Dell’s entry into the Windows 8 tablet is the Venue 8 Pro — an 8-inch fully-functional PC packed in a small form factor. It’s a new breed of personal computing device that might practically replace the netbook. Check out our full review of the Dell Venue 8 Pro after the jump.
Microsoft has long envied Apple and Google for dominating the mobile market. The pressure got worse when iOS and Android were also eating away into the PC market with the demand for tablets.
The result is a Windows 8.1 tablet that’s aimed at mobile productivity rather than just content consumption which is the predominant use of tablets nowadays. So Microsoft’s strong partnerships with laptop manufacturers like Asus, Acer and Dell resulted into a potentially strong contender in the tablet market.
The Dell Venue 8 Pro is just one of them. And so is the Asus Transformer Book T100 which we reviewed here earlier.
Design and Construction.
With a simple yet functional design, the Venue 8 Pro fits just right on the hands — not too big and bulky yet not too small for reading or browsing. It’s a little wider/bigger than the 1st-gen Nexus 7 but much thinner, almost the same thickness as the 2nd-gen model.
The body is a combination of glass and polycarbonate material, with the back side having a textured, circular ring pattern for better grip and handling.
The volume controls and power button are found on the right side, along with the micro-USB port and the slot for the microSD card.
There’s a dedicated Windows Home button at the top along with the 3.5mm audio port. The speaker grills are found at the bottom end. The 5-megapixel rear camera at the back does not come with an LED flash and the large Dell logo is right smack in the center.
At 395 grams, it’s slightly heavier than the 1st-gen Nexus 7 but as it is, it’s is still very much comfortable to use and hold even with one hand.
The Venue 8 Pro comes with an IPS LCD display that has native resolution of 1280×800 pixels (189ppi). It’s a decent resolution for a tablet but if you compare it to regular laptops, that’s already slightly higher.
We reckon a full HD display might be good for watching movies or photos but that would put a lot of strain in the eye once you are in the Desktop Mode where the icons and windows are already very small (we had the same experience with our 11.6-inch Aspire S7 that has full HD display). As such, we agree that 720p is the most ideal resolution for this kind of tablet.
The display looks pretty good but the glossy finish can be a challenge when used outdoors or under direct sunlight. In any case, the display quality is good enough for us.
OS, UI and Apps.
Running the latest Windows 8.1, the Venue 8 Pro basically has the same features and functionality as a laptop or PC, save a few differences like a touchscreen display.
The Modern UI or Live Tiles worked fine for most of the common apps that we access on the tablet but we find ourselves switching to the Desktop Mode more often due to our familiarity with it. The split-screen mode also worked just fine.
This is where it gets a bit tricky at times. Since we didn’t have a stylus, navigating in the Desktop mode can be cumbersome with the touchscreen. You’d often look for a pointing device like a stylus or mouse to make things more efficient or accurate. Fortunately, there’s an optional Pen Stylus (still out of stock on Dell.com) and you can always use a Bluetooth mouse if you’re itching to have that desktop/laptop feel.
Since this is a full-fledged Windows operating system (not the RT), you have all the applications and software at your disposal. Everything you have on your desktop or laptop can be downloaded and installed in the Venue 8 Pro. We tried Photoshop, uTorrent, iTunes, VLC and even tried DoTA which was working pretty well.
While the Dell Venue 8 Pro works well as a typical tablet (watching movies, browsing, listening to songs), the possibilities in the multimedia department is actually way more than what you’d normally think you can do.
The 8-inch display is very ideal for watching videos and browsing. The audio from the speakers at the bottom end is surprisingly very loud. The camera takes pretty decent photos, nothing spectacular but still useful if you need it once in a while. So is the front-facing camera that works well with Skype or Hangouts.
With Bluetooth and the micro-USB port, you can connect the tablet to any number of devices that will enhance the tablet experience — controllers, pointing devices, keyboards, webcams, external storage, and other media devices. That means you can sync your Android devices with the Venue 8 Pro or run iTunes and backup your iPhone or iPad into the tablet.
This leaves us with the impression that the Venue 8 Pro isn’t really a competitor to other phablets/tablets but more like a companion or complimentary device.
Performance and Benchmarks.
The Dell Venue 8 Pro performs like a netbook. No, scratch that. The Venue 8 Pro performs better than a netbook. Intel’s quad-core Atom processor changes everything. It is a high-performance chip with low power consumption.
The Intel Bay Trail reference tablet scored 21,176 in Quadrant 2.0 and 35,814 in Antutu, almost the same scores as the Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 800 processors (based on Engadget’s reference tablet comparison).
Our own Windows Experience Index (WEI) taken from the system showed 6.3 in CPU score, 5.5 in Memory, 4.1 in Graphics/Gaming and 6.3 on the Disk Drive.
Connectivity and Battery Life.
The Venue 8 Pro comes with the basic connectivity features like WiFi and Bluetooth. There’s no cellular version but that’s fine. What we were hoping for was some sort of HDMI output so we can connect it to a larger screen or monitor.
Based on our standard battery bench of running a full HD movie in a loop at 50% brightness and 0% volume, the Venue 8 Pro lasted about 8.5 hours on a single full charge. That’s pretty much the average battery life of other tablets (iOS and Android) nowadays.
And while it’s already pretty obvious, we’re still stoked that the tablet is chargeable with just a 1.1watt powerbank. Now, that’s a huge benefit if you’re going to use it as a main device.
The Dell Venue 8 Pro has a lot of promise and potential. It can be a netbook or laptop replacement, although you might need an external mouse or keyboard every once and a while. It’s a companion device and a capable productivity tool. It’s like having a laptop right in your jacket pocket with very long battery life.
The Venue 8 Pro is not yet available in the Philippines but is sold in the US for $329 for the 64GB model.
Dell Venue 8 Pro specs:
8.0-inch HD IPS display @ 1280×800 pixels, 189ppi
Intel Atom Z3740D Bay Trail 1.33GHz quad-core processor
Burst Frequency 1.83GHz
2MB L2 Cache
Intel HD Graphics 313MHz
2GB DDR3 RAM
64GB Samsung internal flash drive
WiFi 802.11 a/g/n
5MP rear camera
1.2MP front-facing camera
What we liked about it:
* Simple, light and sleek design
* Long battery life
* Capable quad-core processor
* Good display quality
* Affordable price point
What we did not like:
* No micro-HDMI output