It’s a weird feeling using IGor, my iPad, to write this review of a competitive product to the iPad. I was fortunate to be loaned the latest portable tablet from Dell – the Streak. Delivered boxed, it reminded me of how Apple and HTC packaged their offerings except that Apple boxes and white and almost utilitarian.
The box contains the Streak, a pouch, charger and starter guide.
The first time you power up the Streak, it will ask you to insert a SIM card as part of its boot up and setup sequence. This process suggests this new tablet is a mobile phone. If it were I can’t imagine seeing myself holding a (152.9 x 79.1 x 10mm) slab of electronics close to my cheek. Years ago I used to laugh when I see people using the NOKIA n-Gage to make calls. I often commented that it was having a burrito in your ear. If the n-Gage was a burrito, the Streak is a thin paperback. It took me a few moments to get around this requirement and force the Streak to connect to the Wi-Fi to continue the device initialization sequence.
As a handheld it’s impossibly thin at 10mm. It’s not really feather light at 220 GM. For its size (152.9 x 79.1mm), it’s surprisingly light. For people with small hands it would be cumbersome to hold comfortably and safely. It looks fragile because of the glass top but the feel is solid for the device itself.
The Streak ships with Android 1.6 so it doesn’t multi-task at all. No different from the iPad. But I read in forums that Streak owners have the option to upgrade to 2.2 by end of 2010. Brave souls who have tried upgrading report problems after the upgrade.
The small screen makes it a little difficult, but not impossible, to read documents. Despite the handicap of the OS, the overall performance is very good; it is fast and as fluid flicking and pinching as using the iPad. If there is any serious complaint it is the user interface needs tweaking to make it easier to navigate or access applications.
I did a full charge of the device and it took about two days before I charged it. The default setting means the device powers down too quickly (1 minute) making it annoying at times if you got side tracked for a minute to do something quickly leaving the device unattended.
Facebook and other social networking platform users will find the experience welcoming provided you have the App customized for the size of the screen. Yehey for Facebook!
Overall first impression is that it is a solid device to hold. Small enough to fit in a small bag and convenient to carry around wherever you go. If you have a Bluetooth headset and installed a SIM Card in it, you can use it as a cell phone without looking like one of those characters from Third Rock from the Sun. People might think of Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory if they see you talking using the Streak but who cares.
Just for the heck of it, I did install my 2G SIM on the Streak and made calls as well as received them. It was easy enough to make the voice connections, and even sending SMS messages was not at all that difficult. The menu system does take getting used to but I find it less taxing then searching for specific functions on any Symbian-based phone.
WHAT I LIKE
At 5 inch diagonal, the device is as portable as you can get. While I like to put my portable devices in my jeans’ pockets, I don’t think the Streak was ever meant to be that portable (despite what Sony might want you to think with its VAIO P series). But it still small enough for me to put into my weekend bag and slip into my work backpack without me breaking a sweat. iGor, on the other hand, feels like a heavy brick when placed next to my work laptop.
Web browser was made easy with a number of popular sites already booked marked on it.
What surprised me about the Streak is the speed with which it ran a number of applications I loaded. Granted that I could not validate the capability of its OS using 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (QSD 8250), it still performed better than my experience using the same processor on the HTC Desire. Perhaps it was the 2GB onboard memory that boosted the performance.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
The Hong Kong version of the Dell Streak had the Chinese language input system always active. Despite attempts to get rid of it, I was unable to disable the Pinyin input system (the software is called HUAYI IME). I found it annoying every time I needed to key in anything onto the Streak, whether its a URL or a search query, I needed to always make sure I press the English alphabet character set each time.
The back panel that hides the guts of the Streak can also easily fall off after the first time you take it out. You have to make sure its snugged in tight.
Ever noticed that when you watch a movie on your TV or the cinema, the sound comes right at you up front straight? Somehow the designers of the Streak missed this idea and decided to put the tiny speakers of the streak at the back. So if you are watching a movie or using the Streak to make a call without the aid of headsets, you will find the audio sound to so low you need to either cup your hand bedind the Streak to redirect the sound to the front, or you really need to use a headset.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Would I consider the Dell Streak as a replacement to iGor? I am tempted to say ‘yes’ because I find lugging two devices – a notebook and an iPad – taxing on my back and I can guarantee Apple will not pay for my health insurance increase. What will hold me up switching to the current Dell Streak is the size of the screen size. I read and type a lot. Given that scenario, I would have difficulty typing on the 5″ Dell Streak productively. A friend saw me typing on iGor and chided me for typing like a Cop – two fingers, index finger only. On the Streak, I noticed myself either holding the Streak with my left hand and typing with my right index finger. I also tried holding it the way I would with the BlackBerry and typing a message.
There is speculation that digital devices like the iPad spell the end of paper based reading materials. Certainly a digital pad offers the convenience of reading almost all your favorite books, magazines and newspaper anywhere you are. There are two things you might not want to do with you digital pad.
If you are out in the wilderness with no tissue paper, the next best use for your newspaper is to wipe your butt cleaned with it (sorry if I am grossing you out). The other is probably the more conventional use of newspapers.