The small Android tablet market is saturated, with every combination of price point and processor power imaginable. With tablets ranging from $139 to $399, finding a decent one at the right price can be a crap shoot. Dell’s Venue 8 ($179.99 direct) is the bigger brother of the Venue 7; both run Intel’s Atom processor. But with our Editors’ Choice, the Google Nexus 7, available for a few dollars more, there’s no real reason to consider this below-average device.
Design and Connectivity
The Dell Venue 8 looks like every other nondescript tablet on the market, although it feels pretty well put together. It measures 8.35 by 5.11 by 0.38 inches (HWD) and weighs 13 ounces. The squared-off edges remind me of the first-generation iPad, and they make the buttons easy to access without having to lift up the tablet. The flat back is coated in a black (or red) soft-touch coating like the Nexus 7, making it easy to grip but also fingerprint-prone. Dell’s chrome logo is embedded dead center. The 5-megapixel rear camera juts out a millimeter or so.
The microSD card slot hides under a flimsy flap on the right side. The volume rocker and micro USB port sit on the left side. The top edge has the Power button and headphone jack. The bottom-mounted speaker points outward instead of down like the Nexus 7′s speaker does. It’s a nice touch that makes the audio not seem as though it’s running away from you.
The Venue 8 has an 8-inch IPS LCD display with 1,280-by-800 resolution at 188 pixels per inch. It isn’t too sharp, and it looks a little blurry on image-heavy Web sites. For under $200 it’s good enough, but when compared with the Nexus 7′s incredible 1,920-by-1,200 display or theNook HD’s 1,440-by-900 screen, its low resolution is disappointing.
The Venue 8 has dual-band 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0. It beats the Nook HD in connectivity options, but only by one Wi-Fi band. The Nexus 7 adds NFC and wireless charging.
As far as battery life goes, the Venue 8 is a poor contender. In our battery test that loops a video at full brightness, the Dell Venue 8 lasted 5 hours and 45 minutes. It’s shorter than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0′s 6 hours and 48 minutes, and a far cry from the Nexus 7′s 10 hours, 50 minutes.
Android OS and Performance
Dell’s Venue 8 is one of the rare Android tablets with an Intel processor. It’s a recently-released dual-core Atom Z2580 processor clocked at 2.0GHz, with 2GB RAM. The specs may sound impressive, but its performance against mainstream ARM-based tablets is what really matters. In the graphics benchmark GFXBench, the Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered Nexus 7 crushed the Venue 8′s adequate 39 frames per second with its own 54 frames. Amazon’s own Kindle Fire HDX 7″ also scored higher than the Venue 8, pulling in 51 frames per second. The Venue 8 lags behind in browser performance as well, scoring 2365 on the Browsermark benchmark, compared to the Nexus 7′s 2634.
The Venue 8 is an adequate gaming machine, but it won’t blow you away. It handled Asphalt 8: Airborne well enough to make it playable, almost on par with the second-generation Nexus 7. It wasn’t buttery smooth, and there were times where frame rates became an issue for a second or two, but it was a pleasant experience overall. The performance isn’t anything to sneer at, but a few extra bucks does get you a lot more power from its competitors.
Since it’s running Android 4.2.2, the Venue 8 is already a bit behind the curve in terms of software. The operating system is largely untouched, save for Pocketcloud bloatware that can’t be removed.
Camera and Multimedia
Tablets, for the most part, are not really meant for photography and usually take middling photos. The Venue 8′s 5-megapixel camera is no different. Most photos were noisy, indoors and out. The 2-megapixel front-facing camera is worse than your average camera, but is at least on par with the Nexus 7′s front-facing shooter.
Video recording at 720p is an experience in frustration. Everything is noisy, and frame rates drop consistently to around 15 frames per second, making any recordings mostly useless. The front-facing camera exhibits the same issue, making this tablet less than ideal for recording anything at all.
The Venue 8 plays almost every video and audio file format out there, save for FLAC audio. The outward-facing speakers get plenty loud, but sound tinny when turned up to the maximum. There’s no HDMI out, MHL, or anything else to output video to a TV. Like the Tab 3 8.0, the Venue 8 ships with 16GB of internal storage. 32GB will cost an extra $20, a few bucks more than an extra 16GB microSD card for the included card slot would cost you. Of course, the Venue 8 supports cards up to 64GB.
The Dell Venue 8 makes a less compelling argument than its smaller sibling, the Venue 7. At $149, the 7-inch model is a viable choice for an inexpensive tablet, but the case for the $179 8-inch model isn’t as clear-cut. Amazon has a line of Kindle Fire tablets at similar prices that run Android apps and offer better performance. Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD has a higher-resolution screen for $20 more. The king of 7-inch tablets, the Nexus 7, costs only $50 more. With so many other options available, the Venue 8 gets lost in the crowd. You probably won’t miss it.
|Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility||2.4GHz/5GHz|
|Screen Resolution||1280 x 800 pixels|
|Operating System||Google Android 4.2.2|
|Dimensions||8.35 x 5.11 x 0.38 (HWD) inches|
|Screen Type||IPS LCD|
|Camera Resolution||5-Megapixel Rear|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||188 ppi|
|Processor Speed||2 GHz|
|Screen Size||8 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||16 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc