The Dell Venue 8 7000 is more than just the current titleholder of The World's Thinnest Tablet. It also has a lot of power packed into its thin profile, such as its Intel RealSense stereoscopic camera, the first I've seen on a tablet.
It's this trio of cameras that really makes Dell's slate incomparable to the competition. When working together, they capture enough information to let you edit the focal point of a photo after you take it -- similar to a Lytro camera . For further tweaks, the tablet's Dell Gallery app delivers powerful photo-editing features to enhance or artistically edit the images and with the ability to sync with your Facebook, Dropbox and Picasa accounts (naturally), the Venue is a one-stop shop for your personal photos. Sure, say what you will about the folly of using your tablet as a camera, but if this is the future, it is a future I want.
Priced at $399 (also available in the UK for £326 and in Australia for AU$499), the Dell Venue 8 7000 costs as much as the 16GB Apple iPad Mini 3 with comparable features and performance and an equally health app selection. Its biggest Android competition is the Nvidia Shield tablet and Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 but the Dell's sleek aesthetic, swift performance, sharp OLED HD screen, and future-forward photography gives those top dogs a run for their money.
The Dell Venue 8 7000 is currently the thinnest tablet on the market and it wears the title proudly. However, it's only the skinniest by a small margin. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 -- the previous Thinnest Tablet Ever -- is comparably slim and weighs a bit less, yet the solid and sleek construction of the Venue 8 7000 makes the extra weight worth it.
The 8.4-inch tablet barely has any bezels, with the exception of a thick bottom bezel -- or top bezel, depending on how you're using it. Stamped on the back is the Dell logo and if you hold it with the monogram right side up, the big bezel is on the bottom. But, to operate it's main attraction, the Intel Real Sense depth camera, you have to flip it over in order to avoid blocking any of the three rear cameras. To be sure, the big bezel isn't just an odd design quirk; it houses both the front-facing speaker and 2-megapixel camera.
|Tested spec||Dell Venue 8 7000||Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4||Nvidia Shield Tablet||Apple iPad Air 2|
|Weight||0.67 pound (306g)||0.65 pound (294g)||0.86 pound (390g)||0.96 pound (437g)|
|Width (landscape)||8.5 inches (216mm)||8.4 inches (213mm)||8.7 inches (221mm)||9.4 inches (240mm)|
|Height||4.9 inches (124mm)||4.9 inches (124mm)||5 inches (126mm)||6.6 inches (169.5mm)|
|Depth||0.24 inch (6 mm)||0.26 inch (6.6mm)||0.36 inch (9.2mm)||0.24 inch (6.1mm)|
|Side bezel width (landscape)||top bezel: 0.18 inch (4.6mm); others: 0.69 inch (17mm)||0.56 inch(14.2mm)||0.81 inch(20.5mm)||0.8 inch (22mm)|
Thanks to its small dimensions, the Venue 8 7000 one of the most pleasingly effortless tablets to hold for long periods of time. I didn't have to overstretch my fingers in order to get a comfortable grip on the tablet and, even though it's as thick as a tabloid magazine, it doesn't feel frail. Donning a sturdy and smooth aluminum body, the Venue 8 7000's design eclipses its Android competition and rivals the iPad Mini for swankiest small slate.
The Dell Venue 8 7000 runs a mostly pure version of Android 5.0 Lollipop . You won't find a lot of bloatware on the tablet, however it does come with preloaded software that's meant to help take full advantage of the Venue 8 7000's unique capabilities.
If you're looking for a central hub for all of your photos, the Dell Gallery is set up to sync with your Dropbox, Facebook, and Picasa accounts. You can view your photos by dates and locations taken, and, if you sync your Facebook account, a third gallery option automatically tags recurring faces and builds separate albums for each person. You can also manually add tags to photos.
The gallery itself is easy to navigate and user-intuitive, though the myriad ways of accessing your photos can be as overwhelming as it is helpful. As someone whose photos are scattered among various social networks and cloud services, I found the Dell Gallery a convenient centralized location for finding all of my pictures.
All of my accounts consistently synced in a timely manner, with the exception of Dropbox. I was able to sync my Dropbox account, but instead of my photos appearing in the gallery, there were blank thumbnails that couldn't load, no matter how many times I refreshed. This was one of the only hiccups I had while using the Dell Gallery and I otherwise found it practical and user-friendly.
The Dell Gallery is integral to the use of the RealSense camera. The app features built-in photo-editing software that gives your snapshots a creative oomph. The experience and layout is similar to other photo editing programs like, VSCO Cam and Instagram, with a variety of filters to choose from, as well as the options to edit the usual suspects like contrast and saturation. Expectedly, editing regular photos is simpler than editing the depth photos, but Dell includes a variety of step-by-step tutorials to help you get the hang of it.
Making sense of RealSense
As a wordy and worthy feature, the Dell Venue 8 7000 is the first device to offer the Intel RealSense Snapshot Depth camera. The three cameras on the back of the tablet conjunctively work to provide depth information, which, after taking the image, allows you to adjust the focal point. You can also measure an item in the photo, as well as calculate square footage.
To access the RealSense camera, you simply open the native camera app and select the arrow that sits next to the big round shutter button. This expands a list of camera options in addition to depth-sensing, including video, panorama and burst. Once you take a photo, it's saved in the Dell Gallery where all of the editing possibilities are unleashed.
