Product Notes: Dell Streak
August 13, 2010
On August 13, 2010 Dell released the Streak, an Android-based product in a widescreen 5-inch form factor, in the United States. The Streak will begin shipping in mid-August 2010.
The Streak is almost all screen and that screen is a fully capacitive multitouch 5.0-inch 800x480 TFT LCD. Although the Streak has the largest screen currently available on an Android device with phone functionality, the screen does not have a particularly high resolution: the Motorola Droid X's 4.3-inch screen is 480x854, while the Apple iPhone 4's 3.5-inch screen is 640x960. However, the larger pixels may be more comfortable for some users' viewing.
Navigation and user interface is performed by multi-touch gesturing (finger swipes, pinch-out zoom, etc.) and extensive pop-up/drop-down menu options. The large screen's wide aspect ratio also allows a virtual keyboard with a numeric keypad.
Aside from the proprietary USB dock connector, Streak input/output resembles that of other Android-based smartphones. As such, it has a dock connector, 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack, above average built-in speaker, microphone, rear facing 5.0 megapixel camera, and a front facing VGA camera.
The Streak also includes an ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, accelerometer, compass, GPS, and capacitive sensor keys. Connectivity for the Streak includes 802.11b/g WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR. Due to the larger-than-usual size of this device, Information Systems & Computing (ISC) suggests that users consider using a Bluetooth headset for phone calls.
The Streak's carrying weight is 0.5 pounds. It is approximately three eighths of an inch thick and fits in a large pocket. As with many other larger devices, a second battery is worth considering for those who are not able to recharge from an outlet or computer throughout the day.
The Streak is shipping with Android 1.6 and most Android applications should be compatible with it. Like other Android 1.6 devices, the Streak is not compatible with University-centric services such as AirPennNet, Exchange and Zimbra.
Dell has promised an over-the-air upgrade to Android 2.2 by the end of 2010.
The Streak is available for either $550 without a contract or for $300 with a two-year AT&T contract activation. Currently, AT&T is the only carrier offering the Streak. Unlike the iPhone, the Streak is only available directly from Dell and not from AT&T.
The biggest downside to the Streak is that it is shipping with Android 1.6, an operating system that was last current in October 2009 and is missing many important features available in newer versions of Android. ISC believes Dell would have been better served by waiting to release the Streak in the United States until it could be shipped with Android 2.2 (or at least Android 2.1). Even Android 2.2 is not yet supported at the University, as Android 2.2 does not yet fully adhere to certain vital security policies. ISC is looking into potential solutions to allow connectivity while still maintaining the security and integrity of important campus services.
ISC sees the Streak as an interesting device, but one with an uncertain market and a relatively high price. It remains to be seen whether users will see the value in a "tweener" with a screen size somewhere between that of a "normal" smartphone and a tablet. It will probably be more useful to users who do significant browsing, video playback, or those for whom a larger screen is easier to read.
ISC will follow up with a full review of the Streak when a version with Android 2.2 or above becomes available.
Streak graphic courtesy of Dell
--Jordan McClead, John Mulhern III, and Andrew Romond, ISC Technology Support Services (August 13, 2010)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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