Five years ago, the first of what we would call modern tablet computers were released to the world. What is now an entire product category was originally seen with massive skepticism by many consumers, analysts, and journalists. Even those who had high hopes for the future of tablets could not have predicted their meteoric rise in popularity and ubiquity.

Although tablets are still derided by many as being useless for productivity work, there are many cases where a consumer has been able to not just supplement, but replace their traditional computer with a tablet. Of course, as tablets made by companies in the mobile space replace traditional computers, the producers of those computers are faced with a problem of maintaining profit and relevance. The inevitable move was for PC companies to produce their own tablets to compete with their new competition.

This brings us to the Dell Venue 8 7000 Series tablet, also known as the Dell Venue 8 7840. Although there have been other Venue 8 tablets, for the remainder of the review I will refer to the Dell Venue 8 7840 as the Venue 8 as the full name is quite long and there shouldn't be any risk of confusion with older Venue 8 tablets. Dell is actually not a brand new player in the tablet space, nor are they new to the mobile space.

Some people may remember the Dell Streak 5, which was a 5" phone that could be called one of the first phablets on the market. However, Dell is still not a well known player in the mobile space despite their previous attempts to break into it. On paper, the Venue 8 has all the attributes required of a flagship tablet, but whether or not it's enough to make Dell a serious contender remains to be seen. Before discussing the design of the Venue 8, I've laid out its specifications below to give an overview of how the Venue 8 stacks up to the competition.

  Dell Venue 8 7840
SoC Intel Atom Z3580 Moorefield quad core Atom with 2.33GHz burst speed,
PowerVR G6430
Display 8.4" 2560x1600 AMOLED
Dimensions 215.8 x 124.4 x 6.0 mm, 306g
Camera 8MP Rear Facing + 2x 720p Depth Cameras
2MP Front Facing
Battery 5900mAh (21Wh)
OS Android 4.4.4 KitKat
Connectivity 1x1 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0 , USB2.0
LTE SKU Available
Price Starting at $399

As you can see, the Venue 8 is a high end device in most areas, at least when evaluated on paper. The limited storage configuration of 16GB is one of the few question marks, though the microSD slot helps; the GPU is also going to be potentially limiting. Note that Dell also offers an optional wireless keyboard/case as an accessory. The rest of the review will determine how well these specifications translate into a good real world experience, but before jumping into the technical details it's important to discuss the design and ergonomics of the Venue 8.

One big selling point for the Venue 8 is that it's currently the thinnest tablet in the world according to Dell. Both Apple and Sony have tablet offerings that are 6.1mm thick, but Dell has shaved off that decimal point and made a tablet that is exactly 6mm thick across the entire chassis. I can't really tell the difference between the thickness of the Venue 8 and the iPad Air 2, but both devices are remarkably thin. The Venue 8 feels even more impressive than the iPad at times because it's smaller and significantly lighter in addition to being thinner. The bulk of the chassis is made of aluminum, with a small plastic region at the bottom to house the speakers and camera. The whole device feels great in the hand, and the aluminum feels solid and sturdy.

However, there is a unique aspect of the Venue 8's design that needs to be addressed, which are the unconventional bezel proportions and speaker positioning. On most tablets, you'll see a bezel of equal width on every side, or a a pair of equal bezels on the top of bottom, and a pair of equal thinner bezels on the left and right sides that are thinner than those on the top and bottom. The Venue 8 with its Infinity Display instead opts to use very thin bezels of equal width on the top, left, and right, and a thicker bezel on the bottom. This is necessary to provide space for the various circuitry and display drivers that are required. In addition, Dell has placed the front-facing camera and a pair of stereo speakers in a section beneath bottom bezel.

This leads to an unconventional and unfortunately unbalanced bezel design, and it can cause some issues when holding the tablet. In portrait mode the fact that there's a larger bezel and a speaker at the bottom of the tablet doesn't pose much of an issue, but in landscape mode it makes it uncomfortable to hold. It's hard to hold the Venue 8 in landscape without it feeling uneven. This is exacerbated by the fact that the bezel on top of the tablet is extremely thin.

