Dell Venue 8 Pro review

Reviews 13 Feb, 2014

Packing Intel's latest Atom processor and plenty of business features, is this the best Windows 8.1 tablet?

4
Price: 
From £239 in VAT
Pros: 
Good build quality; Compact design; Numerous business features
Cons: 
Mediocre screen; Average battery life; No removable battery
Verdict: 
Dell proves there is life in 8in Windows 8.x devices. There are advantages to having a small tablet which can support all Windows applications, but the screen and specification could be better.

Microsoft has finally given manufacturers the green-light to develop sub-10in Windows 8.x tablets. Dell is aiming to capitalise on this by offering the Venue 8 Pro, a device chocked full of business features.

The Venue 8 starts at £239 inc VAT – more than Google’s latest Nexus 7 (£199). However, it’s less than the iPad Mini, which starts at £319. Is Dell's device better value than Android and iOS counterparts.

Design

The Venue doesn’t look like a mid-range tablet. It’s coated with soft-touch plastic reminiscent of the Nexus 7. The strong frame makes the device feel sturdy and the concentric circles on the rear give the tablet a touch of style.

The Venue weighs 395g and is 9mm thick. This makes it chunkier than the Nexus 7 (290g, 8.5mm) and the iPad Mini (308g, 7.2mm). Despite this, we never felt weighed down by the Windows device and it is portable.

Dell has opted to relocate the Windows button in a surprise move. It’s no longer at the front centre of the machine, instead it resides on the top edge. It takes time to get used to this unconventional placement, but it works well in portrait and landscape modes.

The power button and volume rocker lie on the right-hand edge, alongside a microUSB port. A microSD slot is hidden behind a flap on the same edge, and there’s a headphone jack beside the Windows button on the top edge. The speaker on the bottom edge is off-centre so it won’t be blocked by a hand in landscape mode – a sensible design choice. 

Intel Inside

The recognisable 'Intel Inside' logo is emblazoned on the back of the tablet. Dell has opted for the Atom Z3740D - the firm’s latest range of Bay Trail chips. The quad-core CPU has a middling speed of 1.33GHz, peaking at 1.86GHz. 

The modest clock speed gets a leg-up from the GPU. This particular Intel HD graphics core runs between 313MHz and 688MHz, the fastest speeds available in the Bay Trail range.

The CPU is paired with 2GB of RAM, but don’t expect benchmark-blazing speed from this machine. Whilst the Venue had little problem running Start screen apps and basic desktop software, it lacked the power to tackle intensive applications. We also noticed the gyroscope, was sluggish when changing the screen’s orientation.

Comparing the Venue to other Windows-based machines such as laptops doesn't yield favourable results. It scored 36/100 in our overall benchmark test. But it scored a high 2,527 points in the Geekbench test, outpacing the Nexus 7 (1,687) and the iPad (759).

When it comes to battery life the 4,830mAh battery lasted a reasonable 10hrs 34mins. It's 90 minutes short of the Nexus 7 and an hour less than the iPad but double digits from a Windows machine is rare and should be applauded. Our final benchmark, boot time, ended on a high note. It took the Venue 9 seconds load the Start screen from a cold start - the quickest you can expect on any Windows machine. 

Specifications: 

Processor: 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740D

GPU: Intel HD Graphics

Memory: 2GB 1,600MHz DDR3

Storage: 32GB SSD

Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4
 
Ports: microUSB, microSDXC, 1 x headphone

Dimensions: 216 x 130 x 9mm

Weight: 395g

Disqus - noscript

While I like the detail in this review, I could not help but notice the comment about Win apps. Aside from the who cares about the number of apps factor, the apps that exist meet the quality needs of most users. Plus, we are speaking about the Venue 8 Pro which has Win 8 full version. hence an even wider variety of full Win software than the RT.
Look, as I type this on my Win RT and think about the review I cannot help but think that the tech writers are not aware of what people really need. Look, as an engineer we have tools that can be demanding of computational resources at times, But the average business person needs little more than a third generation hand-me-down from engineering. At home, unless your hard core gaming, you don't need much to drive your needs. Tied to your article, you mention the iPad and Nexus 7. First off, the Nexus is driven by Android. A pathetic excuse of an OS that meets the needs of your average twitter, Facebook user, or browsing person. Then there is the iPad mini... at a cost that makes me sick and many web sites that will not work in Safari. The Dell Venue Pro offers a great alternative to these other systems in a small package that runs what most people run in their offices. Hence a small and applicable business solution. But you do not mention this. Finally, you seemed to be bothered by the lack of a removable battery. But why is this detractor now days? Look, I dislike it too, but LiPo's are dangerous in the hands of average users. The power density is great and handled incorrectly can lead to serious injury and potentially a fire that will burn down house or car.
So while I like your review overall, there are a few critical things you did not add that would add to an otherwise well written article.