Summary & Conclusion
The smartphone market is as crowded as it has ever been, and it's becoming increasingly more so by the week. Dell wasn't even in this market a few years ago, and now, they're making a major play to take on folks like LG, Samsung, HTC and Apple. The Venue provides an excellent alternative for those needing an unlocked smartphone in the U.S., particularly one on AT&T. In a sense, the Venue has this market cornered. With the Nexus One going EOL months ago, this is effectively your only option if you need an unlocked phone (one that'll accept international SIMs for traveling) with AT&T 3G support back home. For whatever reason, finding this is hard in America; it's likely due to our reliance on hardware subsidies to afford smartphones, but either way, it's good to see the Venue breaking that mold.
Shipping with Android 2.2 may be seen as a liability to some, but honestly, Android 2.3 is nothing to clamor over. You can still install apps from outside of the market on the Venue, and still tether with the Venue. And yes, there's Flash support. Those are the heavy hitters, and it's all here. The 1GHz CPU is also an industry standard at this point, and while the LG Optimus 2X and Motoral Atrix have us craving dual-cores, there's no performance issues here. The phone felt zippy and smooth in use, and while we were skeptical about the Stage UI at first, we eventually came to like it well enough. It's well organized and easy to tweak, without being a burden.
The hardware is a mixed bag, but its mostly positive. The phone is heavy, but solid. It's also rather slippery, and while the 4.1" AMOLED screen is gorgeous to look at, we wish the pixel density was higher. The touch-sensitive buttons along the bottom of the display, however, were great, and the touch performance was second to none. We also felt that the battery life was a bit short, but at least Dell gives you the option of carrying a second battery and popping it in whenever you'd like.
All in all, it's hard to find much fault with the Venue. If you need a phone with a physical keyboard, you'll obviously want to skip over this one. Those in the market for a slate-style phone though, unlocked on AT&T, and capable of moving briskly through multi-tasking, the Dell Venue is a safe bet. We'd highly recommend putting it in a case because of the slippery gloss coating, and we can't say that the 8MP camera is a real point-and-shoot replacement, but it's definitely not bad. At $499.99 without a contract (and again, able to use SIMs from anywhere), it's priced right in line with other higher-end unlocked phones too.