Dell's Venue 8 7000 tablet is the first device to feature Intel's RealSense Snapshot camera, which uses depth perception to let you refocus after a shot or measure objects you've photographed. However, this 8.4-inch slate has a lot more going for it than just a fancy camera, with its sleek, ultra-slim aluminum chassis, long battery life and the most colorful screen we've ever seen on a tablet. However, at $399, this top-tier tablet doesn't come cheap and faces stiff competition from the likes of Apple, Amazon and Samsung. Is the Venue 8 7000 worth your money?
The Dell Venue 8 7000 looks every bit the premium tablet, with a gunmetal-gray aluminum, super-svelte chassis that measures just 0.26 inches thin. That's even thinner than the iPad mini (0.28 inches). The slate also looks better from the front than does Apple's, thanks to an edge-to-edge "infinity" display surrounded by a miniscule bezel. The speaker bar and 2-MP webcam add about three-quarters of an inch of space below the screen, but their tiny audio holes and rounded lens add a dash of high-tech flair to the design.
The back houses three cameras: two 720p depth sensors, which appear in a single black stripe, and a regular 8-MP lens. The right side has a covered microSD card slot, which you can use to expand the measly internal 16GB of storage.
Though the volume rocker and power buttons look attractive in gunmetal gray, Dell made the odd choice of placing them on the left side, the opposite of most small tablets and phones. I found it awkward to power on with my left thumb instead of my pointing finger, but the Dell also wakes from sleep when you lift it up, thanks to a feature called Intel Sensing Assist. While Sensing Assist was convenient, it also had a tendency to wake my tablet while it was rattling around in my backpack. Fortunately, it's easy enough to disable this feature via a checkbox in the Display settings submenu.
At 8.5 x 4.88 x 0.24 inches and 10.72 ounces, the Venue 8 7000 is significantly lighter than the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 (9.1 x 6.2 x 0.3 inches, 13.2 ounces), the Google Nexus 9 (7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches, 14.99 ounces) and the iPad mini 3 (7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches, 12 ounces). However, Apple's tablet is smaller due to its 7.9-inch screen. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is slightly smaller and lighter (8.5 x 4.88 x 0.24 inches).
The Venue 8 7000's 8.4-inch, 2560 x 1600 OLED display is one of the most vibrant I've ever seen. Colors like the green in trees and blue in the sky in one of the default wallpapers were deep and immersive. When I was watching the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, the red in Iron Man's suit and the green in the Hulk's skin were so rich and deep that I felt like I was viewing a glossy magazine. A 4K video of jellyfish swimming in the ocean appeared both colorful and extremely sharp, thanks to the display's 361 pixels per inch.
One reason the images look so impressive is that, according to our colorimeter, the panel can display more colors than most tablets, covering 173.3 percent of the sRGB gamut. That's more than double the tablet category average of 82 percent, and it blows away the Google Nexus 9 (102 percent) and the iPad mini 3, which covers a mere 67 percent. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comes close to the Dell, reaching 161 percent of the gamut.
In terms of color accuracy, the Dell Venue 8 7000 achieved a Delta E rating of 4.2 (lower is better). This is much better than the category average of 6.
Because of its rich colors and high contrast-ratio (10,000:1, according to Dell), the Venue 8 7000 appeared bright to me during indoor use, and acceptable outdoors on an overcast day. However, I had a tougher time viewing the screen in direct sunlight; the preview window for the camera was difficult to make out.
Dell rates the screen for 300 nits of brightness, but despite repeated tests, the display measured a modest 235 nits on our light meter. Either number is below the tablet category average of 351. The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 inch, which also has fantastic color, clocks in at 321 nits, while the Google Nexus 9 (367 nits), iPad mini 3 (383 nits) and Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 (383 nits) all scored even higher.
Unfortunately, the Venue 8 7000's audio output doesn't match its video quality, with the drum section on most songs sounding very tinny. I tested the speakers over a range of songs -- Patrice Rushen's bass-heavy "Forget Me Nots," Motley Crue's guitar-and-drum-laden "Shout at the Devil," Rose Royce's funky "Car Wash" and Joe Sample's jazzy "Carmel" -- and percussion was harsh and unpleasant on all of them, though vocals and other instruments sounded accurate.
