Dell's refresh of its 7-inch Venue tablet makes it a tempting choice for budget-conscious shoppers. The device features an upgraded Intel Atom Z3460 processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of flash memory for just $160. While not much has changed on the outside, the hardware revamp helps the Venue 7 compete with other budget tablets like the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 and Acer Iconia One 7. Read on to see where the Venue 7 falls on our budget tablet list.
If Darth Vader made a tablet, it would look like the Dell Venue 7. Like so many other tablets, there is nary a color to be seen except black. The front is all screen surrounded by a thin bezel, with only a small camera breaking up the blackness. The back is textured with a concentric-ring pattern that emanates from the shadowy Dell logo. Buyers not down with the Dark Side can opt for a red model.
Click to EnlargeThe right side of the Venue 7 has a flap covering a slot for a SIM card, while the left features the microUSB port and volume rocker. Finally, the top holds the lock button and headphone jack with the single speaker located on the bottom.
At 7.6 x 4.54 x 0.35 inches and weighing 10.24 ounces, the Venue 7 is smaller and lighter than the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (7.5 x 4.5 x 0.38 inches and 10.35 ounces), as well as the Acer Iconia One 7 (7.78 x 4.72 x 0.35 and 11.36 ounces).
Click to EnlargeThe Venue 7 has a wonderfully bright 1280 x 800 IPS screen, which makes it easy to read outside. Using our light meter, the Venue 7 produced 348 nits of brightness. This is higher than the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (271 nits), the Acer Iconia One 7 (280 nits) and the tablet average of 328 nits.
The downside is that compared with other displays, colors look washed out and unsaturated. When I watched the trailer for Interstellar, everything from skin tones to the color of the cornfields looked pale.
Color reproduction was just mediocre, with the Venue 7 recreating just 63.6 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That's lower than the ASUS MeMO Pad (81.9 percent) and the Acer Iconia One 7 (66 percent). Color accuracy was even worse, with a Delta-E of 11.8 (closer to zero is better). Accuracy was better from the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (6.1), the Iconia One 7 (7.3) and the tablet average of 5.8.
If you don't like watching movies on the small screen, Dell includes Miracast wireless video software for streaming content to Miracast-enabled displays.
For a 7-inch tablet, the Venue 7 delivers above-average audio quality. When watching the Interstellar trailer, I noticed a sufficient amount of bass, and I could make out the stringed instruments in the background musical score.
The Waves MaxxAudio Mobile app, which appears as a small widget in the upper-left corner, lets you change audio profiles from Movie, Music, Speech, and Gaming. Opening the app also lets you create custom EQ settings, but even with headphones, I didn't notice much of a difference when flipping through presets.
On the Laptop Mag audio test, the Venue 7 produced 81 decibels of sound as measured from 13 inches away. This is lower than the Acer Iconia One 7 (82 dB), but louder than the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (78 dB) and the tablet average of 79 dB.
OS and Interface
Click to EnlargeThe Venue 7 ships with Android 4.4 KitKat. Dell has customized stock Android just a little bit, giving it a more modern feel with its flat graphic design and minimalist UI. The background of the Home Screen mimics the concentric-ring pattern found on the back of the device, this time in the classic Round Rock blue. Navigating around the tablet was simple and felt neatly organized.
Click to EnlargeUnfortunately, Google's push with Android is to eliminate all hardware buttons, meaning the Venue 7 is always stuck wasting a little space to display the on-screen buttons for Back, Home and Recent Apps. Swiping down from the top on the left side brings up the notifications tray, and easy access to the MaxxAudio sound presets for movie, music, voice and games. A swipe down from the top right opens the quick-settings tray for adjusting things such as brightness, battery and airplane mode. There's also a shortcut to the full-settings menu.
The Venue 7 features the standard Android keyboard, but of course users are free to switch it out with the many choices available from the Google Play store.
Click to EnlargeDell equips the Venue 7 with a dual-core 1.06-GHz Intel Atom Z3460 CPU, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of flash memory. The Venue 7 was perfect for playing Plague Inc. on the go, launching the game quickly and lag-free. We also had no trouble streaming 1080p videos. Only in graphically intense games (such as N.O.V.A. 3) do you start to notice any slowdown.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall system performance, the Venue 7 scored 1,161. This is slightly better than the $129 Acer Iconia One 7's 1,061 (1.5-GHz Intel Atom Z2560 and 1GB of RAM), but only half of the $149 Asus MeMO Pad 7's 2,431 (1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3745 CPU and 1GB of RAM) and the tablet average of 2,573.
App load times were standard, with the Venue 7 launching N.O.V.A. 3 in 19 seconds. This is slightly slower than the tablet average of 17.5 seconds, the same as the MeMO Pad 7 (19 seconds) and faster than the Acer Iconia One 7 (24 seconds).
Graphics performance is solid, especially considering the Venue 7's $160 price tag. The Venue 7 scored 13,388 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited. This is similar to the MeMO Pad 7 (13,625), and faster than the Iconia One 7 (6,042) and the tablet average of 10,996.
The Venue 7 did fairly well on the Laptop Mag video editing test, where we use Vidtrim to transcode a 204MB 1080p file to 480p. The Dell took 8:38 to encode the file, which was slower than the MeMO Pad 7 (5:35), but faster than the Iconia One 7 (11:44), and the tablet average of 10:35
Click to EnlargeDell includes some useful preloaded apps on the Venue 7, such as Polaris Office, Evernote and Pocket Cloud, so you can access and work on your documents and photos from anywhere. Other preloaded apps include Dropbox, Audible and Skitch, an app that lets you draw quick doodles on pictures.
Dell also adds a helpful settings widget on the home screen to give you quick access or Wi-FI, Bluetooth, GPS, syncing and brightness without having to dig through menus.
MORE: 25 Best Android Apps
Click to EnlargeThe Venue 7 features a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 1-megapixel front shooter. While the tablet doesn't have the most full-featured camera suite, you can adjust white balance and choose from among multiple scene modes, including action, night, sunset and party.
Self-portraits using the front camera come out grainy and a little dark. The black-on-black striped pattern on my shirt could be easily confused with image noise.
Click to EnlargePhotos from the 5-megapixel rear camera looked quite good. Colors were a tiny bit more muted than what I would call perfect, but overall I was impressed by the image quality. Note that the screen over the rear camera lens is prone to fingerprints, and stray smudges can severely impact photo quality.
The Venue 7 can shoot 1080p 30 fps video. Our clip of New York City traffic looked fine, with a passing Porsche and pedestrians looking well defined. I wish there were more extensive settings for video, though, such as image stabilization and lower video resolutions.
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The Venue 7 boasts impressive battery life. On the Laptop Mag battery test (web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), the Dell Venue 7 lasted 8 hours and 14 minutes. This is better than the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (7:39), the Acer Iconia One 7 (6:36) and similar to the tablet average of 8:20.
Click to EnlargeFor $160, the Dell Venue 7 offers solid performance and audio, a bright display and strong battery life, making it an excellent option for those looking for an affordable 7-inch Android tablet. The $150 ASUS MeMO Pad 7 is more powerful and has a slick Zen UI interface, but it doesn't last as long on a charge. You can't go wrong with either 7-inch tablet, but when it comes to endurance, the Venue 7 gets the edge.