The Dell Streak
Great design and the best Android implementation we've seen; with Android 2.2 onboard, it's highly recommended
The Dell Streak is a class apart from most tablets. Not only because of its size, but also its finish: it looks great, feels great, and is the best implementation of Android we've seen. That was already the case with Android 1.6, which you may find your Streak is shipped with. Check the system update screen, however, and you should find version 2.2 just a click and download away.
That's excellent news. For a start, it brings support for Rash, helping deliver a web-browsing experience close to that of a desktop PC. The 800 x 480 resolution inevitably means web pages look tight, but being able to watch embedded videos and use pinch and zoom makes it simple to skip around the full BBC site.
Dell's update introduces its Stage interface as well. This groups together thumbnails of recent web pages so you can quickly visit favourites, and uses a similar trick for photos and music. It isn't going to change the world, but it's a welcome change from straightforward icons. Fortunately, Dell has retained the friendly homepage, with a Getting Started icon kept company by shortcuts for email, contacts and the Android Market among others. Calling down the list of installed applications is still as simple as pressing the downward arrow on the status bar, which is always in view. Combine that with responsive hardware controls, and the Streak becomes a very intuitive device.
Performance receives a boost under Android 2.2, with Dell claiming it can now take advantage of its 1GHz CPU's dual cores. Certainly, it's smoother than Android 1.6, with the slick animation we'd expect from a device such as this wielding 512MB of RAM. There's 16GB of storage via the microSD slot too - you can swap this for a 32GB card in the future - while Bluetooth and 802.11bg (not 802.11n) fulfill wireless duties.
The Streak can shoot video, but at 20fps and a 640 x 480 resolution, it's more of a feature tick than something we'd actually use. The 5-megapixel camera is more impressive, taking well-balanced shots in good light.
What really makes the Streak more than just another tablet are all the extras. Dell sells a car-kit version of the Streak for £382 exc VAT, for instance. With Google Maps coming complete with turn-by-turn navigation, and looking beautifully clear on the crisp, bright Sin display, there's a strong argument for buying this over a dedicated satnav device.
A hands-free set even makes the Streak a viable replacement for a mobile phone if you only make infrequent calls, and you can buy a Bluetooth headset if you do. O2 hopes you'll be tempted: the 16GB version comes free on a £40, 24-month contract (600mins of calls, 500MB of data).
You also get unlimited texts as part of that deal, but the keyboard is one of the Streak's weakest aspects. In portrait mode, keys are so small they're tricky to hit. Things improve in landscape mode - especially as the Streak is the perfect size to be held in two hands and typed upon with thumbs - but we long for the Galaxy Tab's Swype system.
Battery life is fine: the Streak still had 60% capacity left after our 24-hour test (this includes polling for email every 30 minutes, playing back audio for an hour, making a 30-minute phone call, and using the internet for an hour). That's pretty good considering the 220g weight - and, what's more, you can easily swap out the battery; extras cost £32 exc VAT.
This kind of flexibility is what we love about the Streak. It may sit in a no-man's land between fully fledged tablets and smartphones, but with Android 2.2 in place Dell has a winner on its hands.
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