Dell Venue 8 (2014)If the appeal of a product is all in the name, nobody told Dell’s tablet team.

It wasn’t all that long before we wrote this—about six or seven months ago—that we looked at Dell’s first entry-level Android slate with an 8-inch screen, the Venue 8. (That’s not to be confused with the company’s Venue 8 Pro, which is a Windows 8 tablet.) We found it competent but, as compact Android slates go, rather ordinary. In most ways, it reminded us of umpteen other compact (7-to-9-inch) Android tablets we had looked at around the same time. But what that Venue 8 model did have going for it was a relatively low price, given the screen size and when the tablet debuted: $179.99 MSRP, with the street price ringing up a little lower on occasion.

So, here we are just a few months down the road, and Dell has revamped that same 8-inch Android, keeping the name but hiking the list price to…$199.99. What gives?

Surprising in a market where Android-tablet prices are driving down, down, down, this price rise is a justifiable one. Sure, the Venue 8 is named the same, and the exterior is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor’s. But this version, thanks primarily to its 1,920×1,200-pixel, high-resolution screen, is an overall better value. (At the same time as the new Venue 8, Dell rolled out a Bay Trail-enhanced Venue 7, as well.)

Not only does this new Venue 8 outshine the last one, but the higher screen resolution also brings this newer Venue into direct competition with certain higher-end compact tabs, such as Google’s2013 Nexus 7 (a 7-incher) and 2014’s LG G Pad 8.3 (an 8.3-incher). The G Pad comes in three flavors: a G Pad 8.3 LTE/Verizon version, the G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition, and a standard G Pad 8.3. Each version of the G Pad 8.3, as well as the Nexus 7, has a 1,920×1,200-pixel display, like our Dell Venue 8 review unit’s.

Dell Venue 8 (2014) (Vertical)This 1,920×1,200 resolution generates a very tight pixel depth on a screen this size (283 pixels per inch, or ppi, versus 180ppi on a standard 1,200×800 display). This pixel depth makes images, videos, some games, and certain other content more detailed and attractive than on the standard 1,200×800-pixel displays found on most of today’s compact tablets. (We’ll look more closely at the Venue 8’s display panel in the Features & Apps section later in this review.)

In fact, this Venue 8’s high-resolution screen puts it on par with the 8.3-inch G Pad. The various versions of the LG G Pad 8.3 may have slightly larger screens, but they also sell for at least $50 more than this Dell, depending on the promotions of the day. Furthermore, while the G Pad 8.3 deploys Qualcomm’s speedy Snapdragon 600 CPU, the Intel “Bay Trail” Atom processor in this Dell slate helped the Venue 8 perform better on many of our tests. (We’ll look more closely at how this Venue 8 did on our benchmark tests in the Performance section later on.)

On the outside of this tablet, things are just as strong. This Venue 8 is slim, solid-feeling, and light—a pleasure to use in almost every sense. It’s thinner and lighter than its predecessor, too.

As you read on, you’ll note a couple of things, such as its sole audio speaker, that we thought could use improvement. But our bottom line? The Atom-based Dell Venue 8 is one nice compact tablet for the money, even if it’s a little more money than before. We’re just surprised that Dell hid this tablet’s backlight under a bushel by not naming it the “Venue 8 HD” or the “Venue 8 Premium.”

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.


Idolian Mini Studio 8 Review and RatingsMakers of Android tablets have it tough. In addition to competing with each other, they need to keep a wary eye on the ever-ticking bomb in their midst: Apple, and its dominating grip on the tablet market. It’s a given that to succeed, any new Android slate must stack up favorably against the iPad in one way or another, whether that’s on features, on price, or on both. To that end, every now and then, we see Android slates that resemble iPads so closely in their feature sets and design that they come close to being clones.

