Dell's updated Venue 8 tablet is a super-slick, long-lasting beast of an Android tablet — but other slates are better for productivity. Still, the Venue 8 is an enticing option, especially if build quality and battery life are your top concerns.
The 8-inch (20.3 centimeters) slate stands out from the pack with a luxurious design that gives Apple's iPad a run for its money, thanks to the new Venue 8's razor-thin bezels and vibrant display. And with Dell's Venue keyboard dock attached, this is a solid portable work machine.
The Venue 8 7000 is one of the best small Android slates ever, but it might not be the best tablet for business. After all, its 8-inch screen doesn't offer a ton of space to work on, and the Android operating system feels a bit limited with so many great Windows slates on the market. Still, it's worth a look for business users who want a super-portable, long-lasting mobile device.
If the Dell brand makes you think of value-priced electronics made from chunky plastic, scrub those images from your mind. The Venue 8 7000 really does look like a premium tablet, justifying its relatively high $399 price tag with an eye-catching design and a slick aluminum back. Like Apple's iPad, this is a tablet that looks like it can be taken seriously.
The edge-to-edge, 8.4-inch (21.3 cm) display does have some downsides. You're practically forced to hold the slate by the wider bottom strip, which makes it feel a bit top-heavy. The other option is to awkwardly palm the device around the edges to avoid accidental taps, which I didn't find very comfortable.
My other gripe is the placement of the volume rocker and power button. Dell placed them on the slate's left edge, forcing you to reach for them with your left thumb. This makes turning the screen on and off a bit awkward for right-handed users.
If you're seeking a tablet that won't weigh you down on your daily commute, it's hard to beat Dell's tablet. At 0.67 lbs. (10.7 ounces), the Venue 8 7000 is lighter than most of its competition, including Amazon's https://www.businessnewsdaily.com (13.2 ounces), https://www.businessnewsdaily.com (12 ounces).
And at svelte 0.24 inches (6 mm) thick, it's also the slimmest tablet on the market, but not by much; Samsung's Tab S 8.4 is about as thin, at 6.1 mm. In practice, the different is negligible. The Venue 8 7000 also has a smaller footprint than most competing slates, except the iPad mini 3, which has a smaller, 7.9-inch (20 cm) display.
Tablet displays don't get better than this. The Venue 8 7000's 8.4-inch, 2,560 x 1,600-pixel display is incredibly sharp. That's a perk for business users, since a high-res display can show more content on-screen at once. It's especially handy for screen-intensive tasks like viewing large documents and editing spreadsheets on the go.
Plus, the tablet's OLED display produces colors that are as rich and vibrant as any I've seen on a mobile device. In fact, our colorimeter test showed that the panel can display more than twice as many colors as the average tablet, and it easily beats the iPad mini 3 and Nexus 9. Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 8.4 comes close in terms of color range, though.
But despite its high resolution, the tablet's small display feels a bit cramped, even for basic productivity tasks like composing a document. I'm also disappointed that Dell hasn't yet added multi-window functionality to its Venue line of Android tablets. Other tablet makers like Samsung, LG and Lenovo let you run multiple windows on-screen at the same time, for better multitasking.
A good keyboard dock is the key to turning your tablet into a viable productivity device. The Venue 8 7000 snaps into Dell's Venue Keyboard Folio, which doubles as a screen protector when closed. The folio also comes with a kickstand to prop the tablet up while you're typing, though only at a single viewing angle. Otherwise, it's an average Bluetooth tablet keyboard, which means that its keys are relatively shallow and the whole thing is much smaller than a full-size keyboard, so it feels cramped. Plus, the off-center screen looks a bit awkward when the tablet is docked to the keyboard. Still, the accessory is great for typing out quick email replies.
The Dell Cast is a dongle that plugs into any HDMI-equipped monitor or TV, letting you wirelessly mirror your tablet's screen. Running Android on a larger screen does give you more room to work, but I have a hard time imagining that you'll find much use for this pricey $79 accessory. Dell touts it as a productivity booster, but the accessory is better suited for streaming movies and shows to your living room TV.
Dell also sells a capacitive stylus, which could come in handy for taking notes on the Venue 8 7000's screen. But remember that the slate lacks a digitizer, so it can't detect how hard you're pressing. For a note-taking tablet, Samsung's https://www.businessnewsdaily.com is a better choice.
