How the Dell Streak Tablets Work

The Dell Streak 7 tablet, outfitted with Android 2.2 (Froyo).
Image courtesy of Dell Inc.

It is almost impossible to have a conversation about mobile computing that doesn't mention tablets. Lighter than a laptop, more powerful than a smartphone, these touchscreen-interface devices have quickly become the darlings of the compute-on-the-move crowd, thanks in no small part to the growing number of devices on the market.

Tablets fill a sort of middle role in the computing world. Some users may look to them as lightweight, long-running replacements for the laptops they once used to surf the Web, take notes in meetings and read ebooks and online documents. Others may see them as a more user-friendly way to check e-mail, watch videos and peruse social media sites than small-screened smartphones. Because of these different user purposes, manufacturers are producing tablets in a range of sizes and offering a variety of features.

Dell aimed more toward the smartphone-replacement side of the tablet market when it released the Streak 5 in November 2010. Reviewers commented about the device's 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) screen size, frequently asking if the device would be more fittingly called a smartphone rather than a tablet [source: King, Lai]. Marketing and publicity snags surrounding the launch disappointed some tech industry commentators, with some articles focusing less on the product itself than on Dell's apparent problems releasing it [source: Newman].

The Streak 5 was joined -- and eventually replaced -- by the Streak 7 in March 2011. The Streak 7, which sports a larger, 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) screen and the Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system preinstalled [Streak 5s could be upgraded to 2.2 from 1.6 (Donut)], is the largest Streak available in the U.S. as of August 2011. A 10-inch version of the tablet went on sale in China in July 2011, but no release date has been announced for the U.S. [source: Crothers].

Where do the Streak tablets fit into the mobile computing marketplace? They offer many of the features associated with other tablets: touchscreen interfaces, audio and video computing power and easy mobile online access. But their size -- especially the smaller Streak 5 -- seems to set them apart from the typical 10-inch (25.4-centimeter) screen tablet devices, such as the iPad. If you're in the market for a mobile device, read on; the Streak's features may be just what you're looking for, or they may steer you toward a different device.