This might be the best Android tablet we have ever used. Seriously.

Flagship. Premium. Best in class. These are the terms that Dell and Intel muttered to me during a conference call to discuss the new Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet. It’s a bullish claim and one that would likely have been received with a sideways eye roll or a shrug had I not been able to get a short amount of hands on time with the device at CES in January. The idea that Dell would develop an Android tablet that bests what more established brands like Nexus and Samsung have created, AND that that same tablet would be powered by an Intel processor rather than a Qualcomm, NVIDIA or Samsung chip would have seemed laughable last year. But after a solid three weeks with the Venue 8 7000 I am prepared to make the statement: this is my favorite tablet. Not my favorite Intel tablet, not my favorite Android tablet: just plain favorite.

The Venue 8 7000 combines style, design, technology and visuals that are simply unmatched by anything else in the Android word and rivals anything that Apple has created to date. There are a couple of warts that center around the camera and gaming performance that won’t drop your jaw, but for the majority of use cases the user experience is as exceptional as the looks.

Maybe best of all, this tablet starts at just $399 and is available today.

Dell Venue 8 7000 Specifications

Let’s begin the review by looking at the raw specifications of the Dell Venue 8 7000. Even though hardware specifications don’t tell a complete story of any device, especially a tablet that is based so much on experience, it is important to get a good baseline expectation.

  Dell Venue 8 7000 (Model 7840)
Processor Intel Atom Z3580 Quad-Core 2.33 GHz
Graphics PowerVR G6430
Memory 2GB LPDDR3-1600
Screen 2560x1600 OLED 8.4-in (359 ppi)
Storage 16GB eMMC
MicroSD Slot (up to 512GB)
Camera 8MP Rear + Dual 720p Depth
2MP Front
Wireless Intel 7260 802.11ac 1x1 Dual Band
Bluetooth 4.0
Connection USB 2.0 (power and data)
Headphone jack
Battery 21 Whr
5900 mAh
Dimensions 215.8mm x 124.4mm x 6mm
8.5" x 4.88" x 0.24"
305g (10.76oz)
OS Android 4.4.4
Price $399 MSRP

The center of the Venue 8 7000 is the Intel Atom Z3580 quad-core processor with a peak clock rate of 2.3 GHz and a base clock rate of 500 MHz. The Z3580 is a 22nm processor based on the Moorefield platform and Silvermont architecture. I first got information about the Silvermont architecture back in May of 2013 so it seems a bit dated in some regards, but the performance and power efficiency is still there to compete with the rival options from ARM.. The Venue 8 7000 includes an LPDDR3-1600 controller and there is 2GB of memory; a decent amount but we are seeing quite a few smartphones with more system memory like the OnePlus One.

Intel Silvermont Core Block Diagram

The graphics system is powered by the PowerVR G6430 on the Atom Z3580 die with a clock speed range of 457 – 533 MHz. I’ll show you performance of the GPU in our benchmark section on the coming pages, but expectations should be in the middle of the road. You aren’t going to see gaming performance on par with NVIDIA’s Tegra lineup or Apple’s A8/A8X but it should be good enough to get through the most common and popular Android titles. Intel has integrated support for WiDi (wireless display) as well.

By far the most impressive specification of the Dell Venue 8 7000 is the display, a 2560x1600 OLED touch screen that measures 8.4 inches diagonally. That gives us a pixel density of 359 ppi, well ahead of the iPads and Tegra devices. The colors of this OLED screen are simply amazing, and a first look at the tablet will have you falling in love with the images on display. We’ll show you on the display page in more detail, but the Venue 8 7000 can display colors well outside the standard sRGB color space with blacks that are essentially the screen powered off.

Storage is currently limited to a 16GB capacity over an eMMC interface, though Dell did indicate that a 32GB variant is in the works. (Sorry, no timeline on that yet.) 16GB of space is not a lot and in fact you’ll only really have 10GB free when starting up the tablet for the first time. That is supplemented by a MicroSD card slot that can support capacities up to 512GB. That definitely addresses the issue of space, but there are still plenty of applications in the Android market that don’t allow installation to external SD storage and you may have to migrate apps back and forth occasionally.

There are plenty of cameras on the Dell Venue 8 7000: an 8MP primary rear camera, a pair of dual 720p depth cameras on the back and a 2MP front facing camera. I have a lot more to say about the camera setup coming up as well as some demonstration photos, but the sensor and processing of the primary camera just does not hold up to the competition. Our testing with the Nexus 9, SHIELD Tablet and iPad Air 2 resulted in much better quality images that we got with the Venue 8 7000. The depth cameras that are being branded Intel RealSense add some interesting features to the system including the ability to measure distances in a photo or to apply effects based on variable depth, but if you don’t start with a high quality picture to modify, it lessens the impact.

Connectivity is supplied by a standard USB 2.0 connection for charging and connecting to your PC, an Intel 7260 wireless controller that supports 802.11ac at 1x1 and Bluetooth 4.0. The single speaker along the bottom of the Venue is actually quite capable for a mono device, reaching surprising volume while maintaining clarity.

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