Ever since the Dell Venue Pro was first announced, I couldn’t help wanting to check it out. Running Windows Phone 7, it packs a massive AMOLED Display, and a portrait slide-out keyboard.
Yup. A Portrait side-out keyboard. Maybe that’s what pulled us in the first place. That, and a refreshing design, that definitely differentiates it from the rest of the WP7 line up. So let’s check it out then, shall we?
The Retail Package:
The retail package includes:
- The Dell Venue Pro
- 1400 mAh battery
- microUSB Cable
- Wall Charger
- 3.5mm Stereo Headset
- Getting Started Guide
- Product Safety and Warranty Brochure
Pretty much your standard retail package. That 1400 mAh battery is a worry though.
Out of all the Windows Phone 7 devices we’ve seen out in the market right now, the Dell Venue Pro is arguably the best in the design category. The phone exuhberates quality craftsmanship, in terms of appeal and construction both, even with it’s patterned plastic back panel. There are angular cutouts found in the top and bottom sides, which help give character to the curved display surface between it. The sides are accented by chrome edging, with a rubberized top and bottom side. However at 122 x 63.5 x 15.2 mm and 193 grams, it’s definitely on the hefty side.
Taking prominent space, is the 4 Inch AMOLED Display at WVGA (480 x 800) resolution that has quite lush colors and shows off a good amount of detail.
The curved display makes the device look quite elegant, and doesnt distort anything on the screen, even when viewed at extreme angles. It’s very responsive to touch and outdoors legibility in sunlight is also quite decent (on its maximum brightness setting).
Below the Display are three capacitive buttons, which include back, home (windows logo), and search. There’s plenty of space between them, and they’re easy to press, so no complains here.
Sliding the device open is easy enough, with just an average amount of resistance when you push it open to reveal the 4 row portrait styled QWERTY keyboard.
The hard plastic buttons have very little spacing between them, but are slightly bubbled towards the middle so that each key is distinguishable from each other.
That being said, folks with large fingers might find it a little cramped. Feedback is good, and there’s very little to fault with the keyboard.
On the left side, things are minimal and there are no ports or buttons present.
On the right side, you have a 2 stage dedicated camera key, and a volume rocker which had a good tactile feel, but was a bit too recessed to be comfortable.
On top, you’ll find a circular power button, and a 3.5mm Audio Jack.
On the bottom, you’ll find the two speakers and microUSB port.
Coming to the back of the device, you’ll find the DELL and Windows Phone 7 Logos prominently placed, with a 5 Megapixel Camera and LED Flash at the very top portion.
There’s also a very elegant pattern on the back, which also helps you get a better grip on the phone.
To get to the battery and SIM card slot, you’ll have to slide out the back panel.
The Call Quality:
The earpiece on the Dell Venue Pro produces good audio, though there are times when you might notice a tiny bit of static noise when at full volume. Likewise for the speaker, which does tend to muffle voices in the same scenario. Call quality was decent, with no dropped calls as such.
The Battery Life:
Battery life was pretty average, and we managed to get 18 full hours of moderate usage out of the Venue Pro on a single charge, which is rated at providing 7 hours of talktime. Light usage will definitely see it last through a full day of use, but heavy usage might stress the 1400 mAh battery a bit, requiring timely recharges.
The Windows Phone UI:
Like most other WP7 devices in the market right now, the Venue Pro sports a 1Ghz snapdragon processor, with 512MB of RAM and 1024MB of ROM, which all make for a very responsive experience in navigating the User Interface, without any lag or slowdowns, which is a pretty consistent theme overall with the platform. You have long lists to scroll through, a dynamic looking home screen interface, and color themes to choose from. You can associate and sync contacts with services like Gmail or Facebook, all directly into the ‘People’ hub on your phone. Everything is a simple enough process, from setting up email, to social networking, and the app catalog is slowly growing, reaching about 25,000 Apps on the Windows Phone marketplace just yesterday.
So, yes, basically pretty much exactly the same experience as any other Windows Phone device, but with the added bonus of the portrait keyboard.
Text Input via the onscreen landscape keyboard is also a very decent experience, thanks to the large screen which equals large buttons, and responsive nature, which make speed typing a joy.
For a better idea of the Mobile OS, check out our detailed Windows Phone 7 Overview post. Worth noting since the post was made, is that WP7 now has copy/paste support and a couple under-the-hood tweaks.
The 5 Megapixel Camera on the Dell Venue Pro captures barely average shots unfortunately.
While in outdoor conditions there’s a reasonable amount of detail and neutral tone colors, image quality isnt quite as good in low light situations, or where the LED flash would be needed.
There’s also a massive shutter lag issue, wherein you would press the camera button, hear the shutter sound and then move, only to realize that the picture was taken after all the sound effects. Could be just our unit though, since we havent heard anyone else complain about this particular issue.
Here are some camera samples from the Dell Venue Pro camera:
720p Video recording on the Venue Pro is quite disappointing, because it lacks the one thing that all other WP7 devices have in this mode, which is continuous auto-focus. Videos are recorded at 24 frames per second in well lit situations, but in low light, that can drop all the way down to 8 frames per second, which results in a lot of blurring or fuzzy elements. Not cool y’all.
Here’s a couple video camera samples from the Dell Venue Pro:
The Zune experience on the Venue Pro, is just as good as other WP7 devices, providing a visually appealing interface, with a pretty good speaker to boast.
And thanks to the AMOLED screen, watching high definition videos is very pleasing, epecially since there’s built-in support for DivX video, in addition to 3GP, MPEG-4, H.263, H.264 and WMV. All without any sluggishness during playback. Depending on which version you choose, you’ll get either 8GB or 16GB of space to fill up (but no microSD card slot). Needless to say video playback is one area in which the Dell Venue Pro clearly excels.
And ofcourse looking at pictures in the gallery is a nice experience too, thanks again to the AMOLED screen.
Also worth mentioning, is that the Venue Pro has FM Radio capabilities too. You’ll need to plug in a wired headset though (like with other mobile devices)
The Web Browser, and Connectivity:
Being a high end smartphone and all, the Dell Venue Pro boasts a range of connectivity options, from Quad Band GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), Tri Band UMTS (850/1700/2100 MHz), 3G, A-GPS, Wifi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR. No TV-Out though.
Thanks to the large screen and fast processor/os the web browsing experience is pretty good, with fast page loads, fluid responsiveness in scrolling, and plenty of real estate to move around websites, with support for double-tap and multi-touch gestures too.
There’s no support for Flash Player 10.1 though, but there’s multi-page/tab support and the overall experience is definitely very polished.
Worth mentioning, is also the fact that Windows Phone 7 has Xbox Live built-in with a very solid set of games that’s growing every day.
There’s games like Angry Birds, Sonic, Plants vs Zombies and many more.
Apart from games there’s the usual essential apps pre-installed. A Calculator, Office, etc.
And if those arnt enough, the Windows Phone marketplace is growing with more and more apps and games coming in everyday.
The Dell Venue Pro has to be one of the best designed smartphones from the company, with a very polished looking industrial design. That being said, overall it turned out to be a pretty mediocre phone, thanks to the low camera quality, and average battery life. The Windows Phone experience is no different from other manufacturers but admittedly, the screen is quite impressive and the portrait keyboard is a bonus that we found ourselves using pretty often. Also worth noting, that in typical Dell fashion you also get 1 year limited warranty and 1 year advanced exchange service.
Personally, I’d say if you’re considering a Windows Phone device today, the Dell Venue Pro might very well be your second choice, compared to what else is out there. Other WP7 phones have their pros and cons, and so does the Venue Pro. But if you’re considering another operating system, there are better alternatives at the same price.