It seems that if you want to put "Pro" in the name of your Windows Phone handset you need to slap a physical keyboard on it too. Last week we looked at the HTC 7 Pro with its horizontally sliding keyboard, while this week we have our mitts on the Dell Venue Pro, which has a keyboard that slides down from the bottom of the phone.
First up, let’s get the Windows Phone stuff out of the way. The old Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system may have been a clunky mess when it came to usability, but Windows Phone 7 is a whole different ball game. Microsoft has come up with something that looks modern, is visually appealing and refreshingly straight forward to use. The Live Tiles approach, where coloured blocks show you info like the number of unread emails and missed calls you have, works very well. There are also some clever touches here and there too, like holding down the camera button to jump straight to taking pictures even if the handset is in standby.
Granted, the Windows Marketplace app store is not as jam-packed as the iPhone App Store or Android Market, and some of the prices are a little bit on the high side. However, available apps are generally of a pretty high quality, which is not something you can always say about a lot of the stuff in the Android Market. With Nokia now working on Windows Phone devices, the long term viability of the platform looks pretty good too, which should in turn attract more developers to the OS.
Cut and paste has now arrived thanks to the NoDo update and is nicely implemented, although it’s still not perfect. However, sadly multitasking for third-party apps still seems to be someway off - maybe as far away as the end of the year, which is disappointing.
Getting back to the actual hardware, the first thing you notice about the Venue Pro is the shear size of the thing. It’s tall enough with the keyboard shut, but when you open it the phone feels a bit like holding a skyscraper in your palm - it’s a full 162mm tall. The sliding mechanism adds a fair bit of weight and bulk to the handset too, and the large screen means it’s also quite wide. As a result it’s not always the most comfortable phone to hold. On the plus side, though, it feels fairly sturdy, the sliding mechanism is smooth and swift, and the black and chrome colour scheme isn’t unappealing.
Like a lot of today’s Windows Phone handsets, this one is powered by a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor. This is helped along by 512MB of Ram, which provides a pretty powerful performance punch. The handset feels very speedy, no matter whether you’re messing around on the web using the excellent Internet Explorer browser, or just watching a few videos. However, although the 8GB of onboard storage is fairly generous, it is annoying that the handset lacks a microSD card slot, as it leaves you with no storage upgrade option.