Dell has re-entered the tablet arena with the Venue line, a new duo of Intel Atom-powered Android slates. The $149 Venue 7 is the smaller of the two, packing a 7-inch HD display with strong overall performance and a low price. Read on to find out how the Venue 7 stacks up to its entry-level competition.
Picking up the Dell Venue 7 is a lot like visiting an old friend, as we immediately felt at home with its sleek, familiar tablet design. The 7-inch slate sports a black bezel with a VGA camera lens at the top, while the slate's headphone jack and power button sit on the top edge.
The volume rocker and microUSB port line the left side, while a microSD slot resides behind a long, narrow flap on the right. A single inch-wide speaker is on the bottom edge.
The Venue 7's rear is comprised of a single soft-touch panel, which is available in black or red. This panel houses a 3-MP camera at the top and a Dell logo in the middle. After a few days of use, the slate's back panel remained fairly free of fingerprint smudges.
MORE: Best Tablets
At 7.6 x 4.65 x 0.38 inches, the Venue 7 is slightly shorter and thinner than the $129 Hisense Sero 7 Pro (7.9 x 5 x 0.4 inches) and the $129 ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 (7.7 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches). Easy to hold in one hand, the 11-ounce slate weighs the same as the MeMO Pad HD 7 and is a bit lighter than the 12.7-ounce Sero 7 Pro.
Click to EnlargeThe Venue 7 has the same 1280 x 800 resolution as its budget peers, the MeMO Pad HD 7 and Sero 7 Pro.
The "X-Men: Days of Future Past" trailer looked crisp on the Venue 7, as we were able to see the individual face wrinkles of Patrick Stewart as the camera zoomed away from his eyeball. The screen was equally clear as Hugh Jackman's Wolverine took down his foe, and the device did a favorable job of retaining the dark brown tones of the trailer's dystopian future setting. Colors remained clear even at viewing angles around 70 degrees.
Despite working well for movies, the Venue 7 underperforms its competition when it comes to brightness. The tablet's 255-lux rating is significantly lower than the MeMO Pad HD 7 (358 lux), Sero 7 Pro (369 lux) and the tablet category average of 355 lux.
The placement of the Venue 7's single speaker on the bottom edge keeps it from becoming muffled on a table, but don't expect booming sound. We could clearly distinguish the synths and vocals of Lady Gaga's "Applause" when listening on the slate, but bass was lacking and the overall sound was canned.
The Venue 7 registered 80 decibels on the LAPTOP Audio Test, which consists of measuring a tone at 13 inches from the tablet. This is right on par with the 80-decibel category average, though not as loud as the MeMO Pad HD 7's 91-decibel performance.
Click to EnlargeThe Venue 7 runs a mostly clean build of Android 4.2.2, which is good for those who hate software skins. We also like that this device supports wirerless display. However, you'll miss some features that are available in the newer Android 4.3 (like restricted profiles for limiting access to apps and content for kids) and 4.4 (such as saying "Ok Google" to launch voice search from the home screen).
Users can add up to five widgets to the lock screen (Calendar, Email, Gmail, Google+, Google Now and a digital clock). Unfortunately, except for Google Now, you can't unlock the Venue 7 to a particular app, such as the camera.
Once unlocked, a Google search bar is at the top and icons for Chrome, Maps, Gmail, Play Store, Camera and PocketCloud line the bottom, along with on-screen buttons for Back, Home and Recent Apps. The slate supports up to five home screens, leaving plenty of room for widgets and apps.
Sliding down from the top right of the screen provides quick access to settings, brightness, profile, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, while doing so from the top left will reveal a list of your recent notifications.
Apps and PocketCloud
Click to EnlargeThe Venue 7 packs the standard smattering of Google Apps, such as Chrome, Google+, Hangouts, Drive, YouTube and Play Store.
Unique to the Venue line are Dell's PocketCloud apps. The main PocketCloud app allows users to access their desktop remotely, while PocketCloud Explore provides access to files stored in the cloud via the PocketCloud PC or Mac companion.
