The Dell Streak seems to be securing a reputation as one of those devices that you either love or… well, maybe not hate, but which leaves you unimpressed.
Two of us here on the Gear Diary team ordered Dell Streaks, but we’ve had different reactions to the Android-based device with the unusual form factor. Dan and I both ordered a Streak, but Dan’s is already back in Dell’s inventory. Mine is staying put for the moment.
Now, bear in mind that Dan is an admitted Apple fanboy, and I’m a… oh, heck, I don’t know what I am… I love my Apple products, but I’m getting a little bored with them, so when the super-sized Streak came along, I had to try it.
So why the different reactions to Dell’s new super-sized smartphone? Well, we’re going to break it down for you.
Jeff- When you open the relatively plain Dell packaging, it’s hard not to have your attention drawn immediately to the screen, even without turning it on first. It’s huge.
Dan- When you open the relatively plain Dell packaging, it’s hard not to be completely underwhelmed by terrible unboxing experience. Sure the Streak’s big beautiful screen is sitting there looking up at you but it is sitting in the middle of cardboard. Seriously, it looks like someone said, “Hey we need to get these things out fast. Anyone have anyhting laying around that we can put them in??”
Jeff- When you pick up the Streak itself, you also notice that it’s quite thin, so it doesn’t feel bulky in the hand. The term “slate” has been thrown around a lot when people talk about tablets, but that is exactly what comes to mind – it’s flat, thin, and broad. For me, what this represents is a great portable size. The 5” screen is noticeably easier on my eyes than the 3.7” iPhone screen, which seems dainty in comparison. Sure, the 5” screen isn’t the same as the iPad’s 9.7” screen, but the Streak is a heck of a lot more convenient to carry around if you don’t always want to carry a portfolio, briefcase, or messenger bag (and I don’t). I can slip the Streak in a back pocket when walking around.
Dan- When you pick up the Streak itself, you also notice that it’s quite thin, but it still feels kind of bulky in your hand. I have a love/hate relationship with this size device. It is certainly easier to read on than an iPhone and much easier to hold than an iPad but it is kind of a ‘twener size that I’m not sure I would like using over the long-haul. The size is PERFECT for something like a Kindle that is only for reading but for something you’ll be typing on… the jury is out for me.
Jeff- All issues of screen size aside, it’s what happens when the screen comes to life that matters. It’s a great, crisp screen that displays… Android 1.6!!! Say what??? (And now that Dell has released the Aero with Android 1.5, one really has to wonder how decisions are getting made in that organization.) I’ve been using Froyo on a Nexus One and 1.6 seems like quite a step backwards. Exchange mail access is accomplished through third-party app Touchdown, and I’m getting redundant notifications on my personal email accounts using the native app. It’s all rather annoying.
Dan- All issues of screen size aside, it’s what happens when the screen comes to life that matters. It’s a great, crisp screen that displays… Android 1.6!!! That alone was reason enough to box the thing up and send it back. From what I understand the difference between 1.6 and 2.2 is tremendous. And on 1.6 I found the Streak to be remarkably limited… but still carry a premium price. Can you imagine Apple shipping the new touch with iOS 1.3??????
Jeff- Were it not for the promised update to 2.2 (and the fact that a leaked 2.1 ROM is out there for folks interested in tinkering), this thing would be going back to Dell.
Dan- Yup, Dell has promised an update but that means you have to use the device with Android 1.6 until then. And then there is the fact that, long ago, I stopped relying on promised updates. I bought the iPad knowing that an update to iOS 4.0 was promised but still, I bought it ASSUMING that it would run the current firmware for the life of it. When 4.0 comes it will be a nice gift but I would not have bought the device if I couldn’t not have lived with it running 3.x for the entire time just in case Apple ran into issues.
Jeff- But that screen is great. Maybe it’s just age, but I’m really tired of trying to read long emails on small screens. Web pages are just that much more comfortable to view, as is Google Maps, which would be that much more useful with the pinch and zoom offered in… what was it? Oh, yeah, Android 2.x.
Dan- But that screen is great. Maybe it’s just age, but I’m really tired of trying to read long emails on small screens. That’s why I have the iPad.
Jeff- Now, I don’t think I’d be happy using the Streak as my only device. The size crosses the line just far enough that I couldn’t see myself carrying it to concerts, sporting events, or out for a nice dinner (unless I’m wearing a sport coat). Unlike some other folks who have reviewed the Streak, however, I don’t feel silly or awkward holding it up to my ear when using it as a phone.
Dan- I don’t want the Streak as any device while it is running 1.6. Maybe I’ll look at it when it is updated to 2.2 but by then Samsung’s tablet will be out… and who knows what Apple might have waiting in the wings.
Jeff- Were this a typical review, there are a lot of other characteristics about the Streak that could be discussed: the benefit of having a front-facing camera, the skin that Dell added to Android, the oddly reversed volume buttons, the battery cover that slides on without a satisfying “click” or “snap,” the landscape keyboard with the number pad (missing in the leaked version of the 2.1 ROM), and the actually decent battery life.
Dan- Were this a typical review I guess I would have to have the device in front of me. I don’t… and it’s not.
Jeff- The bottom line, though, is that it’s the form factor that is the main reason for me keeping the Streak – for the moment. Having something different with which to tinker is also appealing. The rest of it either adds to the appeal – at best – or fails to detract from it – at worst.