The speakers are certainly loud enough to fill a living room, achieving an ear-crushing maximum volume of 90 decibels on the Laptop Mag audio test, significantly higher than the category average (80.5 dB) as well as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (78 dB) and Google Nexus 9 (82 dB).
Dell includes its Waves Maxx audio software that lets you adjust the bass, treble and other controls. The music definitely sounded richer with this feature enabled, but none of the profiles made the drums sound much better.
The Dell Venue 8 7000 is the first device to come with Intel's RealSense Snapshot camera. The camera combines a regular 8-MP sensor with 720p sensors to detect depth in images. Using this technology and Dell's unique image-editing software, you can measure objects in photos down to a tenth of an inch, change the focal point of a picture after you shoot, or apply filters to the background or foreground while leaving the rest of a scene untouched.
When taking a photo, you have the choice of shooting in "Depth Snapshot" mode or in regular, single-photo mode. If you shoot a photo in Depth mode, it will be listed in the Dell Gallery app with an icon of a cube in the upper right corner of its thumbnail. When you open the photo in the gallery, you'll see three icons on the left side of the screen for the three key depth functions. Though there was no significant lag between depth shots, it took more than 30 seconds of processing before each one was ready for editing in the gallery.
Editors Note: Dell says that the measurement tool that was enabled on our review unit is currently disabled on shipping tablets, but will be turned on via an over-the-air update in the near future.
Tapping the ruler icon allowed me to use the measurement tool to get real-world dimensions for objects in my photos, either by drawing a line between two points or drawing a box with four points. Placing the two points was easy, and I appreciated having a blow-up of the area below each point as I moved it around to get to the exact edge of a piece of furniture or a window.
Unfortunately, even when following Dell's shooting instructions (standing 3 to 15 feet away and shooting head on), the measurements were inconsistent, ranging from extremely inaccurate to a few tenths of an inch off the mark to, in a few cases, perfectly accurate. This feature shows a lot of promise, and Intel is refining the software, but it's too imprecise right now to use in lieu of a tape measure when making important decisions such as which couch to buy.
A soda bottle and a flashlight I photographed on top of a table from 3 feet away measured exactly what they were in real life, 7 and 12 inches tall. The molding on top of a doorway accurately measured 3 feet, 9 inches in the tool. However, my 6-foot, 5-inch-wide couch measured 7 feet, 2 inches, and my 5-foot-wide entertainment center measured 5 feet, 4 inches.
The depth photos store additional information about each pixel and whether it is in the foreground or background. Tapping the refocus icon allowed me to then tap on the back or front of my photo of the office roof deck and get the image to focus on either the trees that were closer to the camera or the buildings in the distance or both. A slider at the bottom of the screen also allowed me to adjust the sharpness or blurriness of the different layers.
Having the ability to change focus after taking a shot is not unique to RealSense, however. Several phones with regular 2D cameras, including the Samsung Galaxy S5 with its Selective Focus feature, allow you to change the focus point of photos after shooting them. However, Intel says that RealSense is more precise because it is capturing real depth information about each pixel .
With the Dell Gallery, I was also able to apply filters to one plane of a depth image without modifying the rest of the photo. This feature was fun when used with an image that had a number of noticeable layers, such as a photo of the vegetable bins in a grocery store. Using the black and white filter and a distance slider on the left side of the screen, I was able to make everything from the meat counter in the distance to the peppers in a bin behind the front turn grayscale while leaving the front area in color.
In addition to its editing capabilities, Dell's image gallery software has a couple of features that make it easier to find and organize your photos. By default, the image thumbnails are sorted by date; pinch-zooming in gets you to a specific week or day, while pinching-zooming out shows you lists based on longer time periods, such as a months or years. There's also a map view, which shows you where your photos were taken as pinpoints on a globe anywhere in the world, provided that your pictures have been geotagged.
I chose to sync the Dell Gallery with my Facebook account, and it imported all of the images I had posted on my timeline over the life of my account. I was able to highlight my favorite pictures, both from social media and local storage by tapping a heart icon while viewing each photo. Then I visited the Favorites tab, where I saw only those images I had selected in a gallery. There's also a People tab that shows different folders for individuals tagged in your Facebook posts.
In good light, the 8-MP rear camera captured acceptable, but less-than-stellar images. When I shot photos of our office roof deck and the skyline around it on an slightly cloudy day, objects such as the bas relief sculpture on a wall or a potted tree were sharp and detailed, but colors were muted. I took a photo of my living room on a sunny day and was disappointed to see a lot of noise in the picture.
