We loved the latest incarnation of Windows Phone 7 when it was introduced in October last year on a selection of handsets. With the Venue Pro Dell has created one of the most interesting phones, combining a touchscreen with a full QWERTY keyboard.
There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a chunky handset, at 15mm deep it’s far from pocket friendly. The chrome trim is unfortunately plastic and gives it an old-fashioned feel.
Pull the screen upwards and you reveal a full QWERTY keyboard too. Sure it adds bulk, but you can easily use it with one or two hands.
Windows Phone 7 is virtually unrecognisable from the WinMo of old and its tiled, fully-customisable homescreen looks fantastic on the Venue Pro’s 4.1-inch AMOLED touchscreen.
In common with other WP7 phones you get a back, home and search buttons, dedicated volume controls are on the side, along with a shutter
People, Games, Pictures, Music and Video, Office and Market Place are live ‘hubs,’ that run vertically down the homescreen, which means Customise it with draggable apps and contacts from the main menu there’s limitless space, but without folders the homescreen quickly becomes cluttered.
At least there’s plenty of storage, with 8GB built-in.
The 1GHz processor is swift and the 4.1-inch AMOLED screen has deep blacks and bright whites. HD videos display bold colours, without being oversaturated. Off-angle viewing is excellent but AMOLED does drain the battery and you’ll be charging every evening.
Navigation is very simple, instead of burying commands in menus scroll left and right within an application to access different menus.
Microsoft Office lets you create Excel, Powerpoint and Word docs – you can cut and paste now too. It’s a great feature of interest to business users. Of course you get support for Exchange too.
Dell Venue Pro: Gaming and media
Enter Windows Live details and the Venue Pro automatically syncs with your Xbox Live account, allowing your avatar to roam about the hub on the homescreen. There’s a good selection of games available, lots of them with free trials.
The browser is effective, although text doesn’t wrap to fit. There’s no support for Flash, we asked Microsoft about this and were told: Microsoft and Adobe engineering are working closely together to bring full Flash Player support to a future version of Windows Phone.
Rumours of the Microsoft Zune’s demise abound, but it’s still alive and well in WP7 phones. PC users will need Zune software to transfer media, which is horrible; it’s convoluted and takes far too long. Like the iPhone you can’t use it plug and play. Mac users have the significantly less confusing Windows Phone 7 Connector available as a free download from the Mac App Store to use.
Thankfully the Zune interface on the phone is much better, music and videos are displayed as thumbnails you can click and select. Surprisingly there’s no EQ and you can only create playlists using a computer. The speaker is very loud and sound quality very good. When you lock the screen you can still skip tracks using tiny volume controls.
Dell Venue Pro: Camera
The camera, however, is poor. Five-meg stills are a bit disappointing, they are fine for snapshots, but can’t match the Nokia E7. The 720p video recorder is really poor and struggles to cope with refresh rates, appearing blurred and marred by noise. But, we do accept this phone is for business use primarily, as opposed to being a cameraphone.
There’s no doubt that Windows Phone 7 has the potential to pose a threat to Apple and Android. The interface is exceptionally slick and user-friendly, although without elements like multitasking and folders it does feel a little simple. We’re not sure that Dell’s chunky hardware is the best showcase for it either. Although we like the Venue Pro and it's combination of AMOLED screen and QWERTY keyboard, the design won’t appeal to everyone.
Dell Venue Pro launch date: Out now link Dell
Dell Venue Pro price: £393-£450 online