Dell's WP7 phone may have gotten a name downgrade - Dell Venue Pro just doesn't have quite the cachet of Lightning - but after some hands on time, the slider at least looks and feels every bit as promising as we'd hoped.
The Venue Pro has a bit more heft than some of the other WP7 devices launching today, but it's not overly bulky. It just feels solid, durable. Likewise the portrait slider keyboard: good spacing on keys, a sliding mechanism that seemed capable of enduring an extended SMS barrage. The 4.1-inch multitouch AMOLED screen is bright, crisp and responsive. I can't wait to see how pics from the 5MP camera look on it. One quibble: The phone's already so long that the added height from sliding out the keyboard vertically makes it look and feel a little gawky and off-balance. But it otherwise seems, so far, like a warhorse.
In a lot of ways, you could see the Venue Pro as a corrective to the Aero, which feels as cheap as it costs. As for performance, we didn't get a chance to play around with WP7 too much, but the Snapdragon processor seemed up to the few tasks we gave it.
It's a promising start for Microsoft and a pretty clear indicator that their strict guidelines for hardware partners is paying off. It's also a fresh start for Dell, who between the Venue Pro and the rumoured Thunder Android phone are going to quickly make Aero a distant memory.