It is said that Apple conceived the iPad first, before it put the tablet on hold and went ahead instead with the development of the iPhone. Of course, the iPad came back and Apple launched it at the most opportune time. Dell's position as a PC maker trying its hand at a tablet was similar before it chose to tread a different path with the Streak.
This device definitely looks like an oversized handset; but dimensions apart, has Dell stretched its imagination far enough for the Streak to deliver as a tablet? Let's find out.
At 220 grams, the Streak is comparatively easy to carry around. Corning Inc.'s Gorilla Glass display does a lot of good for the Streak's display. Despite it being glossy and the clichéd fingerprint-magnet , it scored points for being truly resistant to scratches and dust.
Needless to say, videos on the Streak played quite impressively, with little pixilation or lags. But although the company states that .wmv files are supported by the media player (apart from H.263/H.264, .3GP, MPEG4), most video files that we had transferred wouldn't play. An Android app RockPlayer thankfully came to the rescue and decoded most files that the Streak's native player refused to open. This did look like it was an OS related problem.The stereo speakers on the little device also turned out to be good enough for a medium-sized room with a couple of people chatting away.
The 5-megger on the Streak surprised us with its brilliant, sharp results. Nestled in the back panel, the camera offers a bouquet of customisations.
When we first received the handset, it was running the old Android 1.6 OS but the firmware upgrade to Froyo landed just in time for us to up the Streak experience.
Let's start with the revamped interface. The old OS presented us with five customisable home screens whereas the Froyo update threw up the swanky Dell Stage UI. Of the seven home screens offered, five screens are pre-configured as E-mail, Contacts, Home (which shows a matrix of recent apps), Social (Facebook and Twitter activity) and Music. This did away with the need to manually create shortcuts on the home screens of apps and widgets that we used frequently.
On the older OS, a simple touch brings down the notification list from which you can conveniently tweak connectivity settings – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G and GPRS – but this option isn't offered after the update.
With the upgrade to Froyo came a bundle of default apps that were missing in the 1.6 version – including a personal finance app ‘Assistant Free', a GPS, voice-based app ‘CoPilot Live', ‘TuneIn Radio' and ‘Zinio Reader'.
The touch interface on the Streak was smooth. One touch was good enough to have any application launched. The upgraded version installed the SWYPE technology for messaging and this really upped the usability quotient for the Dell Streak.
Froyo has brought to the Dell Streak two much-anticipated features – the ability to tether and turn the device into a Wi-fi hotspot. One click enables the Portable Wi-Fi hotspot option and readies the Streak to share its internet connection with another handset, PC or laptop. We tried this out with another smartphone and it connected instantly and gave us speeds that a regular GPRS connection would have.Other significant upgrades include the ability to record videos in HD (720p) and support for Flash 10.1 which loaded some websites beautifully. The 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor too does the Streak a lot of good.
Froyo makes the multi-touch user interface on the Streak applicable to a greater number of apps than was previously the case. Pinch-to-zoom, which you could earlier only use in the web browser is now also applicable to Google maps which enhances the GPS experience.
The sensors on the Streak were also pretty perky – the accelerometer was smooth as we scrolled up and down our exhaustive list of apps downloaded from Android Market; the ambient light sensor dimmed promptly when we were in a well-lit room and brightened up when we stepped out in sunlight and the proximity sensors disabled all functions when we held it up to talk.It was almost full working day before we had to charge the Streak again.
And this brings us to the core issue with the Streak. For what is supposed to be treading slippery ground between a tablet and a smartphone, the Streak doesn't exactly do a great job of the latter. Because of its size, apart from attracting a couple of highly amused stares when you want to make a call and put the tablet phone to the ear, there were a couple of other serious issues that the Streak seemed to have. Voices relayed during calls were inevitably ‘feeble' on both sides, even after having pumped up the in-call volume. This issue didn't occur when we switched to the speaker.
With what the cynics might look upon as a severe identity crisis, Dell has dared to break established conventions and tried to offer the user the best it can of both worlds with this pocket-sized tablet. Some might have reservations about how well it fares at juggling both roles but if you don't have qualms about flaunting a ‘cusp' device that lives up to the promise of being a feature-packed, intuitive and fun-to-have gadget, the Dell Streak would be a good choice.
Love – Intuitive UI, prompt touch response
Hate – Wavering call quality, media support