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MainGear and Dell: Big Things in Small Packages

Category: Hardware Published on Wednesday, 15 October 2014

They say big things come in small packages and the folks at MainGear and Dell tend to agree.

The new MainGear Spark ($699) and two new Dell Venue 3000 Series tablets ($149 and $199) are not only small in stature, but also small in price.


The Spark is basically a small cube, weighing less than a pound, but has all of the power of a gaming computer costing twice as much.

The Spark was originally supposed to use the Steam Operating System, but that, unfortunately, seems to be, at this point, more vaporware than reality. Instead, the computer we played with was preloaded with optional products such as Microsoft Windows 8.1, a Logitech wireless keyboard/trackpad combo, an ASUS portable DVD drive and a wireless Xbox gaming controller. All of these boost the price by $333, to $1,032, but purchasers aren't locked into these options. MainGear offers to bundle the Spark with several operating systems, hard drives and peripherals including monitors.

We hooked ours up to a 42-inch Panasonic Viero TV/monitor using an HDMI cable. Then it was time for the games (and work) to begin and we weren't disappointed. It handled everything from The Lord of the Rings and other multiplayer online games to Microsoft Office 360 without balking.

Simply put, this is a powerful computer that can rival any desktop or laptop in a form factor that can fit in the palm of your hand.

Other features include:

  • An AMD 4-Core 2.1 GHz processor, with a turbo frequency of 3.1 GHz.
  • Up to 16 GB of RAM (ours came with eight GB)
  • An mSATA slot that can support up to a 512 GB hard drive and a SATA III HD tray
  • Built-in Realtek Audio
  • Bluetooth
  • Built-in b/g/ac WiFi
  • Four USB 3.0 ports, an audio out port and a RJ45 port
  • HDMI and Mini DisplayPort outputs for video
  • A Kensington Lock

The only drawback is the Spark's lack of compatibility with older VGA and DVI monitors, but there is a solution to the problem. A quick search of the Internet uncovered a ton of HDMI-to-DVI and HDMI-to-VGA cables at a minimal cost.

Dell's two new tablets  - - the Venue 7 3000 Series and Venue 8 3000 Series - - - bring full Android mobile computing to those who are reluctant to spend up to $800 for a tablet computer.

Aside for their size - - - the Venue 7 has a seven-inch screen and the Venue 8 has an eight-inch display - - - the features of both of these mobile computers are identical.

You would expect, as we did, that Dell would cut a few corners with tablets priced at $149 and $199, but that's not the case here.

Both run the Android 4.2 operating system (KitKat) and are upgradeable to new operating systems as they are released. They also run everything found in the Google Play Store, which, unfortunately, many of the so-called "budget" tablets have problems with. Also the response time was faster than we expected with hardly any delay.

Other key features include:

  • An Intel Atom 2.1 GHz processor
  • 16 GB of storage space and 1 GB of internal memory
  • An Intel HD graphics card
  • 802.11 AC, Miracast and Bluetooth WIFI
  • A Micro SD card reader supporting up to 64 GB
  • A headphone and microphone combo jack
  • A two megapixel webcam
  • A five megapixel camera
  • They're only 3.52 inches thick and weigh less than three-quarters of a pound.

Dell also offers to bundle these tablets with Duo Cases for an additional $15. They're also offered with Dell Cast, which we didn't get to test. We're told that Dell Cast allows you to project your tablets screen on a TV or monitor and use a standard keyboard and mouse.

Could small format PCs and lower priced tablets become a trend? We hope so. Maybe it's time we start to "think small" when shopping for new electronic devices.







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