I received my Dell Venue 8 Pro on Friday and my impressions over the last couple of days is this is the type of device for which Windows 8 was made.
To start, the form factor is near perfect. 8 inches is still a little too large for my taste as I’ve really grown accustomed to my Nexus 7. But this machine is definitely portable. It feels lighter in the hand than you might think and the textured backside makes this more comfortable to hold than my Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 has a slippery greasy sort of feel to it so the Venue 8 Pro, even though its slightly larger and slightly heavier, is more comfortable to hold over a long period of time.
Windows 8 really shines on the Venue 8 Pro. It runs smooth with no lag. This is amazing when you consider that this is running a full version of Windows that can run REAL web browsers and REAL applications. For reasons I have yet to discover Google’s Chrome browser runs better here than on my Surface Pro. For example, on my Surface Pro in desktop mode, there is an odd anomaly where Chrome doesn’t maintain a maximized window when switching from portrait to landscape mode. It’s an odd behavior that isn’t present on the Venue 8 Pro. On this device I’m running Office 2013 without a hitch and I’m also running QuickBooks. All the software I need runs on this tablet.
I’ve heard reviewers mention problems with the screen. Personally I’m not finding any problem with the preset auto display brightness. The device seems to adjust brightness for me just fine. Auto brightness is enabled by default no doubt in order to extend battery life. Battery life has been excellent so far. In normal use for me the battery is lasting me all day where I was at best getting 5 hours from my Surface Pro.
Are there negatives? Sure. But what device doesn’t have them? Here’s a short list of what I’ve noticed so far.
- McAfee comes pre-installed. Anti-virus and malware protection are embedded into Windows 8 and is unnecessary. It’s annoying to have to uninstall something that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
- Gets a little warm on the lower half of the right side. But with a couple hours of normal use I don’t find that it gets too warm. I mention it because I notice it where on the Nexus 7 I haven’t.
- I would like an on-screen Windows Start button. To get to the start menu there is a button on the top of the device where you would normally find a sleep/wake/power button. That button is located on the side. At the start of using this device I would wake it by pressing the button on top and then try to put it to sleep with the same button. I’ve conditioned myself to simply use the button on the side and ignore the button on the top. It’s not a necessary button when I can more easily swipe in from the side to get to the Windows button to return to the Start menu.
- I didn’t realize it came with Office 2013 for free so I burned my Office 365 subscription that I was saving for other devices.
- Won’t charge through a USB hub. At least the ones I’ve tried. But it dies charge through USB and that is a huge convenience because I won’t have to carry an extra charging brick.
- Lack of a hardware keyboard although Dell’s web site says a keyboard cover us coming soon. It’s not something I would use that often but I do know that I’ll want one when using it while traveling.
- Lack of a dongle or short extension cord that would allow me to easily connect a full size USB device. I’m sure something like this exists and I’ll be searching. If I can connect a USB flash drive it will make installing software much easier. Some things still come on a CD or DVD and I usually copy those install disks to a flash drive because my last several laptops lacked optical drives.
- There will be no docking station as with the larger Venue 11. It would be nice to dock this to a full size screen, keyboard and mouse for those times when sitting at a desk. This is a REAL computer after all and can take the place of a desktop for general use.
Now if Microsoft would just get rid of the traditional desktop and make the metro style desktop the default interface Windows would have a much better experience. My other request after using Windows 8 since February is I would like the ability to dynamically resize the split screen panels when running multiple programs. The pre-defined sizes do not necessarily fit my everyday needs.
After using the Surface I’m so much happier with this device. It’s almost exactly what I’ve envisioned for tablet computing since I bought a Compaq T1000 more than a decade ago. If you are considering a Nexus 7 or iPad Mini you have to consider the Dell Venue 8 Pro. It’s a tablet with that works like a real computer and not at all dumbed down. I haven’t been this enamored with a device in a long ling time.
p.s. This review was entirely written on the Venue 8 Pro.