After installing the PocketCloud companion app on our notebook, we were able to log in to our Desktop remotely with the app on the Venue 7. PocketCloud provides a virtual mouse for right-clicking and scrolling through Web pages and applications, and navigating the micro version of Windows on our Venue's screen was mostly smooth and intuitive. However, we noticed significant lag in both audio and video when streaming a YouTube video from our desktop.
The PocketCloud Explore app has a simpler interface and allows users to quickly browse files that are stored on both the cloud and any other devices that are linked to your PocketCloud account. Once the companion is installed, you can drag up to 2GB of files into your Cloudbin. In our testing, we were able to view a variety of our PC's photos, PDF files, and documents and download them to our Venue 7.
MORE: Best Apps
Click to EnlargeThe Venue 7 packs a stock Google keyboard with trace-typing, but no haptic feedback. The trace feature held up well in our testing, as we wrote out full Google searches such as "how to buy a tablet" without lifting our finger from the slate's screen.
The Venue 7 hosts a VGA front-facing camera and a sharper 3-MP lens in the rear. The front camera is less than stellar, as our self portraits looked extremely fuzzy with very few noticeable facial details.
Click to EnlargeThe device's rear camera fared slightly better, as we were able to nab a clear shot of an American Apparel window filled with colorful racks of clothes. However, we noticed some pixelation in some of the smaller logos on display. The 720p videos we took with the 3-MP rear camera had similarly strong colors, but weak detail.
The Venue 7's default camera app has a bare-bones Android interface, with a picture/video switch, shutter button and options wheel sitting at the bottom of the screen.
Click to EnlargeWith a dual-core 1.6-GHz Intel Atom Z2560 processor, the Venue 7 provided mixed performance. The tablet had no problem handling the high-speed water racing of "Riptide GP 2," and the slate's camera app loaded in just over a second with seven other programs running in the background. On the other hand, the accelerometer was sluggish, taking 1.8 seconds to change the screen's orientation.
It took Dell's tablet 20 seconds to load the alien shooter "N.O.V.A. 3," which is a bit slower than the 17-second category average. Still, we were able to take down our enemies with minimal latency once the game launched.
On the Quadrant performance test, the Venue 7's score of 5,779 beat out the MeMO Pad HD 7 (3,414), Sero 7 Pro (4,109) and category average of 5,037.
The Venue 7 netted a score of 1,079 on the Geekbench 3 test, outperforming the MeMO Pad HD 7's score of 951, but coming up short of the 1,634 tablet category average.
On the 3DMark Ice Storm graphics test, the Venue 7's score of 6,705 more than doubled the MeMO Pad HD 7 (3,117), and also topped the 6,059 category average.
Despite its solid overall performance on synthetic benchmarks, the Venue 7 took 25 minutes and 51 seconds to convert a 1080p video to 480p on our Vidtrim test. The MeMO Pad HD 7 took less than half the time at 11:23, and the Venue 7 was far slower than the category average of 12 minutes and 10 seconds.
The Dell Venue 7 lasted for 6 hours and 20 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), which is longer than the Sero 7 Pro (6:09), but an hour less than the 7:22 category average and more than three hours less than the MeMO Pad HD 7's epic battery life of 9 hours and 40 minutes.
The base 16GB Venue 7 sells for $149 with no accessories or memory expansion. The $159 package includes a Targus stylus, and a pricier $181 bundle comes with the stylus, a 32GB Sandisk microSD card and an extra power adapter.
Click to EnlargeThe $149 Dell Venue 7 provides a solid Android experience for an aggressive price. The lightweight tablet holds up well for gaming and video streaming, and the included PocketCloud app adds a nice dash of productivity. We also like the soft-touch back. However, this Intel-powered device offers mixed performance, and it doesn't last as long on a charge as top competitors.
If you're looking for the longest battery life possible in this price range, the cheaper $129 ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 is your best bet. However, the Venue 7's clean Android build, clear display and comfy design make it a good contender.