The thinness of the other bezels can also pose their own issues with having fingers rest on the display. When Apple first used asymmetric bezels on an iPad with the iPad Mini, they tweaked the touch rejection in iOS to account for the fact that fingers were more likely to be resting on the display. Android has no such accommodation, and there have been instances where I find myself unable to scroll or accidentally zooming because one of my other fingers is resting on the display and being detected as touch input.

Overall, I think the Venue 8 is a well designed device with exceptional build quality. It feels remarkably thin and light in the hand, and its flat edges are visually striking while still remaining ergonomic due to the tablet's thinness. The aluminum construction also ensures that there's not even the slightest bit of flex to the chassis. Like every device, it's imperfect. The bezel design is visually impressive, but hampered by technological limitations and some software issues. I also have mixed feelings about the camera placements. Despite its issues, the Venue 8 still remains a tablet that both looks and feels like a premium device.

CPU and Device Performance
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  • Murloc - Thursday, March 12, 2015 - link

    1. comfort and ergonomics (seating position, not having to hold it up, big screen and audio without spending even more $$$ in wireless gizmos)
    2. speed of writing and clicking when browsing the internet
  • WereCatf - Thursday, March 12, 2015 - link

    As for comfort: I'd say it's actually a plus for tablets that you can use them in all sorts of positions and not be restricted to seated positions. As for "big screen:" not all activities require a big screen. If you always insist on doing everything on a big screen then that's on you, but obviously many people don't. Writing is faster on a proper keyboard, sure, but I don't see how clicking is any faster.

    Besides, nothing you said actually answer the question I asked: why is using a tablet specifically at home so ridiculous compared to using it elsewhere?
  • darkich - Thursday, March 12, 2015 - link

    Thise arguments are utterly ridiculous.
    Have you ever actually used a tablet?

    An 8" tablet is PERFECTY usable in a sitting position, its screen provides a perfectly natural focal area size from that viewing distance, when held on top of the lap.
    Reading articles is in fact far superior than on a laptop even in that position since:
    1}) articles are usually formatted towards visual focus of the eye(columns) and portrait screen of a tablet is a perfect fit for a column.
    If you still fail to see the obvious and dont get why tablets are far better and convenient way for reading than a laptop is ,let me ask you - how many books and magazines have you read on a laptop??.
    2) tablet screens are superior to laptop(unless you want to compare a $1300 laptop with a $400 tablet) screens in terms of quality.
    3) tablet is incomparably more manageable and confortable to handle than a laptop due to vast weight and size differences.
    4) tapping and swipping >>> using a touchpad for scrolling and clicking
  • p1esk - Thursday, March 12, 2015 - link

    I've read a ton of pdfs (books and papers) on a laptop. I tend to agree with your points, however, one thing a laptop has got going for it is the screen size. On my 15" MBP I can display two pages at a time. Alternatively, when a text is really dense (some papers), on a 8" tablet the font is simply too small to read comfortably without zooming in all the time (with your zoom resetting every time you turn a page.
  • darkich - Thursday, March 12, 2015 - link

    Yeah I don't disagree with your points either, all you say stands but doesn't counter what I said.
    For some complex and rich context, a top notch laptop like MBP is a natural fit, but overall, Internet is about reading, and for reading a tablet will always be a more natural fit than a laptop.

