The Dell Venue 7 is among the least expensive brand-name Android tablets out there. And it's a mighty long way from Dell's ill-fated Streak. At its entry price of $149, the smallest of the Venue line is well-equipped and delivers exceptional performance and value.
This 7-inch Android tablet is built around a 1,280-x-800 IPS panel and driven by a 1.6GHz dual-core, four-thread Intel Atom Z2560 32-bit SoC with Intel HD Graphics running at 400 MHz. The base price also includes 16 GB of storage, dual-band Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, front and rear cameras, and 2 GB of DDR2 memory. There's also a microSD card reader that can add another 32 GB of storage, and charging and data movement through a microUSB port. And at 4.7 inches by 7.6 inches and 0.38 inches thick, the Venue 7 is roughly the same size as 7-inch tablets from Amazon and Google. It weighs 0.69 pounds, which is also within spitting distance of competitors.
The tested unit was delivered with Android 4.2.2, but an update brought it to Android 4.3, which delivers a host of enhancements to Jelly Bean. Those most relevant to the tablet include support for low-energy Bluetooth; enhanced remote audio and video control from Bluetooth devices; faster graphics processing; an improved camera UI; and numerous performance enhancements and bug fixes. Of particular interest to the IT department, Android 4.3 introduces a restricted access mode for user profiles, improved file-write performance, fine-grained application permissions and support for 4K resolutions.
The first thing we noticed about the sleek, all-black Venue 7 out of the box was its rubbery, wraparound shell. This gives it a grippy feel, doesn't store fingerprints and feels like it will absorb the shock of everyday use.
Performance was snappy, particularly when Wi-Fi was in the mix. Data from our test Gmail account, including apps and contacts, downloaded in just a few seconds. The Gmail inbox scrolled fairly smoothly, and web pages, images and videos loaded and displayed instantly. During these tests, we found that holding the Venue 7 e-reader style in one hand got tiresome after a few minutes, but we could have held the two-handed landscape grip all day.
Holding the unit in portrait mode, the power button is on the right side of the top edge, a mic hole's in the middle and the headset jack is at the left. Volume rocker controls are at the top of the left edge and sound comes from a single speaker at the bottom edge. Audio quality is adequate -- not too loud and free of distortion. A 3 MP main camera is adequate, the front camera is mediocre, and camera software is Spartan but easy to use. Device settings are accessed from the upper right corner with toggles for oft-used functions like screen rotation, brightness and airplane mode. Dell has eschewed the use of dedicated buttons for back, home and the recent apps screen, instead opting to implement the controls in software.
At a starting list price of $149, Dell's Venue 7 offers solid performance and value in a comfortable, rugged shell that feels like it can take a licking. For organizations looking for a low-cost Android deployment platform, the CRN Test Center recommends the Venue 7.
Others in Dell's Venue family of tablets include an 8-inch Android model with better cameras and a 32-GB option; and the quad-core Venue 8 Pro, which runs Windows 8.1 and adds a 64-GB model. All are warranted for a year, and the latter is covered by a rapid return service and 90 days of premium phone support.
PUBLISHED MARCH 17, 2014