The mildly textured back is easy to grip, and the chrome accents combined with the glossy black motif really screams "business." It's hardly a BlackBerry, but it's a very classy design overall. The prominent touch-sensitive Windows button along the bottom leaves no guessing as to what operating system is onboard, and we found those to be remarkably sensitive and easy to use; very much unlike the Nexus One capacitive buttons, which require a careful touch to activate.
It's designed to be used with or without the keyboard. If you prefer, you could never slide the keyboard out, and just rely on the virtual on-screen keyboard. But if you prefer physical keyboards, this is one of the better ones out there. We have to commend Dell on the design of the sliding mechanism. It's totally smooth, spring-loaded, and really solid. It slides up with ease, and the feel of the gliding process is very slick and solid. This is minor, but just like the feeling of how a car door shuts, it says a lot about the overall quality of the piece.
Dell sneaks the standard micro-USB port along the bottom edge, uncovered but indented. That's flanked by two speakers. The left edge is blank, while the right has volume up/down buttons and a dedicated camera button. The camera button, if held for 2-3 seconds, will wake the phone and go directly into the camera app; that's useful for sure, and not frequently found amongst smartphones. The top edge is home to a 3.5mm headphone jack and a power/sleep button. The rear is where you'll find a 5MP autofocus camera and a LED flash.
A standard 1400mAh battery is found behind the rear lid, and where there's a non-user-accessible microSD slot here somewhere; it's definitely not meant for end users to tamper with. You get 8GB or 16GB of storage (depending on model), and that's it. Forget about expanding it. 8GB and 16GB feels spry to us. The iPhone is sold in 16GB and 32GB flavors, but those who will need more should probably select an Android phone with a user-serviceable slot.
The QWERTY keypad has raised keys, all of which are backlit and will light up as the ambient light sensor tells it to. It reminds us of typing on a BlackBerry, though the keys are a bit smoother. We made a few errors at first, but once you adjust, it becomes pretty quick to type on. We still prefer the virtual keyboard most of the time, largely because Microsoft has done such an incredible job nailing the execution of its on-screen keyboard.
The 4.1" WVGA AMOLED display is definitely glossy, but it's also gorgeous. Tremendously so, even. Colors are sharp, viewing angles are amazing, and the touch response is best-of-class. We haven't felt a phone this responsive to touch since the iPhone 4. Even the smallest touch gets recognized, and we instantly fell in love with how remarkable the display looked and reacted. We'll go deeper into the user experience in the pages to come.