Budget Android tablet packs powerful processor, respectable resolution

Dell's latest bid for some tablet market respect kicked off a little early the last couple weeks.  Look at various sites who reported on the initial October product announcement, one major missing piece of info was exactly when Dell's new 8-inch budget Venue 8 tablet was supposed to be shipping to U.S. holiday shoppers.

Dell's official site states...

Dell Venue 8

...December 6, 20013 (note, though, the "estimated" part)., Inc.'s (AMZN) listing states...

Dell Venue 8

...November 22, 2013 as the "release" date (so maybe shipped to you by a day or two with prime -- Nov. 24?).

But apparently has been selling the new budget tablet, which runs Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android operating system, all month.  The first customer review is from 11/1/2013, so it appears that may have shipped to customers as much as three weeks early.  The tablet is currently listed as in stock?

Should we care?

If you're open to the idea of a budget tablet, the answer is arguably yes.  First, from a news perspective the Dell tablet marks one of the first times we're getting close to Intel Corp. (INTC) (whose chip powers the device) fulfilling its CEO Brian Krzanich's promise of $150 USD tablets.

That $180 buys you a WXGA 1200x800 pixel screen.  While not as good as the 1920x1080 (1080p) panel found in the refreshed Nexus 7 (produced by ASUSTEK Computer Inc. (TPE:2357)), it's $50 USD cheaper ($180 USD versus $230 USD for the 16 GB variant of each)), and moreover it trades blows with the Nexus 7 in terms of processing power.

The Dell Venue 8 features a dual-core 2.0 GHz Intel Z2580 Atom Processor (32 nm, Clover Trail), with an onboard PowerVR SGX 544MP2 GPU from Imagination Technologies Group plc (LON:IMG).  Versus the Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM) APQ8064 a Snapdragon S4 chip with Krait CPU cores and an Adreno 320 GPU, the Intel-based design generally wins in CPU-intensive tasks, but fall behind in GPU extensive tasks (like 3D gaming).  The Intel-equipped Dell Venue 8 gets roughly 7.5 hours under moderate use (on a 1550 mWh battery) versus roughly 8.5 hours for the Nexus 7 (on a 1,500 mWh battery).
Dell Venue 8 and Venue 8 Pro
The Android Dell Venue 8 (left) and Windows 8.1 Dell Venue 8 Pro (right)

In other words, the Dell Venue 8 is a slight step down from the Nexus 7, but not as much as you might expect for $50 USD.  So far the tablet has an excellent 5-star average review on Newgg.

By contrast, the iPad Mini (first generation) from Apple, Inc. (AAPL) is still retailing for $315 USD -- nearly twice the Dell asking price.  That tablet features a lower resolution 1024x768 pixel, 7.9-inch display, and slightly longer battery life.  iOS of course adds value to the Apple device, but it's hard to deny that the Dell tablet is a pretty good deal compared to either the new Nexus 7 or the first-gen iPad Mini.

More good things also are incoming for Dell.  The PC and devicemaker, who recently completed a succesful campaign to privatize, will ship the Venue 8 Pro, the Venue 8's Windows "big brother" next month.  Whereas the Venue 8 -- like its rival the Nexus 7 -- is based on a last generation SoC, the Venue 8 Pro is driven by a brand new 22 nm Intel Bay Trail chip.

While Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 8.1 operating system continues to struggle on the tablet market, the Venue Pro 8 is a worthy brother to the Venue 8 as far as Windows tablets go.  At $300 USD it offers you both the perks (more powerful apps) and downsides (less apps, identical battery life as the Venue 8 despite the more advanced 22 nm SoC) that you'd expect from Windows 8.


“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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