The mobile device market is full of smartphones, tablets and netbooks, all aimed at satisfying various consumers' ideal blends of computing power and mobility. Because innovations such as 3G and 4G connectivity -- as well as widely available WiFi access -- are only a few years old, some device design trends include a heavy dose of experimentation. Manufacturers are still figuring out what consumers want, and their offerings reflect this.
Dell isn't immune. The company offers a range of unique devices, such as the Inspiron Duo, a laptop/tablet that uses a pivoting screen to switch between keyboard and touchpad interfaces. One could argue that, given their size, the Streaks fall into the "experimental" category as well: If consumers can have small, high-resolution screens on their smartphones and large touchscreens on their tablets, will they go for a compact tablet? Dell apparently thinks so.
Dell's Streak 7 tablet comes in two versions: a less-expensive model that offers WiFi-only connectivity, and a higher-end version that lets users communicate and surf the Web using the 4G cellular network. The increased versatility and accessibility of 4G will likely win over highly mobile buyers, while cost-conscious consumers may be willing to trade connect-everywhere mobility for a lower price.
Both versions of the device offer the same internal features: An NVIDIA Tegra 2 mobile processor runs the show through the Android 2.2 operating system. While the Streak 7 comes with 16GB of internal storage space, it can be upgraded to up to 32GB using a built-in SD/MMC/SDHC memory card slot.
The Streak 7's 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) display uses capacitive multi-touch technology, which has a series of electrically sensitive layers to distinguish a fingertip touch from, say, a pen bumping the screen. The display also recognizes multiple touches at once, allowing the user to pinch, drag and twist on-screen items. It employs Gorilla Glass, a chemically strengthened glass from Corning that can stop scratches from developing into deep, display-killing scuff marks [source: Corning]. The Streak's half-inch-thick chassis also features a rear-mounted 5-megapixel autofocus camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera [source: Dell].
A 2780 mAh battery powers the 1-pound device, and has earned it a number of criticisms from reviewers. Several have complained that the Streak 7 has a roughly 3-hour battery life, compared to the 10 hours some users claim to obtain using iPads [source: Lanier].
As of late summer 2011, the 4G Streak is only available in the U.S. with service plans from cellular provider T-Mobile. As is common practice among providers, purchasing a multi-year service plan can drop the price of the Streak by about 40 percent.