Tablets optimize

Dell Streak too much like a smartphone and not enough like a tablet

The Android-based Dell Streak has solid hardware for an MP3 player, but its 5-inch screen knocks it out of the tablet/slate PC category.

(Credit: Dell)

I'm glad to see Dell and other hardware vendors jumping into the tablet/slate market. Apple may be leading the pack with its iPad, but competition will spur innovation and hopefully drive down prices.

On Tuesday, Dell released details of its latest tablet--the Dell Streak. The announcement follows months of leaks, rumors, and speculation.

Beginning in June, the Streak will be available in the UK from retailers O2 and the The Carphone Warehouse, and on Dell.co.uk. Dell will provide pricing and data plan details sometime before then. The Streak will be available in the US later this Summer.

Dell Streak specifications

Here's a break down of the Dell Streak's specs:

  • OS: Google Android with support for Android 2.2 later this year
  • Processor: 1GHz ARM-based Snapdragon
  • Screen: 5-inch multi-touch WVGA display
  • Wireless: 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooh
  • Camera: 5MP camera with LED flash and VGA front-facing camera
  • Memory: 2GB of internal memory; expandable to 32GB with Micro SD card
  • Battery: Removable

Too close to a smartphone; too far from a tablet

Looking at the Streak's specifications, the device looks like a great portable music player or smartphone (which it's not). But in my opinion, the device's 5-inch screen knocks it out of the tablet/slate PC category. This is only 1.5 inches larger than the 3.5-inch display on the iPhone 3GS and iPod touch--neither of which is called a tablet.

Early tablets

From the beginning, tablet PCs where designed to be both consumption and creation devices. The earliest tablet/slate computers were laptops with swivel screens and touch-sensitive displays (usually requiring a stylus). Some, like the HP TC1100/TR1105, were designed to be used without being tethered to a keyboard. But for the most part, these tablets were just specialized laptops.

And being laptops, these computers let you do everything you could do on a traditional computer. You could consume by browsing the Web, playing games, watching video, and listening to music. You could create by writing documents, building spreadsheets, developing software, and editing video.

Smartphones take over consumption

At the other end of the computing spectrum are smartphones. They are more portable than traditional laptops or the early tablets, and they offer superior battery life. And as the capability of mobile hardware and operating systems have grown, smartphones have assumed many of the consumption duties once reserved for traditional computers. Yet they remain limited as creation devices.

Sure, you can take photos, send emails, even view and edit documents with your smartphone. But unless you're a texting champion, I doubt you'll be writing your next 20,000-word quarterly report or building a 1,000-column financial spreadsheet via the onscreen keyboard of a device with a 3.5-inch display. It's just not efficient, or comfortable for that matter.

Apple iPad

The new tablets

Somewhere is the middle of these two extremes are the new tablet/slate devices. These devices are designed to provide a mix of portability, battery life, and computing power.

Apple currently leads this market with the iPad. And while the iPad still leans more toward consumption than creation, the device's 9.7-inch display and keyboard accessories make the process much easier than on a smartphone. Hopefully, Apple will add Bluetooth mouse support in iPhone OS 4, which will make creating on the iPad even easier.

Why not just buy a smartphone?

Unfortunately, Dell's first entrant in this new market is little more than a super-sized smartphone. It has hardware to rival the iPad, but with a 5-inch screen the Streak will be primarily a consumption device.

If you want a portable communication and consumption device, why not just buy a smartphone? If you already have a smartphone, do you really want a second device that does exactly want your smartphone does, but has a slightly larger screen? Am I missing something here?

Check out the demonstration of the Dell Streak in the following video and let me know what you think. Do small-screen devices like the Streak have a place in your tech toolbox?

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

18 comments
martyja
martyja

Its not a tablet more of a 'super smart phone' or a 'light tablet'

colt45x22
colt45x22

Guys! The ipad is essentially a big iphone with better specs. It has the same os. The main difference is screen size. "Too much like a smart phone"? If we judge by Apples criteria, tablets are smart phones stripped down of a few useful features. The phone functionality the streak has shouldn't be held against it. The fact is that with a 5 inch screen you're still gonna be doing more tablet activities than talking. Granted id use the device to replace my phone but that shouldn't be considered a bad thing. This is a hybrid device. I think that's a good thing and would easily prefer a pocketable device to a big obnoxious, inconclvenient ipad

jsaubert
jsaubert

I would say that it's not a tablet. It's a handheld/pocket device. I also wouldn't really classify it as a "PC" either. It's running a modified version of the Android OS which it still a fairly closed off OS. (Incidently I don't consider the iPad a tablet PC either for the same reason.) I feel that a tablet PC should be capable of doing just about everything a similarly priced laptop can do, minus the keyboard of course. Now as for this device itself, pending the price, this device is a bit more up my alley than the iPad, which seems to be what it is aiming to compete with. It's smaller size is still pocket-able and I wouldn't have to plan extra space to carry it. And it still has the G3 and Bluetooh I want; we'll see on the cost and service provider for that G3. But it still is in that grey-area of "Why do I need this?" that the iPad falls into. It doesn't replace or combine anything I own or plan to own.

