updated 09:16 pm EST, Wed November 13, 2013
Hands-on with Dell's low-end enterprise slates
The mobile computing revolution has largely left Dell - along with most other traditional PC giants - in the lurch. Even as it goes private, Dell is still striking out into the mobile device market, releasing new Android and Windows tablets aimed at providing enterprise clients an option for low-cost touchscreen devices. We just received a review copy of the Venue 7 Android slate, and we've got a few first impressions to share on Dell's latest touchscreen device.
Given Dell's super-conservative approach to the Venue family's design, there is actually little of note regarding the device. As we said in our initial hands-on with the Venue 7 and Venue 8 back in October, the tablets possess a solid build quality. The plastic backing is not as grippy as we would like - we prefer Google's approach with its Nexus 7 tablet - but the Venue 7 isn't exactly slippery. It has a smooth finish that somehow feels tough to the touch, as though it is built to take a bit of abuse, which it likely is.
The 1200x800 display on the Venue 7 is nothing to write home about positively or negatively. It is capable of reasonably bright output, and the viewing angles enabled by its IPS technology should satisfy most consumers and enterprise clients looking for a budget tablet. The colors do seem a bit muted, but you're not likely to be playing the latest graphics-intensive Android on this thing.
In terms of performance, we've seen nothing groundbreaking with the Venue 7. It packs a 1.6GHz Atom processor from Intel, as the chip giant continues to leverage old alliances to make an impact in the mobile computing space. So far in our tests, that processor has handled Android 4.2.2 acceptably. It is even quite speedy in page transitions so far, though we will put it through its paces before delivering a final verdict in our in-depth review.
What did surprise us about the Venue 7 is how well its exterior aesthetics match what one finds upon powering up the device: it really is quite spare, with a minimum of preinstalled software.
The Android homescreen was a veritable ghost town when we first started the Venue up, with only a widget for controls and icons for just three other apps visible outside of the main dock row. Though somewhat jarring, it was... somewhat refreshing, considering the tendency for Android manufacturers to overload their home screens with in-house apps.
We had to take a look to make sure that Dell wasn't running pure Android on the Venue when we first started it up. The manufacturer seems serious about this being a no-nonsense device, so it packs little in the way of additional skin. That will probably allow Dell to issue rapid updates to its prospective enterprise clients. That, too, we will explore in a fuller look later.
It may seem like an insult to apply the label "plain" to any tablet nowadays, but that is not our intention in stating our initial assessment of the Venue 7. There is a refreshing understatement to its aesthetic and presentation, one that we believe will likely go hand in hand with the company's enterprise-oriented mission. We are interested to see just how well Dell has pulled off the Venue, and we'll have more to say on it in the coming days.