Lightweight and comfortable to hold, the Venue 7 is marred by an unresponsive screen but for half the price of an iPad mini it does an admirable job.
Dell Venue 7 tablet review: Lacks class of the iPad but more affordable
If you regularly use an iPad and then pick up the Dell Venue 7 tablet, the initial sensation is something akin to downgrading from an Audi to a base model Mitsubishi.
But in the way that we become accustomed to and develop a fondness for the cars that we own, the Venue 7 also grows in charm.
Lacking the pizzazz, and lofty price tag, of the iPad mini, first impressions of the 7-inch device are far from promising.
Although its Google Android operating system provides a simple and familiar userface, the HD screen is grainy when trying to read website text and unresponsive to touch.
To overcome the difficulty in reading, a pop-up box provides a closer look at what has just been pressed, but this means you need to press again to confirm your intention, which can become frustrating and lead to a yearning for keyboard and mouse or a more conventional tablet.
The acid test came when I sat relaxing on the sofa, accompanied by my loyal lieutenant, the Nokia Lumia 520, a handset that doesn’t exactly belong to the upper echelons of the smartphone rankings. Both perform the same necessary everyday functions, only one has a much larger screen.
The Lumia was initially chosen ahead of the Venue 7 when it came to requiring swift internet search and email. But the Venue 7’s comfort in the hands, with its rubbery rear texture and smooth performance, soon enticed me back.
The battery life is short, but the Venue 7 has not been built as a laptop replacement and is unlikely to be required for hours of intense use at a time – unless you have an addiction to Angry Birds. If it really isn’t big enough there is also the 8-inch Venue 8 available.
Efficient and lightweight, Dell has provided a worthy competitor to the likes of the Amazon Kindle Fire in the budget tablet range, so for consumers who don’t own a smartphone, or who wish to use a bigger screen than what their mobile has to offer, it is an affordable option at around Dh499.
Just don’t expect too much.
So tell us some technical information.
The Venue 7 is powered by a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Atom processor and invariably sped along while linked to my somewhat temperamental Wi-Fi. Dell says it provides up to 72 per cent faster web apps and browsing experience compared to the Kindle Fire HD. There’s 2GB of memory and a 15GB hard drive too.
Aside from browsing the internet, what else can it be used for?
It comes pre-loaded with all of the typical apps - YouTube, Gmail and the Google Play Store. Although the tablet is difficult to use for reading because of the need to keep zooming in and out, the video quality is excellent and the sound clear enough to be in another room and still listen to live commentary of England beating India resoundingly in three successive Test matches.
What about the camera. Is it happy snappy?
The 3MP rear-facing camera won’t make you dump your SLR in the nearest bin and if you own a half-decent smartphone you will probably find the camera on that to be more powerful. The video quality suffers from some flicker and blurring, but there is a front-facing VGA camera for those who have a penchant for selfies.
Will the image-conscious among us find it to their taste?
Granted this pales in the style ranks compared to the Samsung Galaxy Tab, iPad or Sony Xperia. However, it is a sizeable step up from some of the Chinese mega-cheap tablets. After all, Dell has a proven track record and you should feel comfortable enough walking into a conference room with the Venue 7 in hand.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter