plays back full-screen and – as long as the original source is decent quality – looks good. A kick-stand would make for an ideal addition, and we’re guessing we’ll see at least a few aftermarket cases offering some way of propping the Streak up for hands-free viewing.

For those who value screen real estate, you just can’t beat 5″ in a (barely) pocketable device. However, androidandme points out that it will ship with the rather outdated Donut build of Android, rather than the current Froyo (for those who prefer numbers to sweets, that’s Android 1.6 rather than 2.2). In any case, it is expected to be available in unlocked form in the US for about $500 next month. It will be available in the UK for £429 in the same fashion, but that price drops to completely free with a contract. If you check it out in the near future, do us a favor and let us know how it goes? I’m most concerned with how that behemoth of a mobile device really fits in your average pocket – that’s a convenience factor that just can’t be beat.


This Post Has 2 Comments

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  2. Font21

    My Dell Streak  is just a very expensive paperweight.  A couple of months after I bought the device, it began to continually crash and restart, even while it was resting on a table. I bought it used, it is out of warranty and unusable. Dell won’t replace it. I created a blog to review my experiences with the Dell Streak 5. I have logged every location I have written on and when Dell replaces my Streak, I will take update all of my posts to tell how they fixed my problem.

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