Dell Streak with Android 2.2 review
When we first reviewed the Dell Streak we had some reservations, largely due to shipping with Android 1.6. In December 2010, however, Dell finally updated the software to Android 2.2, and we’ve been using it on a day-to-day basis for the past month.
Perhaps surprisingly, the change in underlying OS makes a big difference in a number of ways. In the main the changes are for the good – it’s now a much faster machine – but we do have some reservations about the impact on battery life. It’s enough to earn the device a recommendation, but note its weaknesses before you blow your cash.
There are four key areas that see a change: performance, battery life, the user interface and the keyboard.
If you want one simple reason why the Streak is now much better, just try loading Angry Birds. Under 1.6 it was usable but jerky; with the speed boost on offer from the upgrade to Android 2.2, which seems to fully unleash the power of Qualcomm’s 1GHz Snapdragon 8250 processor, it’s just as smooth as on an iPhone.
More objectively, version 2.2 completed SunSpider in 6 seconds compared to 18 seconds in its previous version. The BBC homepage (the full desktop version) loaded in 9 seconds compared to 11 seconds – another improvement, albeit small.
The key, though, is that we never felt frustrated by the Streak’s speed under Android 2.2. It was more than fast enough for any app that we threw at it.
If only we could be so positive about battery life. This is the Achilles’ heel of the Streak with 2.2 installed: our 24-hour test involves a 30-minute voice call, downloading a 50MB file over Wi-Fi, forcing the screen on for an hour, listening to music for an hour, and using the Gmail application set to defaults to poll a test email account for the remaining time.
With 1.6 on board, the Streak had 60% of charge remaining after 24 hours. With 2.2, this dropped to 50% (to be strictly accurate, 46%, but we round to the nearest 10% to account for the lack of accuracy within most battery meters).
In real-world-use, you’ll be recharging it far too often, especially if you use background services. For example, we used both the Twitter and Facebook apps that sit on one of the home screens, and it was quite normal for the charge to drop from around 40% to almost nothing (or sometimes, nothing) overnight.
We have mixed feelings about the new user interface. The original didn’t have a huge number of differences compared to a “raw” Android installation, but the minor enhancements worked. For instance, you could click an always-present dropdown to quickly jump into settings or to access all the applications.
With 2.2, Dell has made more of its own mark, courtesy of the Stage interface. This translates into seven different homepages, each with its own theme: Web, for instance, shows five recently visited websites and offers a Google search box; Music includes thumbnails of the ten previous albums you listened to, and includes shortcuts to playlists and albums.
While that does give consistency with Dell’s other touch-based systems (such as on its Inspiron Duo), we missed the shortcuts of 1.6. If you need to head into settings, you now need to leap out of your app, and find settings in the list of apps (or add it as a shortcut to one of the homepages).
One big improvement is the keyboard, courtesy of Swype. In its first incarnation of the Streak, Dell used its own cramped onscreen keyboard with a number pad on the right. That could be convenient, but it also meant the keys were very small. As a result, text entry was quite slow except for the most nimble-fingered.
|Warranty||2yr collect and return|
|Dimensions||152 x 10 x 79mm (WDH)|
|Resolution screen horizontal||800|
|Resolution screen vertical||480|
|CPU frequency, MHz||1,000MHz|
|Camera megapixel rating||5.0mp|
|Built-in flash type||Dual-LED|
|Upstream USB ports||0|
|Mobile operating system||Android 2.2|