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Dell Streak review

Barry de la Rosa
16 Jul 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
449
inc VAT

The Streak's size will divide opinion, but its battery life and interface improvements are great; however until Dell updates to at least Android 2.1, we can't recommend it

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Specifications

Android 1.6, 5.0in 800x480 display

In the world of convergence, there's a natural barrier between smartphones and larger devices such as tablet PCs or personal media players (PMPs). The jury is out on how small a device can be for videos, e-books and web pages to be enjoyable to watch or read.

The Dell Streak tests the limits of that barrier with its 5in 800x480 display; in all other respects, it's technically just another Android smartphone. At 153mm long and 79mm wide, the Streak divided opinion in the office: some felt it was far too large to hold to your ear for a phone conversation, while others decided that if it fit in their pocket, it counted as a phone - and it does fit into most pockets.

Opinion wasn’t divided on the Streak’s ability as a tablet device though. The screen would benefit from a higher resolution for reading web pages, but it is well-suited to video - even though its 5:3 aspect ratio means you’ll have to put up with black bars in most widescreen videos. Luckily, the screen’s contrast is good so the black bars blend into its bezel and are almost invisible.

Dell Streak

As the Streak’s only running Android 1.6, there’s no support for Flash, meaning online video services such as iPlayer and 4oD are off-limits for the time being; YouTube does work though, thanks to a dedicated app. It also supports a variety of video formats, including h.263, h.264, MPEG-4, WMV and .3gp – you’ll need to make sure you select the Media Transport Protocol option when transferring files to the device, however.

Certain issues do crop up with such a large screen, however. Dell has had to modify the default Android interface for the extra-large home screens, which only work in landscape mode. It has added new elements to the notification bar at the top of the screen; instead of one single bar that you pull down to access notifications, the bar is now split into four interactive elements.

Dell Streak maps

The first displays your app tray, listing all your installed apps in a grid, which means you can access all your apps from any application screen, rather than having to go back to the Home screen. The second lets you manage your home screens and lists recently used applications - also accessed by long-pressing the Home button. The third is the traditional notification tray, while the fourth area shows the icons for WiFi, wireless signal, battery, and such. Tapping it displays a subset of the Settings page so you can quickly toggle WiFi or 3G, or add alarms.

While these customisations are innovative, the long development process meant that Dell started with Android 1.6, and despite the inclusion of Android 2.1 icons in the settings page, it's worth remembering the limits of the older version. Most notable of these is the lack of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support, and despite Dell's integration of Twitter and Facebook accounts, the Streak lacks Android 2.x's support for multiple integrated accounts.

This means that, although you can add your Facebook and Twitter accounts, only contacts from Facebook are integrated into the Contacts app and you can't manage synchronisation as you can with the built-in Google account. The lack of ActiveSync support means that you can't get push email from a work Exchange account, although you can still access it via POP3 or IMAP.

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