To our minds, the Dell Streak is one of the most fascinating devices that has been released this year. It certainly generated a healthy debate in our recent podcast, where we discussed its merits as a smartphone, a tablet, a sat-nav, and a portable media player, and it's this potential flexibility that's the draw. History tells us, however, that a lack of identity and focus has been the downfall of many a promising device in the past. Is this the case with the Streak?
Before we delve into such philosophical meanderings, however, we need to know what exactly the Streak has to offer. With a SIM free price of £429 and available on the O2 network on various deals, including free on a 24 month data only tariff that includes 3GB of mobile data, the Streak's main selling point is simply its size. Its 5-inch LCD screen, which has a roomy 800 x 480 resolution, makes it considerably larger than any competing smartphone – so much so that Dell classifies it as tablet, as well as a smartphone.
Under the hood it uses one of Qualcomm's much lauded 1GHz Snapdragon processors, and has 512MB of RAM and 2GB of internal storage to draw upon. Also included in the box is a 16GB microSDHC memory card, and up to 32GB cards are supported should you need more. There's a front-facing VGA camera for Skype and video calls, and an auto-focusing 5-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash for photography. However, unlike many of the new handsets now available - e.g. the iPhone 4 or the Samsung Galaxy S (review coming soon) - video recording is only of VGA (640 x 480) quality.
Another potential stumbling block for the Streak is that it runs Android 1.6, not 2.1 or the most recent 2.2 (Froyo) release. An update is promised later in the year, but with so many already updated handsets available or soon to be released, 1.6's limitations – which include no pinch to zoom in maps, Microsoft Exchange support, or Adobe Flash support – are bound to become more pressing. Still, 1.6 is a proven and stable release and you still benefit from most of Android's best features, such as the excellent free Google Navigation app and burgeoning Android Marketplace.
Moreover, it would be wrong to focus too heavily on such niggling deficiencies, as the Streak's positives far outweigh its negatives. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the handset's design, which belies Dell's relative inexperience in this market. It might be large, but the Streak is a svelte 9.9mm thick and weighs a reasonable 220 grams. Our model has a smart, carbon black back, and when not in use the jet black front fascia gives the Streak a monolithic appearance that oozes class.
Such sleekness is accentuated by the tapered ends, at one end of which sits a trio of capacitive touch buttons. Two function as Android's standard 'Home' and 'Back' buttons, while the one in the middle is a context sensitive menu button. These work extremely well and presses are greeted by haptic vibrations.
As for physical connections, on the top edge (when held in landscape as intended), you'll find a headphone jack, volume controls, the power and lock button, and the two-level camera capture button. On the under-edge, meanwhile, is the docking and charging port for which a multimedia dock with HDMI output is available. Included in the box is a USB data and charging cable, AC adapter and reasonable in-ear headset with in-line microphone.