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 hight 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 rumored Thunder Android phone are going to quickly make Aero a distant memory.