A Closer Look: Design
If the Streak was Dell's answer to customers who wanted a trendy and modern looking device which sports design elements only a consumer can love, then we would go out on a limb and claim that the Venue was created in response to users who wanted an Android-powered device that has a design which is more befitting that of a mobile professional. This is due in no small part to Dell's decision to utilize a box-like template that exhibits only mild curves, along with the use of chrome-plated sides.
In fact, we would even go as far as to claim that it is the Venue's use of chrome-plated side panels (albeit made out of plastic), along with its unique template, that gives the smartphone a distinct identity which allows it to stand out in the myriad of generic-looking Android-powered mobile phones that are currently available on the market today. This is no mean feat considering just how huge and diverse the ecosystem for such devices is, and the Venue is a testament to how Dell has got the 'unique' and 'sexy' parts of smartphone design down pat.
Also adding to the Dell Venue's business-like image is the design of the large touch-sensitive icons located below the display, which tell a user in no uncertain terms the exact functions they were programmed to perform….
…and the use of a textured rear housing that provides just enough traction for users to ensure that they will be able to have a firm grip on the Venue. We all know that more traction is always a good thing; nobody wants to have to deal with the prospect of having their smartphone meet an unfortunate end in the form of broken hardware caused by an accidental drop.
While we are still on the subject of the Venue's rear housing, we would also point out that this is where the smartphone's built-in 8-megapixel camera resides. According to Dell, the built-in camera is capable of capturing still images at resolutions of up to 3264 x 2448, and recording videos at up to resolutions of 720p.
Removing the Venue's rear housing will allow a user to gain access to the SIM card slot, the microSD card reader and the all-important battery pack. Dell claims that the built-in microSD card reader is capable of accepting cards with storage capacities of up to 32GB.
For those who are wondering about the Dell Venue's battery capacity, our review unit came bundled with a battery pack that boasts a capacity of 1400mAh.
As far as input/output ports are concerned, the Dell Venue comes with little more than the bare essentials; there is a 3.5mm audio output jack situated next to the power button located at the top of the smartphone, along with a mini-USB port which is placed at the bottom of the Venue, right in between the smartphone's speaker grilles.
Lastly, the Dell Venue features the typical set of hardware buttons most users would expect to find on just about any smartphone retailing on the market today. The right is home to three buttons, two of which are used for volume control, while the last one is designed to call up the camera and serve as the shutter button.
The left is a lot more spartan: it houses a sliding switch which allows users to instantly set the Dell Venue into silent mode. It would seem as though Dell thought that its potential customers are the kind of users to find themselves in situations where they need a means to instantly mute their phone in the event it starts ringing in the middle of an all-important meeting.
A Closer Look: Operating System and bundled software
Remember how we claimed in the official launch for the Dell Streak 5 that the company will be making the Dell Stage user interface a key focus for all its mobile computing devices, from notebook PCs to tablets and even smartphones? Well, it seems that Dell has kept its word, for this was the first thing we saw upon turning on the Venue. And if you are wondering what users can expect from the Dell Stage interface, do head down to our little review of the Dell Streak for a quick explanation.
Unlike how most Android-powered smartphones utilize a vertical scrolling layout for the app drawer grid, Dell has opted to go for the side-scrolling layout, as shown in the screenshot below. This is similar to how Samsung and LG present their app drawer grid on their smartphones.
Our review unit was preloaded with the Android Froyo operating system (version 2.2.2, to be precise), which utilizes version 184.108.40.206 of the Linux kernel. Dell has not confirmed if there will be an upgrade path to Gingerbread or Ice Cream Sandwich (if at all), so you might want to stick around for updates pertaining to this little issue.
One aspect of Dell's mobile devices which we usually appreciate is its conscious attempt to avoid loading up its devices with too much bloatware. While this may not be an issue on notebooks with huge hard disk capacities, the limited amount of flash storage available on other mobile products like smartphones and tablets means that space is a premium and should not be so haphazardly squandered away. Indeed, the Dell Venue came preloaded with minimal additional software, although two such apps happened to catch our attention.
The first app is known simply as Backup & Restore, and does exactly what it says. Simply put, it is a handy little backup tool which allows users to create a snapshot of the Venue's operating system, complete with all their documents, media files and installed applications. And the beauty of this backup tool is that it blazes along in performance: we were able to create a system snapshot in no more than two minutes once the button was pressed.
The other app is known as Kongregate Arcade and it allows users to access a wide variety of browser-based games which can be played for free. To put it simply, the Kongregate Arcade app that is preloaded into the Venue serves merely as a front to call up the relevant URL needed to launch the game in the Venue's web browser.
Unfortunately, Kongregate's browser-based nature means that one must be connected to the Internet (be it 3G or WiFi) in order to play any of the games it has available. However, with most people already having access to a 3G data plan, such a requirement is hardly an issue, and we have to admit that some of the games available on Kongregate make for good time wasters while waiting for the bus or train that never seem to arrive on time.