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.
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.
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 >>