JimboInChi
JimboInChi

With it's ability to still be carried in a (albeit large) pocket -AND- make phone calls, this is the ULTIMATE smartphone for the over-40 set!! Small enough to carry, big enough to see! The problem is, though they are the folks with all the money, they just aren't sexy enough / hip enough to bother marketing to. Oh yeah, and the microSD card slot is a huge advantage, too... When are the Madison Ave types going to realize that there are more 53yr olds, born at the height of the baby boom in 1957, than any other group of people - AND THEY HAVE MONEY! Most 20/30-somethings are raising a family and are scraping along, while some 50's are seeing free money for the first time in their lives, after seeing kids thru college.

eschmitigal
eschmitigal

This may be wiat us over 50 year old have been waiting for. Now will it connect to an external keyboard and an external monitor and a USB hard drive?

jfuller05
jfuller05

Really, I don't think it's contending directly against the iPad; the Streak seems to be creating it's own category between smarthone and tablet! While it looks cool, I probably won't purchase one due to it being a larger, more powerful smartphone. Hey Dell, why?

DadsPad
DadsPad

I can get a smart phone!! If the price is low and the GPS quality is good, could be a real seller. Unless Dell does it's usual and over price this, I can see this replacing people's portable GPS with a more usefull device. But the price must be $200 or less (like most GPS prices today) to capture a really big market share.

sbr
sbr

Maybe Apple didn't get i right? The Streak looks as large as a pocketable device can get, and that could be a key differentiator - the pocketability.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

In the above TR Dojo post, I argue that while the Dell Streak (an Android-base tablet the company will release this summer) looks like a solid mobile device, I don't think it should be called a tablet. The Streak's 5-inch display makes it little more than a super-sized smartphone. What do you think? Would you buy a device like the Streak if you already had a smartphone? Would you choose the Streak over a tablet with a larger screen, like the Apple iPad? Read my arguments, watch the Dell Streak demo video, and then let me know what you think. Post and poll: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1773

jruby
jruby

I'm part of the 50+ crowd who wants to be connected 7x24 and makes new technology an integral part of my life. I love the connectivity of smart phones, but I'm getting tired of digging out my reading glasses to surf on those itsy bitsy screens - I'll give Dell kudos for going with a screen large enough to see without being too large for portability. Now if I can only convince corporate to let me swap my Blackberry for one of these...

dougogd
dougogd

tablet that fits in their pocket. Show me a pocket that fits an ipad.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I've used the GPS on the Motorola Droid, and it works quite well. It even "speaks" the directions like traditional GPS systems. Why not just use your smartphone's built-in GPS?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I think that the Dell Streak is definitely a "pocket". Back in the day, we called those things PDAs. "Tablet and slate" are today's buzz words, so I understand Dell wanting to brand the Streak as a tablet. I just think they're trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

Adept!
Adept!

Unfortunatley This is unable to compete with the iphone. Although the screen is large and the web browser fast, these benefits are outweighed by the great number of downfalls. Ony one web page can be opend at a time, pinch and grab does not work well, the keyboard is not as responsive as Apple's and the list continues, unfortunatley this in my eyes cannot compete with either the iphone or the ipad. Back to iphone i go. http://www.adeptwindowcleaning.com

dougogd
dougogd

what a tablet does. Many people don't like the tablets because they are too big to fit in their pocket. They figure if it won't fit in their pocket then it had better be a laptop.

Brenton Keegan
Brenton Keegan

I think it's a hybrid. The thing with tablets is they aren't 'pocketable' so they really fall into the laptop catagory... an underpowered keyboardless laptop. my biggest qualm with 'smart phones' (ie phones as computers essentially) is that they were too small. I think this has potential as it is pocketable but provides a better 'computing' experience.

gbyshenk
gbyshenk

I'd suggest that, to the extent a 'Tablet PC' defines a specific type of device, the Streak really is not one. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing for the Streak. To the extent that 'Tablet PC' defines a device, one could say that it means something that is almost as big as a netbook or mini-notebook, but less powerful than a smartphone. And, as I noted elsewhere , it is not clear (at least to me) whether there is any real demand for such things -- at least once the gadget novelty wears off. It may be to the Streak's -advantage- that it is a sort of 'super-smartphone'. As the video indicates, one can use it to -replace- one's phone, and that means its limitations are a lot less limiting. I suspect that its success or failure will depend on whether it is portable enough to truly replace a phone; that is, if it can be the device that one carries without thinking about it.