01 February 2011

Dell's Big Brawny Windows Phone Mean Business

Smartphone designers generally follow the same credo as ballerinas and runway models — you can never be too thin.

But Dell has taken a different approach with its newest Windows 7 Phone, the Venue Pro. Even though it’s both agile and beautiful, the Pro is quite the fatty.

At 6.8 ounces, it’s heavier than the iPhone 4, Motorola Droid and even the HTC EVO. The primary culprit for this heft is the Venue Pro’s useful slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

A likely second is the Pro’s delightfully large and chromatically rich 4.1-inch, 800 x 480 AMOLED touchscreen. Everything else on the handset is efficient and understated — from the flush volume rocker to the succinct Back, Home and Search capacitive buttons.

Though the weight and dimensions temper some of that new gadget razzle-dazzle, it’s ultimately a worthwhile trade-off. In a sense, the Pro seems less like a slate-y smartphone and more like the feature-rich, productivity-minded pocket PCs of yesteryear.

Though this style of mobile productivity has fallen out of vogue (or at least changed shape), injecting bits of that DNA into an inexpensive and streamlined smartphone was smart on Dell’s part. Maybe it’s the minimalist chrome accents, but this form factor just feels more capable — if not a little self-serious.

Fortunately, this air of superiority is largely deserving. Though packing a strangely generic “1 GHz processor,” the Pro deftly whipped through Microsoft’s animation-heavy Windows Phone 7 OS with hardly any problems. Sifting and swiping through the busy menus was buttery smooth, and we hardly experienced any stutters or lag when it came to launching apps.

It’s also worth noting that the Pro’s large display is especially well-suited for these tasks. We’re not necessarily fans of the multiscreen asymmetry of Windows Phone 7’s menus, but we can’t deny that the Pro presents them well.

Overall, productivity and play were probably the biggest highlights for us. No mobile OS has truly mastered the elegant simplicity needed for mobile document editing, but the Pro brings some interesting things to the table. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard makes a solid bedfellow for Microsoft’s spartan Word app, and the Pro’s extra screen real estate makes tinkering with Excel bearable.

Gaming proved to be a delight, thanks to baked-in Xbox Live support and a decent helping of pro-level titles, courtesy of the service’s long established software library. A D-pad akin to the Motorola Droid and a better battery could’ve been ante-uppers for the overall gaming experience, but we’re happy enough with the Pro’s general competency to overlook it.

Despite all these high points, the Pro is decidedly mediocre as a basic phone. Though voice quality was good, the phone had a puzzling habit of jumping between T-Mobile’s 2G and 3G networks in the middle of tasks — or just dropping down to no signal at all.
Our experience using the speakerphone was similar: workable, with light distortion at very high volumes, but ultimately nothing to write home about. Paired with its lacking battery, it’s hard for us to endorse the Pro for power chatters or hardcore road warriors.

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Blogger Templates