If you find smartphone screens a bit cramped for web browsing, the Streak could be the device you're looking for. It provides all the features of an Android smartphone in a larger format, but not so large that it can't be used as a phone as well.
Large 5in screen for easy reading; feels rugged; powerful specification.
Android 1.6; cumbersome as a phone; poor on-screen keyboard
5in 800 x 480 multi-touch screen, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB RAM, 2GB internal storage, SD card slot (16GB card supplied), quad-band GSM, HSPA, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, 5-megapixel rear camera with flash, VGA forward-facing camera, Android 1.6.
Dell's Streak is an Android-powered device that blends smartphone and tablet features and could potentially spawn a new mobile form factor, so long as users can get over having to hold an oversized device to their ear to make phone calls.
Available since June on O2's network and SIM-free from Dell's online store, the Streak could easily be dismissed as either an outsized smartphone or a mini tablet that happens to run a smartphone operating system.
However, the 5in screen that dictates its size makes the Streak a better device for mobile web browsing than most smartphones, and could make it attractive as an application platform for business use.
On the downside, the Streak currently runs version 1.6 of the Android platform rather than one of the newer releases which added various performance tweaks and other improvements.
We also found the Streak's performance to be sluggish at times, with the device taking several seconds to respond to on-screen controls being touched, though why this was happening was not clear.
In design, the Streak looks very much like a large smartphone, but it powers up with the display in landscape rather than portrait orientation, and the home screen is fixed in this mode. However, most other applications will switch orientation if users prefer to hold the device lengthwise, when reading a document for example.
Held in landscape orientation, the Streak is perhaps more akin to a portable games console or portable media player device, such as those from Archos. At 220g, it weighs twice as much as some phones, yet is not so heavy that it cannot easily be carried around. Its size of about 15cm long by 8cm wide and nearly 1cm thick makes it too large to fit easily into most pockets, though.
Dell's user interface for the Streak puts many of the most commonly accessed functions right on the desktop, with the home screen showing icons for the phone app, contacts, messaging, browser, Google Maps and Android Market. There is also a Google search bar and a strip of icons to quickly turn the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS interfaces on or off. Overall, this makes the Streak feel more like using a small computer rather than a phone.
The full range of applications can be accessed from a drop-down menu at the top left of the screen and, as is usual for Android, the home screen itself can be customised by moving the icons or adding other widgets and shortcuts.
Also like other Android devices, the Streak supports multiple screens that can be accessed by a sideways swipe gesture. On the Streak, there is just one additional screen either side of the home screen.
The left one is configured with widgets for Facebook and Twitter showing the latest updates on your account for these social networks. The screen to the right has a music player widget and shortcuts to the camera, photos, YouTube, Google Mail and an application called Touchdown from Nitrodesk that allows users to access email on a Microsoft Exchange server.
The 5in screen has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, and we found that the extra size really makes a difference in readability when using the Streak to browse web pages, either in portrait or landscape orientation.
However, because the Streak currently runs Android 1.6, it does not support web pages with Flash content. Dell told us that it expects to make available a platform upgrade for the device sometime later this summer based on Android 2.2, which will allow users to install Flash 10.1.