When the need is for a low-cost Android tablet with a bright, crisp screen from a reputable manufacturer, the new Dell Venue 8 fills the bill nicely. This 8-inch, Intel-based tablet performed well in tests and, with its updated processor and improved screen, is a bargain at $179 list.
The newly updated Venue 8 is built around the 64-bit Intel Atom Z3480 two-core, two-thread SoC with a burst frequency of 2.1GHz. That's up from the 32-bit Atom Z2580, a two-core, four-thread CPU that peaked at 2.0GHz. It's running Android 4.4.2 KitKat on 1 GB of LPDDR3 RAM with no UI overlays.
Much of the Venue 8's $179 price tag goes toward its 1,920-x-1,200 IPS panel, which puts out clear, sharp text and bright, beautiful color images in full HD. Driving the display is a PowerVR G6400 GPU from Imagination. The base model also builds in Wi-Fi AC with Miracast support for wireless displays, Bluetooth 4.0, and 5MP and 2MP cameras.
Out of the box, the all-glass facade of the Venue 8 creates an elegant impression that's only slightly offset by its plastic case. Dell's slate weighs less than 12 ounces; its lightweight and ribbed backing are comfortable to hold in one hand for long periods. At nearly an inch wide, the bezels on its short edges are wide enough to avoid accidental thumb input when holding it widthwise, even with one hand. The Venue 8 measures 8.5 inches long by 5.1 inches high, and is 0.35 inch thick.
When in landscape mode, the power button and headset jack are along the left edge, and the top edge is home to the microUSB 2.0 charger/data port and volume rocker. Also along the top are slots for the SD card and microSIM card (if so-equipped), which are under a single press-on cover. Dell says its SD card slot supports 64 GB, but with its support for the SDXC format, 128-GB cards also should work.
The tablet's single speaker is along the right edge and puts out clear sound but is not very loud. Fortunately, Dell sent its Bluetooth Portable Speaker, a $69 must-have option for presentations or other situations being heard by more than one or two people. The seven-inch-long unit and its 2.5-watt speakers can crank out loud, undistorted sound for about 10 hours on a charge. There's an auto shut-off, and it supports Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC connections. The kit includes a microUSB charger cable and audio jack.
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