Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Dell Venue 8 Pro Windows 8.1 tablet
Dell's Venue 8 is a small tablet that's attractive and easy to hold, but could use a little more performance to facilitate more intense Web tasks
- Compact size
- Textured back
- MicroSD card slot
- No Micro-HDMI
- A little sluggish at times
- Some noticeable backlight bleeding
The Dell Venue 8 is a nifty little Windows 8.1 tablet device that can fit into the palm of your hand thanks to its 8in screen and thin body. It's a decent performer for most tasks, but can struggle a little with CPU-intensive Web streaming.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
The all-black Dell Venue 8 Pro has one of the slimmest profiles of all the Windows 8-based tablets we’ve seen to date (about 9mm), and the most streamlined aesthetics. It's a product that's aimed at businesses as much as regular consumers and students.
On the surface, it’s just a little black slab that fits in your hand, with a 1280x800 glossy IPS screen and a textured back, and it looks good. However, it has a slight gap between the screen and casing, which can get populated by dust and other tiny materials, and can end up making the unit look a little dirty over time. It weighs 388g.
You can use the Venue 8 Pro for basic Web browsing, watching videos, social networking, and anything else that won’t tax the CPU, but if the CPU is made to work a little too hard, you’ll definitely notice.
The 8in Venue 8 Pro is powered by an Intel Atom Z3740D CPU that has four cores and a standard frequency of 1.33GHz. It’s joined by 2GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state drive, which has a formatted capacity of 52GB. This hardware combined to produce a relatively swift overall user experience most of the time, as our tablet felt responsive while we switched apps and used it for Web browsing, email, viewing YouTube video, chatting, updating Twitter, and looking at photos.
However, it wasn’t always quick. At times, it took a while to react to things such as taps on the keyboard icon in the Taskbar. Furthermore, the screen’s touch performance wasn’t great all the time. Taps at the edges of the screen often weren’t recognised unless we repeated the taps a few times. This caused some frustration and downgraded the entire user experience a little.
Glossiness is a hallmark of most tablet devices on the market, and the Venue 8 Pro is no exception, so you’ll have to keep the brightness at full blast if you’re in a well-lit environment. When viewing dark content, and in a dimly lit environment, you might notice some backlight bleeding from the bottom part of the screen. The unit is designed to be used in portrait mode (that’s the way the logo is oriented on the back), so when using it landscape, this bleeding will end up being on one of the edges.
That said, the Venue 8 Pro is decent as a little tablet on which to view YouTube videos and other forms of streaming Web content. The tablet displayed YouTube content up to 720p without any problems, and we were even able to stream games from the NBA League Pass service, though with a few dropped frames. The Toshiba Encore performed that particular task much better.
There aren’t many other features to the Dell Venue 8 Pro. You get dual-band Wi-Fi (a Dell Wireless a/g/n module), Bluetooth 4.0, a microSD card slot, a webcam, and a 5-megapixel rear camera without a flash. Unfortunately, the tablet lacks a Micro-HDMI port, so you can't plug it in to a TV, monitor, or projector.
Button layout is something that you’ll have to get used to, with the Windows Home button being placed at the top (or along the side if you hold the tablet in landscape), and the power button and volume buttons resting next to each other on the side (or top, again, depending on how you are holding).
The power button was pressed inadvertently many times by us when we fiddled around for the volume. The almost-stealth styling of tablet overall meant that it wasn’t always easy to figure out where there buttons were, so we had to feel around for them in the dark.
Sound wasn't very good. There is a single speaker on the bottom (when holding it portrait mode), and it's very easily muffled, especially when you hold the tablet in landscape mode from the side the speaker is located.
During prolonged usage, the tablet got a little bit warm at the back towards the bottom (when holding it in portrait), especially during times when we were streaming content from the Internet or from our local network.
We were able to use this tablet easily for streaming music from the Internet (over Wi-fi) to a stereo (over Bluetooth), though the music cut out sometimes when we held the tablet from the bottom, and when we used some apps, such as the Modern UI-based Twitter app. Bluetooth streaming from a Web site stops when the tablet screen switches off, but when using Windows Modern UI apps such as Digitally Imported, they will continue to play even when the screen goes dark.
Battery life was decent, with the Dell Venue 8 Pro capable of looping a video for bang-on six hours. This was with the brightness at full and while connected to our wireless network.
The build quality is decent overall, and the unit feels good to hold thanks to the texture on the back. It’s a good tablet for casual content consumption while you laze around the house, so if you just want a Windows 8 tablet on which to catch up on news and peruse Facebook, as well as kill some time watching cat videos on YouTube, then go for it.
Read more: 20 best Windows 8 apps to get your hands on
Dell is also pitching Venue 8 Pro at IT departments that have a requirement for Windows 8 handheld devices due to the integrated TPM and the ability to run Microsoft Office.
Windows 8 tablet tips
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