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Dell Streak review: Dell Streak

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The Streak's size means it looks comical when held up against your noggin

On a phone, many users won't miss the latest features of Android. But, on a cutting-edge -- and expensive -- tablet-like device such as the Streak, the absence of the latest version of Android is a disappointment. The lack of support for Exchange email feels like a huge hole, and the app that's pre-installed to handle the task, TouchDown, isn't user-friendly or good-looking.

The big, beautiful maps that you see while running Google Maps are let down by the fact that there's no multi-touch capability to let you zoom in and out easily with a two-fingered pinch or stretch movement -- although you do get this feature in the Web browser and the gallery. There's no free sat-nav in the form of Google Maps Navigation either. Both of these missing features came with a later version of Android.

Videos from YouTube and other sources look good on the Streak's WVGA screen, but BBC iPlayer is a no-go zone. The Web site blocks Android phones, and the unofficial beebPlayer app is no longer available. When the update to Android 2.2 comes out, you'll also get Flash Player 10.1, and the Flash video on the iPlayer will finally be yours. In the meantime, you're out of luck.

All the features of the Android operating system are in place, including access to apps from the Android Market

The Streak is still packed with features, such as the Android Market, which will let you download thousands of apps and games. But it's no fun to shell out for a new gadget that already feels slightly dated, and then have to wait around for an update without even knowing exactly when it will arrive.

Hotty hardware
Although the software left us saddened, the Streak's hardware didn't disappoint. Sleek and slim like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Streak also has a decent 5-megapixel camera that can shoot video. There's even a VGA camera on the front, which will be great for video calling once Skype pulls its finger out and gets its app on Android in the same way it has on the Nokia N900.

Wi-Fi and fast 7.2Mbps HSPA connectivity will keep you surfing at top speed at home or on the go, and the 1GHz Snapdragon processor means the phone runs smoothly even with multiple apps running.

There's 2GB of internal memory, with room for a microSD card, and it's easy to sync the Streak with the music and video on your desktop computer. Sadly, however, it has a proprietary port for this purpose, so you'll have to use its special cable.

Dell also promises that the Streak can take a few more knocks than its delicate touchscreen competition. The Gorilla Glass touchscreen should be able to withstand a full frontal assault from the keys in your pocket or handbag, although we didn't put it through our brutal monitor punch test to find out.

We're craving an Android tablet to challenge the iPad, but the Dell Streak merely whets our appetite. The Streak's sleek, powerful hardware is let down by the presence of a relatively old version of Android, and £399 is a considerable sum of money to drop on a gadget if you have to wait around for an update before it can reach its full potential.

The Streak is much better than the Android-based Archos 5 Internet Tablet, and it offers plenty of advantages over the iPad, but it lacks the polished user interface of Apple's device. Ultimately, the Streak is a good omen for Android tablets to come, rather than a must-have gadget.

Edited by Charles Kloet 

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