Dell Venue 8 Pro review: A Windows 8.1 tablet for the rest of us

Dell's new 8-in. tablet offers a fine display and good features at a price that most Windows users can afford.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

The drawbacks

The tablet does have a couple of irritating drawbacks.

The first has less to do with the Venue 8 Pro itself than with Windows 8.1's suitability for tablets. The Venue 8 Pro shines when running Windows 8-specific apps and when you're on the touch-friendly Start screen. But life on the more traditional Desktop is not as good.

That's because most Windows 8 desktop applications haven't been designed for touch on small screens, and so the text, options, boxes and so on are far too small for most adult fingers. I constantly found myself unable to tap the precise spot for doing what I wanted to do, which quickly became very frustrating. Even doing something that should be very simple, such as browsing through files using File Explorer (previously called Windows Explorer) became a chore I simply didn't want to repeat. It also makes the included version of Office less useful than it might be.

The other drawback is a surprising design decision: the placement of the Windows button. Normally, the Windows button is large and prominent on the bottom front of Windows 8 tablets. That's important, because you'll frequently finding yourself needing to get back to the Start screen, so it's good to have the button in such a convenient, easy-to-find location.

Here, instead, it's a tiny silver button that, in portrait mode, is on the top right side of the device next to the headphone jack -- easy to mistake for a power button. I found myself constantly hunting for it, especially because, depending on how you're holding the tablet (portrait or landscape mode, top or bottom orientation), it could be located on the upper-right, upper-left, lower-left or lower-right. Given how often I've been using other Windows 8 tablets, my muscle memory constantly had me tapping the front bottom of the screen to no avail. Instead, I had to fumble around to find it.

Accessories

There are several accessory bundles available for the Venue 8 Pro.

For $340 you get the Venue 8 Pro plus a case that protects it and also serves as a stand (which seems to me a little steep for a case and stand that have no particularly distinguishing characteristics). For $370, you get the tablet, the case and a Dell-made stylus, which has a 1mm pressure-sensitive tip suitable for drawing -- the harder you press, the thicker the line. There are also two buttons on the sides that turn on features such as highlighting and erasing. I found the stylus worked fine; you can also buy it separately for $30.

Dell says it will also sell a wireless keyboard at some point.

Bottom line

If you're looking for a reasonably priced, well-performing Windows 8.1 tablet, the Dell Venue 8 Pro is the one to get. Given its size, it's suitable only as a tablet and won't do double-duty as an ultrabook, as the far more expensive Surface Pro 2 with keyboard can.

If an 8-inch screen isn't big enough for you, you might want to consider the $500 Dell Venue 11 Pro, which comes with a 1920-x-1080-pixel 10.8-in. screen, can handle up to 8GB of memory and up to 256GB of storage, has a 2-megapixel front-facing and an 8-megapixel back-facing camera, and includes a full USB 3.0 port as well as a Mini HDMI port.

The Venue 8 Pro may not be quite perfect -- but let's face it, $300 won't buy you perfection. However, it will buy you a quite good Windows 8.1 tablet, and that's great news for Windows lovers.

This article, Dell Venue 8 Pro review: A Windows 8.1 tablet for the rest of us, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 45 books, including Windows 8 Hacks (O'Reilly, 2012). See more by Preston Gralla on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
9 steps to lock down corporate browsers
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon