Alongside the soon-to-launch HTC Pro 7, the Dell Venue Pro is one of the first Windows Phone 7 handset to sport a slide-out keyboard and pander to a more business-centric crowd. But where the Pro 7 adopts a landscape QWERTY, the Dell takes the portrait approach.
Naturally, the Venue Pro follows Microsoft’s rigid design and feature guidelines – the prerequisite back, home and web search touch sensitive keys adorn the front – but Dell has embellished the fascia with fetching metallic trim and the back with a tactile diamond pattern. Unfortunately this rear motif cheapens an otherwise smart, solidly made slider.
Its stunning 4.1in capactive AMOLED touchscreen is a tad smaller than the HTC HD7, but the addition of the keyboard has padded out the Venue Pro to XL proportions. It’s easily the chunkiest and heaviest WP7 smartphone and unless a keyboard is absolutely essential, its size could be a deal breaker.
But if you constantly email and heavily edit and create documents on the move, the four-line QWERTY is a boon. The spring-assisted slider mechanism is sturdy but nicely oiled with the domed, generously sized keys geared for accurate speed typing. Yet despite its weight problem, the phone isn’t top heavy when open, but suprisingly well blanaced and comfortable for one-handed typing.
Intuitive WP7 OS
Only four months old, Windows Phone 7 already ranks as one of the most intuitive smartphone operating systems. Its combination of a customisable live-tiled start screen and central hubs, complete with flowing looped screens, is quick to master. Its productivity acumen shouldn’t be underestimated amid this user-friendly gloss; creating, editing and sharing Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs from the Office hub is a breeze.
But WP7 does have its glaring faults: the alarming lack of multi-tasking and copy and paste are expected to be remedied by an upcoming software update, but the fact that WP7 handsets aren’t recognised as mass storage devices when hooked up to your computer is maddening. As there’s no memory card slot on the Venue Pro, this mean you have to rely on the less-than-intuitive Zune software for transferring multimedia files (or worse, Windows Phone 7 Connector if you’re a Mac user).
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Unlike the other WP7 handset manufacturers, Dell hasn’t developed its own app hub or installed any of its own. It’s left for you to browse the lightly stocked Marketplace for pimping your handset with apps.
Results from the camera are mixed. It’s remarkably good at close-ups but it struggles in poor light, with a combination of noise and overexposure from the LED flash. It’ll shoot 720p hi-def video but we got smoother, more watchable results from the lower resolution VGA mode.
The Dell Venue Pro is another solid WP7 smartphone but the extra bulk of the QWERTY will too much for some to swallow. However, if you need messaging skills but can’t bring yourself to join the BlackBerry brigade, the Venue Pro could be your savior.