Interestingly, images shot in single-shot mode were a bit brighter than the same picture taken in depth-perception mode, which I noticed when I compared two images of a staircase. Intel says it is aware that non-RealSense images are slightly better looking and is working to narrow the gap.
A 1080p video I shot of cars rolling down a street was sharp, smooth and colorful. Perhaps because of its unique placement in the lower left corner of the bezel, the front-facing 2-MP camera captured dark, washed-out pictures of my face in mixed lighting conditions, like an overcast day or a dim room. However, in bright sunlight, my face was detailed, vibrant and noise free.
Android OS and Software
The Venue 8 7000 runs a very stock version of Android 4.4 KitKat -- Dell promises an update to Android 5.0 Lollipop is coming in the future -- with software navigation buttons for Home, Back and Task Switching, and no custom skin. In a small change, Dell includes its own set of custom live wallpapers, which move a little bit when you tilt the screen. However, there were only three pictures available on our unit. You can also use any still picture or Google live wallpaper (animated but doesn't move with you) that you want.
The Quick Settings menu, which is available when you pull down from the top of the screen, has buttons for the Waves Maxx audio and Dell Cast screen-mirroring in addition to standard toggles for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.
The virtual keyboard is Google's built-in model, which supports gesture typing but isn't nearly as useful or attractive as third-party options. We prefer SwiftKey, which uses your social media posts and email to learn your writing style and suggest your next words as you type. Unfortunately, like many tablets, the Venue 8 7000 does not offer haptic feedback in its keyboard or anywhere else.
The settings menu houses a couple of interesting options that are available because of the Venue's Intel Atom processor. In addition to Intel Sensing Assistant, which is enabled by default and wakes the tablet when you pick it up, there's another feature called Intel Smart Video, which gives you the option of adding smooth motion or enhancing image quality in videos you play. When I turned on both options, the Avengers trailer looked like it was running at 60 fps even though it was a 30 fps file.
With its quad-core, 2.3-GHz Intel Atom Z3580 CPU and 2GB of RAM, the Venue 8 7000 more than handled every task I threw at it, from surfing the Web to playing a 4K video to mowing down aliens in the first-person shooter N.O.V.A. 3.
Dell's tablet scored a strong 2,866 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That number is well above the tablet category average (2,398) and the Apple A7-powered iPad mini 3's score (2,481) and about on par with the marks of the Tegra K1-powered Google Nexus 9 (2,890) and Samsung Exynos 5 Octa-powered Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (2,768). However, the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 (3,082) and its Snapdragon 805 CPU did a little better.
On 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a benchmark that measures graphics prowess, the Venue 8 7000 scored a respectable 20,602, miles ahead of the 12,819 category average and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4's showing (13,518). However, the Google Nexus 9 (25,387) scored quite a bit higher.
It took Dell's tablet just 5 minutes and 1 second to transcode an HD video to 480p resolution in the Vidtrim app. That's over two minutes faster than the category average (7:16), but a little behind the times of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (4:48), Google Nexus 9 (4:32) and Amazon Fire HD 8.9 (4:14).
If you buy the Dell Venue 8 7000, you can probably leave your charger at home. The tablet lasted an impressive 9 hours and 47 minutes on the Laptop Mag battery test, which measures continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. That time is more than an hour longer than the category average (8:28), nearly two hours longer than the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (7:56) and half an hour better than the iPad mini 3 (9:10).
Dell sells a few useful accessories for the Venue 8 7000, including an $89.99 keyboard folio and a $49.99 cover. A $79.99 peripheral called the Dell Cast allows you to use the tablet more like a PC by mirroring its screen to a TV or monitor while connecting to a keyboard and mouse.
If you're looking for a truly premium Android tablet, the Dell Venue 8 7000 has a lot to offer, including a sleek design, gorgeous screen and long battery life. Its RealSense Snapshot camera has a lot of potential but, at least right now, could use some better and more accurate software.
If you're looking for a high-end, 8-inch tablet that's a little cheaper, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 costs $50 less and has a screen that's also stunning. If you like Apple's iOS operating system and its larger selection of tablet apps, consider the Apple iPad mini 3. However, if you want cutting-edge camera technology in a high-end Android tablet, the Dell Venue 8 7000 is an excellent choice.