Dell Venue review: An unlocked Android smartphone to consider

Dell Venue review: An unlocked Android smartphone to consider

Summary: The Dell Venue is a very good Android smartphone that is offered without a contract or carrier subsidy. It has a solid form factor and decent specifications.

SHARE:

My Dell Venue Pro is the best Windows Phone 7 device currently available with rock solid hardware, unique portrait QWERTY keyboard, and nice AMOLED display. You may be a bit confused with a similarly named device (I know I was at first), the Dell Venue that is an Android-based smartphone. Dell sent me a new Dell Venue Pro to test out and this is one of the nicest Android devices I have used and if you are a T-Mobile or AT&T customer you should definitely consider it.

Like the Dell Venue Pro, the Dell Venue is sold directly through Dell. It turns out it is a SIM unlocked device with two available models, one for AT&T 3G and the other for T-Mobile AWS/1700 MHz 3G so make sure you order the proper one. I was sent the AT&T model to review, but used my T-Mobile SIM to test it out. I did not know there were two different models when Dell asked to send me one or I would have checked the T-Mobile one out. Check out my image gallery of the Dell Venue where you can see how similar it is to the Dell Venue Pro.


Image Gallery: Check out product images of the Dell Venue Android smartphone. Image Gallery: Arrive retail box Image Gallery: Back of the Dell Venue

In the box and first impressions

The Dell Venue arrived in the same kind of small black box that the Dell Venue Pro did with glossy photos of the device on the outside packaging. Inside the box you will find the Dell Venue, 16GB microSD card, battery, wall charger, wired stereo headset, and some pamphlets.

After opening the box, I have to admit I was immediately impressed with the Dell Venue because it was so similar to my own Dell Venue Pro that I think is the best WP7 device made. It has a large, beautiful 4.1 inch WVGA AMOLED display, attractive and professional black and silver design with decorated back cover, soft touch top and bottom panels, and slightly curved front Gorilla Glass display.

Specifications

Specifications for the Dell Venue include the following:

  • Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system
  • 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor
  • Quad-band GSM and tri-band WCDMA for AT&T or T-Mobile
  • 8 megapixel camera with LED flash
  • 4.1 inch WVGA (480x800) AMOLED capacitive touch display
  • 1 GB RAM, 512 MB ROM (about 425 MB user accessible)
  • Included 16GB microSD card with support for up to 32GB
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Back, Menu, and Home areas
  • Integrated GPS receiver
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1400 mAh battery
  • Dimensions: 4.76 x 2.52 x 0.51 inches and 5.8 ounces

The Dell Venue feels great in your hand and has a beautiful 4.1 inch AMOLED display. It is great to see it come in flavors for both US GSM carrier so both T-Mobile and AT&T customers can buy one and get full 3G support. The camera is surprisingly good (when compared to the lame 5 megapixel one on my Dell Venue Pro) and the Venue Pro is one of my favorite Android devices.

Walk around the hardware

The front is dominated by the beautiful 4.1 inch AMOLED display made with Gorilla Glass that has a slight concave curve to it, like the Dell Venue Pro. Interestingly, the Dell Venue matches the Pro with just three touch sensitive buttons under the display, for Back, Menu, and Home. Unlike most other Android smartphones, there is no dedicated Search button.

The top houses the power button and 3.5 mm headset jack with that great soft touch material on the panel. That same soft touch material is on the bottom with two metal grill openings (one for a speaker and the other for the mic) on either side and a microUSB port in the center.

The volume buttons and camera capture button (thanks Dell!) are on the right side extreme ends while a rather unique hardware ringer switch can be found on the upper left side of the Dell Venue.

The back has the 8 megapixel camera and flash up towards the top center with a Dell logo about 1/3rd of the way down. The back has the cool Dell design seen on the Venue Pro with a matte black finish. You slide the back down to reveal the SIM card, 1400 mAh battery (same one used with the Dell Venue Pro), and microSD card. You can remove the microSD card without removing the battery, but you do need to remove the battery to get to the SIM card.

The camera seems to take surprisingly decent photos and has a flash and effects that can be used to capture unique videos. If you scroll down the list of options in the camera menu you will find a plethora of customized choices, including panorama support. The Dell Venue may be one of the better Android-based camera phones available, that isn't really saying too much though.

Walk through the software

The Dell Venue has solid specifications, but is going to be competing with new dual-core devices (may not be much of an issue in real-life usage though) and launches with Froyo. I know that most every other carrier branded Android device is also launching with Froyo, but the Nexus S unlocked device has Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and Dell doesn't really have a good upgrade record (look at the Dell Streak) so I wouldn't buy this device expecting an upgrade soon.

Dell includes their Dell Stage Home screen user interface that is similar to HTC Sense with seven Home screen panels, including Dell Home (clock, weather, and recent apps shortcuts), Email, Contacts (a photo speed dial screen with 12 of your favorite contacts), Social (Facebook and Twitter feed widget), Web, Gallery and Music. These are all simply Stage widgets so you can add or remove them as you desire. If you touch the dots on either side of the three on screen buttons (dialer, application launcher, and web) then you will see icons for the seven Home screen panels appear so you can more quickly jump to one of the seven screens.

The nice thing about buying the Dell Venue without a contract or subsidy from Dell is that you get a device with no carrier customizations or crapware. Dell does include the follow apps; Amazon MP3, Backup and Restore, CoPilot Live GPS navigation app (an excellent GPS solution), Dell Video Stage (you can actually buy or rent movies and watch them right on your Venue), Dell Sync (a PC sync client), Voice Dialer, Zinio Reader, News & Weather utility, and more.

Another major benefit is that the Dell Venue comes with Swype pre-installed so you get a fantastic QWERTY keyboard experience on the device.

With AT&T and T-Mobile carrier locked devices you have to pay for the tethering application and hope your device has it integrated. The Dell Venue comes with the ability to tether via USB or WiFi and you may not have to pay any additional fees to your carrier. It is similar to having an HTC Android device that you rooted and installed a custom ROM onto.

Pricing and availability

The Dell Venue is available directly from Dell with no contract or SIM lock for $499.99. Make sure to choose either the one optimized for AT&T or the one for T-Mobile if you want 3G on your carrier. The price is reasonable for a no-contract, SIM-unlocked device and if you want to maintain your current contract then you may want to seriously consider it.

Final thoughts on the Dell Venue

I was caught off guard by the quality and performance of the Dell Venue smartphone and am seriously considering picking up the T-Mobile version to use as my primary Android smartphone. It has a great camera and camera software, has no carrier bloatware, and performs well in everyday usage. It is comparable to the Nexus S, but doesn't have the latest version of Android like the Nexus S does. Like the Nexus S, there is no support for HSPA+ and the device is about 6 months behind in terms of the latest specifications. If it was available for $400 or less then I would probably be all over it, but $500 is a bit tough to swallow with other higher speced device launching now.

Here are a few other reviews to check out.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Dell, Google, Hardware, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

2 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Dell Venue review: An unlocked Android smartphone to consider

    Have you considered the dell streak 5?
    soarly
  • RE: Dell Venue review: An unlocked Android smartphone to consider

    Dont get it. The nexus one was released a year ago. How is the Dell Venue better other than a larger screen and more megapixels.
    ...update i purchased it during a sale at Dell. Really nice phone! I am retiring my nexus one.
    btw, Matt are the screens of the venue pro and the venue the same? I would like to put a screen cover and cant find any for the venue.
    ecobranon