Dell Venue 8 Pro

The Dell Venue 8 Pro comes close to being a great pocket-size mini PC, but a misplaced button and missing accessories feel like errors.

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The quest for a decent 8-inch tablet with full Windows 8.1 continues, and Dell believes it has finally cracked the code for balancing price, performance, design and usability with the Venue 8 Pro.

This AU$399 tablet does a lot right, and it has a great premium look and feel for such an inexpensive tablet. A handful of issues add just enough frustration to keep me from using it more often. Some of those are missteps by Dell and others are problems inherent in the Windows 8 operating system.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Sub-AU$400 PCs generally play to type, with brittle-feeling bodies of overly glossy plastic, creaky hinges and ill-fitting joints. The Venue 8 Pro breaks that streak with a very appealing overall design. There's admittedly not much groundbreaking you can do with a glass-and-plastic slab tablet, but the front has reasonably small bezels, and the back panel is covered with a ribbed soft-touch finish that is comfortable and easy to grip.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Like the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro, Sony Vaio Tap 11, Asus T100 and other smallish Windows tablets, the Venue 8 Pro is designed to be used as a slate part of the time and connected (physically or wirelessly) to a keyboard for long-form typing when needed. Dell's thin, compact wireless keyboard looks fine in publicity photos, but the product is not available yet, with no clue offered to its eventual price or release date.

The 8-inch display has a native resolution of 1280x800 pixels. For something this small, that seems reasonable, even if Apple is pushing Retina displays in the (more expensive) revamped version of the iPad mini. It's an in-plane switching (IPS) display, so it looks clear and bright even from side angles, which is important for a handheld device.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The 5MP rear-facing camera is fine if you have enough light, while the front-facing camera is a lower-res 1.2MP model. The built-in speakers are good enough for Netflix — and louder than I expected &mdash, but predictably thin.


In benchmark testing, the Venue Pro 8 was very closely matched with the Asus T100, which is a similar system with similar components. The more expensive AMD-powered Toshiba Click was much slower, even though it aims at the same price-conscious tablet audience. Of course, if you go with a full Core i-series tablet, such as the Sony Vaio Tap 11 or Microsoft Surface Pro 2, the performance there will dwarf any of these systems.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The Dell Venue Pro 8 is one of the first systems to use the latest generation of Atoms, also known by the code name Bay Trail. I'm pleased to say, at least on a smaller product such as the Venue 8 Pro where your expectations are more modest than on a full-size laptop, the 1.3GHz Intel Atom 3740D CPU feels fast enough for everyday use, with no slowdown or stuttering (the excellently optimised Windows 8 interface and IE11 help, as well).

Even better, the new Atoms are turning in Haswell-like battery-life scores. The Venue 8 Pro ran for seven hours and 30 minutes on our video playback battery-drain test. That's longer than most full Core i-series tablets we've tested, but the very similar Asus T100 ran for about two hours longer.


I've been waiting for the perfect 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, offering just the right design, features and price. I'm still waiting, but the Dell Venue 8 gets closer than anyone else has to date. If it were available from day one with its paired keyboard accessory, put the Windows button back where it belongs and could find a way to scale certain Windows functions better to the small screen, it would be a real winner.


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brianladmano posted a comment   

MISPLACED WINDOWS BUTTON: It's not misplaced. It's perfect where it is because you can't accidentally press it while reading. The Windows button is pretty much redundant and useless because the charms bar is better. I never use the Windows button to go to the Start screen.

ONLY 32GB STORAGE : You can get the 64GB variant and/or add a microSD card to increase the storage capacity.

And you can use any USB or Bluetooth keyboard.

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User Reviews / Comments  Dell Venue 8 Pro

  • brianladmano


    "MISPLACED WINDOWS BUTTON: It's not misplaced. It's perfect where it is because you can't accidentally press it while reading. The Windows button is pretty much redundant and useless because the cha..."

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