Tablets

Dell Streak tablet review: Everything you need to know

The Dell Streak is the first Android tablet from a major PC maker. Learn the pros and cons of the Streak and whether TechRepublic recommends it or not.

The Dell Streak has finally arrived in the real world, after months of speculation and a couple false starts. It's technically the first Android tablet from a major PC maker, but it's actually a lot more like an Android smartphone than a competitor to the Apple iPad. Learn the pros and cons of the Streak and whether TechRepublic can recommend it or not.

Rather than a long narrative, TechRepublic product reviews give IT and business professionals exactly the information they need to evaluate a product, along with plenty of photos, a list of competing products, and links to more information. You can find more reviews like this one on our Product Spotlight page.

Photo gallery

Dell Streak tablet: Unboxing and comparison photos

Specifications

  • Carrier: AT&T
  • OS: Android 1.6
  • Processor: 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (QSD 8250)
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Storage: 2 GB built-in, plus 16 GB micro-SD (expandable to 32 GB)
  • Display: 5-inch WVGA, 800x480 pixels, Gorilla Glass
  • Battery: Lithium Ion 1530 mAh
  • Ports: 30-pin to USB
  • Weight: 7.7 oz
  • Dimensions: 6.0(h) x 3.1(w) x 0.4(d) inches
  • Camera: 5.0 megapixel (rear) with autofocus; VGA front-facing
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, e-compass
  • Keyboard: 49-key virtual keyboard (including number pad)
  • Networks: UMTS 850/1900/2100 MHz; GSM/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz;
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g; Bluetooth 2.1 EDR
  • Tethering: Not available
  • Price: $300 (with 2-year contract); $550 without a contract

Who is it for?

This is my primary question with the Streak. Who would use it? I've struggled to find any really good use cases, especially for business professionals. It's too big to make it your primary smartphone, unless you only make a couple calls a week and mostly use your smartphone for messaging, apps, and mobile Web browsing. And, you're comfortable with a 5-inch tablet in your pocket or bag. The Streak could be a decent tablet for field workers who use Web-based applications to do their jobs, or if there are Android apps to handle those tasks.

What problems does it solve?

We've been hearing about the flood of Android tablets preparing to hit the market since the beginning of 2010 -- even before Apple released the iPad. However, we're over half-way through the year and no significant Android-based iPad competitors have arrived. Dell's 5-inch device is the first Android tablet from a major PC manufacturer.

Standout features

  • Solid hardware - The Streak is slim and light, but it also feels substantial enough to impress. There's nothing cheap or flimsy about it. Holding it in two hands and flipping through menus and Web pages, typing messages, reading documents, and watching video clips all feel surprisingly natural. In terms of the processor, display, RAM, camera, and other hardware specs, the Streak meets the minimum requirements we'd expect, but it doesn't exceed anything that you'll find on the top Android smartphones in the market.
  • Expanded on-screen keyboard - The smartest Android UI addition that Dell has made to the Streak is the custom on-screen keyboard that has been expanded from the standard 30-35 keys to a 49-key model (in landscape mode) that includes a number pad and takes advantage of the extra space afforded by the 5-inch screen. It's not quite as accurate as the HTC EVO's ons-screen keyboard (which just uses its extra space for bigger keys) but the number pad on the Streak is highly useful and makes this a strong data entry device.
  • Android ecosystem - The reason why people have been waiting for an Android tablet to compete with the iPad is because the Android ecosystem is everything that the Apple ecosystem isn't -- open, customizable, and free for tinkerers to experiment on. It's just too bad that the Streak shipped with an outdated version of the OS.

What's wrong?

  • Runs outdated Android 1.6 - The one unforgivable sin of the Dell Steak is that it ships with Android 1.6. Yes, you read that correctly... version 1.6. It's been over 10 months since Android 2.0 was released with the launch of the original Motorola Droid and yet Dell inexplicably couldn't get at least 2.0 on this device -- let alone 2.1 (which is loaded on many of the current Android devices) or 2.2 (the latest version, which has started rolling out to the top devices). Because the Streak is stuck on 1.6, I found that a lot of my favorite Android apps and widgets don't work with the Streak. Dell has promised that the Streak will get an upgrade to Android 2.2 later this year. It can't come soon enough, and I question the wisdom of releasing this device with a stale version of Android.
  • Inconsistent performance - For a device running a 1 GHz Snapdragon, the Streak feels sluggish at times. It's not that it's consistently slow. Some tasks are instantaneous and faster than the HTC EVO or Nexus One, but then navigating some menus and opening some apps will take much longer to load than they should, and longer than other comparable Android devices. This could be a product of running Android 1.6 or it might be related to the customizations that Dell has done to the Android UI, but it's a nagging issue with the Streak.
  • Overpriced - At $300 (with a 2-year wireless contract), the Streak is $100 more expensive than devices such as the EVO, the Droid X, and the Samsung Galaxy S, but it's only advantage over those devices is a larger screen. When you factor in that it's less portable than any of those devices, runs an older OS, and doesn't have access to many of the latest apps, it's difficult to make a case for the Streak. If you want to buy it unlocked and just use it over Wi-Fi, it costs $550. That's more expensive than the 16 GB iPad Wi-Fi ($500), which has an even larger screen (10 inches), far more software, and a much more polished user experience. Again, a tough sell for the Streak. The only comparison where the Streak looks really good is when you compare it (at $300) tablet-for-tablet with the iPad 3G -- $630 (16 GB), $730 (32 GB), and $830 (64 GB). If Dell offered a Wi-Fi only version of the Streak for $200, it would be a lot more attractive.

