General performance and usability
With so many Android phones making their way out of the factories and onto the retail shelves for sale, it stands that any such device which wants to make a name for itself in this ecosystem will have to be capable of delivering a decent performance, at least where general usage is concerned. And the good news is that the Venue seems to have little problem in dealing with the entire operating system on the whole. At the very least, in-app and menu transitions were smooth for the most part, and our apps never failed to launch almost as soon as they were activated.
Unfortunately, we could not say the same for Dell's Stage UI, which experienced significant slowdown when navigating through the app drawer grid, as shown in the short video below:
If you are hoping for the playback of full high-definition (HD) content on the Dell Venue, be prepared to be disappointed. The Qualcomm QSD8250 Snapdragon system-on-a-chip (SoC) is only capable of playing video content at resolutions of up to 720p; this means that users will need to downscale any full HD clips to at least 720p if they want to be able to take advantage of hardware-accelerated video playback via the SoC's Adreno 200 GPU. Fortunately, our tests show that hardware accelerated playback at 720p is extremely smooth, so this is essentially a non-issue.
By the way, we made use of the free RockPlayer Lite video player that is available for download at no cost from the Android Market for this test, simply because of its support for a wide variety of codecs, as well as the ability to toggle between hardware-accelerated playback and software rendering mode.
However, we should point out that this only applies for video files which have been encoded in a codec which the smartphone's processor is known to natively support. In the event that users attempt to load videos that make use of a non-supported codec, RockPlayer Lite will fall back to the software renderer, and suffice to say video playback performance via software rendering is something you want to avoid as much as possible, as can be seen in the short demonstration below where we played back the same file via RockPlayer Lite's software renderer instead:
Like most cameras built into smartphones and tablets, the Dell Venue's rear-facing camera does get the job done for the most part: still images are remarkably crisp even when viewed on a notebook PC or an LCD monitor, with its image quality certainly having the potential to rival certain low-end compact cameras. In addition, unlike the PlayBook which we reviewed earlier, the Venue's camera was seemingly able to lock onto subjects even at close range, which makes it somewhat useful for certain situations where a macro shot might be desirable.
By using an app known as Battery Monitor, which claims to be capable of calculate a battery's life based on usage patterns, we were able to obtain an approximate uptime of up to 156 hours when the device is left to idle.
Unfortunately, Battery Monitor was not able to provide an approximate uptime for situations where the Dell Venue would be working with a full processor load, although we'd estimate the that the bundled 1400mAh battery pack should have no problem lasting close to an entire day under normal usage scenarios.
Since generic comments like the ones used to describe the Venue's performance in the previous sections do not make for very quantifiable results, we needed something that is able to do so a little more objectively, and this where synthetic benchmarks come into the picture. For consistency's sake, we will be utilizing the some of the benchmarking apps that were first used for the Optimus 2X review we did some time back, namely Quadrant Standard and NeoCore.
Before we begin, here is a quick list of specifications of the 1GHz Snapdragon system-on-a-chip used to power the Dell Venue, courtesy of Quadrant.
According to Aurora Software, Quadrant is designed to test a smartphone's "CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance". Therefore, it serves as a decent means of gauging the Dell Venue's overall performance in a variety of typical usage scenarios, many of which utilize a combination of the aforementioned resources in some form or other. The results are as follow:
Needless to say, this is where the consequences of Dell's decision to utilize Qualcomm's first-generation Snapdragon SoC starts to manifest, as seen in how the Venue trails behind many of the newer smartphones that are currently available today.
To test the Dell Venue's Adreno 200 GPU, we loaded up the smartphone with a benchmarking tool known as Neocore, which was designed purely to determine a smartphone's graphics crunching capabilities. More specifically, it does so by utilizing OpenGL 1.1 instructions to demonstrate "techniques that are possible on accelerated platforms such as 1-pass light maps and bump mapping".
As it turns out, the Adreno 200 GPU had a bit of difficulty in rendering NeoCore's OpenGL 1.1. test, being able to return frame speeds no greater than 31fps. While such speeds are still considered by many to be "playable" under most circumstances, we must point out that a such a maximum framerate is pushing the boundaries between "playable" and "interactive slide show" a little too close for comfort, and that newer, more graphically advanced mobile games will definitely cause significant slowdown for the Venue.
Last but definitely not least, we could not resist loading up the Dell Venue with a PlayStation emulator for one final CPU test, with the idea being that the act of translating the PlayStation's MIPS processor instructions into ARM-specific code during gameplay while still delivering decent framerates requires a fast processor. As it turns out, the Dell Venue's aging Scorpion processor still has got enough juice in it to deliver consistently high framerates throughout our short gameplay.