Affordable; Vibrant display for the price; Comfortable, soft-touch design; PocketCloud app enables remote PC access
Older version of Android; Slow accelerometer; Lackluster audio
The Dell Venue 8 features a vibrant display; a comfy, soft-touch design; and a pure build of Android, all for just $179.
The $179 Dell Venue 8 is the larger of Dell's two new Intel-powered budget Android slates. With its soft-touch back, sharp 1280 x 800-pixel display and clean Android experience, the Venue 8 hopes to tempt Android tablet shoppers with a more modest price tag. Here's how this slate stacks up against the smaller-size-tablet competition.
One of the first things you'll notice about the Dell Venue 8 is its soft-touch rear shell, which gives it a more premium feel than some of the slates in its price range. Dell's logo is etched into this smooth back, which is noticeable by feel since it stands apart from the otherwise silky surface. The tablet's 5-megapixel rear camera protrudes slightly, but we didn't find this to be distracting.
The front of the tablet features an edge-to-edge glass design, with chunky black bezels framing the device's 8-inch display. Though attractive, the tablet's face was quick to pick up fingerprints.
The left side of the tablet houses its volume keys and microUSB port, which the device uses for charging. Along the top, just above the 2-MP front camera, you'll find a headphone jack and a power button. But perhaps one of the most notable characteristics is the device's microSD card slot, which isn't common for smaller-size budget slates.
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Measuring 8.34 x 5.1 x 0.38 inches and weighing 12.3 ounces, the Dell Venue 8 is about the same size as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 (8.3 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches), but the Samsung is a lighter 11.1 ounces. The 10.2-ounce Nexus 7 and 11-ounce ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 are both lighter and more compact, but that's to be expected, given their smaller 7-inch screens.
When viewing a trailer for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" on the Venue 8, we were able to see the minute details in Jennifer Lawrence's face and Philip Seymour Hoffman's expressions. From Elizabeth Banks' outlandish outfits to Jennifer Lawrence's blazing chariot, we were impressed with how brightly and boldly this panel rendered colors.
The same trailer on the Tegra Note 7's 1280 x 800-pixel, 7-inch touch screen looked more yellowish than it did on the Dell Venue 8, which had more of a red tint to it. This was especially noticeable in an outdoor scene overlooking the city with the sunset in the background.
Our main complaint was the Dell Venue 8's narrow viewing angles. Even when tilting the slate down slightly, the trailer became dim, and the display caught noticeable glare.
Registering 359 lux on our light meter, the Venue 8 beat the 355-lux tablet category average and is on a par with the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (358 lux). The Venue 8 is also significantly brighter than the smaller Dell Venue 7 (255 lux). However, the 451-lux Nvidia Tegra Note 7 is brighter.
The Dell Venue 8's bottom-mounted speakers produced somewhat shallow audio. When blasting "Seven Days, Seven Nights," by The Fratellis, we noticed that the lead singer's voice and accompanying instruments sounded dull. The various melodies from the guitars, vocals, drums and bass seemed to blend together, without any clear definition or tone.
We still much preferred this to the Tegra Note 7's dreary audio, which made the guitars, vocals and drums sound as if they were underwater.
Although the Dell Venue 8's audio quality may not be the best, it was certainly loud enough to fill our small testing room. The slate registered at 81 decibels during the LAPTOP Audio Test, which is average for tablets.
We do wish the Venue 8 ran a more current version of the OS. While it supports wireless display, this tablet lacks such features as parental controls (found in 4.3) and saying "OK, Google" to launch voice search from the home screen (found in 4.4 KitKat).
Like most Android tablets, the Dell Venue 8 comes with a handy quick-settings menu that can be opened by pulling down from the top-right corner of the screen. This makes it easy to adjust certain settings, such as Wi-Fi and brightness, but other slates, such as the Tegra Note 7 and Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, offer more options. The Dell Venue 8 comes with eight quick-settings options, while Nvidia's offering comes with 10.
There's nothing distinguishable about the Venue 8's app drawer -- it's clean and basic, just like the stock Android app menu. After swiping through a page and a half of apps, you'll be greeted with a slew of widgets, including the standard alarm clock, book, bookmarks, calendar and contacts widgets.
The most intriguing app that comes with the Venue 8 is PocketCloud, which lets you use your tablet to remotely control your PC. After downloading the companion app for Windows, we remotely accessed our work computer from the slate. The service worked instantly, as we entered our credentials, but we found that the experience wasn't that great. Our windows were squished into the top half of the Venue 8's screen, and we had to zoom in to read content. Still, for those in need of remote access for emergency scenarios, the app could come in handy.
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For the most part, the Dell Venue 8's 2-GHz Intel Atom Z2580 processor with 2GB of RAM performed smoothly, but we experienced some snags. For instance, when you switch the tablet between portrait mode and landscape mode, it takes more than a second for the screen to change orientation (about 1.7 seconds).
The Dell Venue 8 delivered decent results on synthetic benchmarks. During the Geekbench 3 test, the slate scored 1,301, which is better than the competing ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (951) but below the 1,634 tablet category average. Both the EVGA Tegra Note 7's Tegra 4 CPU (2,523) and Google Nexus 7's Qualcomm snapdragon S4 Pro chip (1,849) fared better during that test.
The Dell Venue 8 performed similarly in graphics-focused benchmarks. During 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the Venue 8 scored 7,689, which is above the 6,944 tablet category average but significantly lower than the Nexus 7 (10,624) and Tegra Note 7's (16,451) results. The ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 fared the worst during this test, with a score of 2,218.
It took Dell's 8-inch slate a strangely long 23 minutes and 23 seconds to transcode a 205MB video clip from 1080p to 480p. Its competitors completed this task in a fraction of that time: The ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 finished in 11 minutes and 23 seconds, and the Tegra Note took just 3 minutes and 53 seconds. The tablet category average is 12:10.
Nevertheless, there are some longer-lasting tablets in this price range. The ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 held on for an impressive 9 hours and 40 minutes.
The Venue 8 is definitely a better value than its smaller 7-inch brother, the $149 Venue 7. You get an hour longer battery life, a brighter and bigger screen and a faster processor, all for just $30 more. If you don't mind a smaller display, the ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 offers 2 hours more endurance for $40 less than the Venue 8. But if you're seeking an affordable tablet with a larger canvas for reading, watching movies and productivity, the Dell Venue 8 is a very good choice.
|CPU||Dual-core Intel Atom Z2580 processor|
|Storage Drive Size||16GB|
|Storage Drive Type||Flash Memory|
|Display Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Graphics Chip||Intel HD Graphics|
|Front-Facing Camera Resolution||2.0MP|
|Card Reader Size|
|Warranty / Support||1-year limited hardware warranty|
|Size||8.35 x 5.11 x 0.37 inches|