Summary: The premium Android tablet from Dell is thinner than the iPad Air 2 and lighter than the iPad mini.

When you first take the Dell Venue 8 7000 out of the box the tablet makes a distinct impression. It is so thin that it seems something must be missing. Perhaps the back of the tablet is still in the box, along with the battery.

That’s not the case. It’s just that the Dell is insanely thin compared to other Android tablets.

The second impression you get is how the beautiful OLED screen goes almost to the edge of the tablet on three sides. It’s like an infinity pool, and keeps the size of the Venue 8 7000 so small. That’s not all good, as it raises concerns that will be addressed later in this review.

Turning the tablet over makes yet another big impression, as there are three camera lenses. The Venue 8 7000 is one of the first devices to implement Intel’s RealSense technology. This uses three lenses to provide depth information about an image, which can be used for editing and to determine distance and height of objects in a picture.

Hardware specs as reviewed:
• CPU: Intel Atom processor Z3580 (up to 2.3GHz Quad Core)
• OS: Android KitKat 4.4
• Display: 8.4-inch OLED, 2560×1600, 361 ppi
• Memory: 2GB
• Storage: 16GB, microSD up to 512GB
• Cameras: Rear — 8MP RealSense; Front — 2MP
• Battery: 5900mAh / 21WHr – 10h of Battery life
• Dimensions: 8.5 in. (215.8mm) x 4.89 in. (124.4mm) x 0.24 in. (6mm)
• Weight: 306g (0.67lbs)

Using the Venue 8 7000

Dell ships the Venue 8 7000 with KitKat, Android 4.4, instead of the latest version (Lollipop). That’s a shame, but Dell should provide a Lollipop update down the road.

The brushed metal case of the Dell is as good as that on the iPad. It feels solidly built and is quite pleasant to hold. It is a bit slippery, so a case or cover that folds over the back will be a good investment to prevent drops.

The front of the Dell has only the speaker grill and the front 2MP camera. The rest is all display. The left side in portrait orientation with the biggest bezel down has the power button and the volume controls. On the bottom of the tablet is the audio jack and the microUSB charging port. On the right side is the microSD slot, which can handle a whopping 512GB memory card.

Holding the Dell makes it clear just how thin and light it is. It doesn’t feel like a tablet at first. The screen goes to the edge of the case on three sides, with the bottom (in portrait orientation) longer to make room for the speakers. In a short while, the odd shape of the Venue starts to factor into how it can be held.

The longer bezel forms a grip for holding the tablet. The problem with that is it doesn’t feel natural, especially if you prefer using your tablets in landscape orientation. You end up with the “grip” sticking out on one side. The narrow bezel means you have to be careful holding the tablet, as it is easy to inadvertently touch the screen which makes it fail to register screen taps with the other hand. Holding it by gripping the long bezel can’t be done reliably when taking photos as fingers get in the way with one of the three lenses.

That’s a minor quibble, as with a little care you soon adjust to prevent that from happening. The size and light weight of the Venue 8 7000 make it effortless to comfortably hold it in awkward positions.

The star of the Venue 8 7000 is the 8.4-inch OLED display. It is bright and vivid and as good as the screen on any tablet. It is gorgeous to use, especially watching video.

The Intel Atom processor in the Dell keeps things moving right along, with only occasional lags. These typically happen when doing things like playing games. The rest of the time the tablet performs well, and operation is smooth.

One area that is disappointing is probably not due to the Atom processor. When rotating the screen, it takes several seconds for the display to rotate. This is annoying, and the first few times I did it I thought the rotation was locked until finally the display spun around properly.

Battery life is estimated at 10 hours by Dell, and preliminary testing shows this to be accurate.

Getting a sense of RealSense

The RealSense technology by Intel is designed to be used for a number of interesting applications. As implemented in the Venue 8 7000 it can augment depth in photos taken with the RealSense camera. It employs three lenses, one center lens and two angled lenses just below the central one.

These lenses work with Intel’s RealSense software to allow moving the focus to a certain distance in the image. This is done on the Dell with a slider, and the adjustment is made after the image is snapped.

The software can estimate the height of an object in the image, too.

This sounds good in theory, and is fun to experiment with on the Dell. Unfortunately, the resultant images are often not as good as desired. The problem seems to lie with the mediocre main 8MP lens in the Venue 8 7000. Even with the bells and whistles, the technology is mostly wasted on a middling lens.

To be fair, results may get better with practice. It is apparent that RealSense requires some skill to make it work well, something that will come with using the technology for a while.

Software

Dell has done a good job keeping the Android package true to the Google version of KitKat. The only extras preinstalled deal with the RealSense implementation. Those familiar with KitKat will find that everything looks and operates as expected.

One app that Dell has included is the MaxxAudio app designed to allow customizing the sound. There is a full audio equalizer in the app, along with buttons that optimize the playback to the type of audio being played.

Best Android tablet

The Dell Venue 8 7000 is the best Android tablet I’ve ever used. The premium construction and the outstanding display make this a joy to use.

Based on preliminary testing, the Intel RealSense technology used in the Dell is not a major draw to the tablet. It may be the less-than-stellar 8MP camera holding it back from full potential. In its current form it is a more of a curiosity rather than a major feature.

Pros:
• Design and build quality
• Display
• No crapware

Cons:
• Hard to hold without inadvertent screen touches
• Camera not easy to use
• KitKat, not Lollipop

Reviewer’s rating: 9 out of 10

The Dell Venue 8 7000 is available from Dell starting at $399. I am impressed with the tablet, and if I currently planned on buying an Android tablet this is the one I would get.

Author: James Kendrick
Source: ZDNet