First Look: Dell Venue Pro review

0 out of 5
price dependent on contract

For

QWERTY keyboard, Gorilla glass, zippy, 4.1-inch AMOLED screen

Against

Big, it's big, it's big

Windows Phone 7 is all about the consumer isn't it? There can't be any room for a QWERTY based smartphone aimed at business folk surely? In steps the Dell Venue Pro, a rather different and refreshing smarpthone offering from Dell. While the Dell Venue Pro in the UK has yet to get an operator, spokespeople for the company confirmed to Pocket-lint that it will be getting a UK launch some time soon, hopefully before the end of 2010.

We caught up with Dell and the super large handset at the Windows Phone 7 launch event in London to have a brief play, a quick fumble, and a chance to feel inadequate when we grasped it in our hands.

While we have no details on the physical size or weight (we must remember to pack a scales and ruler in our bag for next time) the most striking thing about the Dell Venue Pro is its size. It's a whopper. We say that not in a bad way you must understand, it's just when you see this handset in the flesh you'll need to be prepared.

The Dell Venue Pro comes almost in the middle of the Samsung Omnia 7 and HTC HD7 with a 4.1-inch 800 x 480 AMOLED capacitive multi-touch curved Gorilla Glass display, so you can go at it with tooth and nails and it won't scratch. 4.1 inches doesn't sound overly big compared to the HTC HD7, but that's before you realise that this phone also packs a slide-out QWERTY keyboard from the base of the handset rather than the side. That makes the handset very long, very long indeed.

But forget the size for a minute. That QWERTY keyboard slides out on a beautiful sliding action (it's certainly good enough you'll want to play with it in your pocket) to reveal a keyboard that, while a little tight in responsive, is well proportioned and comfortable to use. It's like the BlackBerry Torch for Windows Phone 7 users.

Elsewhere on the design you get the three buttons (back/Start/search), volume controls and a 3.5mm headphone socket. Around the back on the rather fancy carbon fibre looking design you get a 5-megapixel camera complete with flash. Inside you get the now common (well among Windows Phone 7 handsets) 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM, that means a speedy experience based on our brief play.

Other specs of note include Wi-Fi of course, Bluetooth, GPS and most likely all the proximity sensors you can throw at it. There is no second camera for video calling, perhaps something we would have liked given its business credentials, however as no Windows Phone 7 launch handset has this we can't call Dell out for not featuring it.

"We see the Venue Pro for everyday people with a diverse range of full and busy lives", says Dell. "They need to stay connected, be productive and keep in touch with colleagues, friends and family. Dell designed the Venue Pro to be a multi-purpose always-connected device to help people be more efficient, always connected and entertained". It's certainly that, and certainly the only launch handset to offer that form factor - the slide down rather than slide-across QWERTY keyboard as found in the also-yet-to-be-launched HTC Pro 7.

Aside from the hardware there is little Dell has done on the software front. They aren't ruling out a "Dell Hub" according to the Dell people we spoke to at the launch, but don't expect that for the launch of this handset, and to be honest you can easily get around the lack of that. 

However, where Dell and its QWERTY keyboard design is going to appeal, is with the Office hub users. Microsoft is dedicating one of the Windows Phone 7 hubs to all things office based, and that's on top of the emails, Facebook and Twitter chat you are planning on doing.

Verdict

The key here is the ability to enjoy the best of both worlds. If Dell can convince BlackBerry Bold or Curve owners to upgrade to this rather than the BlackBerry Torch, then Microsoft might be on to something. After all most BlackBerry users, we believe, would probably be happier with that route than going "Google".

For a business handset the design is sharp, the build quality looks good based on what we saw, and that Gorilla Glass is ready to take a beating. The only real issue is whether you are prepared to have something that large in your pocket. On what we've seen, from a business perspective, this looks very interesting.

The Dell Venue Pro is expected to be available in the UK before Christmas in the UK. An operator hasn't yet been announced.

We will bring you a full review of the new smartphone once we've got a review unit from Dell in the office.