Let's start with the basics: the main specs on our unit include Android 1.6 (which will definitely be obsolete for the final product), five-inch 800 x 480 capacitive touchscreen, Snapdragon QSD8250 chipset (with CPU clocked at 1GHz), Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS and WCDMA radio. Sadly, we have no info on whether the Mini 5 will have other cellular radio options, but it wouldn't hurt to send Dell a petition regarding this matter. For those who want the dimensions and weight in numbers, it's about 152mm x 78mm x 10mm at 8 ounces (including the battery, which lasts for almost a day for normal usage on 3G). Memory-wise there's 405MB RAM and 1.63GB of internal storage -- a slight let-down for the latter, so let's hope the retail unit will be given a more generous dose of silicon. You can add a microSD card next to the battery on the back, but it appears that the mysterious second card slot we saw in the earlier teardown only gave us false hope -- we couldn't find a way to get to it without prying open the housing. Connection to your computer relies on a proprietary port -- similar but slightly larger than the iPod's -- to USB cable, which may suggest that we will see some more peripherals made for the Mini 5 and its future siblings.
Dell Mini 5 / Streak prototype impressions
Software, buttons and keyboard
We won't bore you with a full list of preinstalled Android apps on our Mini 5, but there are indeed a few that are worth mentioning: the usual bundle including Google Mail, YouTube, Amazon MP3, WebKit browser (with pinch-to-zoom but no Flash support), Google Maps (no pinch-to-zoom, boo!), K-9 Mail (which supports Exchange server) and Quickoffice (a file browser that can also view Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents). For multimedia there's the standard Android music app, a Gallery app by ArcSoft (pinch-to-zoom supported), and a three-year trial of the forthcoming CyberLink Live for Android that gives you "instant access to your photos, music, and video stored on your home computers." There's no social networking integration (like MOTOBLUR and Sense) as such, but you can use the preloaded Meebo IM for chatting on AIM, Facebook, Google Talk, ICQ, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo, etc. If you want to be discrete about your gigantic phone, you may find the Voice Control app by Nuance handy for voice-dialing -- it can be triggered by holding down the button on the bundled handsfree earphones.
Going back to the homescreen, we see that Dell's done some skinning -- the top bar houses a button for triggering the apps menu (unlike the traditional pull-up menu on most other Android devices), along with a homescreen switcher button and notifications button. The shortcut icons are contained in shaded grey squares. Only a couple of widgets got our attention: Power Control allows us to quickly change the screen brightness and turn on / off various wireless connections, while the cute TasKiller widgets let us kill apps one by one or all in one go. The widgets for Twitter, Facebook and RSS are useful, but like those on other Android phones, they still lack options for refresh rates. Any chance that we can have enhanced versions, Dell?
Given the MID form factor and that gorgeous five-inch screen, we immediately loaded a few MP4 videos of various resolutions (1080p, 720p and 480p) to see what the Mini 5 could take. Annoyingly, our Mini 5's default video player could only handle MP4V video codec, so we had to convert our test videos, including the MP4 files that were compiled by iMovie (which encodes in H.264). On the contrary, Carrypad's heard from Dell at MWC that the final product will support "H.264 and other codecs." Even then, the device failed to open our 1080p files, but that's not the end of the world considering 720p is already plentiful for the 800 x 480 screen -- we had a 7Mbps 720p video playing smoothly with just the odd stutter. On a similar matter, the preloaded YouTube app performed nicely for us, except for the lack of higher quality playback options to make full use of the large screen.
Moving on to audio: the Mini 5 has a mono speaker on the back that sounds loud and surprisingly clear, but naturally, the bundled earphones sound even better -- we'd scale it to somewhere between the levels of the iPod buds and Apple's in-ear headphones. Fans of stereo Bluetooth headphones will be pleased to know that our Mini 5 supports A2DP and AVRCP, which are particularly useful for devices of such size.
Dell Mini 5 prototype camera photo samples
Understandably, most people are concerned about whether this 5-inch tablet would fit inside their pocket. We're happy to tell you that it snuggled nicely in our jeans' pockets, which is most likely to do with the device's sensible thickness and our lack of tight pants. Apart from the slight exposure (as pictured below) and the occasional struggle when walking up stairs, we've had no other issues with pocketing our Mini 5. A more popular concern would be whether you'd look like a dork when holding the monstrous phone right next to your face. To be honest, it's not too bad, except the user would most likely be more concious about the size, simply because you'd have to stretch your fingers a bit to accommodate the unusually large footprint and weight -- you can see the size better demoed in the earlier walkthrough video. Just keep that to yourself and you'll be fine -- so far most blokes who've seen and touched our Mini 5 have said they want one, so this phone is already quite the masculine symbol. And yes, the phone makes a great tool for chatting up the ladies, too (although they've all said it's too big and heavy after playing with it; perhaps the Mini 3 will strike their fancy?).
Dell may not be the first to forage into the scene of oversized smartphones (see HTC Advantage and HTC Universal), but it looks like the combination of Android, Snapdragon, 3G affordability and resurrection of the tablet trend may give the Mini 5 a great potential. We found the five-inch form factor to be neither too big nor too small, perfect for browsing the web, watching videos (watch out, Archos 5!), car navigation and reading ebooks on the go. Even the battery life matches most current 3G phones, despite the larger screen and faster CPU.
- Great screen with wide viewing angle
- Good overall build quality
- Intuitive Android skin
- Weak camera performance
- Unstable early firmware
- Offset keyboard due to numeric keypad