Case in point: the subject of this review, the $198-list Mini Studio 8 by Idolian, a tablet maker based in Southern California. In this case, though, rather than aping the full-size iPad, the Mini Studio 8 takes its cues from theApple iPad Mini. Idolian’s well-built, attractive little slate not only looks like the iPad Mini from the front, but it’s also encased in a similar-looking aluminum-alloy case, has the same screen resolution (1,024×768), and boasts several other features in common. Where these two slates differ greatly, though, is in price: that $198 list price for the Mini Studio 8, versus the $329 at which we typically see the entry-level 16GB iPad Mini. (Plus, at the time of this writing, the Mini Studio 8 was on sale via Idolian’s Web site for $158—just about dead-on half the price of Apple’s Mini.)

Idolian Mini Studio 8In addition, the Idolian Mini comes with several features unavailable on Apple’s miniature tablet. These include an SD-card slot (for expanding the onboard storage) and two ports: a USB connector and an HDMI out. And these features, in our opinion, significantly increase the overall value of Idolian’s offering.

Idolian Mini Studio 8 GameplayOn paper, at least, it may seem that feature for feature, the Mini Studio 8 is something of a bargain, and, depending on what you want to do with your tablet, it may well be. But simply cross-checking feature lists between two similar products doesn’t always tell the whole story. Make no mistake: The Mini Studio 8 is decidedly a budget tablet, and where economy models often pale compared to premium tablets is in the quality of their displays. And that’s the case here. Despite the identical pixel resolution of these two slates, the Apple iPad Mini’s display panel is noticeably brighter and more colorful.

You may be thinking that this is a classic example of you-get-what-you-pay-for, but not necessarily. Several under-$200 tablets, such as the 16GB versions of both the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD (7″), have great-looking, bright, and colorful displays. Still, the comparison is simply a matter of how fussy you are. The Mini Studio 8’s screen is not in any way poor or unacceptable; it’s just not as good as what we’ve seen on these other models.

Idolian Mini Studio 8 OffOur point is that this Idolian tablet and the iPad Mini don’t exist in a vacuum—several other low-cost slates out there compare favorably to the downsized iPad, too. Still, we liked the Mini Studio 8 overall, especially as an entry-level tablet for children and first-time buyers who aren’t sure how much they will actually use their tablet. But we like it much better priced in the $100-to-$150 range. At its list price of $198, it bumps heads with some other compact 7-inch slates that are very strong contenders indeed, even if their screens are an inch smaller. If the Mini Studio 8 piques your interest, definitely try to land it on sale—and look at the screen first.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.


Vizio 8" Tablet Review

You probably know Vizio for its televisions, not its tablets. (Indeed, the company makes some pretty nice HDTVs, and we say that from personal experience, not just testing.) Nonetheless, the company has thrown its first tablet, the prosaically named 8″ Tablet, straight into a wild scrum. This $299 Android-OS tablet is’ part of the company’s plan to create a new ecosystem centered around its Vizio Internet Apps Plus platform (V.I.A. Plus) for HDTVs, Blu-ray players, tablets, and smartphones. Vizio’s vision is that the V.I.A. Plus platform will consist of Android apps on all of its entertainment devices, as well as future services that will integrate the tablet with other V.I.A. Plus devices. One of the features Vizio promises, for example, is the ability to push media, such as photos and videos, from the tablet to V.I.A. Plus Vizio TVs with an easy flick of the finger.

vizio 8" tablet front

The plan is for this and other kinds of V.I.A. Plus magic to appear through the end of 2011 and into 2012. For now, though, the company has’ deployed the technology’ only’ on the 8″ Tablet. But, in stark contrast to this’ forward-looking tech,’ the 8″ Tablet’ doesn’t run the latest version of Android. Like many other under-$300 tablets, it instead uses version 2.3 (a.k.a. “Gingerbread”), which is something of a drawback by itself.

Unlike most’ Gingerbread tablets we’ve reviewed, though, this one supports the full Android Market. This’ means you can access the full range of the latest Android apps available, rather than having to rely on pared-down third-party repositories, such as GetJar or AppBrain. Also, the Vizio 8″ Tablet is one of the first budget-priced tablets we’ve seen that doesn’t look or feel cheap.

See review at Computer Shopper