When I did the review of the Dell Streak, one of the things that struck me was the notion that I can use the Streak to make a phone call. I could not imagine myself making a phone call with a 152.9mm x 79.1mm pad. This time around I was loaned the Dell Venue, a smartphone that is based Google’s Android 2.2 operating system. This should not be confused with the Dell Venue Pro, which has almost the same look and feel, minus the physical keyboard and Windows Mobile 7 OS that the Pro possesses.

OBSERVATIONS

The Venue’s most pronounced feature is its 4.1 inch WVGA AMOLED touchscreen display. Dell used a high quality Corning Gorilla Glass giving it what I can only describe as true crystal clear display – one of the best I’ve seen so far (and only reminiscent of my experience with some of the high end 3D LED displays out in the market recently). Gorilla glass is optimized for handheld devices and notebook computers Its easy to clean, and wear resistant.
Despite its size 121mm x 63mm x 12.9mm (Height x Width x Thickness) , I didn’t find it anymore  bulkier than the other smart phones that I’ve tested before.
WHAT I LIKE
The Venue has smooth metallic (chrome) sides. When I first took it out of the box, I was worried that the metallic sides would mean I would have to handle this phone gingerly for fear it would slip easily off my hands. As it turns out, the back panel has a micro-pattern that gives it just enough texture to give you a firm grip on the phone. In contrast to the HTC or the Sony Ericsson Xperia phones which always kept me on my toes whenever I held the devices for fear I would drop the phone, or it would slip off my hands. The Venue never slipped off my hand during the entire two weeks i was playing with it. I loved the curves ends of this phone as it doesn’t poke when inside my trouser pockets.
This is one of the few smart phones with an 8MP digital camera. The software is very intuitive as is the use of the Venue to take photos. However, quality is still not up to par with a dedicated digital camera with similar rating. I think all camera phones share this problem. They are, first and foremost devices for making calls. Shooting photos is a nice to have function (although increasingly as consumers grow accustom to taking photos and posting these to their Facebook account, having a good camera is becoming a must have feature, second only to making calls.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
Two things irked me using this phone. The first is the lack of a way to lock the phone without blanking out the screen. When you are watching a video, you will want to disable the touchscreen so as not to accidentally pause the video. Unfortunately the lack of such a feature meant, this occurred too many times for me.
But a more disrupting feature for me is the user interface of the Venue. Called Stage, I found it takes some getting used to as the layout is no intuitive (in my opinion only). So for me navigating around the many features of the phone was at times taxing. Often, I end up trying to trace back how to get a specific contact, or surf the web, or make a call.
For those who are using Dell laptops, the Stage software may not be so alienate. Dell uses this same software for accessing music, videos and photos on laptops and other mobile devices.
ONE MORE THING
So would I buy this phone? It’s very likely not for me. I love the external look and the solid feel of the phone when I am holding it. But the clunky user interface is a turn-off. At a suggested retail price of HK$3,999 or US$514, it is not a cheap phone.
The title of this review is “making calls with the Dell Venue” so from that perspective my overall experience is that the Venue is an ok phone. Its not amazing but certainly I found it not anything less than I’d expect from Nokia. I did found it difficult to adjust the loudness of the call when it sounded weak but overall it isn’t a bad device for making calls. Certainly I’ve had worst.
PHOTOS
Dell Venue camera flash logo

Dell Venue camera flash logo

Dell Venue home page

Dell Venue home page

Music page as displayed by Dell Stage software

Music page as displayed by Dell Stage software

Surfing the Web on the Dell Venue

Surfing the Web on the Dell Venue

Facebook on the Dell Venue

Facebook on the Dell Venue

Side view of the Dell Venue

Side view of the Dell Venue

 

 

VIDEO
OTHER REVIEWS
TECH SPEC
Operating system: Android 2.2
Processor: Qualcom 1GHz QSD 8250
Bands: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, GPRS, Edge, HSDPA 7.2 MBps
Display: AMOLED 4.1″ 800×480 pixels, 24 bit, 16M colors
Camera: 8MP, autofocus, 4x digital zoom, video and audio record, dedicated camera key
Video: H.264 MPEG-4 AVC, WMV
Messaging: POP3, IMAP, ActiveSync, Push Email, Microsoft Exchange, SMS, MMS, Native IM
Browser: Web 2.0 full HTML, WAP support
Memory: 1GB / 512MB
Storage: micro SD support up to 32GB
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, AGPS, Bluetooh 21 EDR, A2DP, AVCRP, 3.5mm HSJ, micro-USB
Primary battery: 1400 mAh
Dimension: 121 x 64  12.9mm
Weight: 164 grams
Others: GMS HW compliant with G-sensor, E-compass, Virtual keyboard

Awhile back I posted my take of the Sony Ericsson X10 mini and I indicated I would follow-up the review with its sibling the X10 mini pro.

