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Dell Streak Review

The Streak is Dell’s second foray into the smartphone world, and its result is a unique twist on the market. With an eye towards appearances, the Streak measures in at 10mm thick, with a 800 x 400 LCD screen, perfectly measured to easily fit in your jeans pocket, provided you’re not one to sport the skinny variety. The screen’s Gorilla Glass is well-designed to absorb some beating as well, although the sides of the phone are a bit more susceptible. It is meant to be handled similar to a portable gaming device, however the design does allow for easy grip when using the phone for a call or other situations where portrait view is preferred. Conveniently, the design is well-designed to handle either view.

In comparison to other competitor smartphones, the Streak’s battery holds up incredibly well to both normal and excessive usage, giving users anywhere from 10-12 hours of battery life depending on their activities, easily outclassing other rivals like the HTC Desire. The 1530mAH battery is located underneath the phone cover, alongside the SIM card and microSD card. Located under the cover are the SIM card, microSD card (ours came with SanDisk's Class 2 16GB silicon), and a 1530mAh battery. This eye towards usefulness also carries over to the Streak’s use as a phone, providing a convenient and background noise-dampening experience during any phone call.

The button layout includes the back, menu, and home buttons alongside the mic on the right side of the phone. Furthermore, along the top of the phone are four more buttons, comprising the volume control (with 3.5mm headphone jack nestled alongside), as well as power switch and camera control. Also included in the bundle is a hands free package, including rubber ear buds that are well compatible with the phone. Also included with the phone’s package are a USB port and cord, as well as a pouch, which can come in useful for screen-cleaning. Also featured on the phone is a front-oriented camera, located between the proximity sensor used for disabling the screen and the earpiece, that can be used for video chat applications. On the back of the phone is an autofocus camera, to the tune of five megapixels, as well as a mono speaker. The sliding battery door is also located on the back, which when removed after a few seconds will shut off the phone as a method of preventing data loss.

The browser is fairly standard, as the device renders and zooms fairly quickly, although tapping cannot be used to zoom in contrast to other competing devices. The screen layout is conducive to text reading, which is helpful as text does not resize to fit the screen. One of the brighter aspects of the phone is the Google Maps app, which given the size of the screen is significantly more effective than on many competing devices, although as said before, being unable to zoom with a pinching motion is a bit frustrating. The “Photos & Videos” app is structured more or less in a timeline sense, organized into eighteen thumbnails per screen. The phone does experience lag once your viewing clips further down a timeline, but overall the app’s usage is fairly hassle-free. The app is well-designed to take advantage of media captured using the Streak’s camera, but not as good for viewing media added manually (more on QuickOffice and its usefulness in a minute).

While on the subject of media, Streak is a bit fickle when it comes to the types of video files supported. While WMV and MP4V videos play without a hitch, there can be a bit of an issue when attempting to view H.264 clips (the phone is purported to support these, as well as 3GP and the aforementioned file types). There is also an issue with YouTube videos, in that although they look sleek on the phone’s adequate screen, if played concurrently with music the YouTube app plays the sound over the music as opposed to pausing the audio automatically (although this seems like an eminently fixable glitch).

Dell has added some touches to the normal Android 1.6OS, such as a drop-down top-oriented menu complete with favorites bar, as well as a homescreen-switching button and status area that can all be triggered by a tap. To remove homescreen icons, one must hold down on the icon until it appears red, and then press menu button for the option to remove the icon. This does help to limit the amount of dragging one has to do, a concept more similar in other Android phones. One aspect of the Streak that is a bit less inspiring is the phone dialer, which doesn’t seem as flashy as many competitor phones, and also has a call log that does not display pictures next to contact phone numbers.

Furthermore, the Streak does not support smart-dialing. However, with minimal background noise, voice search is still available to find a contact, through either the default voice search function or the Nuance Voice Control app, activated by holding down the handsfree button. Furthermore, this app can also take dictated numbers, albeit with a bit less ease. Finally, as is mentioned above, also included at the start is QuickOffice, useful not only for viewing Microsoft Office documents but also as a general file browser that can open any number of file types when using associated apps. There are some shortcomings with this, as Word and Excel files cannot be edited, but it is still useful if needed for viewing.

The Streak’s music player is nothing new in comparison to market competitors, although it does have a few significant new aspects. The handsfree button can be used to change audio tracks when clicked twice, however strangely enough this is only available when the screen is turned on (whether the phone is locked or not). Also, the app will grab pictures of artists being played automatically, immediately bringing up thumbnails. One thing that is noticeably lacking when considering audio features is an FM radio feature, curiously absent in comparison to the recent addition of this feature to other portable music players and phones (like the iPod Nano for example).

A few other minor inconveniences also detract from the phone’s overall effectiveness. The inclusion on the phone’s keyboard of a numerical keypad can provide inconvenient for easier typing, and there is not alternative in Settings to change this option to remove the numerical pad. As mentioned earlier, the lack of photos to go with contacts is also puzzling, especially in light of the audio player’s ability to pull photos for artists. It would seem equally as convenient for the Streak to pull Facebook photos for contacts, but apparently this feature was also absent (despite being able to access this option in Settings). Finally, in regards to the camera, it does appear that Dell has focused on including a camera that provides good quality for daylight shots (with quality set to Fine). Unfortunately, as is the case with some of the Streak’s competitors, nighttime shots are still lacking and unsuccessful, a problem that seems to be chronic amongst smartphone cameras. The video camera is comparable in both positives (good picture quality) and negatives (lack of nighttime feasibility). However, both functions are serviceable giving the platform of device they’re being included in, just not anything that push the envelope ahead of competitors in this function.

The Final Word
The Streak both lives up to the growing hype and anticipation it has received, as well as lets us down in several aspects. While the device fits Dell’s primary goal of providing a flashy, effective smartphone with an eye towards more universal functionality while still remaming pocket-sized, it does suffer from a few significant flaws. Besides the aforementioned problems in both camera usage, as well as some of the app flaws, the phone may also scare away some potential buyers because of its reliance on the increasingly outdated Android 1.6 OS. However, there is reason to still be optimistic about the Streak.

As with any new device like this, there are already rumored upgrades being tested that should be available in the near future. Also, none of the major flaws we identified with the Streak are things that seem like they can’t be easily fixed by the capable development team at Dell. For now, we leave you with the conclusion that the Streak is capable of holding its own in the smartphone market, allowing its substantial screen size to give it an edge on the competition while still remaining more feasible as a pocket-sized alternative to the tablet computers and smaller smartphones it attempts to merge.

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