Budget-friendly, compact Android tablets certainly haven’t been in short supply over the last year or so. The main trend among them, though—apart from better feature sets and screens for less money, as time has gone on—is that the 8-inch screen size has risen to more prominence. That’s likely due to the influence of the 7.9-inch Apple iPad Mini.
Before, compact tablets were practically defined by the 7-inch screen size in slates like the early Amazon Kindle Fire HD and first-gen Google Nexus 7. So, when Dell unveiled an 8-inch version of its Android-based Venue tablet last fall, tucked between its 7-inch Venue 7 Android tablet and an 8-inch Windows version, the Venue 8 Pro, that’s when we realized 8-inch slates would be a new class to reckon with on the Android side, too. The Venue 8 wasn’t the first of its kind, but with the rollout of Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet 8 at CES 2014, the company’s earlier Yoga Tablet 8, and several others, the “8” size looks like it’s here to stay.
The subject of our review today, Dell’s Venue 8, is not terribly different from the umpteen other compact Android tablets we’ve looked at over the past several months—especially the $149-list Dell Venue 7 we tested back in December 2013. Like the 7-inch Venue and numerous other compact Android slates from competitors such as HP, HiSense, Lenovo, Asus, and Samsung, this one falls short of our favorite compact slate to date, 2013’s $229-list refresh of the Google Nexus 7, in terms of performance and display quality.
In this case, though, our 16GB Venue test unit sold for only $50 less than Google’s sleek, strong-performing Android. As we see it (unless you simply just can’t pony up the additional $50), what you give up when choosing one of these under-$200 budget models is stark.
Then again, this and several other budget models—HP’s Slate 7 and Dell’s Venue 7 among them—come with MicroSD card slots for expanding storage, which is missing from not only the popular Nexus 7, but also all iterations of Apple’s runaway iPad Mini. You can increase the Venue 8’s storage capacity, for example, by 32GB, to either 48GB or 64GB (depending on which initial model you buy).
This Venue comes in either black or red…
Our review-model Venue 8 was a red tablet equipped with 16GB of internal storage, for $179.99 list. The next model up has 32GB of storage and runs $229.99 MSRP. (You can get either capacity in either color.) Alternately, you can choose Dell’s Venue 8 + Essentials Bundle (which lists for $294.99). In addition to 32GB of onboard storage, this bundle includes a Targus stylus, a 32GB SanDisk MicroSD card (which boosts the storage capacity from 32GB to 64GB), a Dell-branded case for the tablet, and an extra power adapter.
The bundles that Dell offers with the 7-inch-screened version of this slate are broadly similar to its larger sibling’s: a stand-alone Venue 7 tablet for $149.99; the tablet with a stylus for $189.99; and a $229.99 Essentials 7 Bundle with the same accoutrements as on the 8-incher. While the Venue 7 has a smaller screen and a slightly slower processor, at $30 less than the 16GB Venue 8 (and $80 cheaper than the Nexus 7), we think that it’s the better buy of the two—by a modest margin.
The Venue 8 runs on a slightly faster Atom processor than the Venue 7 does (a 2GHz chip versus a 1.6GHz). As you’ll see in the Performance section later on, this makes for a slightly better-performing tablet. (Don’t confuse the Venue 8 with the previously mentioned Venue 8 Pro, though, a Windows 8.1 tablet we looked at back in December 2013.) As we said about the Venue 7, this 8-inch Venue brings little new to the club. In fact, both slates are very much like several other entry-level compact Android tablets that came before them. At $179.99, though, given that most of the competition has 7-inch screens, the Venue 8 does net you a bit more display for your money.
Like we said about its 7-inch sibling, we couldn’t find a compelling reason—aside from its relatively low price given the screen size—to recommend this slate strongly over many of the other compact Android tablets out there, though it’s certainly as good a choice as any at its price. Given that the much peppier Nexus 7 is just $50 more, the potential savings gained from choosing the Venue 8 are only compelling if you’re sold on its bigger, lower-res screen.
Still, this is a well-built, satisfactory-performing tablet. It’s a good buy as a second slate for families with children, or perhaps as a first tablet for someone who isn’t sure if, or how much, he or she will use it. And if you see it on a limited-time discount, as Dell tends to offer for its tablets, it becomes an even better deal.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.