MobileTechReview.com Phone, Smartphone, Notebook and Gadget Reviews and buyers guide
Phone Notebooks & Tablets Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Forum

Home > Windows Tablet Reviews > Dell Venue 8 Pro

line

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Discuss this product

What's Hot: Great price, lovely IPS display that's quite bright, grippy back, runs full Windows 8.1, has optional digital pen.

What's Not: No HDMI port, USB port is micro and requires an adapter that's not included. Pen driver needs work.

line

Reviewed December 17, 2013 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The Dell Venue 8 Pro seems too good to be true. For $299 you get a full Windows 8.1 32 bit tablet (not RT) that can run PC programs, and it has a sharp IPS display and the new Intel Atom Bay Trail quad core CPU. There must be a catch, right? Happily there isn't, and the only drawback is that 32 gigs of storage leaves only 10 gigs free after installing Windows updates and the included MS Office 2013 Home and Student Edition (yes, you get Office for that low price too: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote but not Outlook). For $50 additional you can get the 64 gig model, though most stores are stocking just the 32 gig right now. If you stick to Metro apps, 10 gigs could be adequate since you can store music, movies and files on a microSD card.

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Full Windows Programs are a Go, but this isn't Your Main PC

Honestly, this is an 8" tablet and you probably won't want to install every piece of PC software you own on it. You can install Photoshop, but it's not an ideal user experience on the small display and the CPU is decent but not a RAW file editing monster. The 2.2 watt Intel Atom Z3740D is clocked at 1.33GHz with Turbo Boost to 1.83GHz, and it's twice as fast as the last generation Atom, but still half the speed of an Intel Core i5. So what's the Dell Venue 8 Pro good for? It's great for web browsing (IE with Flash Player included, but feel free to download and install Chrome, Firefox or whatever browser sets your heart on fire). It's a pleasure for 720p video playback, be it streaming or locally stored. It runs the included MS Office 2013 well. You'll likely want a Bluetooth keyboard if you plan on editing or creating documents. The tablet can handle email, social networking, casual gaming, Metro games but not heavy-duty 3D games like Battlefield 4 or Mass Effect 3. Even Civ V is pushing it and the result is slow turns as the game progresses.

Design and Build Quality

The 0.87 pound and 0.35" thick Dell is a decent looking tablet that's about the same size as the Nexus 7 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Android tablets. It's narrower than the iPad mini due to the different display aspect ratio (the Dell is widescreen, the iPad is 4:3). The Dell Venue 8 Pro is as comfortable and portable as those mobile OS tablets, which is quite a step forward for full Windows tablets. Dell also makes the Venue 8 (no "Pro" at the end), and that's an Android tablet. Confusing? We'd say so.

Dell Venue 8 Pro

The tablet is slim and the rubbery back with a swirl pattern is easy to hold onto. It's not a classy and expensive metal tablet, but it looks and feels nice. There's no flex and all seams are put together cleanly. As with most tablets, the battery is sealed inside. The display bezels are small on the long sides and more generous on the short sides, providing a place to grip the tablet when held in portrait mode.

Ports are few: a combo charging and micro USB 2.0 host port, 3.5mm combo audio and a micro SDXC card slot. Since the USB port is the charging port, you can't charge the tablet while using the USB port for keyboards, mice, 3G/4G LTE USB dongles, printers or other USB peripherals. You'll need to buy a micro USB to USB OTG host adapter dongle if you wish to use USB peripherals since Dell doesn't include one in the box. That's a shame since many folks probably won't figure out that the port works with USB peripherals and if they do, these OTG adapters still aren't easy to find in stores. Geekier stores like Fry's, Microcenter and Amazon do sell them for $15 or less.

No HDMI, Miracast Wireless Display to the Rescue?

There's no HDMI port so you'll use Miracast (a new superset of WiDi with support built into Windows 8.1). The challenge is finding a Miracast compatible monitor-- you probably won't as of this writing. Life is easier with HD TVs since some 2013 models have Miracast and there are Miracast/WiDi to HDMI adapters like Netgear's Push2TV PTV-3000 ($60). Or you could go the geeky and expensive route and buy a USB OTG adapter and a USB docking station with an HDMI port. Unless you already have a USB dock lying around, this isn't a financially advantageous route since docks run $100 to $250. One thing we noted when using Miracast on the Dell with our Netgear Push2TV: the tablet wants to be in portrait orientation with the TV set up as an extended display. It's not terribly easy to move and resize windows (browser, video app) on the TV screen unless you're using a mouse, and we prefer mirroring for this reason. Given the forced portrait orientation when using Miracast, mirroring obviously isn't an option.

The Dell has a single speaker that fires from the side (when held in landscape mode) that's remarkably loud for a tablet and it's not shrill or hissy. There's a front 1.2MP camera that works fine for Skype video chat and a rear 5 megapixel camera that's passably good.

