Dell's Venue Pro, first announced in October, is somewhat late to market. But this Windows Phone 7 smartphone with a huge 4.1in AmoLED capacitive multitouch screen and qwerty keypad has certainly arrived in style. Updated, 9 May 2011.

A good-looking, sturdily built handset, the chrome-trimmed Dell features a slightly curved, super-bright screen and swish diamond-patterned backplate. Gorilla Glass protects the display from scratches. 

A four-line qwerty keypad with domed buttons slides out smoothly in portrait mode, making this phone an incredible 162mm tall. We were surprised by this stylish handset's dedicated smiley button, however, and that it featured a ' $' rather than '£' function key. 

At a hefty 193g the Venue Pro is big and bulky, and makes its appearance noted in a pocket, yet it remains comfortable to use in one hand.

Although it isn't as bright as the Super AmoLED version found on the Google Nexus S, the screen is sufficiently vibrant to add impact to the otherwise so-so 5Mp images and 720p video captured using the Dell's built in camera with autofocus and LED flash. You get 25MB of free online storage at Windows Live SkyDrive, and are able to upload images directly from the Camera app.

Hardware buttons include a flush volume rocker, a power switch that's useful for sending the power-draining screen to sleep, and a camera button. At the top is a standard 3.5mm jack for attaching your favourite headphones (although Dell does supply a set in the box); at the bottom is a microUSB charging port.

The Windows Phone 7 interface is pleasingly attractive and follows simple logic. The home screen features large tiles for accessing applications, such as Hotmail, various hubs including People and Pictures, and any other menu items you want to pin here. You press the right arrow to access the full menu - a list of all your apps (excluding games, which are grouped in the Xbox Live hub), as well as links to Settings, Alarm, Calculator and so on. The more you have stored on the handset, the longer and more confusing this list will become.

Mobile Advisor

Browsing the internet is a joy on the Dell Venue Pro, with the large screen and pinch-to-zoom functionality making even full-fat websites bearable to navigate, and seemingly fast to load. The ability to easily open a new tab is welcome, too. We did notice that the phone's copy-and-paste function is a little too eager, however, frequently trying to select words as we scrolled down a page.

Windows Phone 7 is fantastically well integrated with Facebook - in fact, it's perhaps a little too much so. We liked the ability to browse and comment on our uploaded albums directly within the Pictures hub, then download an image to use elsewhere. We also liked the list of our friends' status updates it placed in the People hub. But we didn't like the way the software automatically added to our SIM phonebook all our Facebook, Gmail and Hotmail contacts; as a result, the list displayed three or four entries for each person, and required effort to navigate.

Handily, the Dell features three touchscreen buttons below the display: Back, Start and Search. Although the Search button in most circumstances invokes the Bing search engine, where its selection of photographic background images work incredibly well with the AmoLED screen, in the applications and contacts menus it allows you to narrow down these lists.

Being a Windows phone, besides Bing you also get the Office Mobile suite, where Word is especially well suited to the qwerty keypad and Excel to the large screen, plus Internet Explorer and Zune software. Irritatingly, the inclusion of Zune prevents the Dell from being a simple plug-and-play device for mass storage - you can use it with a computer for synching media and accessing platform updates only after you've downloaded and installed Zune on your PC (Windows XP SP3 and above) or Windows Phone 7 Connector on a Mac. Note, too, that the Venue Pro's storage capacity is limited to 8GB, with no expansion possible via microSD.

Smartphone reviews

Windows Phone 7 doesn't have as great a collection of apps as Android and Apple, and neither are they as cheap in general, but we had great fun playing with some of the free inclusions in its Marketplace, such as Draw Free, Helium Voice Free and Kill The Duck. We weren't able to use more than one app at once, however, and every time the screen went to sleep we had to start a new game in Kill The Duck.

Battery life isn't great. Dell makes no claims as to what its 1,400mAh (5.18Wh) lithium-ion battery is capable of, but we found that, even with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth switched off and webmail synchronisation set to manual, we needed to recharge the Venue Pro every day. And although you can touch the top of the screen to see a battery-level icon, there's no way to learn the exact percentage remaining. The handset is supplied with a microUSB cable and both a UK three-pin and EU two-pin plug.

Next page: Our original review of the Dell Venue Pro, by PC World US's Ginny Mies, from 31 Jan 2011 >>

Microsoft seemed ready to take over the mobile world with the launch of Microsoft Windows Phone 7, but so far we've seen only a handful of smartphones. The Dell Venue Pro is an affordable yet powerful WP7 offering. This is our original review of the Dell Venue Pro, by PC World US's Ginny Mies, from 31 Jan 2011

It isn't the most attractive phone on the market, but if you've been dying to give Windows Phone 7 a spin without breaking the bank, the Dell Venue Pro is a good option.

Dell Venue Pro: Design

The Dell Venue Pro is a bit on the chunky side, and it feels plasticky. The glossy black surface with chrome trim gives it a professional appearance (hence the "Pro" in the name, I guess), while the textured battery cover keeps it from looking dull. Measuring 63.5x122x15mm, the Venue Pro isn't exactly petite. It is also somewhat heavy, weighing 192g. Like all Windows Phone 7 devices, it gives you the standard Back, Menu, and Search touch keys below the display.

Part of the Dell Venue Pro handset's excess bulk is due to the vertically sliding full-QWERTY keyboard. Like many such keyboards, this one is fairly narrow. Since the keys are right next to one another, I made a few mistakes while typing out long messages. The spacebar is also pretty small, which can be annoying when you're trying to pound out a text or email message.

