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Dell Venue Pro - Stylish, But Bulky
As we saw with the HTC HD7, there were some issues with the OS. The Dell Venue Pro however may have just set a benchmark where Windows Phone 7 devices are concerned. Even though I didn’t think it is possible, the Venue Pro does manage to showcase a slightly smoother UI as compared to other WP7 devices we’ve tested.
A new a'Venue' from Dell
Design and Build Quality
The Dell Venue Pro can pretty much be considered the WP7 version of the Dell Venue Android handset that came sans QWERTY keypad. The Pro manages to out shine its competition with other WP7 devices when it comes to looks, but not much else. The slightly curved full screen display adds a touch of class to the phone. The sides of the phone and the Dell logo are finished in chrome. The back of the phone is also finished with a stylish patterned design. To say that I am completely awestruck by the beauty of this phone is an understatement.
The Dell Venue Pro features a 4.1-inch AMOLED display with an 800 x 480 (WVGA) resolution (Gorilla Glass). This handset comes with a portrait side QWERTY pop slide keyboard which has elegant hard plastic keys. The spacing of the keys is made to precision and typing is not a problem at all. The keyboard however would have been much better if it was in landscape mode thus fully utilizing the massive size of this device. On the face of the phone are three capacitive buttons - back, home and search, which light on contact.
The top of the phone sports the circular power/ sleep button to the right and on the left is the 3.5 mm audio jack. On the right side of the phone are the volume keys and below them is the camera shutter release. All these are flushed along the side of the phone and made with the same chrome finish that adds to the elegance of the device phone. The bottom of the phone features a set of stereo speakers with a micro USB port for charging or syncing with a computer in between.
The Venue Pro features a 1400 mAh lithium Ion and comes loaded with 8GB or 16GB of internal storage with unfortunately, no expansion option. A big issue with WP7 devices. (Apple anyone?). As opposed to the Venue’s 8MP camera, Dell has downsized and equipped the Pro with a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera and LED flash.
Dell went to great lengths to manufacture a phone that could live up to our ever increasing high standard in terms of design and build quality. It looks like it could take a couple of knocks and still come out on top. It weighs in at a whopping 192.8g. Size and weight apart though, this is one beautiful looking handset.
Features and Performance
The Dell Venue Pro operates its WP7 UI with a 1 GHz Scorpion processor and a 512 MB RAM. Even first time WP7 users should have no problems navigating through the new OS. The responsiveness of the interface is as smooth as an iPhone’s with no lag. The designated search button allows you to connect easily to Microsoft’s Bing search engine through either 3G, Wi-Fi, GPRS or EDGE.
Bulky in design
The ‘Start Screen’ is customizable to an extent and just about anything can be added to it. This can be an interesting feature to have all your most used items on the main screen. The Tile system of the Home screen is very attractive in a ‘modern art’ sort of way with the tiles being either square or rectangular in shape. Navigating through the main menu is only available in portrait mode. UI auto-rotation is possible while texting, web surfing, emailing or viewing images. Social networking on the Dell Venue Pro is seamless as it connects your phone contacts with your Facebook, Windows Live, etc. accounts.
Automatic social updates, Facebook style, can be viewed through the ‘What’s New’ tab in the People hub. Through this feature you can also update your Facebook or Windows Live status while also being able to comment on posts. There is no Twitter integration but a third party app can be used to post your tweets.
Patterned back with chrome Dell logo
One feature where iOS (now) and Android are ahead of WP7 is multitasking. Along with Office, People, Music & Videos, Internet Explorer hubs there is also an Xbox Live Games hub; where Xbox Live games can be downloaded on to the phone and played. Overall the interface of Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is sure to be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
WP7, being a closed interface like iOS, multimedia can only be transferred by syncing with the Zune software on a PC. The audio/ video playback on this device truly does provide a sensory feast to the user. There are five different options in the media hub – music, videos, podcasts, radio and the marketplace for media related content.
