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Dell Streak with Android 2.1 update exclusive preview: 720p video capture, better keyboard, and more


We've got some good news and some bad news for fellow Streak-wielding chums. The bad news is that said Dell tabletphone won't be getting its Froyo update in September -- well, in the UK at least. The good news, however, is that O2 will be squeezing out a 2.1 firmware to fill the void around early next month, which probably implies that the unlocked devices will also get the update slightly earlier, if not at the same time. Now, Dell's lightning demo of the Streak's Eclair build last week might have been a tad underwhelming, but as we found out in the software exclusively sent to us today, turns out there's actually more than just a new unlock screen and live wallpaper support. Read on to find out.

Update: Since you guys asked, here are some benchmark scores we obtained: 6.949 MFLOPS on Linpack, 767 on Quadrant, 30fps on Fps2D, and 3521 on An3DBench. Certainly a welcomed improvement from Pocketables' 1.6 scores.

Gallery: Dell Streak with Android 2.1 update preview | 9 Photos

Let's start off with something that's been bugging us the most: the virtual keyboard. Yep, you guessed right -- the numpad and caps lock key are finally gone for good, and it really has made typing a hell of a lot easier. That said, we're still hoping for some multitouch goodness on the keyboard -- get that in and we'll quit moaning. Speaking of multitouch, you'll be pleased to know that Google Maps now does pinch-to-zoom! It sure took Dell a while, but hey, let's just be happy about this fix. Another late addition is the text description in the calendar app's week view mode, meaning we no longer need to tap and hold down on those colorful blocks to see what they're about. If none of these new features have wowed you yet, then head over to the dialer app, which has now been given a new skin that's indisputably more stylish, plus you can now also pull up your contacts and favorites lists within the same app. Nice work, Dell.

As for multimedia features, the 2.1 firmware now comes with Android's default gallery app -- as seen on the Nexus One -- that links up to Picasa as well, although the trade-off is that it's missing out on the handy photo and video filters featured beforehand. On the contrary, the music player app only received a fairly minor UI tweak (the content listing page now expands when prompted to fit in more items), but here's what got us excited: Dell's now fixed the remote control bug -- we no longer have to switch on the screen to skip tracks by double-clicking the handsfree button.

The camera app received a fairly heavy revamp. Firstly, you'll now have to drag the left tray out for the camera settings, which some may find to be a bit fiddly. Secondly, rather than having a column of thumbnails for previously captured photos and videos, the new app only shows the last shot. Fortunately, the third point may just about make up for these shortcomings -- the camcorder can now capture in 720p! Mind you, there's no improvement in picture quality as far as we can tell, but we should at least be grateful to see some HD filming action on the Streak. Anyhow, here's a 720p sample clip we captured earlier (be sure to switch on HD playback):

Finally, the homescreen. Like before, you're still forced to hold the device in landscape, which isn't what everyone prefers. We're also perplexed by Dell's decision to now space out the icons horizontally, meaning the screen can now only accommodate 24 icons instead of 32 at a time. Similarly, Dell's made its own RSS and music player widgets a tad wider, and consequently we can no longer fit two of these widgets into one homescreen (we used to have one homescreen dedicated to two news feeds, for instance). Speaking of which, Dell's also changed the homescreen switcher (the second taskbar button from the left) into a "Recent Applications" list. There's no doubt that some users will benefit from this tweak, but on the other hand, there's nothing more annoying than swiping across five homescreens to reach your desired widget.

So, despite the aforementioned flaws, overall this 2.1 update will still bring many great changes to the Streak, and hopefully Dell can iron out those kinks in the coming weeks. As for Froyo, well, we can only speculate a release date at least a month or two after the Eclair update.

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