Dell Venue 8 7000 review
Dell's Android tablet is a stunner, and packed with interesting technology
Review enough tablets and they can begin to blend together. The demands for ever-decreasing thicknesses and the popularity of certain screen sizes means even the very best Android tablet can tend towards bland homogeneity.
The 8.4in Dell Venue 8 7840 (known previously as the Dell Venue 8 7000) is a welcome off-trend effort: it ticks the “super-thin” box, then upsets the apple cart with its barely there bezel and dark metallic grey finish. See also: What's the best tablet you can buy?
It’s a very expensive-looking device. By Dell’s measurements, it’s the thinnest tablet available right now: a maximum thickness of 6mm beats the iPad Air 2 by just 0.1mm. Hold them next to each other and it’s unlikely you’ll spot the difference, but the fact is that the Venue 8 7840 is an impressive slice of technology.
Dell Venue 8 7840 review: core specs and performance
Such slim dimensions pose a stern test in balancing portability and performance. But the Venue 8 7840 packs a quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 SoC and 2GB of RAM, which powered it to a more than respectable set of benchmark results. The SunSpider browser test returned a result of 614ms, which, while leaving the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S 8.4 unthreatened, is still pretty quick.
On the other hand, running GFXBench’s demanding T-Rex HD (onscreen) benchmark produced an average frame rate of 20fps; hardly record-setting, but considering that high-resolution display, actually rather impressive.
In real-world use, a few hours at the wheel of Asphalt 8 produced frame rates that were good enough for entertaining gaming, if not the smoothest driving experience.
Our only gripe on the specification list is the Venue 8’s miserly approach to storage. There’s only one capacity available from Dell, and the 16GB on offer sounds tight before you consider that, freshly set-up, the Venue 8 has only 8.92GB available for use. The right-hand edge offers a small, paperclip-ejected tray that will hold a microSD card of up to 512GB in size, which you’re very likely to need.
Dell Venue 8 7840: design
The Dell Venue 8 7840’s form factor is unusual. The display’s 16:10 aspect ratio sits within a frame within an uneven bezel: it's super thin at the top and sides, but broader at the bottom. The thick bezel at the bottom contains a pair of stereo speakers, which is a good use of the space, and it's one of the few tablets we’ve seen where it’s hard to muffle the speakers with your hands whilst holding it.
There’s also a 2-megapixel, front-facing camera for video calls. This is awkwardly placed: it’s very easy to obscure the camera’s view with the heel of your hand when holding the Venue 8.
There are more serious usability problems, however. Turning a tablet on its side to type longer emails and documents makes sense as you get a wider keyboard to work with. Turn the Venue 8 sideways and one of your thumbs has to reach across the deeper bezel, which means you have to stretch to reach the middle of the keyboard.
AMOLED screens remain a rarity in consumer tablets, so it’s gratifying to see the technology in the Venue 8’s 8.4in display. It has a top-drawer resolution as well, with 2,560 x 1,600 pixels providing a display density of 359ppi. With default settings, that actually means standard-sized text looks rather small, and links in Chrome can be tricky to hit accurately. Setting Android 4.4's (KitKat) default text size to its largest setting produced a more pleasant reading experience.
It isn’t the brightest display we’ve ever seen – AMOLED panels aren’t as bright as their IPS counterparts, so the peak brightness measurement of 288cd/m2 is neither top of the charts nor a surprise. However, the infinite contrast ratio means the Venue 8’s display literally shines: it’s packed with saturation and colour, and the deep, rich blacks result in videos and photos looking fabulous.
Dell Venue 8 7840 review: RealSense camera
Taking photos with the Venue 8 is particularly interesting. The front camera is self-explanatory, but the 8-megapixel rear camera uses Intel’s RealSense technology.
This involves one main camera, mounted centrally at the bottom of the device, and two others above it. Take a picture and load it into Dell’s Gallery app and you can use the measurements obtained while shooting to measure the distances between two points in an image, or change the focal point.
Calculating distances worked pretty well: we tried measuring the screen diagonal on a 13.3in laptop, and the tablet told us it was 1ft 1in. It’s easy to see this feature being useful as a rough-and-ready measuring tool.
But we didn't find it particularly successful at altering the focal point or blurring the background. All too often, using this feature resulted in unattractive, jagged artefacts between in- and out-of-focus areas of an image. The quality of the rear camera wasn't terribly impressive either, producing grainy, over-compressed images, both indoors and outdoors.
The strange arrangement of cameras isn’t the only Intel-branded technology to make an appearance. Sensing Assist mode attempts to detect when the Venue 8 has been picked up, and wakes the screen so you need only slide Android’s unlock padlock across the screen.
In practice this works well: the Venue 8 proved capable of distinguishing between being picked up and being merely jostled. It isn’t always reliable, sometimes failing to wake up when picked up, and sometimes waking up accidentally, but in general, it works, giving the Venue 8 a pleasing little zap of pizzazz each time you lift it off the desk.
Dell Venus 8 7840 review: verdict
The Venue 8 7840 is packed with interesting technology. Not all of it will come in handy day-to-day – being able to measure distances within photos is a neat trick rather than an indispensable innovation. However, the core specifications, performance and screen make it very tempting.
The strange form factor is something you should try out before buying as it won’t be to the liking of all, but the size, weight, performance and top-notch screen all make it worth investigating.
Dell Venue 8 7000 specifications
|Processor||Quad-core 2.33GHz(burst) Intel Atom Z3580|
|Screen resolution||1,600 x 2,560|
|Rear camera||8MP RealSense|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||microSD (max 512GB)|
|Size (WDH)||124 x 6 x 216mm|
|Operating system||Android 4.4|
|Battery size||Not stated|
|Warranty||1yr collect and return|
|Price||£320 inc VAT|