Review: Dell's 4G Streak on T-Mobile

January 31, 2011: 11:34 PM ET

Good, but probably not good enough.

If you can somehow see through the Honeycomb hysteria going on currently, you'll notice that another Android 2.2 tablet was released today.  The Dell (DELL) Streak 7" tablet on T-Mobile is notable because it is the first to use a 4G network (quite well, I might add) and has a dual-core Nvidia Tegra processor, the same processor all of the fancy phones and tablets are going to have next quarter.

The most obvious competition for this device is the 7" Samsung Galaxy Tab (reviewed here), which also runs Android 2.2 and is on all four U.S. carriers, including T-Mobile, though it doesn't take advantage of T-Mobile's higher speeds -- yet.  I enjoyed using the Galaxy Tab and this is a little lighter (smaller battery) and a little longer.  The Streak's cameras and buttons are built for landscape mode while the Tab is a portrait by design. Instinctively, I found myself using landscape more because of this.

Turning on the Streak, you'll immediately notice its inferior screen with 800x480 pixels compared to the Tab's 1024x600 display.  The colors are also a bit more washed out and the angles feel inferior. The touch screen also doesn't seem as sensitive as some touches didn't register the first time. This happens on all touch devices, but it was certainly more pronounced on the Streak.  The Streak operates plenty quick, however, and the included Asphalt 5 racing demo (why all of the crapware?!) ran perfectly.

Most applications ran fine because the Steak has the same resolution as most Android phones.  There is no scaling like the Samsung Galaxy Tab needs for its bigger resolution.

The Streak only has three front-facing buttons where the Tab has an extra fourth button for search like most phones.  I'm not sure why Dell omitted the search button, but it is kind of a pain in the backside.

Good, not great.

Browsing on the Streak is fine but I still miss the extra pixels on the Tab.  The same holds true with Gmail and other main apps.  This is, quite literally, a big phone with big pixels.

"Good, not great" is kind of the theme here and the battery is no exception.  While my Tab would last about 8 hours of significant use (and even more since the 3G was turned off), the Dell tablet is closer to 5-6 hours depending on use.  I'm not sure how big a part the dual-core processor and smaller battery plays in this, but it is a noticeable difference.

There were some good points however.  The antenna was amazing.  I got 4G in my home for the first time on T-Mobile and in places where I can't with other 4G T-Mobile devices, like the G2 or the MyTouch 4G.  The network was fast and reliable and I rarely dropped down to 3G or EDGE at all in and around New York City.  Download speeds felt very Wifi-ish on 4G.

The Tegra 2 processor is "future-proofed" a bit -- meaning that if and when Dell gets around to putting Honeycomb on it, it will be ready.  Samsung's single core processor may or may not get Honeycomb.  Also, Dell has a bad reputation when it comes to upgrades.  If you have a Dell Streak 5 on AT&T you are most likely still on Android 1.6.  Need I say more?

The hardware build quality is surprisingly good as well.  The gorilla glass screen and buttons feel really solid.  This thing can withstand some falls just as well, if not better, than the Tab.  The camera is also solid, though I didn't attempt any 1080P movies.  Think high-end smartphone camera.  The front-facing camera worked fine in a Qik...er Skype conversation.

Recommendation: These last few weeks and months before the Honeycomb tablets come out are going to be a weird time.  Smart money is going to wait for the Motorola XOOM and other Honeycomb tablets.

If you need a tablet now, you are going to have to buy one with Android 2.2 and hope your manufacturer and carrier decide to be snappy about updating to Honeycomb.  Dell has about the worst record of updating ever so I can't recommend people buy this in anticipation of Android 3.0.  Samsung isn't much better.  Most of their Galaxy line is still on Android 2.1.  Viewsonic offers a bigger G-Tablet that can be found for $380 without carrier hassles.

On the other hand, if you are just looking for a snappy little tablet with a nice build and mediocre specs, you could do worse than the Dell Streak 4G.  You can buy it outright for $400 (which is $200 less than a Galaxy Tab -- a solid price point in my opinion).  T-Mobile offers it for $199 with a two-year commitment, but in a year, this thing will be obsolete.  Trust me.

Specs
  • Size: 7.9 x 4.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Weight:17.6 ounces
  • Included battery: 2780 mah
  • Talk time:n/a; supports up to 4 hours of continuous video play back time
  • Standby time: Up to 3 days
  • Band (frequency):850 MHz;900 MHz;1800 MHz;1900 MHz;2100
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About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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