Rounded and sleek, the Dell Streak 2.2 comes in shiny black or red. However, its in-between size means this isn’t a isn’t a very pocket-friendly phone
Dell has also added its own interface, Stage, which is really just a collection of custom widgets. Android 2.2 adds some powerful new features to the Streak
Dell Streak v.2 has the same hardware as its predecessor – five-inch capacitive touch-screen, WVGA display, five-megapixel camera and 16GB of memory
The Stage UI runs smoothly and adds some user-friendly new features and widgets
The battery life has had a phenomenal boost and lasted easily through the day with 3G and Wi-Fi on the whole time
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:59:49 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
New widgets and user-friendly setup with Dell?s Stage UI, Google Navigation, camera produces clear snaps, Swype keyboard for faster, fluid typing
No smart dialling, slight lag in touch-screen, five-inch screen makes it too big as a phone but a touch too small as a tablet
Great as the Android operating system is, one of its biggest issues is the speed at which updates are released – and therefore, the speed at which a device is outdated. The Dell Streak was one such device. Originally launched last year on the elderly Android 1.6, it was missing a lot of smart features on the subsequent upgrades made available not long after its launch. So now it’s been re-released, not just with the latest Froyo version of Android, but with Dell’s custom Stage interface overlaid for a device that plays quite differently to the original.
Dell Streak v.2 has the same hardware as its predecessor – five-inch capacitive touch-screen, WVGA display, five-megapixel camera and 16GB of memory. In fact, if you already own a Dell Streak you can get all the new features via an over the air update. There’s a 3.5mm audio jack so you can plug in your own headphones, though Dell also bundles a decent pair of ear buds with the Streak. Rounded and sleek, it comes in shiny black or red, with a slide-off metal battery cover. This cover comes off rather easily – which was actually quite annoying because the device turns off every time it happens, and we often found it sliding off accidentally. The charging port sits on a long end, so you can place it on a media dock to charge and play video at the same time. Speaking of charging, the battery life has had a phenomenal boost and lasted easily through the day with 3G and Wi-Fi on the whole time.
The Android 2.2 OS has some powerful new features – the ability to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot, native sync to Microsoft Exchange email and support for Flash online video, among others. However, the OS also seems to be a little heavy for the Streak’s 1GHz processor, as the touch-screen wasn’t as responsive as we would’ve liked, with the odd unrecognised input and a tiny lag sometimes. This is an issue we’ve found in a number of Android 2.2 phones, however, and in general, the UI is smooth enough. That five-inch touch-screen that is such a point of contention – is it a giant phone or tiny tablet? – means it’s not too comfortable to hold to your ear for a phone call (we had to use a handsfree instead) and Dell hasn’t made it any easier by still not including smart dialling where you can type the first few letters of a contact’s name for auto-suggestions. On the flip side, it’s even better as a messaging machine. Not only do you get a nice comfortable QWERTY keyboard in both portrait and landscape orientation, Dell has preloaded Swype, the new typing app hitherto only found on a couple of other Android devices. Instead of regular tap-tap typing, you drag your finger from letter to letter to spell your intended word. The accuracy is astounding, and we worked up excellent speed after a few goes on the keyboard.
Android 2.2 isn’t the only upgrade – Dell has also added its own interface, Stage, which is really just a collection of custom widgets, six home screens to the OS’s native five, and a new set up process that prompts you to input your Facebook, Twitter and email accounts for a full contact sync. This usefully asks if you want to sync all friends, or only the friends who are already in your Contacts list (and therefore you already have a phone number for). It’ll also ‘remember’ favourites you’ve starred on other Android phones and populate a favourites widget here, where you can tap a photo to call, text, email or Facebook message a friend. There’s also a social widget that lets you add a Facebook or Twitter account, but not both in one feed – to view updates from both networks, you’d have to add two widgets. Also of note is a live updating box showing your recently used apps, with a column showing the current weather in your location. Music and video have also received a boost with their own widgets. The video widget Dell Video Stage lets you preview and buy videos as well, while the video player supports the popular formats – WMV, MPG4, H.264 – but not DivX, the increasingly common format for downloaded video. On start up the phone has a default selection of widgets on its home screens, but you can customise them with any widgets or app shortcuts. There’s a neat feature where you can tap the base of each home screen to bring up a non-customisable shortcut toolbar for browser, all programs and the dialer.
One of our favourite features on the old Streak was its sat nav capabilities – great screen, fast A-GPS and Google Maps. What kept it from being a true sat nav replacement was the lack of any real driving navigation. That’s all changed with the Froyo update, which adds the Google Navigation beta and voice directions. Voice control lets you speak destinations and search terms. The camera has also received a boost, producing clear, colour-true snaps whether we were capturing people or landscape photos. There are fewer options for adjusting your virtual lens though, with sharpness, resolution and scene modes now missing. We’re left with white balance and brightness, though that should only bother those who are buying a phone with its camera capabilities a priority. The 720p video capture will be new to Streak 1.6 owners (it is part of Android 2.1) and produces reasonable video, though with the same inability to capture fast motion as most cameras in a mobile.
The new look Dell Streak is a big step up from the Android 1.6 version, and even the later 2.1 one. The Stage UI runs smoothly and adds some user-friendly new features and widgets. Its in-between size means this isn’t a device for everyone – after all, this isn’t a very pocket-friendly phone, and if you’re going to need two devices, many people would prefer a slightly larger tablet – but taken as is, this is a well-executed update that can stand up to the very latest superphones on market.