Bottom line for business

The Dell Streak has two things going for it: 1.) It's technically the first Android tablet from one of the big PC vendors so it has first-mover advantage, and 2.) When you get it your hands, it feels very usable and likeable. But, the Dell Streak is much more like a smartphone than a tablet and when you compare it to the other top-of-the-line smartphones, it becomes much less attractive. If you really want an Android device with a big screen that feels like a small tablet, I'd recommend the 4.3-inch HTC EVO 4G over the Dell Streak.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

13 comments
etherkeiffer
etherkeiffer

Agree almost completely with your assessment about what's wrong with the Streak. (Only thing I would disagree with is the comment about occasional lag. As long as you use a competent task manager to kill redundant or just plain pointless TSR'S - maybe Froyo doesnt need a task manager but Donut definitely does - then you'll never see the lag you mention). I am using mine now and find it invaluable. I don't feel that it's suited to everybody, but if you can live with using such a big device as an occasional held-to-the-ear phone but mainly as a mini computing/internet device and you get a good selection of sensible apps (for free) then you'll probably love it. Wish the spare battery, charger lead etc prices weren't so outrageously expensive. I guess it just shows what kind of profit margin Dell must insist on for their hardware. Greedy, greedy, greedy. JMHO.

inet32
inet32

Why would anyone want this over the Droid X?

chitvan1988
chitvan1988

//sema1.c #include #include #include #include #include #include #include #include #include #include #include int sockfd, portno, clilen; int sem_id,shmid; void *sharedptr; int mysemid[100]; //union semun { // int val; /* Value for SETVAL */ // struct semid_ds *buf; /* Buffer for IPC_STAT, IPC_SET */ // unsigned short *array; /* Array for GETALL, SETALL */ // struct seminfo *__buf; /* Buffer for IPC_INFO // (Linux specific) */ //}; int count=0; //union semun sem_union; struct mystruct { pthread_t tid; int count; int flag; }; //struct mystruct* g_structObj; //char* g_ptr; void *mythreadfunc(void *arg) { while(1) { char buffer[4]; memset(buffer,0,4); int segment=rand()%5; //if(segment==0) //segment=2; sprintf(buffer,"%d",segment); printf("\nvthreadid is-->%d segment-->%d\n",pthread_self(),segment); fflush(stdout); struct sembuf sem_b; sem_b.sem_num=0; sem_b.sem_op=-1; sem_b.sem_flg=SEM_UNDO; //shared memory coder snippet //if(sharedptr==(void*)-1) //printf("shmat error"); if(semop(mysemid[segment],&sem_b,1)==-1) { fprintf(stderr,"semaphore_pfailed"); } printf("inside semaphore wkng inn segment %d--->",segment); fflush(stdout); //struct mystruct *myptr=(struct mystruct *)sharedptr; //struct mystruct *myptr=sharedptr; //printf("semaphoreshared memory-->%u,count-->%d\n",myptr,count); //fflush(stdout); while(1) { if(((((struct mystruct *)sharedptr)+segment)->flag)==0) { ((((struct mystruct *)sharedptr)+segment)->tid)=pthread_self(); ((((struct mystruct *)sharedptr)+segment)->count)=count; ((((struct mystruct *)sharedptr)+segment)->flag)=1; printf("process id-->%d--",pthread_self()); fflush(stdout); count++; write(sockfd,buffer,4); //if(fsync(sockfd)) // perror("fsync error"); printf("--->done main work\n"); fflush(stdout); sem_b.sem_num=0; sem_b.sem_op=1; sem_b.sem_flg=SEM_UNDO; if(semop(mysemid[segment],&sem_b,1)==-1) { fprintf(stderr,"semaphore_vfailed");perror("semv error1"); } break; //flush(sockfd); } else { printf("\nthrread -d-->%d couldnot get lock\n",pthread_self()); fflush(stdout); sem_b.sem_num=0; sem_b.sem_op=1; sem_b.sem_flg=SEM_UNDO; if(semop(mysemid[segment],&sem_b,1)==-1) { //fprintf(stderr,"semaphore_vfailed"); perror("semv error2"); } //sleep(rand()%3); } //(*myptr).hello=5; //sleep(rand()%20); //myptr->b=count; //myptr->c=count; //printf("a-->%db-->%d c-->%d\n", myptr->a, myptr->b, myptr->c); //fflush(stdout); //semaphorevoperation //sem_b.sem_num=0; //sem_b.sem_op=1; //sem_b.sem_flg=SEM_UNDO; //if(semop(sem_id,&sem_b,1)==-1) //{ //fprintf(stderr,"semaphore_vfailed"); //} /**********socket writing**********/ //write(sockfd,"hello",sizeof("hello")); } } } int main(int argc,char **argv) { /*********socket details*************************/ //char buffer[1]; struct sockaddr_in serv_addr, cli_addr; int n; if (argc < 2) { fprintf(stderr,"ERROR, no port provided\n"); exit(1); } sockfd = socket(PF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, 0); if(sockfdtid,(((struct mystruct *)sharedptr)+segment)->count); (((struct mystruct *)sharedptr)+segment)->flag=0; sem_b.sem_num=0; sem_b.sem_op=1; sem_b.sem_flg=SEM_UNDO; if(semop(mysemid[segment],&sem_b,1)==-1) { fprintf(stderr,"semaphore_vfailed"); } //if(n==1) //n = write(newsockfd,"I got your message",18); } } int main(int argc,char **argv) { int sockfd, portno, clilen; //char buffer[1]; struct sockaddr_in serv_addr, cli_addr; int n; if (argc < 2) { fprintf(stderr,"ERROR, no port provided\n"); exit(1); } sockfd = socket(PF_INET, SOCK_STREAM, 0); if (sockfd < 0) perror("ERROR creating socket"); memset( &serv_addr,0, sizeof(serv_addr)); portno = atoi(argv[1]); serv_addr.sin_family =AF_INET; serv_addr.sin_addr.s_addr =inet_addr("127.0.0.1"); serv_addr.sin_port = htons(portno); if (bind(sockfd, (struct sockaddr *) &serv_addr,sizeof(serv_addr)) < 0) perror("ERROR on binding"); listen(sockfd,50); clilen = sizeof(cli_addr); //printf("reached before while"); /****creation and intilization of semaphore and shared memory******************/ /*******semaphore******/ int i=0; for ( i=0;i

