Tablet sales were stagnant last year as consumers held onto their existing slates, according to research firm Gartner. It said that the lack of hardware innovation kept users from upgrading.
While this may have been true for most of the tablets in the market, it probably does not apply to the Dell Venue 8.
Even to this jaded tech reviewer, this new tablet feels fresh and interesting. But its design tweaks may not be for everyone. After using it for over a week, I am not entirely sold, though I will admit that it looks stunning.
A sleek slab of aluminium at 6mm, the Dell is fractionally thinner than the Apple iPad Air 2 and feels great in the hand. It is light yet solid without any flex.
But you will probably have eyes only for the screen, which has almost no bezel. It has one, but it is as slim as the bezel of the latest smartphone.
Because of this near borderless design, which Dell calls the "infinity display", I ended up gripping the sides of the Venue with my fingers, as I would with a phablet.
The 8.4-inch screen uses Oled technology that offers lush, vivid colours. An ultra-high 2,560 x 1,600-pixel screen resolution makes text and icons look extremely sharp.
To get the bezel that slim, Dell moved the tablet's front camera to the bottom, just under the front-facing speakers. This unusual location takes getting used to. Holding the tablet in my usual manner results in an unflattering view of my face from below - you can see right up my nostrils.
The rear camera is also located in the bottom half of the tablet. You have to be careful not to block the camera with your fingers or palm.
Unique to Dell are the three cameras at the back of the tablet - besides an 8-megapixel camera, there are two 720p cameras spaced 8cm apart. This trio, known as the Intel RealSense Depth camera, add depth information to the photos captured, which is used by the Dell Gallery app.
Draw a line between two points in a photo taken with this camera and the app will tell you the distance between them. The app can also change the focus of the photo, bringing a background object to the foreground, for example.
The rest of the tablet is mostly stock Android KitKat. The speakers are good for watching movies as the sound comes through loud and clear. You can add a microSD card (up to 512GB) for more storage capacity.
Battery life was excellent. This Intel Atom-powered tablet lasted 11hr 45min in our video-playback test.
The Venue costs $659 with a folio case. Add $40 more to get a Bluetooth keyboard with a folio case.
A premium tablet with an interesting feature that may be deemed innovative or gimmicky.
Processor: Intel Atom Z3580 (2.3GHz)
Screen: 8.4 inches, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels
Camera: 8 megapixels (rear), two 720p cameras (rear), 2 megapixels (front)
Value for money: 2/5
Battery life: 5/5
This article was first published on Mar 18, 2015.
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