With the Venue 7, Dell makes their play in an increasingly congested 7-inch Android tablet market. Is it a compelling impulse buy at $149, or are you better served spending more on a competitor device from Samsung or Google?
Out of the box one thing immediately impressed me: The Venue 7 packs vanilla Android, with the sole exception of the pre-installed (and non-removable) PocketCloud. No overlays or custom UI tweaks here, which brings instant familiarity. Oddly, it ships with 4.2.2 Jellybean which feels outdated at this point. I’m not expecting Kit Kat, but a step up to 4.3 Jellybean — especially in light of the pure Android experience — would have been appreciated. (At the time of publication no system updates were available.)
The Venue 7 runs $149 for a 16GB model. Compare that to Google’s newer Nexus 7 ($229) or Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD ($169) and there’s no mistaking the fact that Dell is targeting an aggressive price point. Dell also has a hardware advantage I appreciate: A microSD card slot for expandable storage, which is inexplicably still rare on the majority of Android tablets.
Distinguishing yourself from a sea of 7” tablets is no easy accomplishment, and while the Venue 7 isn’t as curvy as the Nexus 7, it does have attractive lines. The contrast of silver buttons and Dell logo on a matte black soft-touch body is sleek, and it’s comfortable to hold in the hand.
The Venue 7 has a serviceable 1280 x 800 IPS display. I say “serviceable” because the screen isn’t as bright as the Nexus 7 or Galaxy Tab 3, and the colors aren’t as vivid. This is especially noticeable when viewing pure whites. The display quality is nowhere near being a dealbreaker; rather, it adequately reflects the price point of the Venue 7 as a budget Android tablet.
For those who prefer to snap photos with their tablets, the Venue 7 has an average 3MP rear camera (and a VGA quality front-facing webcam for video conferencing). I noticed that even in daylight, photos have a blueish hue to them and look less lifelike than they should. I took the following snapshots using identical settings across the Venue 7 and Nexus 7, both of which utilize the stock Android camera software. To be fair, Google’s tablet has 2 more megapixels in its favor; still, the difference is striking.
Sound duties are handled by a single center speaker on the bottom of the tablet. While it gets surprisingly loud, those extra decibels are hindered by distortion when listening to music and watching action scenes at a higher volume. That maxed out volume is ideal for spoken word podcasts or Audible books, however.
The Venue 7’s best trait, aside from its handsome appearance, is the device’s performance relative to cost. The 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom processor is responsive with multiple tabs open in Chrome, and both YouTube and Netflix video playback is silky smooth. I also tested some more demanding examples of Android games such as Asphalt 8 and Dead Trigger, and both ran perfectly with only the occasional — and marginal — dip in framerate.
How do I describe the Venue 7 on the whole? I’ll borrow a word from earlier: serviceable. It covers the bases and justifies its $149 price tag. It’s best suited as someone’s first Android device, and a solid option for the children in your life. But if you’re looking for a premium Android experience in a 7” form factor, you’re best served plunking down a bit extra for Google’s Nexus 7.
One closing thought: I do hope Dell continues to push into the Android space. If their next iteration retains a competitive price point, boasts a better display, and launches with an up to date version of Android OS, Dell stands to be a contender.