Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
12/12/2011 4:00:42 PM
Snazzy looks, great Windows Phone 7 OS with latest software
Suited to large hands and pockets
How big are your pockets? No, not how rich are you, but your pocket size, because they’re going to need to be big for this phone. This latest Windows Phone 7 handset is big in the hand and heavy enough to be memorable. But it’s also a classy, good looking machine.
The styling is just great: a big (4.1-inch) screen with chrome surround and appealing textured back. The chrome edging looks particularly swish. And there’s a QWERTY keyboard hidden behind the screen, just in case you’re not mad on the WP7 virtual keys. But before you strain yourself sliding the screen sideways, it’s hidden away at the bottom of a phone, for all the world like it was a standard slider phone. This accounts for some of the phone’s bulk – where many slide-out keyboards offer keys that cover most of the area of the handset, here the phone only slides up a couple of inches. All that extra real estate stays hidden. As a result, it feels like a bigger phone than, say, the HTC HD 7 with its larger screen. The other WP7 handset with a physical QWERTY, the HTC 7 Pro, opted to put its keyboard in the other way round.You can keep the phone closed and type on the virtual keyboard in the usual way, and you’ll have to use this method if you are entering text with the phone in landscape orientation. But if you do use the slide-out QWERTY (and it’s a waste not to since it adds so much bulk and weight in your pocket) it’s a pleasant enough experience with highly usable, if snugly placed, ridged keys. You can tap away at reasonable speeds – faster than on the virtual on-screen version, though that’s not bad either. Both virtual and physical keypads include a smiley key to add icons to your texts, though confusingly the position of the key varies between physical and on-screen. Go figure. The screen is AMOLED, so it’s vivid and colourful. And boy does it collect finger smudges, so you’ll be rubbing it on your T-shirt regularly. It doesn’t shed smudges as easily as an iPhone with its oleophobic covering, either.
Unlike Android phones, a review of a Windows Phone 7 handset won’t have as much to say about the user experience. That’s because Microsoft laid down minimum requirements for some elements (storage, for instance) and exact requirements for others (screen resolution, processor). So where the experience of using an HTC Android phone is wildly different from an LG Android, with different custom overlays and features, here things are much more consistent. Even so, the Dell Venue Pro seems to be the bare minimum of individuality: there are no manufacturer- or network-focused tiles on the home screen. In terms of hardware, where the LG Optimus 7 and Samsung Omnia 7 both have physical Windows buttons, here it’s just a touch-sensitive Windows logo, but there’s no physical movement and it can’t wake the screen. The camera, another variable, is decent but at five megapixels not as striking as the HTC Mozart’s eight-megapixel sensor. The storage is at the lower end of the scale – 8GB (there are no microSD cards in WP7 handsets) rather than the 16GB permissible. The Dell Venue Pro arrived with the NoDo update that includes the facility to copy and paste text. It’s easy to use (touch any text, move the cursors to start and end, touch the Copy icon) though there’s no option to cut, which is curious. And if you want to repeatedly paste the same text it’s not very intuitive – you have to press the text suggestion bar that rests on screen above the virtual keyboard to restore the paste icon. Ah well, it’s very welcome.Is this the best Windows Phone 7 handset? Its size is a bit of an issue and the Samsung Omnia 7 seems to have a little more to offer, but it’s a good looking, enjoyable phone and Windows Phone 7 has a lot to recommend it, from the ability to launch the camera from the lock screen to the neat way the Maps function shows a satellite photo of the location automatically as you zoom right in.
There’s no getting away from it, this is a hefty handset. And the QWERTY slide-out keypad that’s responsible for some of that bulk is usable but not really necessary. Still, Windows Phone 7 is gaining potency, and part of its success is the knowledge that Microsoft-specified capabilities mean it’s fast, slick and easy on the eye.