No matter how you slice it, the Streak 7 looks like a giant Streak (the 5-inch version, that is), and that's not necessarily a bad thing considering we've always had a thing for those tapered sides and its fairly rigid, plastic build. Dell's obviously trying to maintain a similar design across all the Streak family members, although it's also brought in some cues from the Venue
and Venue Pro
relatives -- the rear cover has the same textured diamond pattern as the smartphones. We like how it feels in the hand, but unlike the original Streak, the back doesn't house a removable battery. That actually turns out to be an incredible bummer given what you're about to find out about the battery life farther down in this review.
While many slate makers are moving towards the 10-inch form factor, we're still appreciative of the portability of the 7-inch variety. (Yes, so much so that some of us are even dying for a 7-inch iPad
.) Like the Galaxy Tab
or Archos 7
, the Streak 7 lends itself much better to one-handed use than the iPad or any of the other 10-inch tablets we've tested. We loved being able to comfortably hold the 0.48-inch Streak up when reading a book in bed or wrapping both our hands around the 0.9-pound tablet and being able to use our thumbs to type.
Apart from the three capacitive buttons (back, menu, and home), mic, and camera on the front of the tablet, Dell's kept the design very clean. A plastic latch on the right edge, which can be hard to open if you don't have long nails, hides the SD and SIM card slots. The top of the device has a power button and volume rocker, and the left edge a 3.5mm headphone jack. Disappointingly, there's no HDMI output on the device itself; Dell will offer a separate dock that will attach to the PDMI port on the bottom of the device. A quick word on the PDMI port -- it is the same as the one on the original Streak, and because there's no other USB port on the tablet, you've got to have the cord handy to either charge it or connect it to computer to sideload files. Also, our review unit hasn't been charging via USB -- you have to plug it into the wall via its AC adapter. Yeah, it's pretty annoying.
When powered off, the Streak 7 looks like it has virtually the same display as the Galaxy Tab. Both have highly glossy, 7-inch Gorilla Glass screens that feel incredibly smooth to the touch. However, that all changes when you turn them on. In comparison to the Galaxy's 1024 x 600 resolution display, the Streak's 800 x 480 panel just looks cheap, and the experience is definitely felt when browsing, reading, looking at photos, or watching a high-definition clip. In a side-by-side comparison of the same photo, the Streak 7 just looked low-rate in comparison to the Tab's crisp rendering. Yep, it's pretty much a Pixel Density Enthusiast
Even more noticeable is how much brighter the Galaxy Tab's display is. Hands down, Samsung went with a better quality panel than Dell, and it really makes a huge difference considering, you know, the entire tablet experience is centered around the screen. That quality also translates to mediocre viewing angles -- when held horizontally at about 45 degrees, colors start to fade to black. Vertical viewing is better, although in comparison to the Galaxy Tab's screen, which can be seen at virtually every angle, it's yet again just second rate. Beyond all the actual viewing quality issues, the capacitive screen is extremely responsive, and it, along with the Tegra 2 processor, keeps it responding to our taps and flicks quickly. The accelerometer was equally as snappy, though we wish there was a quicker way to disable it than having to go through the display settings menu.
While most tablets announced at this year's CES
wait on Google's release of Android 3.0 Honeycomb
, which has been designed for tablets, Dell's gone ahead and released the Streak 7 with Android 2.2. We're well aware that there are no Honeycomb tablets shipping yet, but there's something about the Streak that just feels rushed to market, and that experience is even more pronounced when you realize Dell didn't do anything on top of the OS to make it more tablet friendly.
The software experience is the exact same as that on the original Dell's Streak and Venue -- it consists of the Stage UI, which includes Dell's own full-screen widgets and launcher. The widgets are actually useful -- the Home pulls in the local weather and recently used apps, Social your Twitter or Facebook feed, Web a search bar and thumbnails of your bookmarks, and Gallery locally stored pictures. The good news here is that if they aren't your thing, you can easily delete them and customize the panes with regular Android widgets and apps. The launcher at the bottom provides easy access to the browser, app tray, and mail app. We've been trying to figure out how you can customize the launcher, but we haven't come up with a solution yet.
On the topic of that mail app, it nor any of the other native apps, like the calendar or messaging, have been revamped to take advantage of the extra screen real estate. Unlike Samsung, Dell's done no retooling here to take advantage of the larger screen, though considering the resolution is the same as the Streak, it may have just figured it didn't really need to. If we had to sum up the software package, we'd say that you're really just dealing with an oversized smartphone experience here, and while a few months ago that may have been enough for Android tablet seekers, that's about to change as soon as Google releases Honeycomb in the coming days or weeks.
Dell preloads the Steak with quite a few applications. Ours came with BrainPOP (a educational game for kids), Zinio (a magazine app), Kindle, Let's Golf, Blockbuster and Slacker Radio. T-Mobile also throws on its T-Mobile TV and Qik Video Chat apps. It also comes with Swype, though the size of the device lends itself quite nicely to regular thumb typing.