The handset supports - MP3, WAV, WMA and eAAC+ audio formats. The music hub interface is very smartly designed - not only does the album art show but also a picture of the artist as well in a sort of wallpaper layout. There audio playback was excellent even at high volumes, no distortion noticed whatsoever. Tones were well balanced however, the lack of any presets negate any personal customization, which not everyone will be ok with. The Dell Venue Pro also has an inbuilt radio, something that is lacking on the iPhone. The radio reception was good and no signal loss was noticed.
A variety of video codecs like - H.263/H.264, 3GP, MPEG4, WMV and VC-1 are supported. Viewing videos on this 4.1-inch AMOLED screen was a delight. The performance of the video was tested by using a file converted by the Zune player whilst syncing it to the device. It was encoded at a resolution of 1280 x 720p which fit the entire screen of the phone.
This smartphone has 3G capabilities as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 and USB. The call quality of the Dell Venue Pro was a little poor as there was some voice distortion and static noticed. However, the person on the other end didn’t seem to notice any distortion and found the calls quite clear. There was also no dropped calls or loss of network during the usage of this phone even in areas where cellular reception was low.
The Wi-Fi speed on this device is on par with any other smartphone in the market and the speed of file transfer or downloads were good. Browsing the internet on this phone is really pleasing as the page load rate is really quick thanks to the IE browser on board.
The Marketplace is Microsoft's answer to Google's Android Market and Apple's App Store.The WP7 Marketplace allows you to purchase music, videos, apps and podcasts. It has apps ranging from games to lifestyle, health & fitness to finance and many more. Although, it may not seem like much now, the number of apps are steadily increasing. The games option in the Marketplace directs you to the Xbox Live page. In this page you can download Xbox Live games (online multiplayer as well) made especially for WP7. Here’s the big catch with the Marketplace though, it’s not yet available for India. But, where there’s a will there’s a way, and work arounds are possible if you want to access it. Bing maps for WP7 are also available for use with the Venue Pro’s built in GPS module.
Office on WP7 is great as you can not only view but also edit and email the content you work on. MS Office on the Dell Venue Pro has PowerPoint, Excel and Word applications. OneNote which is Microsoft’s answer to the hugely popular Evernote is of course also part of the Office set up. Basic mobile features like – a calculator, Alarm clock and calendar (syncs to Windows Live) are also onboard.
Besides the highlighted features above, the Dell Venue Pro also has other interesting features like People, Hotmail, maps, Internet Explorer, G-sensor, e-compass, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor. However, one major issue with WP7 is the lack of a chat application.
The Dell Venue Pro sports a 5 megapixel, auto-focus camera with an LED flash it is also able to record videos at 720p. Settings include white balance, a few scene modes and geo-tagging, ISO levels (up to 800) which are quite limited when compared to others available in the same price bracket.
The outdoor images were decent with a fair amount of detail and no color supplementation was noticed. All the natural hues are visible and no pinkness was seen in sunlit areas. Overall the outdoor picture quality is good.
A lot of detail is visible with outdoor pics
The same cannot be said about the indoor image quality with there being a lot of color supplementation and even with the LED flash on, the area photographed could not be lit up enough. Further to this, in low light environments the images came out quite grainy.
Indoor pictures are grainy
The performance of the auto-focus fluctuates and can frustrate a bit when it sometimes captures blurry images. However, when macro images were clicked using the Dell Venue Pro the outcome of the same was quite sharp. To sum it up, the quality of the camera on this WP7 handset is decent.
Macro pics are crisp
The 1400 mAh battery of the Dell Venue Pro is decent where normal usage is concerned that is making calls, browsing the net over Wi-Fi, listening to music, watching videos or playing games all in moderation and had lasted around 17 hours. Under somewhat heavy usage (playing music continuously) the battery got fully discharged in just over 14 hours.
At a market price of Rs. 34,900, this may not be the most ideal phone to purchase. With the size and weight of the Dell Venue Pro being a major issue there is also no proper weight distribution when the keyboard slides out. The Pro has some great features and it's fitted with an operating system that is surely going to do well in the future, right now though, there's plenty of room for improvement. The Zune Marketplace is not available in India thereby, making it difficult to download apps. Though the Dell Venue Pro is a good looking phone, with a price tag of Rs. 34,900, you would be better off with the HTC Mozart or a phone with another operating system that can offer better specs and at the same time be easier on the pocket.