    It is no coincidence that devices specialized for reading have 6" screens, and are about as light as a magazine.
    I actually by far prefer to surf on my Note 3(despite having an 8" tablet also) ..all context can be easily managed with one hand, and the screen is just the right size to cover the visual focus from one ft distance.
  • akdj - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Ah. You're on 'our side' lol. I misread. I love my Note 4 too. But pick up an iPad mini retina. The second iteration is a bargain right now and it's not much heavier than your Note
    But it's a HELLUVA lot easier to read whe your eyes get tired (I'm 44 & retina, HiDPI displays have changed everything for me when it comes to Legibility & Portability/Hand 'Hold-a-bility'
  • akdj - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Need to look at it differently. I'm with you as an rMBP owner myself and LOVE computing again...after three decades, HiDPI is phenomenal
    That said, as darkich mentions...its a 'comfort' thing
    The iPad Air2's display is phenomenal. The horsepower is finally here and in MANY cases, it's a perfect 'home' computer. Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS MMS, pics, reading, surfing and gaming ALL significantly more 'easy' to do with a one pound 6mm tablet without the keyboard in the way! While the last part may be one of the dislikes you've got with tablets can always get a keyboard case for a hundred bucks ...that said, after time with an iPad you can type quick. Respond fast and get back to what you were reading, watching or playing. A laptop while hella more powerful invites distractions while 'reading a magazine, book or doing a crossword puzzle'
    IMHO, it's always made me curious why others 'want' multitasking on a tabket OR user accounts. The former ...I've also been a Galaxy Note owner and currently use the Note 4 for our business, it's multi tasking system is still very flawed and much like in this article's Google that isn't paying attention to their UI layouts pixel for pixel on individual devices
    Probably an impossibility I know me the latter...a first world deal, but for my family our tablets, whether my son's iPad mini, wife's Air, employees' iPads or my own are VERY personal devices set up the way you're looking to set them up with your icons and apps distributed in the fashion you prefer
    If you're unable to realize the benefits of tablet computing you're 'working too much!' Enjoyment, recreation and pleasure are how I use my iPad at home. On the Job site, it's all business! (& they're VERY capable devices now, today in this incarnation as a productivity piece too! $10/month and you've got 5TB of storage on OneDrive with a free word processor (Word), spreadsheet creator or editor (Excel) and a crappy presentation program in comparison to Keynote. Called PowerPoint;). Five tablets. Five computers. Mix n match as we do and it's a bargain!
    Not to mention making music, editing photos, video work flow or entertainment. Games for a buck or two. Five or ten for the big ones and some IAPs the kids can 'earn'. Lot better than dropping the same amount on a console and $60/pop for a game they don't enjoy
  • Sushisamurai - Sunday, March 15, 2015 - link

    I'm comparing a 13" MBP to say, a tablet like the Air 2 or retina mini. I actually find my laptop more comfortable than my tablets when sitting (couch or otherwise), eating (kitchen table), on the toilet (I have a small table in the washrooms dedicated for the placement of tablets and laptops).

    1) on my MBP, books and magazines are okay, and can match my tablet's viewing experience only if the app/program im using is optimized for viewing on a laptop. That being said, I prefer my tablets in this category because of the "curated" views books and magazines have done for the reader.

    2)screen speaks for itself, but one thing to note is that for laptops, u can open a swathe of articles a lot easier and faster than a tablet can. If I'm spending an hour catching up on the news or some tech event, I could easily open 10-20 tabs for articles and related articles much faster than my tablet.

    3) sure, there's a weight and size disadvantage, but there's also a keyboard and screen advantage

    4)for my MBP, scrolling is a pretty easy two finger affair, which doesn't require me to reach my tablet each time. As for switching browser Tabs, I just use the keyboard short cut (same with closing/opening), and keyboard shortcut for switching programs. Zooming for text to fit to size is also an easy affair with "reader" setting on safari (removes adds, reformats text) for those websites with terrible layouts, or I could just double-tap my trackpad on the text I want to read and my browser automatically adjusts the zoom to fit my screen.

    I'm not out to promote apple per say, but once u figure it out, their UI for some things is pretty amazing. It would be a nightmare to do the above in Windows IMO
  • Sushisamurai - Sunday, March 15, 2015 - link

    I do prefer my tablet in some scenarios, such as lying down in bed (I have a canter lever tablet holder thing), and when my laptop doesn't fit the area required, like my current predicament of replying to this while in my bathtub
  • SoCalBoomer - Thursday, March 12, 2015 - link

    "The Venue 8 has an LTE variant, but most tablets operate purely over WiFi." Hmmmmm . . .

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