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printed November 26, 2014
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Review: Alcatel Venture for Virgin Mobile USA

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The Venture is made by Alcatel, a company you may not have heard of. Fear not, Alcatel has been around for a while, but previously sold mostly in markets outside the U.S. The Venture is a monoblock device with a 2.8-inch touch display and QWERTY keyboard on the front.

It's fairly long, but the mix of black, metallic, and glass materials lend it a nice appearance. The Venture is not out to set any fashion benchmarks, despite its French heritage. It won't be strutting its stuff down any sort of cat walk. That's not to say it looks bad. It's just a bit "ho-hum" rather than "hot-dog!"

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The body of the device is smooth, with nary an edge, ledge, or surface on which to catch you hand. The sides have a nice, rounded shape to them and it rests comfortably in your palm. The front surfaces have a slippery feel to them, but the battery cover is coated in a soft-touch paint job that gives it a nice bit of grip. It'll slip into your pockets no problem, though it isn't the skinniest phone out there.

The display takes up about two-thirds of the Venture's front face. Four physical buttons, marking the typical Android control keys, run in a line across the bottom of the display. Each button is a rectangle, perhaps 1cm in length. The buttons have a pretty good shape to them and the travel and feedback is excellent.

One look at the keyboard and you can see that Alcatel was clearly inspired by Research In Motion's BlackBerry smartphones. They keys have the same "scalloped" shape that RIM has favored on its keys for years. The execution, however, isn't even close to BlackBerry quality. In fact, I'll go on record saying the Venture's QWERTY keyboard is among the worst I've used. The buttons have too much shape to them. When attempting to type messages, I found my thumbs getting caught on keys as I moved them about the keyboard. Worse, the travel and feedback of the buttons is beyond horrendous. There's so much side-to-side play in the keyboard that the entire thing feels like mush. The bottom row, conversely, is so tight and immovable that you have to really adjust the amount of pressure on the keys in order to get the buttons to work properly. It's really a crummy keyboard. About the only positive thing I can say about it is that Alcatel included dedicated "@", comma, and period buttons.

The rest of the Venture's controls work well. The microUSB port is on the left and the volume toggle is on the right. The volume toggle has an excellent feel to it, and travel and feedback are perfect. The same goes for the lock button on the top. The 3.5mm headset jack is easily accessible on the top edge of the Venture. The battery cover pops off easily, and the microSD card slot can be accessed without removing the battery.

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