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Review: Dell Venue 7 and Venue 8, Android tablets with Intel inside

There are lots of Android tablets to choose from, ranging from the inexpensive to big bucks. These two tablets from Dell are light on the wallet and have a unique feature.
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1 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Dell Venue 7 and Venue 8 — Intel inside

The Venue 7 and Venue 8 tablets from Dell are downright cheap and good options for those wanting decent tablets at a reasonable price. They are basically the same except for the screens. The Venue 7 has a 7-inch display running at 1,280 x 800 and the Venue 8 an 8-inch display at 1,920 x 1,200.

Both tablets ship with Android 4.4 (KitKat).

What sets the two Dell tablets apart from the huge Android crowd is the Intel Atom processors inside. Almost all other Android tablets have some type of ARM processor, so this is a departure from the standard. It may be responsible for some quirks experienced while using both Venue tablets.

Hardware as reviewed:

  Dell Venue 7 Dell Venue 8
Processor Intel Atom Z3460 dual-core Intel Atom Z3480 dual-core
OS Android 4.4 (KitKat) Android 4.4 (KitKat)
Memory 1GB 1GB
Storage 16GB 16GB
Display 7-inch, 1,280 x 800, IPS 8-inch, 1,920 x 1,200, IPS
Cameras Front: 1MP, Rear: 5MP Front: 2MP, Rear: 5MP
Connectivity Wi-fi ac; Bluetooth 4.0 Wi-fi ac; Bluetooth 4.0
Ports microUSB 2.0, audio in/out, microSD microUSB 2.0, audio in/out, microSD
Battery 17.29 Whr, 4,550 mAh, 10 W adapter 17.29 Whr, 4,550 mAh, 10 W adapter
Dimensions 193 x 118 x 8.95 mm; 7.59 x 4.64 x 0.35 inches 216 x 130 x 8.95 mm; 8.50 x 5.11 x 0.35 inches
Weight 290 g; 0.64 lb 338 g; 0.74 lb

Both Venue tablets are thin and light and well constructed. The casing has a swirled pattern on the back, making the tablets feel secure in the hand. The displays are IPS and have good viewing angles, important for a tablet.

The Venue 8 has a slightly faster Intel Atom processor, higher resolution display, and better webcam (2MP vs. 1MP)  than the Venue 7.

Enter the Atom

Setting up the Venue 7 and Venue 8 was different than every other Android tablet I’ve used, no doubt due to the Atom processors. None of the preinstalled Google apps would run out of the box with the exception of the Chrome browser, and that was so bad it was unusable.

It turns out that as shipped, both Venue tablets needed an update to Google Play Services before anything would work correctly. I’ve never seen this before as on ARM tablets as this is part of the ROM image for Android. Apparently that’s not the case with Android for the Atom processor.

I had to manually update Play Services, and then discovered that 22 apps on each tablet needed to be updated. These were all the Google apps that make up Android. Once all the updates were installed on each tablet, everything ran fine with one exception I’ll describe later in the review.

Typically, Android tablets have one good thing going for them — you can get right to work when you take them out of the box. That’s because the OS is preinstalled in ROM and fully operational as shipped.

This unique out-of-box experience (OOBE) with the Venue tablets spoiled the startup process. It took over 30 minutes to update the Google Play Services and then all the various Google Android apps. It was reminiscent of the Windows OOBE, and that was not good at all.

As mentioned, the tablets worked fine once updated, except for the Chrome browser. On both the Venue 7 and Venue 8 I have sporadic screen flashing on some web sites. They do this while the page is loading, flashing between proper display and black screen. This is happening on both tablets so it’s not bad hardware. It’s possibly related to the one WebGL crash I’ve experienced. I’ve never seen this on ARM-based Android tablets, so I’m pretty sure it’s the integrated Intel graphics with the Atom.

Tablets run very well with an ARM processor inside, so I’m not sure using an Atom processor has any advantage. That’s certainly the case with the weird things I’ve experienced with both of the Venue tablets.

The Atom performs reasonably well in the Dell tablets. Things run smoothly, with an occasional lag. By comparison, both my Kindle Fire HDX tablets run faster and more smoothly than the Dells. The Kindles are more expensive, so it may be a worthwhile tradeoff for the value of the Venue tablets.

Quirks aside, I find both Venue tablets to offer decent value. The Dell Venue 7 is only $159 and the Venue 8 $199. They are both decent performers so these prices are reasonable.

The Duo Case

Both Venue tablets have a case option from Dell that adds protection from impacts. The Duo Case covers the back of the tablet, and also provides a rubber bumper for the sides. The screen is left exposed, something I would prefer wasn't the case.

It would have been better to also put a cover on the front of the case to protect the glass display. This would have allowed for the use of smart cover technology to turn the tablet on and off. Without it, you must manually turn the tablet off before putting it in the bag or pocket.

The Duo Case is a $29.99 option from Dell.

Pros:

  • Reasonably priced
  • Solid construction
  • Good displays

Cons:

  • Intel Atom processor creates some problems out of the box
  • Chrome browser exhibits strange graphical flashing

Reviewer’s rating: 6 out of 10 (both tablets)

The Dell Venue 7 and Venue 8 are similar with only minor hardware differences. They run as expected once the Android updates are installed out of the box. Other than the strange display flashing in the Chrome browser, everything works as expected with the Atom processor.

There are occasional stutters in performance, but these are not a deal killer. It is reminiscent of Android tablets in the early stages. It feels like Google needs to do some additional work on Android for Intel hardware.

See also:

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2 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Dell Venue 8 and Venue 7 backs

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Dell Venue 7

The Venue 7 fits comfortably in the hand.

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Dell Venue 8

Although the display is bigger, the width of the Venue 8 still allows holding securely in one hand.

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5 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Screen comparison

This shows the same Chrome browser page on both the Dell Venue 7 and Venue 8.

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6 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Dell Venue 8 and Venue 7 and Duo Cases (in back)

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7 of 7 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Duo Cases for the Dell Venue 8 and Venue 7, back view

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