Dell Venue 8 7840: The first 5 things you need to know

Dell's long-awaited Atom-powered tablet is finally available, and we're giving it a first look

Might 2015 finally be the year we see Dell and Intel make waves in the Android space? If the Dell Venue 8 7840 is any indication, both companies could have a lot to say in the coming months.

The awkwardly named tablet — which you might also see written occasionally as "Dell Venue 8 7000 series" — is a thin little slice of heaven (all of 6mm), running Android 4.4.4 and powered by an Intel Atom processor. It's got a high-resolution display at 8.4 inches that looks incredible.

Piqued your interest yet? It's time to do our thing on this sexy little tablet. And we'll start with the first five things you need to know about it.

Yes, it's that thin. And the bezels are that small.

On paper, the Venue 8 7840 is just 6mm thick. And once you pick it up, you believe it. The tablet's flat, with the only real curves on the corners, so there's nothing causing the 7840 to feel thicker in some places and thinner than others. It's just a thin, aluminum slab.

And it's damned nice.

And the bezels on three sides of the display are extremely thin as well. In fact, they're almost too thin. If you're used to holding your tablet on the edges, you'll want to try it from the bottom. And it's pretty obvious that's what Dell intends you to do anyway, given how much real estate is beneath the display there. It's definitely a different feel from the Nexus 7 or Nexus 9.

And while the bottom of the 7840 isn't much to look at — you can either choose to let it bother you, or not — that profile and those bezels are truly a sight to see.

The display is that gorgeous.

Dell Venue 8 7840 display

Few would question the beauty of a good OLED panel these days. And the one Dell's using in the 7840 is just short of ridiculous with a 2560x1600 resolution at 8.4 inches diagonal. That gives it a 16:10 aspect ratio — same as the 2013 Nexus 7.

Those numbers all mean you'll be hard-pressed to spot an individual pixel on this tablet. Text is crisp. Colors are vivid and blacks are black.

There's one downside to that resolution, though. The icons and fonts may sometimes be too small for you. In fact, we'd not blame you one bit if you go into the display settings and crank up the font size all the way. That actually breaks a few things — descenders like the lowercase g in words like "Google" disappear in the app drawer, for example — but it should be easier on aging eyes.

This thing has four (count 'em!) cameras.

Dell Venue 8 7840 cameras

We're not exactly advocates for tablet photography. But in the case of the Dell Venue 8 7840, we might have to make an exception.

There's a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for all those selfies the kids take and the video calling the parents wish they'd do more of on the weekend. (Seriously, give your folks a call. They miss you.)

But on the back you'll find three lenses. The total resolution is 8 megapixels, with the ancillary lenses adding depth information, not unlike we've seen dual-lens cameras do the past year. Like those cameras you'll be able to change the focus of the picture after the fact, as well as some cool aftereffects that are all part of the "Intel RealSense Depth Camera."

And another cool trick is that because the tablet knows how far those three lenses are from each other it can do some (relatively) simple math and actually measure distance within picture you've taken. Just in case. It's actually pretty cool. That said, it's not actually in Dell's current software. (I had it demoed for me at CES.)

Intel's Atom processor means ...

Dell Venue 8 7840 with Intel inside

Quite frankly, we're entering this little endeavor without any real preconceived notions. While Intel's not exactly a newcomer to the mobile space, Atom is a name best known from the netbook era. And that doesn't exactly invoke thoughts of performance. But these are different times, and this is a new generation of Atom. Clean slate.

In our initial usage, we've not seen any red flags fly. A few quirks, perhaps, probably attributable to software — Facebook's list view has some funny scrolling to it, for example.

We're still early in our testing, but so far so good. We'll need some more time to more accurately gauge true performance and battery life.

Speakers, software, storage and bloatware

Dell Venue 8 7840 speaker

The Dell Venue 8 7840 has a front-facing speaker on the bottom, erm, top, erm left or right, depending on how you're holding this thing. It sounds surprisingly good given its size, and you can feel the low-end from the backside. (Because I really am all about that bass, apparently.) When you're holding the tablet vertically (that's portrait orientation for those who deal in such terms) it makes games and videos more immersive. But it's funny how your brain can play tricks on you. Watch a movie in proper landscape (horizontal) orientation, and your mind very much knows that there's sound coming from just one side of the tablet, and that it's just not quite right. (This is especially noticeable if you're coming from a device with proper dual front-facing speakers like the the Nexus 9 or HTC One M8 or even the old Samsung Nexus 10.)

Software-wise, we're running Android 4.4.4 KitKat. Figure a Lollipop update will come at some point.

As for storage, well, we're not all that impressed. The 7840 is a 16-gigabyte device. You're prompted during setup to install any number of apps, including the Amazon suite of apps, Facebook, IMDB, Flixter, Twitter, Vine, Flipboard and others. Some of those apps you might well use. Some might become bloatware if you're not careful. I installed Facebook, IMDB and Twitter, ending up with a little more than 8 gigabytes of storage left over for my use. And that's actually 8 gigabytes out of 9GB actually available to the user. That's not math I like seeing.

The "good news" is that you can slide a microSD card into this thing, and Dell says it'll take one up to 512GB. (Yes, that's a half-terabyte of potential expandable storage.)

What's next ...

That's just the start of our journey with the Dell Venue 8 7840. Stay tuned for a full review. And as always, be sure to swing by our Dell forums if you've got more questions.

Phil Nickinson