 

Deals and Shopping:

 

Dell Venue 8 Pro Video Review

 

Dell Venue 8 Pro Active Stylus and Folio Case Review

Advertisement

Sharp IPS Display is a Pleasure, Synaptics Pen Not so Much

The Dell Venue 8 Pro has a 1280 x 800 IPS display with wide viewing angles and a very high 400 nits of brightness once you disable Windows auto-brightness (it keeps you in the dark). For the price, we're thrilled with the display and though it's not Retina resolution, I can't imagine anyone complaining about clarity or colors. It's unexpectedly good for the price and is superior to the middling IPS display on the Asus Transformer Book T100. The same is true of the competing Lenovo Miix 2 8, also priced at $299. In fact, Toshiba has their Encore and Acer their W4 that all compete with the Dell. This will soon be a space fraught with choice but little variation: specs and pricing will largely be the same.

Dell's special sauce is the optional digital pen for more precise, pressure sensitive input. The Venue 8 Pro has an active digitizer, but Dell only includes the pen with their tablet + pen + case bundle. You can order the pen from Dell for $30 via their website. This is a Synaptics dual digitizer, and they're a company that's been making great trackpads for many years. We've seen some Synaptics touch screens, but this is the first dual digitizer than does touch and an active (not capacitive) pen. The pen uses an AAAA battery just like N-Trig pens used with some Sony Vaio convertibles (Duo 13 and Flip 13) and the Asus Taichi 21. In fact it looks much like the N-Trig pen with a short design and metal barrel. Despite the similarities, they use different digitizer technologies and aren't interchangeable. The bad news is that the pen is wonky, even after a Dell digitizer firmware update. The pen has hover detection so it can detect the pen and disable the touch screen to avoid accidental palm or finger input. The tablet detects the pen when it's more than an inch off the screen, which is perhaps too far. The worse issue is that the tablet detects the pen and reacts as if you'd actually touched the tip to the display when no pen to glass contact was made, resulting in unwanted marks when using note taking programs like OneNote 2013 (included in the MS Office 2013 Home and Student bundle). When using the pen to navigate the Windows desktop, something you'll want to do since touch targets are small on an 8" screen, the falsely registered taps result in folders opening, things being dragged about and general mayhem. Dell is working on fixing this, but until they do, I'm putting the pen back in the box and avoiding it like the plague. It's really that bad.

On the upside, the pen actually works more reliably in art programs with fewer stray marks or "mind of its own" input. We tested the pen with ArtRage and Fresh Paint and it was quite pleasant, right down to pressure sensitivity for more natural drawing (you'll get pressure sensitivity in OneNote too). Since Adobe only produces WinTab drivers for Wacom digitizers and tablets, you won't get pressure sensitivity in Adobe programs like Photoshop or in other programs that rely on WinTab for pressure sensitivity like Corel Painter or PaintTool SAI. Adobe is working on modern Windows Ink drivers that will work with all pen technologies for their current version Creative Suite programs, so there's hope for pressure sensitivity in Photoshop CS 6 and CC in the next few months.

Horsepower and Performance

Though Intel's Bay Trail Atom processor is much faster than previous Atom generations, the 1.33 GHz quad core, four thread Z3740D CPU with Turbo Boost to 1.83 GHz will seem a bit laggy if you're accustomed to using laptops with Intel Core CPUs or reasonably powerful desktops. At the same time, it's a very different experience from the last gen Clover Trail Atom that chronically lagged and stuttered when using desktop programs. Bay Trail and the Dell are finally fast enough to provide a fast and fluid tablet experience in Metro Live Tile apps and games and a tolerable experience when using desktop apps like MS Office (actually much better than tolerable for Office), paint programs, video players and casual games. It's not up to the task of video editing more than a 5 minute HD clip and it's not suitable for today's demanding 3D games. But for a $300, 8" tablet that weighs less than a pound, it's great for getting email and office work done on the go.

The tablet has 2 gigs of DDR3 RAM (not upgradable) and either 32 or 64 gigs of flash storage. As with last gen Atom tablets, this is eMMC storage that's similar to a permanently installed SD card rather than a fast SATA3 SSD drive. In other words, it's a little quicker than a spinning HDD but not nearly as fast as an SSD, and you'll notice that big programs take some time to install and launch.

