updated 03:00 pm EST, Fri February 19, 2010
Dell Android tablet given early look
Dell's Mini 5 tablet has been given an early preview that has provided new details about the company's entry into the tablet arena. Despite concerns about its 5-inch screen, Engadget says the Android device is pocketable and easy to hold. It even has rough signs of development for phone functionality, although those who have tried it say it's too big to be used this way most of the time.
Software on the Mini 5 in its pre-release state also appears to reflect its importance as a tablet over phone features. The customization previously spotted in photos and by ourselves at CES has a new, taskbar-like layout that moves the app launcher, a home screen switcher and notifications into separate accessible sections. In apps, the web browser and custom gallery app already support multi-touch (though not Google Maps) while Meebo provides instant messaging and Quickoffice handles Office document editing; software by Nuance gives it voice control.
Dell currently runs the slate on Android 1.6, although it's known Android 2.x will be preloaded by the time the Mini 5 ships in the spring. Widgets exist for social networking services like Twitter but are basic.
As is, however, the Mini 5 is already encountering complaints about its keyboard. While the portrait keyboard is useful for thumbs, the landscape mode introduces a number pad that makes the entire layout difficult to use while handheld; it requires resting flat on a desk to use properly. Unlike the iPad it will likely be compared against, the Dell tablet can't be used from any orientation and will only show landscape mode in one orientation.
Hardware is discussed relatively little, although the Snapdragon processor should be fast and the 5-megapixel camera is known to record adequate but VGA-only video. Storage could be a potential problem as the Mini 5 only includes about 2GB of permanent space; a microSDHC card exists but might be necessary for significant amounts of content. Battery life is believed to be unusually good despite the larger screen and faster processor.
Most launch details for the pseudo-smartphone haven't been revealed, though its smaller screen and limited storage could give it a significantly lower price than the iPad due to ship within a similar time span.