If you want to use your tablet to meet remotely with colleagues and clients, via a video-chat app such as Skype, a good front-facing camera is a nice perk. Unfortunately, I've never seen a front-facing camera placed in a more unfortunate spot than where the Venue 8 7000's is located. Since there's no room to stick a camera at the top of the tablet, Dell had to put it in the lower left-hand corner, just to the left of the speaker bar.
This is a terrible spot for several reasons. Since the camera is so low, the person on the other end will get a good view of the bottom of your chin. And since the camera is off-center, your image will be off-center, too. And finally, it's difficult to avoid blocking the camera with your left hand, since the bottom edge is the only good place to grip the tablet in the first place.
This photo represents a pretty typical view from the Venue 8 7000's front camera. You can see how easy it is to partially obscure the view with your thumb.
On the bright side, the front-facing camera produces relatively clear and colorful images. And the large speaker bar delivers loud, clear audio, so you won't have any issues hearing the person on the other end of your call.
Speaking of cameras, Dell is also touting the Venue 8 7000's unique RealSense camera system, which uses three separate cameras on the back of the slate to measure depth when taking a photo. The feature lets you adjust the focus of a photograph after it's been taken, among other interesting effects. Business users may or may not get much use out of the feature, though.
Software and operating system
As good as it is, the Android-powered Venue 8 7000 will have to stand up to a slew of great Windows tablets to make its case as a productivity machine. After all, Windows slates like the Venue 11 Pro 7000 can run all the software you already use on your office PC.
Android tablets like the Venue 8 7000, meanwhile, are restricted to mobile apps that may not be as feature-rich as their desktop counterparts. For example, there's currently no spreadsheet editor on Android that can match Microsoft Excel's deep feature set.
On the other hand, Android's library of touch-optimized apps is far bigger and better than the one on Windows. That's a big plus if you plan to use your tablet primarily away from the office, without a mouse or keyboard handy. Most desktop Windows apps just weren't designed with touch input in mind, making it hard to tap their tiny buttons with your finger.
The Venue 8 7000 easily handled any productivity task I threw at it with no noticeable slowdown. Under the hood, this tablet has a 2.3-GHz Intel Atom Z3580 CPU and 2GB of RAM, so it's about as speedy as other flagship tablets, if not slightly faster.
On the Geek 3 benchmark test, which measures overall performance, the slate scored a 2,866, which rates higher than the iPad mini 3 (2,481) and the overall tablet category average (2,398), and about on par with Google's Nexus 9 (2,890).
Aside from its stellar design, the Venue 8 7000's other big advantage is its long battery life. The slate lasted an impressive 9 hours and 47 minutes in our battery life test, which involves continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's more than an hour longer than the category average (8:28), and much longer than the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 (7:56). The iPad mini 3 (9:10) is the small tablet that comes closest in terms of longevity. That makes the Venue 8 7000 a slate you can rely on to last through the end of the workday and beyond.
The Venue 8 7000 is a premium tablet, and it comes at a premium price. The slate starts at $399, as much as Apple's iPad mini 3. For $100 less, you could grab the iPad mini 2, which lacks a fingerprint scanner but is otherwise identical to the newer model. Or you could opt for Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 8.4, which costs $50 less, at $349.
Add an $89 keyboard folio to the Venue 8 7000, and you're talking about a serious investment. That's the price you'll pay for a tablet this sleek.
As far as premium tablets go, the Dell Venue 8 7000 has a lot going for it. It has a gorgeous design, an eye-popping display and terrific battery life. Plus, it's one of the few Android tablets that feels like a serious work device instead of a toy. Android slates don't really get much better than this.
What holds this tablet back as a work device are the same things that hold other Android tablets back. With so many noteworthy Windows tablets on the market, Google's platform is a hard sell for business users — especially with a free upgrade to Windows 10 on the horizon, which promises to make Windows work even better on touch-screen mobile devices. Plus, the Venue 8 lacks multi-window functionality, and its front-facing camera is practically useless for videoconferencing due to its awkward placement.
Still, if the Dell Venue 8 7000 meets your needs, it's a very good — if pricey — choice.