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Hands on with Dell Cast: Put Android on a monitor, but only with a Dell Venue tablet

The Dell Cast lets you put whatever is on your Dell Venue tablet on a monitor, but mirroring performance is laggy.

Most of the gear that Dell has revealed at IFA 2014 is business-oriented. The Dell Cast is no different.

That’s not to say there isn’t anything unique about the Dell Cast itself, though, which caught our eye when we met with the PC giant leading up to the big show in Berlin.

The Dell Cast is a Google Chromecast-like dongle that you can plug into a PC monitor’s HDMI port. Once plugged in, it mirrors your Dell Venue tablet via a companion app for Android. Unfortunately, it only works with Dell’s Venue series of slates.

Related: Dell Venue 11 Pro review

Dell is framing the Dell Cast as a productivity partner, but will it hold up during your work day? We went hands on with the Dell Cast, and here’s what we think.

Setup

Setting up Dell Cast is pretty easy, and requires just a few steps.

We plugged the Dell Cast into a monitor’s vacant HDMI port. Doing this brought up a Windows 8-like Dell Cast welcome screen, which prompted us to ask Dell whether there’s a companion Win 8 app to go with it. There isn’t.

Navigating through Android on a desktop monitor is pretty much second nature when using the Dell Cast.

Then, with a Dell Venue tablet in hand, we navigated through its apps library, and opened the Dell Cast companion app. The app was installed onto the tablet we used, but you’ll have to download the freebie from the Google Play store yourself when you’re setting it up.

Related: Dell Venue 8 Pro review

With the Dell Cast app opened, it only took a couple of seconds for our Dell Cast to show up in a list of available devices to connect to. Then, all we needed to do was hit a green “Connect” button. A few seconds later, the monitor in front of us started displaying the stuff that was on the Dell Venue tablet. Thankfully, you can rename your Dell Cast so that it’s easier to tell multiple units apart.

If your mouse and keyboard are wired, we hope that your monitor has at least one USB port, because you’ll need someplace to plug into to take full advantage of what the Dell Cast offers.

Thankfully, the Dell Cast has a USB port on the back, so that takes care of one item. If your peripherals are wireless, and your wireless USB transmitter hooks up to both of them, then you’ll be in the clear. We doubt that most businesses upgrade their monitors frequently, so this could be a problem.

Performance and experience

With a keyboard and mouse plugged in, navigating through Android on a desktop monitor is pretty much second nature when using the Dell Cast. Just re-imagine your Android home screen as a desktop-like experience.

Instead of swiping and tapping, you’ll be mousing and clicking around to access different screens and menus. If you’re familiar to Windows (and we bet that most people in the workforce who use computers on a daily basis are), then the Taskbar you’ll find at the bottom of the Home screen will offer a familiar touch. You should have no trouble using the blown up version of Android that Dell Cast provides you with.

Unfortunately, we experienced a fair amount of sluggishness when switching between different screens, opening and closing apps, and when typing as well. It often took about half a second for our letters and numbers to show up on-screen when typing in an Excel-like spreadsheet app. That can be a nuisance, especially for people who work and type quickly.

Conclusion

Seeing the stuff stored on a tablet mirrored onto a monitor is pretty cool, and that can be valuable to someone who would prefer to carry a tablet and a dongle around instead of a laptop.

However, that’s assuming that a notable number of people are using Venue tablets for work to begin with. Tablets, which lack keyboards, are just not built for work. Dell Cast is strictly for people who use their Venue tablets to get stuff done during the work day.

Related: Dell Venue 8 review

As we said earlier, Dell Cast isn’t compatible with any other slates aside from the company’s Venue series. Digital Trends didn’t get any indications from Dell that this will change any time soon either, which is a shame.

Also, Dell informed us that Dell Cast will work with its Windows-based versions of Venue tablets as well, though not until sometime later this year.

At $79.99, Dell Cast is a bit pricey. However, if you’re a Dell Venue tablet devotee, and it’s frequent 9-to-5 companion for you, Dell Cast could be a valuable addition to your productivity arsenal.

Dell Cast is available starting today.

Highs

  • Easy set up
  • Lets you use Android on a desktop monitor
  • Adds desktop-like features to Android UI
  • Supports screens up to 1080p
  • Has a USB port

Lows

  • Sluggish mirroring performance
  • Only works with Dell’s Venue tablets
  • Doesn’t work with Dell’s Windows Venue tablets yet
  • If your mouse/keyboard are wired, your monitor needs a USB port
  • Somewhat pricey