Dell Venue 8 7000 review: unconventional, quirky and brilliant
Has Dell gone bonkers or is the Venue 8 a reimagining of the popular slate?
- 8.4-inch AMOLED screen
- Great computing hardware for the price
- Can recognise depth in photos with RealSense technology
- Difficult form factor to type on
- Often fingers obstruct one of the depth cameras
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
Function dictates form in the design of the Venue 8. The shape is asymmetrical with a thin 6mm bezel framing the screen, sans for the tablet’s base. There lies excess bezel 30mm wide and it has been used to house a front facing camera and speaker.
Pasting this hardware onto one side of the tablet does have its drawbacks. Holding the tablet at times can be tricky. Type in landscape orientation and the off-centre nature of the virtual keyboard will take some time to grow familiar.
The Venue 8 is a tablet for serious people. Dark metal and glass are the materials used for its construction and the shape is as ordinary as a prism. Mobility must have ranked high on Dell’s list of priorities as the tablet is thin at 6mm and light at 305 grams.
Every bold choice has been done to make it more functional. The 8.4-inch screen uses an OLED panel, has a high 2560x1600 resolution and a market-leading 359 pixel-per-inch (ppi) density. This is on par with the 8.4-inch version of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S and greater than the 326 ppi density of Apple’s iPad Mini 3.
Using an OLED panel proves advantageous in a number of ways. The technology is versed in a wide range of colours and select pixels can be turned off for deep shades of black. Not having a separate panel for back-lighting keeps the tablet slender, and removing the secondary panel reduces light refraction for better viewing experiences outdoors.
Equipping the Venue 8 with a screen of this calibre improves the overall experience. Text is darker and sharper, movies benefit from a dynamic colour range and applications are more involving. We would put the display of the Venue 8 alongside that of the Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S and the Motorola Moto X.
The brightly coloured Android 4.4 KitKat makes good use of the display. Software remains near stock, only it is set apart by a handful of custom Dell applications. These include a revised camera interface, gallery, audio equaliser software and a utility suite. Keeping the skin of the Android software stock helps the tablet run smoothly and makes it easier to roll out future updates.
Inside the thin enclosure is a 2.3GHz quad-core CPU courtesy of Intel. Graphics are handled by an Imagination PowerVR G6430 GPU and it shares 2GB of RAM with the processor. Kitting the Venue 8 with an Intel CPU has not hurt its performance.
Testing CPU and GPU performance using benchmarking software 3DMark revealed the Venue 8 ranks among the more powerful tablets. Its score of 20,050 was significantly higher than that of the iPad Mini 2’s 10,352. This puts the Intel powered tablet in the ballpark of Samsung’s Galaxy S6, which achieved a 3DMark score of 22,083.
The Venue 8 is offered in storage options of 16- and 32-gigabytes. Dell claims the tablet can support microSD cards up to 512GBs in size; however, it failed to read 64GB microSD cards from Samsung and Sony. A 16GB microSD card worked fine.
Adding to the Venue 8’s idiosyncratic charm are a total of four cameras. Three sit flush in its back and form part of Intel’s RealSense depth camera. The cameras work with software to increase the camera’s functionality and editing capabilities.
The cameras work in tandem to measure the placement of subjects in a photo, similar to that of the DuoCamera found on the HTC One (M8). Light captured from different angles informs the Venue 8 on the location of different objects, and then intuitive software is used to calculate: the distance between two points; the size of a mapped area; or how far an object is from where the photo was taken.Read more: Dell Precision M2800 mobile workstation
Strict criteria must be met for the cameras to gauge measurements accurately. For instance, photos should be taken between 3 to 16 feet for the best depth accuracy.
Select professions could find this feature of use. Real estate agents could use the feature to determine the space of a room, or interior designers could find it helpful during prep work.
The additional cameras facilitate advanced photo editing modes. A bokeh (blurred) foreground or background can be applied to photos after they have been taken — similar to that of the HTC One (M8).
Dell takes this feature one step further by making it possible to apply filters to different parts of photos. Foregrounds can be coloured against a background that is in black and white. The ability to recognise depth in a photo makes the application of an effect more precise.
Photos are captured at 8 megapixels and are on par with the standard set by rivalling tablets. Some of the photos taken appeared hazy as light, from either a widow or fluorescent bulb, would cause the photo to be overexposed. We encountered the same problem when taking photos outdoors on an overcast day. Overall performance improved under better lighting conditions, though it still lagged behind the cameras found in rivals.
The Venue 8 will support video recording at resolutions up to 1920x1080. The slate has a front facing camera that will capture photos at 2 megapixels and also records videos at Full HD resolution.Read more: Intel to showcase human interaction technology, plus drones, at Vivid Sydney
Powering the tablet is a 5900 milliamp-hour battery. We used the tablet over a couple of weeks to stream and cast video, for emails, light gaming and social networking. Using the Dell Venue 8 this lightly allowed its battery to last for three days before needing a charge.
GGG has been looping The Departed over Netflix. Brightness is set to max and, the tablet dropped 10 per cent of charge after 67 minutes. This result holds promise; however, will update this article with the final test results.
Update, 1 May: We ran the tests again by looping a 1080p movie at max brightness. The Venue 8 looped the movie for 9 hours before the battery completely drained.
The Venue 8 has a whole lot of personality for a slate squarely focused on business. Pursuing supreme functionality has given it an unusual design, but it is easily forgiven because its features have been well implemented. The screen is fantastic, the body is lean and the power is there. And then there is the $499 price, which at $130 cheaper than the equivalent Galaxy Tab S, makes it just as ambitious.
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