User Experience, Pricing, Closing Thoughts

Real-world User Experiences

I have shown you benchmark after benchmark, result after result. The Atom Z3580 is just not fast enough to win those types of battles as clearly both the Tegra K1 and the Apple A8/A8X SoCs are noticeably faster in these flagship tablets. But as usual, there is more to a device, especially a tablet or phone, than just benchmark scores.

What does the user experience feel like on the Dell Venue 8 7000?

Android 4.4.4 Stock

It should be noted first that the Dell Venue 8 7000 present a nearly stock Android experience with 4.4.4. That means little to no bloatware and a familiarity for any user coming from an Android background. There are some Dell applications preinstalled – Dell Cast for wireless displays, Dell Live Wallpaper, Maxx Audio, McAfee Security and a couple more. These are unobtrusive and I found only McAfee to really get under my skin (go figure).

EDIT: Dell did confirm that Android Lollipop (5.0) will be coming to the Venue 8 7000 but would only confirm to a time frame of "in the coming months."

Web Browsing

Surfing my way through the information super-highway on the Venue turned out to be a very pleasant and speedy experience, despite the fact that the tablet lost nearly every CPU-based benchmark we tossed its way. Chrome is responsive with 7+ tabs open at a time, and even the heaviest webpages in their desktop iteration work as intended. Sites like our own pcper.com, polygon.com and theverge.com are some of the first places we go to see how well the browser performs with lots of images and plenty of JS/CSS for it handle.

That 2560×1600 OLED screen is perfect for reading short news blurbs, looking at Facebook or even diving deeper into longer stories that require some concentration. I didn’t have any instances of eye strain or headache when reading on the Venue though an e-ink display like a Kindle is still going to be better for books.

One of the defacto points of interest when working on a tablet is the smoothness of the interaction – does the website scroll smoothly? Can you easily page back and forth between tabs? All of that happens better than I have ever seen an Intel Android device behave, and in fact it would be easy to think you were on a flagship platform from any SoC vendor when using the Venue. I would see hitches in scrolling with lots of applications open in the background occasionally but in general, I found that the interface with the Venue was a positive as I’ve had with any Android device.

The single complaint I have about surfing with the device is that is seemed to stall a bit before switching from portrait to landscape mode. Not that the CPU was struggling, more like the accelerometer was not recognizing that you had shifted the device. A couple of taps on the back of the tablet with my finger fixed it immediately each time but clearly that’s not ideal.

Normal Application Usage

Besides the browser, using applications like Gmail, the calendar and Maps was clean and simple, again thanks to the native Android experience Dell is providing. The gallery application is pretty nice, organizing your media based on timelines, geolocations, associated contacts, etc. Depending on how much you want other software to organize that part of your life for you it could come in quite handy.

Gaming

This is an interesting one as we have already proved the GPU in the Atom Z3580 does not match the raw performance of the Tegra K1 or even the Apple tablets we have on hand. I installed and played 5-6 Android games that range from Minion Rush to Goat Simulator. All of them were able to play and all of them seemed to run just fine on the Venue 8 7000. That does not mean there is no performance delta though – we measure frame rates in a popular shooter called Modern Combat 5 at 24 FPS on average for the Venue and 29 FPS on average for the SHIELD Tablet. Frame rates in Goat Simulator both hovered around the 40-43 FPS mark on average.

(More on exactly how we are measuring this soon.)

Of course I played some Clash of Clans and even got in some time with WGT Golf Mobile, all in the name of science. These played perfect well too and I think that you’ll find the Dell tablet more than capable of the majority of Android titles out there.

What is going to be more interesting in the coming weeks is measure real-world game play time on these devices with a host of different gaming titles. I think we’ll all learn soon that the battery life tests for gaming that we (and others) run is less accurate than expected.

For those of you that consider yourselves enthusiast Android gamers, or PC enthusiasts that are interested in technologies and features like PC to Android game streaming and OpenGL based Tegra exclusive titles, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet is clearly the better choice. But for casual gaming on the go the Dell Venue 8 7000 performed admirably.

Watching Video and Movies

One area this Dell Venue 8 7000 excelled was in watching video and movies. Take a flick like Gravity that Google recently gave away on the Play store – taking place in space is a perfect backdrop for demonstrating the beauty of the OLED 2560×1600 display. The space scenes showed a near HDR quality between the blackness of space and the brightness of Earth and everyone at the office was blown away. Considering this is was a streaming copy of the movie the feat is even more impressive.

Even watching YouTube videos of from our PC Perspective YouTube channel or our favorite Taylor Swift music videos looked fantastic with the extended color range of the display. I downloaded a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead – again, amazingly impressed by the quality of the display.

The one caveat is the speaker on the tablet – it’s decent for a mono speaker in a 6mm thin device but there are limits that physics won’t let you break. So while I would agree to let you watch our podcast with the tablet speaker, watching a movie of TV episode should be done with a quality set of headphones.

Camera

There has to be one negative, doesn’t there? I won’t dwell on it anymore as I think I got the point across on the camera-specific page, but the usability of the camera is in question. This is partly due to the placement of the camera lenses and partly due to quality of the resulting image even when you do get your hand out of the way.

Pricing and Availability

The Dell Venue 8 7000 is currently available and selling over at your local Best Buy stores or on Bestbuy.com for $399 (EDIT: Actually as I write this it’s on sale for just $369!). How does that compare to our other tablets in this review?

Tablet Flash Memory Price
Dell Venue 8 7000 16GB $399
NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet 16GB $299
  32GB / LTE $399
Google Nexus 9 16GB $349
  32GB $429
Apple iPad Air 2 16GB $440
  64GB $590
  128GB $645
Apple iPad Mini 3 16GB $359
  64GB $484
  128GB $565

Dell and Intel cannot claim that the Venue 8 7000 is a budget tablet with a price tag that is $100 higher than NVIDIA’s SHIELD Tablet and $50 more than the Nexus 9. Only the iPad Air 2 16GB model is priced higher and thanks to recently price cuts all over the place on iPads, it only has a $40-50 markup.

There are going to be two camps reading the review at this point. The group that looks at the benchmarks and points a finger at loss after loss claims that Intel is attempting to overcharge for an underperforming product. Another faction will look at battery life, the quality of the screen and the sex-appeal of the design and then shrug at the “good enough” performance metrics.

Based on my experience with the Venue 8 7000, not just on the many graphs of test results, I definitely can understand and appreciate why Dell would position this as the flagship Android tablet.

Final Thoughts

Given the choice of buying one of these four tablets discussed in this review, the Dell Venue 8 7000 stands at the top of my list. I can’t claim to have looked at every high-end Android tablet on the market so I cannot claim definitively that this is the best Android tablet, but I am leaning in that direction. Anyone or any company that wants to prove me wrong: I’m open to it.

A product was built that very few in the industry thought could exist: a sleek and attractive Android tablet that is thin and light, easy to use with features that are class leading. And it’s from Dell. And Intel.

The 2560x1600 OLED 8.4-in screen is easily my favorite part of the device, and anyone that gets a chance to see it in person will definitely agree. A bar has been set. If I could remove or change one part of the Venue it would be the camera – the design and placement is poor and the depth technology is interesting but seems incomplete and gimmicky for now. If $50 might have been shaved off of the MSRP without it I think both Dell and Intel would have been better off.

We have yet to come across a piece of technology we would consider truly perfect. But the Dell Venue 8 7000 is absolutely closer than I would have expected.

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