Dell Streak 16GB review: Dell Streak 16GB

Features
The Dell Streak fits right in with today's superbly specced Android smartphones. It ships with Android 2.2 installed (or available as an over-the-air update), supporting what we now consider must-have Android features, including Adobe Flash compatibility, native Exchange sync, and multitouch gesture support.

Though the Streak doesn't break much new ground in the world of smartphones, as a 5-inch Android tablet, it's without equal. Similar offerings, such as the Archos 5 simply don't have the speed, specs, or design quality to match the Streak. They've also all lacked one critical feature: the Android App Market.

Arguably, today's fascination with mobile technology is rooted in a larger obsession with apps--the more, the better. Not every app in the Android Market is available for the Streak, and many apps simply aren't optimized for the device's larger screen and landscape orientation. Still, it's a larger pool of apps than we've been able to access on any tablet beyond the iPad.

Just as important is the fact that the Streak's phone, photo, and video capabilities allow for some features you won't find on other tablets--including text messaging, video calling (which we tested using Fring), and mobile photo and video uploads.

For those of you too timid to browse and install third-party apps, the Streak offers dozens of great features right out of the box. The home screen offers shortcuts to the Web browser, maps, phone, contacts database, messaging, Gmail, camera, YouTube, Amazon MP3 store, the Android music player, and a floating Google search bar that responds to type or voice. A tap on the app drawer (located at the top of the screen) reveals dozens of other preinstalled apps, which can be dragged onto one of the Streak's four customizable home screens.

Performance
There's a lot to love about how Streak handles the rigors of real-world use. Unlike the lumbering resistive screens of the Android e-readers and Archos tablets we've tested, the capacitive screen of the Streak offers swift reaction times that rival the iPad. The 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor at the core of the Streak had no issues handling any of the tasks we threw at it and provided the type of rapid app launching and switching we've grown accustomed to from high-end Android smartphones.

Web site load times are also neck and neck with those from Apple, with some exceptions. Over our local Wi-Fi hot spot, loading the full version of Facebook took just 9 seconds on the Streak compared with 7 seconds with the iPad. Both devices tied at 8 seconds for loading Google News. The New York Times site took a full minute to load on the Streak, compared with 16 seconds on the iPad, however, the Streak was likely stalled by attempting to load Flash video content, while the iPad was specifically served a version of the site optimized for HTML5. We also noticed that the Streak tended to default to mobile versions of Web sites designed for phones, whereas the iPad's browser typically loaded sites in their full, undiluted form.

Another high point of the Dell Streak is its call quality. Chalk it up to the earpiece and microphone matching up nicely to our ear and mouth, but we found calls to sound clear, both coming and going. In addition to the built-in microphone, the included stereo headset includes an in-line mic and call-answer button, and the Streak supports Bluetooth 2.1 EDR for a full range of wireless calling and accessory capabilities.

We're reasonably satisfied with the Streak's photo and image quality--though the max resolution for video capture is 640x480, and as we mentioned previously, image quality suffers from the inescapably smudgy lens. A gallery of sample images taken with the Streak isavailable here, as well as a sample video recorded using the Streak's maximum resolution. Update: The Streak's Android 2.2 update has increased the device's video capture resolution to 720p.

Prior to Dell's Android 2.2 update, we were not big fan's of the Streak's touch-screen keyboard. In short, it was awkwardly laid out and less than accurate. Fortunately, the Froyo update has made a big improvement, delivering a nice QWERTY keyboard that stretches naturally from edge to edge and responds with improved accuracy. For those who can't be bothered to actually lift your fingers, Swype predictive text support is included by default (similar to the Samsung Galaxy Tab).

The Streak's audio quality isn't great. Loading media via supported MSC or MTP USB connections worked without any hiccups, but playback through the Streak's headphone jack was plagued by constant background hiss and a generally muffled quality. Throw in the audible pops heard while adjusting the volume, and we think it's safe to say that audio playback quality didn't rank high in Dell's list of priorities. It's about par for cell phone audio quality--but among the few tablets we've tested in this price range, it sits near the bottom.

Finally, there's battery life. Dell offers no promises on how long you should expect the included battery to stay charged, though, we've heard reports of up to 9 hours of talk time. By default, the Streak's screen brightness is set to about 25 percent, which we found completely impractical for viewing outdoors. Set at 75 percent, the Streak's onscreen camera viewfinder becomes usable outdoors, and battery life drains at a noticeably quickened pace.

Though it's in some ways unfair to compare the Streak to a device like the Apple iPad, which is nearly three times its size and capable of containing a larger battery, Dell has forced this comparison on itself by defining the Streak as a tablet. During our informal testing, with screen brightness at a useful 75 percent, we averaged around 6 hours of battery life with the Streak, which is nearly half that of the iPad. Here are our official CNET Labs tested results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

Video battery life (in hours) Web site load time (in seconds; lower is better) Maximum brightness (in cd/m2) Default brightness (in cd/m2) Contrast ratio
Dell Streak 4.7 8 340 135 1,172:1

What you'll pay

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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Wireless Connectivity IEEE 802.11b
      IEEE 802.11g
      Bluetooth 2.1
    • Type Android
    • Service Provider AT&T
    • Storage 2 GB
    • Processor QUALCOMM Snapdragon