I had high expectations for the X10 mini pro when I took it out of the box. My initial impressions on the physical aesthetics of the phone were justified. The X10 mini pro looks bulkier than its sibling but this is justified by the inclusion of a physical keyboard – with ‘real’ keys that you can touch and press.
Setting up the phone after a full reset (so I could clear any existing data settings by the previous user) was simple. This time I did not bother to look for a manual for the phone, instead I groped my way through the selection of menus, found what I needed, and kept on going.
Typing experience. Although this is a qwerty keyboard, some of the keys (numbers and special characters) have been moved around so it takes some getting use to it. When I first started typing I was concerned that my large thumb would make typing difficult. For the most part I was impressed that typing was easy EXCEPT when I was going for the E, R, T, Y keys as I always kept bumping into the edge of the display screen. The physical keys themselves need to be depressed with an effort to make the connection. I am not sure if this would change as you use the phone over time. But in my four days of using the phone, I found the effort to be unchanging.
In case you don’t feel the urge to slide out the keyboard, the T9 virtual keyboard is there for you. Personally I didn’t like my experience with the T9 keyboard, it kept interfering with my abbreviated SMS typing. I found it so annoying that I forced myself to slide out the keyboard each time I needed to send a text message. This can be a distraction if you are walking about town and you need to respond quickly to an incoming message.
More annoying, and I was unable to disable this function, is the appearance of the language bar on lower left hand corner of the tiny 2.55 inch screen. With so tiny a real estate, why did the engineers at Sony Ericsson keep this virtual button there. Did they think that a person typing a text would want to change language mid-entry? In fact this language bar quickly became a nuisance for me as it actually hampered my typing 50% of the time.
At 90×52 x17mm and weighing a mere 120g, the Sony Ericsson X10 mini pro is cute, distinctive and easy on the pocket. The 2.55 inch screen means the engineerings weren’t expecting owners of this phone to surf the web. Writing cryptic messages on Facebook or Twitting is not a problem but this is not the device for reading a full article from your favorite blogger or making a blog entry of your own, for that you really need a bigger screen.
I also didn’t notice it as much but watching a video from this phone quickly becomes impractical not because the screen is small but the reflective glass makes it hard to watch in a bright light setting (yes, even bright indoor lights).
As with its smaller sibling, the X10 mini, the pro has shortcut icons on the four corners of the screen. Changing these is easy. You can only have one widget per screen but that only makes sense since you have such a tiny screen. You can flick or swipe left or right to skim through these widgets.
If you Twit a lot or always want to know that’s happening in your Facebook account, Timescape streams these short messages with the avatar of the author lightly superimposed as a background for the message. Same goes for your sms messages.
Sony Ericsson phones are on par with the best multimedia gadgets out there. The X10 mini and X10 mini pro follow this tradition very well. The music player is excellent and despite the diminutive phone, you can still crank up the volume to hear it without headphones. (more…)

Finally decided to unbox the HTC Touch Diamond that a friend loaned to me to test. The packaging is catchy although I, personally, don’t like the design on the back – whoever designed this must have thought he or she was being imaginative. The HTC Diamond design is unique but not innovative (in my humble opinion).

Again I am not doing a comprehensive review of the Diamond. You’d be better of going to one of the sites below. I’m here to tell you what a non-geek would like and dislike about the new product from HTC.

What I like about the HTC Touch Diamond

  • Small form factor, fits my hand and my pants pocket (also shirt pocket) very nicely
  • ActiveSync software ran very smoothly and syncs my Outlook data to the Diamond (no worries)
  • Bright screen
  • Windows platform means, in theory, I can open standard office apps when I have to (and for once Windows Mobile 6.1 worked better than its predecessor the Windows Mobile 6 on the HTC device).

I have a HTC Touch (gen 1) and when you load even a small excel spreadsheet, the phone runs like a snail pulling a dead weight. With the Diamond, I ran the picture slideshow, open a spreadsheet, called another phone number, and ran Bubble Breaker and the phone still worked “almost” flawlessly.

What I don’t like about the HTC Touch Diamond

  • It is designed to power-off (you can program it for up to 5 minutes). I think this is to save battery but the during first day I used the phone, I tell you it freaked me out that the phone kept switching off. I had to run through the innards of the operating system to come to the conclusion that there is the built-in power off mode. Just to be safe I asked a friend to call my number to see if the phone rang when it was “powered off”. The Diamond wakes up when a call comes in.
  • The Diamond touts the new TouchFlo 3D but I tell you the version I got, (ROM 1.93.707.1 WWE), is quirky to say the least. There are times when I had to keep repeating movements to get the darn thing to do what I want it to (doesn’t always though so I had to keep pressing the HOME key every now and then).
  • I can’t use my standard headset with mini-jack to listen to the music although bluetooth was ok.
  • Fingerprint magnet
  • The processor can, at times, be slow (like trying to watch some photos, scrolling through the favorite phonelist).

Other HTC Touch reviews
Geek.com – Review: HTC Diamond
CNET Australia – HTC Touch Diamond
MobileTech Review – HTC Diamond

My first product review was the Samsung Omnia – another Windows Mobile 6.1 device. After holding this HTC Touch for a couple of days I have to admit that the Touch wins hands-down versus the Omnia. GSM Arena has done a great comparative review of the Omnia versus the HTC Touch Diamond. Read it if you are trying to decide between these two devices.

Personally which one would I consider buying? If I really have no choice I would pick the HTC Touch Diamond. But if I have to choose a new phone to replace my BlackBerry Pearl, I’d probably try the new BlackBerry Bold first before I make any commitments. In case you are thinking I’m overly biased towards the BlackBerry, I was once an avid Sony Ericsson customer with the P900 being my last SE smartphone. I am curious to try the SE Experia but that would be for another day. I’ve also used the Nokia E70 – that was also a painful experience.

One last point to ponder. The true test of a consumer product is the ability to use it out of the box without reading the manual. To be fair I was able to switch the Diamond on and make a call. But to do other stuff like look for a phone number, send SMS, or get connected to the web, those took time to figure out and get used to the way the Diamond wants to be handled. Beautiful it may be but the HTC Touch Diamond is not as intuitive as the vendor makes it out to be.

Oh well, back to my BlackBerry Pearl – the no fuss, no hassle, smartphone.

PS: I recently met up with Mark Russinovich. He asked if I switched off TouchFlo to see what my experience would be like. At the time of review, I wasn’t aware this was possible. Oh well, my lost.