(Pocket-lint) - Thin is big business. And at just 6mm thick, the Dell Venue 8 7000 can call itself the world's thinnest tablet, which is a big deal. It's slimmer than the Apple iPad Air 2, which has certainly gained our attention.
Having first seen the tablet unveiled on stage at the Intel Developer Forum in September, we've since got to delve a little deeper into what it's all about direct from Neil Hand, vice president of Dell's tablet group, at Dell World in Austin.
The Venue 8 7000 is also the first device to feature Intel RealSense camera technology, a tri-lens camera arrangement for capturing depth-based information. That can be used for measurements and post-focus adjustment - but more on that in a moment.
The tablet is also a showcase of the forthcoming 64-bit Intel Moorefield chipset, representing the latest quad-core Atom processors, hence the ultra-slim design being possible. A micro SIM port is also on board for on-the-go 4G connectivity in some product iterations, in addition to Wi-Fi only models.
Elsewhere the Dell Venue 8 7000 has some other killer features. The 8.4-inch OLED panel, for example, is the same as used in the Samsung Tab S 8.4, with a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution (361ppi) that looks stunning. The punchy colours and wide angle of view are a real showcase of how good 2K screens can be, especially with minimal bezel as shown here.
"The consumer market is really important to us [Dell]", says Hand. "But it's somewhat more the professional consumer market. People that actually have a love and care and want of the technology, not just to buy a cheap $99 tablet because they want to throw it at their kid and let them watch a movie."
Having the technology is one thing, but as we said with our first handling of the Venue 8 7000 it's just a bit... odd.
It's all down to the layout. In the hand that 6mm frame is obviously slender - even thinner than the just-announced iPhone 6 - and the build quality feels rigid which is great. But the slightly unconventional shape perplexes: the shorter edges are made up of a flat and a curved edge on the opposite side; one has significant bezel housing a speaker grille whereas the other does not. Although it looks cool, and makes some sense for a one-handed grip, it causes a problem related to hold positions.
We held the device in our right hand, but doing so causes an immediate issue with covering that front-facing speaker and entirety of the front-facing camera too (not the case when held in the other hand). The lack of bezel might look fantastic, but it's not a logical design revelation.
"We know that any product is going to be flawed in some way or another. We need to continue to put product out there and do the best we possibly can when investing in future technologies; but that feedback loop with customers continues to help us figure out with what can come next," says Hand, acknowledging the importance of the consumer market in product development.
Hand's enthusiasm for the Intel RealSense camera technology, however, can be felt positively bubbling from his person when he talks about it. The camera arrangement can take photos as any other, but it's then possible to adjust the point of focus after shooting, for example. Or perhaps you want a more blurred background - which is possible by software adding additional blur to the relevant areas, guided by depth information so the programme knows where to apply such adjustments for a more authentic and pro look. The examples we've seen are among the best so far, surpassing the HTC One's Duo Camera.
There's also plenty of software on board to make the most out of capture. "The SDK that sits behind this is mostly Intel developed. Dell put the code in there so the gallery is the Dell Gallery. It's designed to pull in all of your photos, so anything that's geotagged is put onto a view of the world and allows me to zoom in to wherever. It actually has facial recognition, too, so once I've tagged somebody and said "that's you" it will go through my entire library and find you and tag you.
"And it's not just the library that's on here [the tablet]. If I've got stuff up on Facebook, on Dropbox, on Picassa - you can decide which of your shared sites you want to go and log it into. It doesn't pull the files off of there, but it goes and gets all the metadata, thumbnails and puts that all together."
But from our trials with the camera's other measurement tool we're yet to be convinced by that aspect. A 1ft 2in coffee cup? We don't think so.
"I've been up-front about this: we're at the point where I'm not quite satisfied with where we're at. And I'm not going to ship it out there and go ‘it's kinda ready, but you're a beta tester'," admits Hand.
As for the physical position of the cameras, that also feels like an oddity as the tablet has to be rotated to avoid fingers flailing in the way of the lenses. It feels like the camera position should be at the opposite end. The camera software does sense those unwanted digits in front of the lenses, though, and will colour the preview boxes in red as a warning - which is very useful.
In spec terms the Dell Venue 8 7000 totally nails it. It's got the goods to take on Samsung, Nexus and Apple with an offering that's distinct and different. But we think some areas need tweaks to be made. And in its pre-production state the Android 4.4 operating system was a little bit buggy, but we're sure the ironed-out version will work smoothly when it comes to launch - although that's now looking like a 2015 date.
Overall the slimness of the Dell Venue 7000 is an incremental step forward - but a hugely positive one. Get the price right and there's a lot to like here - if only the unconventional design felt a little more immediate, but perhaps living with such a tablet will make all the difference and it will indeed make, ahem, real sense.