Design and Build Quality
The design of the Dell Venue 8 7000 is unique in a lot of ways. Starting with dimensions alone, the device measures just 215.8mm (8.50-in) tall, 124.4mm (4.88-in) wide and 6mm (0.24-in) thick. Dell makes claims that the Venue 8 7000 is the “world’s thinnest tablet” though there is a lot of competition in this area. The iPad Air 2 is rated at 6.1mm thin so expect the comparison to be tough to judge even in side by side photos.
Regardless of superlatives that the Venue may or may not be able to claim, the tablet is striking to look at even when powered off. The screen takes nearly the entire dimensions of the device (expect the bottom where the speaker and camera reside) resulting in an incredibly thin bezel. In many ways, the Venue 8 7000 looks a lot like the XPS 13 notebook we also saw at CES (and are in the process of reviewing).
Apple iPad Air 2 (left), Dell Venue 8 7000 (right)
NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet (left), Dell Venue 8 7000 (right)
The front the Venue is dominated by the large and incredibly bright screen. The bezel around the top and sides is very thin, which is in stark contrast to the bottom of the device. This area below the screen houses the front-facing camera and mono speaker, where two finger widths of space exist between OLED display and bottom of the device. This design gives you just enough space to hold it without blocking much of the screen, but it does give the Venue 8 7000 a rather unbalanced look, portrait or landscape, compared to the iPad Air and other tablets. The rounded corners of the lower chassis do feel better in your palm than the sharper top edges, however.
Edges are at a premium here and on the left hand side you will see the power/wake button, volume buttons (not really a rocker) as well as the singular microphone. The buttons feel great, very clicky and not at all mushy. Because this isn’t a phone Dell opted to reduce costs and not go for a multi-mic array for noise reduction which means your Skype or Hangouts quality might be affected. The bottom right holds the microSD card slot. Power and headphone connections reside on the bottom of the Venue which I have never personally been a huge fan of. Most tablets and phones seem to be opting for that location though, so I am clearly in the minority.
On the back side you’ll find a classy implementation of the Dell and Intel Inside logos, maximizing branding for both companies without being gaudy. Towards the bottom is not just one but three different camera lenses. The center camera is the 8MP primary camera while the two separated inside the black bar are 720p cameras used to integrate depth data into the Dell camera application. Placement here is definitely going to cause issues. Whether taking photos in a portrait or landscape mode, I found my fingers to often block the lenses resulting in either bad images or a warning from the depth software to get the hell out of the way. A top mount to these cameras would have been much better for portrait captures and for landscape mode Dell clearly wants you to support the weight of the device along the thin-bezeled edge at the top.
The cameras have to be setup this way to allow for the 3D technology to work – the primary camera must be centered in between the two depth cameras. And moving that technology to the top of the Venue 8 7000 would have meant a larger bezel along the top (instead of at the bottom). The result though is a camera that has more fingerprints on it than should be allowed by law thanks to the normal usage patterns. Be prepared to wipe off the lenses on the back of the Venue 8 7000 just about every time you want to take a picture with it.
Along with the look of a high quality device thanks to the silver and black tones, the Dell Venue 8 7000 also just feels great in the hand. Weighing just 305 grams (under 11 ounces) the unit is not only light but is strong as well. Picking it up by the very edge at any corner shows no signs of flex and everything feel clean and tight in the design. There are no sharp edges or places where glass doesn’t match the bezel – it definitely gives off the impression of a premium product both visually and in…feels.