Perhaps the highlight of the Dell Venue Pro's design is the gorgeous 4.1-inch, 800-by-480-pixel AMOLED display. The display nicely showcases photos, videos, and games, as well as the whole user interface. Colours appeared bright though a little oversaturated, which is normal for AMOLED displays.

Windows Phone 7: Ready for business

By now, you probably know that Microsoft created Windows Phone 7 from scratch. Windows Phone 7 is light, fast, and user-friendly, but it isn't perfect--missing features such as copy/paste and true multitasking are big oversights. (Microsoft says that copy/paste will come in an update later this year.) I also don't find the OS all that visually consistent, and navigating requires a lot of scrolling.

One of the strengths of Windows Phone 7 is its excellent set of productivity and business apps. You'll find all of them in the Office Hub. Microsoft does a good job of shrinking down such heavy apps as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote to a mobile scale. You can view and edit full documents, including charts, graphics, bullet points, and animations. This package is probably the best mobile Office software we've used, though it still has a few quirks.

That said, having a full-QWERTY keyboard definitely makes editing easier. I initially used the Office Hub with the all-touch screen, and found scrolling and tapping a bit annoying. Editing documents with the physical keyboard - even if it isn't the best keyboard ever - was far simpler.

For a full, in-depth review of the OS and its various Hubs, check out our Windows Phone 7 review.

Dell Venue Pro: Good 5Mp camera

Microsoft requires handset manufacturers to ship their WP7 phones with a 5-megapixel camera or better. The Dell Venue Pro sports a 5-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash. All WP7 phones also must have a dedicated camera key, which I always appreciate. The camera/shutter key wakes up the phone and brings you straight into camera mode, a nice touch.

The Windows Phone 7 camera interface takes some getting used to, though. The on-screen touch controls are a bit too small for my liking, and I had some trouble adjusting them while snapping a picture. You get a few basic camera controls such as scene settings (auto, portrait, landscape, sports, beach, and so on) and effects (grayscale, negative, solarize), as well as metering and resolution controls.

Image quality was pretty good, both indoors and outdoors on a sunny day. Details in a few of my indoor shots seemed blown out (see the test photos to the left), but images were decent overall. My outdoor shots looked a lot better, with bright, natural colors and crisp details.

Dell Venue Pro: Performance

The Dell Venue Pro supports only HSPA 7.2-mbps download speeds, as Microsoft hasn't jumped on the "4G" train.

The Dell Venue Pro packs in a lot of great features, such as a solid camera and an excellent display. Make sure to give Windows Phone 7 a test run before purchasing, however; the OS has a few quirks, as well as a few missing features such as copy/paste and Flash support. I'm also not sure about the longevity of Windows Phone 7 as a platform. While Android continues to explode and the iPhone retains its popularity, Windows Phone 7 already seems a bit stagnant. Microsoft's promised update to add copy/paste hasn't happened yet. App developers seem hesitant to jump on the platform, as well. Lastly, it's unfortunate that the Windows Phone 7 devices we've seen don't have 4G or HSPA+ support.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Dell Venue Pro: Specs

  • Windows Phone 7 smartphone
  • UMTS 900/1,700/2,100MHz/GSM/EDGE 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz/HSDPA 7.2Mbps/HSUPA 5.76Mbps
  • 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 processor
  • 8GB internal storage (not expandable)
  • 4.1in (800x480-pixel, WVGA) AmoLED capacitive multitouch touchscreen
  • scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass
  • qwerty keyboard
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • GPS
  • USB 2.0
  • FM radio
  • 5Mp camera with autofocus and LED flash
  • 720p video recording
  • Xbox Live
  • Office Mobile OneNote, Excel, PowerPoint, Word
  • SharePoint Server 2010
  • Internet Explorer Mobile
  • Bing Search
  • Bing Maps
  • email
  • MMS
  • SMS
  • supports: H.263/H.264/3GP/Mpeg4/VC-1 video, MP3/WMA/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+/AMR audio
  • 1,400mAh (5.18Wh) lithium-ion rechargable battery
  • 64x122x15mm
  • 193g
  • Windows Phone 7 smartphone
  • UMTS 900/1,700/2,100MHz/GSM/EDGE 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz/HSDPA 7.2Mbps/HSUPA 5.76Mbps
  • 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 processor
  • 8GB internal storage (not expandable)
  • 4.1in (800x480-pixel, WVGA) AmoLED capacitive multitouch touchscreen
  • scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass
  • qwerty keyboard
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • GPS
  • USB 2.0
  • FM radio
  • 5Mp camera with autofocus and LED flash
  • 720p video recording
  • Xbox Live
  • Office Mobile OneNote, Excel, PowerPoint, Word
  • SharePoint Server 2010
  • Internet Explorer Mobile
  • Bing Search
  • Bing Maps
  • email
  • MMS
  • SMS
  • supports: H.263/H.264/3GP/Mpeg4/VC-1 video, MP3/WMA/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+/AMR audio
  • 1,400mAh (5.18Wh) lithium-ion rechargable battery
  • 64x122x15mm
  • 193g

OUR VERDICT

Dell's Venue Pro is a very well-built Windows Phone 7 handset with a gorgeous 4.1in AmoLED screen and a useful qwerty keypad. Although Windows Phone 7 has work to do to take on Apple's iOS and Google Android, the Dell puts up a very good fight in favour of Microsoft's platform. Battery life could be better, however, the internal memory is restricted to 8GB, you must use Zune to sync media, and some might say this bulky handset is just a little too large.

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