The Droid X
is an extraordinarily imposing device -- so for us to be able to say that the Streak dwarfs
the Droid X is making one hell of a statement. It's clear that Dell expects you to generally hold it in a landscape orientation (more on this in the software section), and in that respect, it works fine for users of any hand size; if you imagine the way you'd normally hold a PSP (a real one, not a Go), you're on the right track. Be that as it may, there are definitely times when you'll want to hold it portrait, and for that Herculean operation, you'll need the hands of a yeti. Actually, that's a bit of an overstatement -- we'd consider our hands just a little bigger than average, and we were able to get a comfortable grip on it, though trying to reach every corner of the display with your thumb is a tricky affair at best.
At 10mm, the Streak is among the thinnest smartphones around, but the effect of that thinness is amplified by the device's surface area. In other words, it feels even thinner than it actually is. As we'd noted in our review, as long as you're not wearing tight pants (or pants with unusually small pockets), it's totally pocketable without too much drama or bulge; a good rule of thumb is that if the 4.3-inch Droid X or EVO 4G
fit for you, the Streak should fit, too, particularly thanks to the curved edges and glossy, slippery surfaces. It's a good thing that it's so easily concealed, because it's a serious conversation piece when it's out -- a testament to the fact that there's seriously nothing else quite like it in the market today. Seriously, strangers of all types will come up to you and want to know what the heck it is you're tapping on, so be prepared for that.
Talking a little bit more about the Streak's materials and construction, we can't overstate it: it's a simply gorgeous phone, truly one of the prettiest we've ever seen. Dell has done a magnificent job of blending the Gorilla Glass
display almost completely flush with its surroundings in such a way that it appears to be a solid, uninterrupted sheet of curved, glossy blackness -- an effect similar to that achieved by the Palm Pre
, but with far more reassuring levels of construction and quality here. In fact, the Streak really feels more like a computer than a phone in some respects, a testament to Dell's traditional comfort zone. That said, we did have a couple concerns; first, the plastic caps that sit on either side of the display had a tendency to creak when pressed, particularly the top one where the earpiece and front-facing camera are located. That's not a big deal since you don't really have a valid reason to be pressing too hard on these parts of the phone, but a bigger concern lies with the display itself: pressing on it with anything more than a light touch causes some LCD rippling around the edges, a sign that it's taking more stress than it should.
Controls and ports on the Streak are fairly standard for an Android device with a couple notable exceptions. The capacitive buttons below the display (or to the right side of it, depending on the orientation) are capacious and work really well. Strangely, though, there's no dedicated search key among the trio, a strange omission for any
Android phone, let alone one with this much room across; we thought "no big deal" at first, but we did actually find ourselves regularly missing it. More importantly, though, the Streak eschews the nearly universal micro-USB port for a wacky custom one -- it kind of resembles an iPod connector, but without the ubiquity or the availability of hundreds of compatible crappy alarm clock docks. Apple, of course, can get away with pretending micro-USB doesn't exist because it's cultivated its own widely-popular standard over the last decade, and by now, most people have an iPod cable or three lying around. Dell, however, can't
get away with it. The fact that we couldn't use our already-connected cables to charge the Streak or transfer files to and from our PC drove us nuts, never mind the fact that you're stuck buying accessories and spare cables -- likely at jacked-up prices -- straight from the source or from whatever relatively small third-party ecosystem develops to support this phone. Of course, the advantage to the proprietary connector is that you can purchase an awesome dock for the Streak that features HDMI-out and a USB port, and that's totally fine, Dell -- just give us a micro-USB port on the phone, too.
The Streak's display is fantastic. It's not quite as vibrant or bright as an AMOLED device or an iPhone 4, but it's exceptionally usable outdoors and has some of the best touch sensitivity we've ever experienced -- there were actually a couple cases where we had to prove to ourselves that we were even making contact with the display with our fingertips when taps were being registered (turns out they were, but just barely). Dell makes great use of the screen's real estate, too; even though its 800 x 480 resolution is no higher than, say, a Nexus One, the Streak uses lower-resolution screen elements (icons and the like) so that you can fit far more on the screen at one time -- and because it's five inches across, you can really take advantage of it. Sure, you can make out individual pixels in some of the fonts and icons, but so what? We'll take being able to see twelve Gmail items on the screen at once with message body previews (pictured above on the right, versus a Droid X on the left) any day over higher pixel density.
Mirroring our British colleague's sentiments, we were a little underwhelmed by camera performance and disappointed that video capture tops out with VGA. Shots were generally oversaturated, seemed heavily compressed, and just generally looked like they came off a cheap sensor with poor optics; the standard-def videos didn't fare much better, hampered by mediocre sound quality. That all may not be an issue for many users -- especially since a phone as big as the Streak doesn't really make for the most convenient camera -- but considering that many modern smartphones like the Droid Incredible
, EVO 4G, iPhone 4
, and N8
are all delivering high-def video capture and superb stills, it's still a bummer. We also had some strange issues with the automatic white balance delivering stratospherically high color temperature indoors (check out our sample shot of the iPhone 4 in the gallery), and were confused to see that the phone offers no automatic flash control -- you've got to trigger the dual LEDs yourself if you think you need them.