I have to be honest here. I’ve only ever really known Dell as a PC maker. The company’s laptops were once a staple on my college campus for those who couldn’t afford a fancy Apple Powerbook, and now some of my colleagues even use a Dell laptop as their daily driver.
So you can imagine my surprise when a Dell-branded Android tablet showed up at my desk with some really supreme specifications and Intel’s latest Atom processor. While the words “Dell” and “Intel” don’t exactly conjure up the image of an Android tablet, I’m open to trying out new things. Dell’s new Venue 8 7000 (the exact model number is 7840), as it’s also referred to—scored high marks in its design and functionality. But some of the extra stuff bundled with it, like Intel’s RealSense camera technology, seems like it could really use a little more polishing.
Thin, but not flimsy
For the most part, I’ve been unimpressed with Android tablet design. Most of what manufacturers have brought to market have been rather basic looking, save for Samsung, which introduced its attractive Galaxy Tab S series last year specifically to compete against Apple’s iPad.
The Dell Venue 8 7000 is still a bit behind where Samsung’s at with its tablet design, though it definitely has an air of originality about it with its gunmetal chassis and black glass accents. At 6mm, it’s thinner than the iPad Air—though only by 0.1 mm—and one of the lightest tablets I’ve ever held.
Despite its weightlessness, the tablet isn’t very comfortable to hold. It may sound pedantic, but the top-left placement of the power and volume buttons are completely opposite of what I’m used to (though I could see left-handers getting excited about that), and the bezels are so thin that I kept accidentally activating the screen while I was trying to read an ebook. You can certainly hold the tablet by its bottom chin where the speakers are housed, but it’s sort of awkward to do so in landscape orientation. And when you’re ready to shoot a selfie, you have to flip the tablet upside down to properly do so.
Just to show you that it hasn’t left behind its PC-making past, Dell even slapped on its huge logo on the back so that everyone on the train ride to work can see that you’re still buying products from the same company that made your college laptop.
A sharp display with noticeable flaws
At first glance, the Venue 8’s 8.4-inch, 2560 x 1600 resolution OLED panel is truly a thing of beauty—I loved doing even mundane things on it, like reading a graphic novels or watching YouTube. Dell’s display isn’t as over-saturated as Samsung’s displays, and the picture is always nice and clear at medium-to-high brightness levels.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem Dell properly calibrated the tablet’s display. I noticed a bit of nasty color distortion with the brightness turned all the way down while using the tablet in low-light. The display takes on a purple tint, contrast all but disappears, and apps like the Google Keyboard look as if they’d been improperly colored.
It’s what on the inside that counts
The Venue 8 runs near-stock Android 4.4.4 KitKat, though Dell bundled in some extra applications that are a bit tacky looking. In particular, the MaxxAudio app, an equalizer for the Venue 8’s awesome stereo speakers, sports an interface that’s stuck in 2010. But again, it is what helps make the tablet great for bumping out loud tunes, so it’s a transgression worth overlooking.
As far as operating system performance goes, you won’t experience any slowdowns with the tablet’s quad-core 2.3GHz Intel Atom Z3580 processor and 2GB of RAM. Since this is my first time with an Intel-based Android tablet, I decided to put the device through its paces in a few benchmark tests.
It scored lower than the Nexus 9’s 64-bit Tegra K1 processor in both Geekbench 3 and 3DMark, and about average in Vellamo’s Chrome and multi-core benchmarks. It’s still really speedy, though, and about the only time I really experienced lag was after I’d snap a photo using Intel’s RealSense camera.
The Venue 8 7000’s 5,900 mAh battery pack seemed to last forever on standby. I’d leave it alone over the weekend and it’d only eat through about three percent of battery life. I did notice, however, that the brighter the screen was the quicker the battery would drain. But for the most part, I could leave the tablet behind and come back to it a few days later and it’d still have a little juice left in it.
RealSense makes no sense
Intel’s RealSense is definitely first generation technology that’s in the process of establishing what it’s capable of. The technology uses the rear-facing 8-megapixel camera and two accompanying 720p cameras that record depth information. Thus far, it can measure distance, change a focus point, and colorize or filter a specific part of a photo.
The three rear-facing cameras are too easy to block with your fingers when you’re taking a photo, and for the depth-sensing to really work you’ll have to situate yourself far away from the subject to get it to fit in the frame.
The measuring tool is also a neat utility to have, but I’d rather see this technology on a smartphone than a tablet. You shouldn’t be snapping many photos with your tablet, anyway.
A good start from Dell
If you’re the type of person who wants to buy a tablet from the same company that makes the laptop your IT department issued to you, then I think you’ll like the Dell Venue 8 7000. It’s a formidable competitor to Apple’s iPad, and it’s thin chassis will at least give you some bragging rights.
But if you’re a seasoned Android user, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S is still the one to consider. It may not be as speedy as the tablet reviewed here, but it’s a bit more trustworthy given Samsung’s time in the Android realm. Or, if you’re really power hungry, there’s the Nexus 9.
Regardless, this is an improvement over Dell's previous tablets. Between its manufacturing power and Intel’s storied hardware past, the two companies could really be on to something here. They just both need to stay focused if they want to become a top contender.
This story, "Dell Venue 8 7000 review: A thin, light tablet with a weird depth-sensing camera" was originally published by Greenbot.