Benchmarks

PCMark 7 Benchmark Comparison Table

Dell Venue 8 Pro 2306
Asus Transformer Book T100 2323
Acer Iconia W3 (Atom, Clover Trail) 1436
HP Split x2 (Core i3) 3054
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S (Core i5) 3837
Asus Transformer Book TX300 4495
Acer Aspire S7 (Core i7-4500U) 5075
Sony Vaio Duo 13 (Haswell Core i7) 4800
HP Envy x2 Intel Atom dual core 1424
Asus VivoTab TF810C 1256
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (Core i5) 4427
Microsoft Surface Pro 2 4905

wPrime: 32.2 seconds

Geekbench 3 (32 bit test): 785, 2525 multi-core


Battery Life

Battery life is a tale of two different use cases: leave auto-brightness enabled and you'll get 8.5 hours of actual use time (Dell claims up to 9.9 hours). But if you disable auto-brightness (and you will because it makes the display so darned dim), then battery life drops to 6.5 hours, which is on the short side for an 8" tablet. Our battery life tests use real world tasks like editing MS Office documents, streaming an HD video for 50 minutes, playing music, running Outlook in the background and a Twitter client.

The Venue 8 Pro ships with a very compact 10 watt, 2 amp charger and micro USB to USB cable for charging. This is the same charger spec used with several mobile OS tablets like the 2013 Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, Kindle Fire HDX and iPad mini with Retina display. I've used my Nexus charger with the Dell and it worked just fine and I tested third party iPad mini chargers that worked too. It's nice to not worry about yet another proprietary charger for your gear.

Wireless

Despite the low price, the Dell Venue 8 Pro has dual band 2 x 2 WiFi for better speeds and reduced interference with Bluetooth when using the 5GHz band. This is Dell 1538 802.11a/g/n wireless made by Qualcomm Atheros. The tablet has Bluetooth 4.0 but no NFC. Dell says they'll offer a 3G version with a SIM card slot in the future (that slot will live next to the microSD card slot), but we don't know the release date.

Conclusion

It's great--go get one. Seriously, if you want the power of full Windows in your pocket and its ability to use any USB accessory on the market, run Windows exe programs and run real MS Office, it's a wonderful product for the price. If you're simply looking for a tablet that you can use for eBooks, video playback and some web browsing, the Dell Venue 8 Pro and other full Windows tablets have more than you need for those jobs, but it will certainly handle them fine. It won't offer the ease of use and virus resistance of an iPad or Android tablet; this is Windows after all. In other words, if you want something super simple with near zero maintenance, look elsewhere. That's not to say the Dell Venue 8 Pro and Windows 8.1 are a virus-ridden mess that requires lots of work to maintain: Microsoft has done an excellent job of making Windows updates less intrusive and the built in virus protection with firewall does a very good job of keeping headaches at bay. But it is still a PC, which for some folks is just what the doctor ordered. Lastly, if you're counting on that pen functionality working right now, you'll be disappointed for anything beyond art programs. Hopefully Dell will get the pen working well soon.

Price: $299 for 32 gig model, $349 for 64 gig model

Website: www.dell.com

Related Reviews:

Asus Transformer Book T100 Review

Acer Iconia W3 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Review

iPad mini with Retina Display Review

2013 Nexus 7 Review

 

Dell Venue 8 Pro

Above: the Dell Venue 8 Pro with the optional case, pen and Bluetooth keyboard.

 

Dell Venue 8 Pro

 

Dell Venue 8 Pro

 

Dell Venue 8 Pro

 

Dell Venue 8 Pro

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Specs:

Display: 8", 1280 x 800 IPS multi-touch display, 400 nits brightness. Intel HD graphics. Miracast (backward compatible with Intel WiDi) wireless display.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside. 10 watt, 2 amp USB charger included.

Performance: 1.33GHz Intel quad core Atom Z3740D. Turbo Boost to 1.83GHz. 22nm, 2.2 watt CPU. 2 gigs DDR3L RAM (not upgradable), 32 or 64 gigs eMMC solid state storage.

Size: 8.50 x 5.12 x 0.35 inches. Weight: 0.87 pounds.

Camera: 1.2MP front camer and 5MP rear camera.

Audio: Built-in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo combo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band Atheros WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Windows 8.1 32 bit.

Expansion and Ports: 1 micro SDXC card slot.

 

PHONE

All Phone Reviews
Smartphone Reviews
Android Phone Reviews
BlackBerry
Windows Phone Reviews
iPhone
HTC Phone Reviews
LG Phone Reviews
Motorola Phone Reviews
Nokia Phone Reviews
Samsung Phone Reviews
Sony Phone Reviews
AT&T Phone Reviews
Sprint Phone Reviews
T-Mobile Phone Reviews
Verizon Phone Reviews
Unlocked GSM Phone Reviews

TABLETS

All Tablet Reviews
Android Tablet Reviews
Tablet Comparisons
Android Tablet Comparisons

 

LAPTOPS & ULTRABOOKS

Laptop Reviews
Ultrabook Reviews
Laptop Comparisons
Best Ultrabooks

 

GADGETS & GAMES

Bluetooth Headsets
iPhone and iPad Accessories
eBook Readers

iPhone Game Reviews
iPad Game Reviews


iPhone Case Reviews
iPad Case Reviews

SITE TOOLS

RSS News Feed

About Us

Contact Us

Advertising

Site Map