Dell keeps Venue 7 and 8 cheap but adds features

Dell's Venue 7 and 8 have some of the latest display and wireless technologies seen in cheap Android tablets

Dell's new PC and tablet lineup at Computex

Dell's new PC and tablet lineup at Computex

I found a lot to like playing around with Dell's newest Venue 7 and Venue 8 Android tablets, as they are packed with some new technologies missing in more expensive tablets but priced under US$200.

The 8-inch Venue 8 stood out during a hands-on test at the Computex trade show. For $199, it includes wireless charging, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and a high-definition 1920 x 1200-pixel screen, all of which add up to great value.

At 338 grams and 8.95 mm thick the tablet felt light, with a rubbery texture on the back making it easier to grip. Despite Dell's promises of improved performance, it took around 15 to 20 seconds to boot up, which is slow for mobile devices.

Most applications were fast and responsive, but some like Polaris Office were slow to load. There's an apparent trade-off between performance and battery life -- Dell chose to use Intel's Atom processor code-named Merrifield, which was designed for smartphones -- and the battery lasts about 10 hours.

The high-resolution display showed vivid images at different angles, better than other cheap Android tablets I have used. The tablet can be wirelessly charged after being placed on a dock, which reduces the need to plug in micro-USB cables. But the dock -- which you have to buy separately -- was not demonstrated at the event, and will only ship in August.

The $159 Venue 7 has the same design, thickness and processor as its big brother but doesn't have wireless charging or the high-resolution screen. The 7-inch screen displayed images at a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, which is slightly better than other tablets in the same price range.

The lower-end tablet has MaxxAudio speakers, which didn't really boom like other high-end speakers, but were decent enough for streaming music playback and voice chats.

The tablet is 290 grams, comparable to other tablets in the 7-inch category. The screen doesn't have the same viewing angles as on Venue 8, but it's still pretty good for a $159 tablet.

The only ports on the two tablets are a micro-USB and micro-SD card slot. Both include 16GB of flash storage, 1GB of RAM and Bluetooth 4.0.

Using Dell's customized settings interface, it was easy to toggle Wi-Fi and other settings.

The tablet runs Android 4.4 and will become available in July. While the processor is 64-bit, Dell representatives could not tell me whether a 64-bit version of Android would work on the tablet when the OS is released.

The first Venue 7 and 8 tablets came out just six months ago, and Dell will continue to upgrade the line about twice a year, said Neil Hand, Dell's vice president for tablets and Chrome.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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