The Dell Venue Pro is the latest addition to the Windows Phone 7 family. To differentiate itself amongst a group of phones that have very similar looks, size and features, Dell has added a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, hidden underneath a bright 4.1-inch AMOLED screen.

How does it compare to its keyboard-packing rival, the HTC 7 Pro?


What we like

Windows Phone 7 is still very young, but looks extremely polished and smooth. Coming from the slightly staid world of small customisable icons, the magazine-ish style and flip-through animations of the Dell Venue Pro is clear and refreshing, and we found it really easy to change the colour themes and wallpapers.

Dell have gone with an AMOLED screen, which, although dated by the development of Super AMOLED, is still very sharp and clear. The 4.1-inch screen is slightly taller and narrower than the competition, and photos and streaming video looked great on it.

The physical keys gives a very satisfying click as you type through messages, and the keyboard slides out smoothly, it’s a reliably solid phone. The patterned backing not only adds a bit of grip to the rounded casing, but also adds a bit of visual interest, instead of a dull grey, black, or grey-black backing found on a lot of smartphones

The Windows Phone 7 has begun to grow, and you’ll find all the features you’d expect to find on an iDevice or Android phone. The range of apps continue to grow, with some genuine games now appearing on its XBox Live gaming portal, and apps from the likes of Sky, Flickr and YouTube, it’s a much more viable alternative to the Android Market and Apple’s App Store. And it’s growing fast.

What we don’t like

Even with a forthcoming 'Mango' update and recent improvements like copy-and-paste, Windows Phone 7 still has some parts missing. You can’t call through from a phone-number printed in an email or on the web. (Though thankfully now, at least, you can copy and paste it.)


Similarly, you can’t tap through from an address to the Bing Maps application- you’ll have to search from within the app, and it's things like this which upset the otherwise smooth WP7 experience.

Although it’s a problem with a lot of  other big-screened phones, but the Dell Venue Pro is real magnet for fingerprints and smudges. We felt obliged to wipe down the phone regularly, as the whole body, including the textured back, soon became covered in oily marks.

The Venue Pro would also occasionally seize up on the locked screen- and we had to give it about half a minute before the phone would response to buttons and touches.

Windows Phone 7 is making progress, but it’s still very much in third place, behind Android and Apple.

WP7 app developers have got a second wind following the tie-in announcement with Nokia, so we hope this gap between Windows Phone and its rivals will be less this time next year. A length-wise keyboard also makes far more sense to us than the smaller vertical side-out found on the Venue Pro, but if you’re used to BlackBerry buttons this shouldn’t prove to be a deal-breaker.

We think it’s a shame that the main windows button isn’t a physical button, and miss that satisfying click we get from other home buttons.

Conclusion

Windows Phone 7 handsets have proved to carry a reliable set of features, a bright, clear capacitive touchscreen, at least a five-megapixel camera with flash and dedicated button, and enough processing power to keep your internet browsing smooth.

The phone’s have began to look very similar- and it’s great to see Dell enter the fray with a more imaginative offering. Although the screen does often need a wipe-down, it’s bright and sharp enough, even in daylight, and the space on the capacitive touchscreen makes browsing a breeze.

We like our phones to have some weight behind them, but if you like your phones light, you may find the Venue Pro a bit too much for your pocket. If you're undecided between the vertical Venue Pro and the horizontal HTC 7 Pro, it will hinge on which style you find more comfortable typing on- there's not much else to differentiate between the two.