The Dell Venue piqued my curiosity for a number of reasons. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I was looking forward to putting it through its paces. In the Specs department the Venue stands as tall as some of the other ‘big’ names in the industry today, the HTC Desire HD or the Samsung Galaxy S. But here’s where we give you the real scoop and help you decide if you should spend your hard earned money or not. Here’s a closer look at the Dell Venue Android powered handset.

Form Factor

It’s an impressive looking piece of hardware – very refined, aesthetically sound but slightly on the heavy side at 164g. The 4.1-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen display sports a 480 x 800 pixel resolution making it a visual bliss for viewing pretty much any content be it websites, videos or games. Since it’s encased in Gorilla Glass there’s no need to keep it hidden with a case or use a screen guard.
Volume/zoom keys are located on the right hands side at the top with a camera shutter release at the bottom on the same side. A standard micro USB port for both charging and PC interfacing is placed at the bottom in between a set of stereo speakers while a 3.5mm handsfree socket is on the top. A small switch is on the left hand side that allows you to switch between silent (vibrate only) and standard profile mode. This could be considered quite redundant as you can do this on any Android handset with a simple swipe to the left when you switch the screen on.
Sturdy but a little heavyset

Sturdy but a little heavyset

What the Venue lacks in the touch sensitive key segment is a Search option – Return, menu and Home are all you’ll have to contend with.  A hot swap micro SD card slot is located just under the uber swanky rear panel. It’s very hard not to look at this phone and not say it’s gorgeous.


Features and Performance
Interface

Under the hood of this Froyo running beast beats a 1 GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 200 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset and 1GB ROM. What bothered me was that as user friendly as Dell’s Stage UI is, it just didn’t seem to be as fluid as Launcher Pro (free off the App Market). I found a noticeable amount of lag and jittery motions while scrolling through the menus and multiple desktops with Dell Stage widgets. The switch over to Launcher Pro turned things around and speed ceased being an issue. Functionality was swift and seamless and with Swype on board even typing was a breeze.
Gorgeous lines

Gorgeous lines

It seems like custom UI’s for Android designed and preloaded by manufacturers might not always be the best in terms of overall usability. Sure they’ll feature custom widgets with plenty of features but sticking to the basics of the Android OS or switching over to another you can pick up from the Market, might just improve your experience. Choices are available, in most cases, including this one, I suggest an alternative to the manufacturers option.

Well designed UI but a little sluggish

Well designed UI but a little sluggish

Another drawback I noticed was that irrespective of overall speed of operation for most functions including very responsive pinch-zoom capabilities, the accelerometer was just a tad off its game. Response time while switching orientation was not as fluid as one would want.


Media

Here’s where the handset was a truly large disappointment. Irrespective of what handsfree, earphones, headphones you use, the audio quality was just not up to mark The decibel level was so annoyingly low that even in our sound proofed AV Labs I was left craving more volume. Dell has not provided any audio or video enhancements with the Venue but, thanks, once again, to the Android Market, options are available. Unfortunately, they didn’t help either. I installed RockPlayer for videos and 720p video files in .MKV played back spectacularly well and looked fantastic.  I only wish I could have heard the dialogue.
Send to card

Send to card

The Kindle app for Android is preloaded and so are Amazon’s MP3 downloading app and Del Video Stage that’s powered by Roxio. Now, Dell has also included an Online Radio app called Tunein. You can access all kinds of online stations and listen to a variety of genres, Talk Radio channels, local channels and even set your favorite channel as an alarm. A Zinio Reader app for online digital magazines is also preloaded.

In this sense, at least, Dell has included a few, very handy multimedia apps for the Venue, but all of them, put together still don’t make up for the low output via the audio out option. The built in speakers are however, more than suitable to have a very decent conversation.

Connectivity
3G, Wi-Fi and EDGE/GPRS are the modes of internet connectivity available with the Venue. With Wi-Fi and 3Gm thanks largely to Froyo, the Venue can also be turned into a portable hot spot and can also be tethered via USB to your laptop or netbook etc. for internet usage. Android also offers VPN (Virtual Private Network) functionality. For it’s GPS module, Dell has preloaded CoPilot Live for navigation, or you can always stick to Google Maps with Navigation, Places and Latitude for other location based services.

Flash on board

Flash on board

Social is a widget on Dell Stage that allows you to connect with either Twitter or Facebook but not both simultaneously. It utilises a full page for either so you’ll end up using two desktops for both. Waste of space. Samsung’s Social Hub is a better option in this case. AccuWeather, Dell Sync (for backing up your data) and a News and Weather app are also on board along with other Google services like Voice Search, Gtalk and YouTube. The native browser supports Adobe Flash 10.1 so web browsing is a very full experience.

Misc. Features
A few extras like Evernote, that’s extremely handy for cloud based note-keeping, have been thrown in. All the basics like Android’s calendar that syncs with FB and Google, a calculator, alarm clock, voice recorder and Quickoffice are also a part of pre-loaded package.

Camera
Strapped onto the rear of the Venue is an 8MP autofocus (touch focus) camera with an LED flash. It’s loaded to the hilt with settings that include – Face Tracking, plenty of Scene Modes, effects, White balance, ISO settings that range from 100 to 800 and even a Panorama setting,. unfortunately not of the auto-stitch variety.

Decent color reproduction

Decent color reproduction

Image quality is quite impressive. Colors look well retained and details remain decently intact in native resolution.

Macro

Macro

The Venue can also capture video up to 720p @30fps. Those also managed to come out looking quite good.

Battery
The Dell Venue sports a 1400mAh battery that can deliver up to 5 plus hours of talk time. That’s not overly impressive considering the price tag or battery power but it’s better than average in my book. On a single charge you can us the handset quite a bit for a little over a day and a half. Videos tend to drain the battery a little too quickly though.

Froyo FTW!

Froyo FTW!

The Bottom Line
Bearing a price tag of Rs. 28,990 (MOP), the Venue could have been a serious contender in the Android mobile handset space if it weren’t for it’s ridiculously low volume for media. I’m hoping this is just the case with this singular piece and will post an update when I do a follow up test later. If, however, you happen to own the handset already and are having similar issues or aren’t, do let me know. The bottom line though is this, for this price, I’d recommend the Samsung Galaxy S. It’s got everything and more than what the Venue can offer and it’s available at almost the same price.

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