Dell Venue 7 3000 Series Review and RatingsThe update cycle on most Android tablets has been around 12 to 18 months—it’s not often that one of these products gets refreshed in just six or seven. But that’s what happened with Dell’s original Venue 7 tablet, as well as its sibling, the Venue 8, both released in late 2013. Dell showed the first versions of these Venue tablets to the door rather quickly after they debuted.

The strongest impression we had of these 2013 Venues is that they were commonplace, with very little inside and out to differentiate them from most other compact Android slates. Especially so the 7-incher: Like most recent budget tablets, nearly everything about it was adequate but unexciting. It was the kind of tablet that would do in a pinch, but it didn’t inspire much in the way of enthusiasm or enmity.

The good news is that their replacements are thinner and lighter tablets with faster, more efficient Intel Atom processors. Our review of the $199.99-MSRP Venue 8 3000 Series revealed that, aside from a few minor flaws (a one-speaker sound system; shorter-than-average battery life), it was a much better tablet. A new full-HD display and a peppy 64-bit Atom CPU saw to that.

Dell Venue 7 (2014) (Front and Back)The Venue 7 3000 Series isn’t quite the same success story. Dell didn’t equip this smaller, $159.99-MSRP 7-inch model with a higher-resolution screen, nor, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on in this review, does it come with quite the same CPU as its 8-inch sibling (though it’s close). That doesn’t make the Venue 7 3000 Series a bad tablet, by any means. But the differences are significant enough that we found the Venue 8 an all-around better value, and a better tablet period, price regardless.

Still, this second Venue 7 is a decent slate in its own right. This one is a little thinner and lighter than last year’s, and, as mentioned, the different processor inside makes it a little faster. Dell’s problem here, as we see it, is that the Venue 7 3000 Series isn’t any more attractive, feature-wise, than several competing models, including Asus’ recent $149.99-list MeMO Pad 7. Plus, the popularity of smaller 7-inch slates appears to be waning in favor of 8-inch screens. An 8-inch display is larger by about 30 percent, making 8-inch tablets easier to use. And all else being equal, the price difference between 7- and 8-inchers is narrowing. Good budget 7-inchers hover around $150; budget 8-inchers start around $180 to $200.

Yet another reason the Venue 8 3000 Series is more attractive is that to get the same super-high resolution (1,920×1,200 pixels) on a 7-inch screen, you must step up (or down, depending on your perspective) to Google’s Nexus 7, the patriarch of high-res 7-inch tablets. Now, the Nexus 7 may be nearing the end of its long run (Google had just removed it from the Google Play Store when we wrote this, though it was still available from resellers), but it’s around the same price as the Venue 8 3000 Series. And the Nexus 7 doesn’t come with a way to expand the onboard storage, which, as we’ll discuss on the next page, both the Venue 7 and the Venue 8 do. And, of course, the screen is an inch smaller than the Venue 8’s.

Dell Venue 7 (2014)Our bottom line? If you can afford it, spend the extra $40 or so for the larger, higher-resolution Venue 8 3000 Series. You’ll be glad you did. If your budget limits you strictly to $150 or so, though, the Venue 7 3000 Series is a good tablet, but then so is Asus’ $149.99-MSRP MeMO Pad 7, as well as a few others—and some of those cost even less.

As we wrote this, Dell was offering a $10 “instant savings” incentive on its Web site, thereby lowering the price on the Venue 7 3000 Series to $149.99, the same as the Asus tab. But assuming the prices stay parallel, we’d still opt for the Asus 7-incher.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.


 

Google Nexus 7 by Asus Review and RatingsWe knew it was coming—and soon. We just didn’t know exactly when, and which tablet manufacturer would make the first move. But the advent of the under-$250 quad-core, Tegra 3-based tablet was inevitable, and now, with the debut of Asus’ Google Nexus 7, it’s here. After only about six months since the powerful and power-efficient Nvidia Tegra 3 made its first appearance (in the $499.99 Transformer Prime TF201), that slate’s maker, Asus, teamed up with Google to once again break new ground. Not only is the Nexus 7 a groundbreaking quad-core slate on price, but it’s also the first to run the latest version of Android (4.1, a.k.a. “Jelly Beanâ”).

Now wait a minute, you’re probably saying: Aren’t there already a few $200 or close-to-$200 tablets—notably, Amazon’s $199.99 Kindle Fire and Samsung’s $249.99 Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0)—available already? Well, yes, but the Kindle Fire is basically an e-reader with somewhat limited capabilities, and both of these models, as well as several other low-cost slates, run on somewhat outdated dual-core processors. Dual-core slates are not as fast as or as capable as tablets built around quad-core processors, nor do they provide anywhere near the same battery longevity. Overall, tablets running on quad-core CPUs are all-around better devices today, and they’ll remain viable for a longer time, too.

We should stop here a second time and note that Asus also offers a $199.99 version of the Nexus 7, too, making it, technically, the first under-$200 quad-core slate—never mind $250. However, the $199 version comes with only 8GB of onboard storage and, unfortunately, it doesn’t have a memory-card slot for expanding the storage capacity. With so little storage, after you subtract the bits taken up by the operating system and preinstalled apps, you wind up with just over 5GB of storage space—far too little for most users. The 16GB version we review here makes much more sense.

And that brings us back to the $249 Google Nexus 7. As you’d expect, manufacturing so inexpensive a slate entails making compromises, and, even though this model is light, attractive, well-built, and comfortable to use, it does demand its share of trade-offs. First, like the 8GB model, the 16GB Google Nexus 7 lacks storage expansion, which we cover in more detail on the next page. In addition, this slate has no HDMI-out port, making it more cumbersome to connect to HDTVs and other monitors. (We discuss this limitation, too, in the Design section.)Google Nexus 7 by Asus Review

These shortcomings aside, the Google Nexus 7 is an impressive little tablet. Its 1,200×800-resolution screen—high for a 7-inch slate—displays text, images, and videos superbly. It turned in exceptional scores on our suite of benchmark tests, besting every other 7-inch tablet we’ve tested to date, as well as several full-size 10.1-inch models. The Google Nexus 7, like other impressive Asus models we saw earlier this year (such as the $399.99 10.1-inch Transformer Pad TF300 and the higher-end $499.99 Transformer Prime TF201), is a superb performer and an overall exceptional value.

Read full review in Computer Shopper.