tmcclure
tmcclure

Add AT&T to your list of problems.

medfordmel
medfordmel

Well, it looks like it might make a suitable replacement for die-hard Palm Pilot users. Just not at that price point, though. Remember Palm Pilots? They were great - 10 - 15 years ago.

pcastill
pcastill

I have a WiFi iPad and I love it. One of the things I like the most is the fact that (not being it a WiFi+3G) I don't need a plan. Most of the time I am within the confines of a WiFi network so why go with a 3G plan/model? Another thing I like is the ability to get the apps with just a few click. I haven't tried the Streak, but I already don't like it. Too small to be a real tablet, out-dated OS. The form factor reminds me of the old Newton. I think that the iPad is an amazing device with a huge amount of features and characteristics that will be hard to imitate.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I lingered with my T5 for years waiting for the market to provide a real replacement. Everything seemed to be a hardware or feature downgrade until the N810 and now my N900 stomps all over my old T5 along with anything Android/Iphone I've looked at.

pastorjim
pastorjim

Although I like my iPhone4, in many ways it is still not a suitable replacement for my long succession of "Palm" devices (original Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor, Palm CE, and finally Palm TX). It's been getting harder and harder to find nice ones on eBay and soldering in new batteries got to be a real pain. I still miss them though...

LarryD4
LarryD4

Hey Jason, I got an opportunity to play with one after the UK release and I agree with your cons, expecially with the wierd slow down spots. But I am one of those that must have the Streak and I hear 2.1 will solve those probelms. The Streak is what I have been waiting for, ever since I picked up a Dell Axim I've been hooked. Its still working and is currently being used by my son with an old D-Link Air Compact Wifi card. I have been a primarily Windows Mobile user for about 10 years and have become discouraged with the lack of stuff. I'm sure Microsoft will come out with something to compete against the "app" stores, but I really love the Android OS and seems to be the logical choice. I see so many complaints about AT&T, but you wonder why its always the first choice for major vendors. AT&T's coverage is, "at the least", on par with Verizon Wireless, but I have been places where Verizon simply doesn't exist. Best scenario when I was up in Maine recently with a grammer school friend, who is a Verizon Wireless Exec, he couldn't get a signal but I could. Looking foward to Sept 9th when I can upgrade my phone and get the Streak!

jfuller05
jfuller05

that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. I didn't know that the Streak is running Android 1.6; that is undeniably odd to say the least. Also, I didn't know that it is a little sluggish, which is probably because of 1.6. Then, as you said, there are apps that won't run on the streak, again, because it's running 1.6. A portion of the cons to this device is because of its OS version. Why would Dell ship this device with a dated OS? I think Dell should be slapped for this. :) Also, the pricing should be different to if Dell wants to compete with Apple (I'm sure they do!). I mean the pricing for Wi-Fi only should be a more competitive price to the iPad.

User94327
User94327

Shortly after I purchased a Dell Axim they decided to get out of the PDA market. Dell never updated the OS on the device even though a new OS was out before they pulled the plug. After that I decided to never buy another Dell 'gadget'. They should just stick with PCs.