Hands-On: Dell Venue
The Dell Venue is Dell's latest foray into Android smartphones, and we got a hands-on look from Dell's suite in Las Vegas during CES. Is this phone a winner, or just more of the same Aero?
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We caught up with Dell in Las Vegas to check out the new Dell Venue. The Venue is a different animal altogether from the Dell Venue Pro. The Pro is a Windows Phone 7 device with a vertically sliding keyboard. The Dell Venue, on the other hand, is an Android phone with a curved-glass touchscreen, but no hardware keys.
Of course my first concern when I tried out the Dell Venue was that it would be a larger rehash of the Dell Aero. However, among the wide array of tablets, laptops and phones that Dell is displaying here in Las Vegas, the Aero is nowhere to be seen. Dell is focusing on the future with the Venue, and the future already looks more bright.
The Dell Venue is a very large phone. It is similar in shape to the Dell Venue Pro when the Pro is closed, but there are some key differences, including a convex curved screen that rolls outward from left to right. The phone uses Corning's Gorilla glass for that display, an interesting feat considering Samsung couldn't manage to fit Gorilla glass onto its own concave Google Nexus S device. Dell reps made clear that the touchscreen itself is not curved, just the glass on top.
That glass sits atop a 4.1-inch, AMOLED display pushing 800 by 480 pixels. There's a Qualcomm 1GHz processor inside, with 512MB of RAM. Around back you'll find an 8-megapixel camera, but unfortunately there's no camera up front.
The Dell Venue does have a few interface tweaks from Dell, but it's mostly a pure vanilla Google Android design. The dialpad and contacts list wear a different skin, but they function the same as basic Android kit.
The camera interface looks like a basic Android design on the surface, but it's hiding a fascinating array of features under the menus. First of all, the Dell Venue has a 2-stage camera button with auto focus. A camera button is an unfortunate rarity in the Android world, so I'm glad to see Dell bucked the trend. The button is a bit too flush with the side of the phone to be perfect, but it's much better than nothing at all. You can also touch focus by tapping your subject on the screen. Additionally, there are tons of scene modes and imaging controls, including ISO sensitivity settings. So, the camera interface might look basic, but the features are certainly advanced.
On the homescreens, Dell has made few changes. You still get the same widgets and shortcuts, with the addition of a selection of widgets from Dell called "Stage Widgets," part of Dell's Stage interface design. There are 7 stage widgets in all: contacts, email, image gallery, music, social, Web bookmarks, and a catch-all Home widget.
These Stage widgets all take up an entire homescreen panel, but they all look fantastic. The designs are fresh and interesting, and certainly worth sacrificing a few panels for the features.
There are a few additional apps from Dell on the Venue, as well. The phone will ship with VideoStage from RoxioNow, which will offer streaming movies and TV shows on the device, for a fee, of course. There is also a backup and restore app from Nero.
Dell has yet to announce specific release dates and pricing for the Dell Venue. The phone I got my hands on was the personal device of a Dell rep, and I wasn't prohibited from seeing any feature in action, which makes me think this device is ready to ship any day now.
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