Introduced at CES 2011, the Dell Venue (not to be confused with the Dell Venue Pro) is the company's second Android smartphone. Its first go, the Dell Aero, was less than impressive with a poor design, frustrating user experience, and subpar performance. Fortunately, the Venue looks to be a huge improvement. The Android 2.2 device makes a good first impression with its attractive design, and its feature set looks good on paper, but does it deliver? Read on to find out.
At a superficial level, the Dell Venue's design could be described as being like the Dell Venue Pro without the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It has the same overall shape and look, with the chrome edges, textured back, and Gorilla Glass display, but the Venue has its own pros and cons. One positive is that without the keyboard, the Venue is a more pocketable device. It's still large at 4.76 inches tall by 2.52 inches wide by 0.51 inch thick, but it's thinner and an ounce lighter (at 5.8 ounces) than the Venue Pro, which goes a long way in making the Venue easier to hold and carry around.
The front of the smartphone is dominated by the 4.1-inch WVGA AMOLED multitouch screen, which is fortified with Gorilla Glass. Overall, it's bright and clear, but not the sharpest when compared with some of the latest smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and the Motorola Atrix 4G. Still, the display's larger size makes it quite nice for viewing Web pages and multimedia, although the screen does tend to wash out in bright sunlight.
Like the Venue Pro, the Venue has a slight curve to its screen, which you can see when viewing it from the side. There isn't an obvious benefit to this, but we found it easy to swipe through the various home screens and menu pages. The touch screen was responsive to our taps, and the built-in accelerometer was quick to change orientation when we rotated the phone. The Venue offers both Swype and Android virtual keyboards.
Beneath the display are three touch-sensitive buttons--back, menu, and home--but unlike other Android phones, the Venue Pro does not have a search key. Though the smartphone can do voice-activated search and you can add a search widget to the home screen, we definitely missed having a dedicated button for easy one-touch access.
On the left side of the smartphone, you get a silent ringer switch; the right side has a volume rocker and a dedicated camera key. The top of the device houses the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack, and the speakers and Micro-USB port are located on the bottom. On the back, you'll find the camera and flash.
The Dell Venue comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a preinstalled 16GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
The Venue runs Android 2.2, along with Dell's custom Stage user interface. It's the same UI found on the company's Streak tablet line, and its purpose is to give you a more organized and simpler way to access your recent content and multimedia. Dell does this through its Stage widgets.
There are seven widgets in total (contacts, e-mail, gallery, home, music, social, and Web), and there just happens to be seven customizable home screens on the Venue. Each widget takes up the full screen and presents your most recent information (recent applications, recent photos, and so forth), with the exception of the contacts and Web widgets, which you can program with your favorite contacts and bookmarks.
In general, Stage achieves what it sets out to do. It does a particularly nice job of displaying your music library and photo and video gallery. We also like that you can touch the bottom of the screen and easily move through your different home screens.
However, Stage could use some refinement as well. It would be nice if you could adjust the size of some of the widgets similar to Motoblur. Though you don't have to add Stage widgets to every screen, it would be nice to have the flexibility to make them smaller, so you could add other shortcuts to the home screen. Also, though Stage is generally easy to use, there were some aspects that weren't intuitive. For example, it wasn't immediately obvious how to edit or remove contacts from the widget.