Dell Venue 8 Android review
Processor: Dual-core 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3740D, Screen size: 8in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,200, Rear camera: 5 megapixel, Storage: 16GB, Wireless data: 3G, Size: 130x9x216mm, Weight: 338g, Operating system: Android 4.4.2
Ever since its launch, first in 2012 and followed by an updated version in 2013, the Google Nexus 7 has been the compact tablet to beat. Very few models come close for value; the Nexus 7's combination of a high-resolution 1,920x1,200 screen and a quick processor makes its stock version of Android a pleasure to use. With the launch of the Dell Venue 8 Android (not to be confused with the Windows 8.1 Venue Pro it looks like Google's all-conquering tablet may finally have some competition. This tablet matches the Nexus 7 for screen resolution, with its 1,920x1,200 panel, and has one of Intel's latest "Bay Trail" Atom systems-on-a-chip.
When you first pick up the Venue 8 Android it feels chunky, but it's actually just as slim, at 9mm, as the Nexus 7. It's around 50g heavier, but does have an extra inch of screen size to account for. The more we used the tablet, though, the more we felt this feeling of chunkiness was down to the tablet's impressive build quality. The Venue 8 Android really feels like it's going to last, with no hint of movement or flex anywhere. We also like the rubbery back with its concentric circles, which lends you a feeling of confidence that you're not going to drop the tablet.
The Venue 8 runs the latest version of Android, 4.4 KitKat, with no obvious modifications. There are differing views on whether it's always better to have stock Android or whether the customisations made by manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung really add to the Android experience. In our view, stock Android often runs smoother, but is less pretty, than custom versions. You can always customise Android yourself using launchers and custom keyboards from the Play store, such as the lovely Nova Launcher.
The Venue 8 Android was also quicker than the Nexus 7 in our gaming benchmarks. In the Extreme version of the 3DMark Ice Storm test, the Dell tablet managed a score of 9,690, beating the Nexus 7's 7,154. The challenging 3D titles Real Racing 3 and Assassin's Creed Pirates ran beautifully smoothly, although we did notice some graphical problems, possibly due to compatibility problems with the tablet's Intel processor. In Real Racing, the game wouldn't always fill the screen properly, leading to odd offset graphics, and we experienced some crashes. Assassin's Creed worked fine in-game, but the intro sequence was squashed into a small box at the bottom of the screen. The same game worked fine on the Nexus 7, which has the same screen resolution, which makes us think it's a problem with the Dell tablet's Intel processor rather than the games being incompatible with HD displays.
The Venue 8 Pro has an 8in 1,920x1,200 display. This may only be an inch larger than the Nexus 7's across the diagonal, but this actually translates to another 30% of screen area. This makes the Dell more comfortable to use than a 7in tablet when surfing the web, but it does make it significantly larger overall. Screen quality is one area where the Venue 8 Android loses out to Google's tablet. In our image tests, which we perform with a colour calibration tool, the Venue 8 Android's screen could display 75.4% of the sRGB colour gamut, compared to the Nexus 7's 90.6%. The Nexus 7's screen is also significantly brighter, with a measured figure of 526cd/m2 at maximum brightness, compared to 368cd/m2 for the Venue 8.
You could see the differences when comparing the tablets side by side. The Venue 8 Android's screen was visibly less bright, and had a slight yellow cast compared to the Nexus 7's blinding whites. The Venue 8 Android's screen is by no means bad, thanks to pin-sharp text and a high contrast ratio of 1,069:1, but when it comes to display quality Google's tablet has it beaten.
The Venue 8 Android has a five-megapixel rear camera, which produced images with accurate contrast and colours. They weren't as sharp as we would have liked, and the low megapixel count means you quickly lose detail when you zoom in, but they're fine for snaps to upload to social media sites.
The camera's fine for social media, but can't match most smartphones for image quality
Dell's Venue 8 Android is an excellent example of an inexpensive Android tablet. Whether you choose this over the similarly priced and specified Google Nexus 7 depends on what you want out of your tablet. The Nexus 7 has a superior screen, but there's not a huge amount in it and the Venue 8 Android's extra screen inch makes it more pleasant to use when surfing the web. The Dell tablet also has the edge when it comes to performance. However, the Intel processor seems to cause problems in games, so if you love to game on your tablet you should stick with the Nexus 7, and Google's tablet also has slightly better battery life.
Taking all this into consideration, Google's tablet feels like a more rounded package, so retains its Best Buy award, but the Venue 8 Android is a strong second choice for a sub-£200 tablet.
|Model||Venue 8 Android|
|Processor||Dual-core 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3740D|
|Front camera||2 megapixel|
|Rear camera||5 megapixel|
|Memory card slot (supplied)||MicroSD|
|Operating system||Android 4.4.2|
|Warranty||One year collect and return|