Choosing your focal point after the fact is a fun way to get creative with your photographs and it also works as a perk for quick shooters. Instead of worrying about focusing correctly, you can simply snap a photo and tinker with the details later. Just make sure to use a steady hand in order to ensure that the only blurriness visible is the blurriness you fine-tune yourself using the Dell Gallery photo editing app.
Also found in the Dell Gallery is the measurement tool. It's more on the practical side of things, but still nifty. To measure an item, you must first take a depth snapshot then open it using the Dell Gallery app.
On the top left corner of the screen, sitting between the icons for the filters and refocusing tool, is the measurement tool. You can choose to measure length or area of an object and you can also save those measurements for future reference. It's as simple as selecting Point A then Point B (and Point C and D if measuring an area.) The accuracy depends on lighting, distance, background, and the object, but I found it to be more spot-on for measurements of everyday objects, like the space available in a cabinet or the length of a rug, opposed to big items, like a skyscraper.
Unlike Beyonce, the RealSense camera has its flaws. Firstly, the photo quality is underwhelming; it's hard to get an evenly exposed photo if the lighting isn't uniform, detail becomes grainy in low-lighting, and color looks a bit drab. These problems burden many a tablet cameras, even 8-megapixel shooters, so it's not surprising.
Second, there's a learning curve to using it. If you're anything like me, the challenge of exploring a new facet of photography on a tablet is exciting. Sure, there's the issue of looking like a dork when busting out your tablet to snap a shot, but the faux-pas may justify the photo.
I found myself fully immersed in the Dell Gallery's powerful editing app, exploring the ways I could use the 3D camera to create or enhance a beautiful image. The Intel RealSense camera excitingly pushes the creative boundaries of tablet photography and I really like it -- I just wish the photo quality was better.
The Dell Venue 8 7000 houses an Intel Atom Z3580 2.3GHz quad-core CPU, Imagination PowerVR G6430 GPU, 2GB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, 16GB of internal storage, and a microSD card slot that's expandable up to a whopping 512GB.
Though it's outperformed by powerhouse tablets like the Google Nexus 9 and Nvidia Shield tablet, the Dell Venue 8 7000 still holds its own with smooth and swift performance. Basic tasks like surfing the Web, streaming video and playing simple mobile games are smooth sailing. Large games and apps load moderately quick, but not as fast as its aforementioned Android competition, which house state-of-the-art Nvidia CPUs.
|Dell Venue 8 7000||2.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3580||PowerVR G6430||2GB||Android 5.0.2|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4||Exynos 5 Octa 5420; 1.9GHz quad-core Cortex A15 & 1.3GHz quad-core Cortex A7||Mali-T628 MP6||3GB||Android 4.4|
|Nvidia Shield||NVIDIA Tegra K1; 2.2GHz quad-core A15||ULP GeForce Kepler||2GB||Android 5.0|
|Apple iPad Air 2||Apple A8X||N/A||2GB||iOS8|
For the most part the tablet ran without a hitch, however, lagging occurred more frequently than I like -- especially when downloading apps and switching screen orientations -- and when using the tablet for long periods of time, its backside starts to get a bit hot.
The 8.4-inch OLED screen boasts a 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution with 361 pixels per inch (PPI). HD content looks sharp and clear with a colorfully vibrant range of colors. In side-by-side comparisons with the Galaxy Tab S 8.4, the greens and blues on the Samsung tablet appear more saturated and the deep black level make for dramatically high-contrast imagery, but the lower contrast ratio on Venue 8 7000 shows more detail.
The front-facing stereo speakers are enhanced with the pre-loaded MaxxAudio Waves app. The variety of options include music, movies, vocals, and gaming, and the presets notably boost the audio quality. However, like most tablet speakers, they don't exactly rock the casbah. At full volume, high-pitched noises sound tinny, and any hip-hop head will be dutifully disappointed by the lack of bass.
Dell estimates 10 hours of use for the Venue 8 7000, and I was impressed with the tablet's long battery life. It lasted about 2 days on a full charge after heavy to casual use, and after testing it in the CNET Labs by looping a local video in airplane mode, it averaged 11.9 hours.
|Battery test result|
|Dell Venue 8 7000||11.9|
Thin-as-a-rail designs, speedy specs and razor-sharp HD screens reign as must-have high-end features, but few tablets bring anything fresh or intriguing to the table. The Dell Venue 8 7000 is a rare exception that delivers all of that and does one better: it gives you a new toy to chew on.
It's easy to dismiss the Intel RealSense camera as a gimmick, yet for photography fans it's a refreshingly new innovation that conjures the type of excitement expected from a fancy new gadget. Figuring out how to use the camera and unlocking its creative capabilities epitomizes the type of high-tech exploration gadget-geeks pine for.
In its size category, the Dell Venue 8 7000's main competition are the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and the Nvidia Shield tablet . If you're a big gamer, the Shield tablet is no-brainer. If you're not, it's a showdown against the Tab S -- the previous Thinnest Tablet Ever. Though the 8.4-inch Samsung tablet boasts a more colorfully saturated display, the Venue 8 7000's superior design outshines the plastic laden Tab S and shoots the Dell slate to the top of the best tablets list.
Though its design accolades may initially capture your attention, it's the Intel RealSense camera that captivates. Gadget-loving early adopters with a taste for the creatively cutting-edge will undoubtedly chomp at the bit of the ultra-chic Dell Venue 8 7000.