Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro, 8” Windows 8.1 Tablet

As I own a trinity of Microsoft-powered devices I think it’s reasonable that someone can point at me and shout “fanboy!”. I’ve owned a couple of Apple products (past-tense because one died and one never really fell under my ownership) but I’ve pretty much stayed with The Good Ship Gates for 20yrs and counting…

I last got a Dell (my first) in 2003, so a little over a decade later I’ve revisited the brand for an 8” tablet. The reason for this purchase was to fill two needs. My long-loved iPod Classic broke and instead of fixing it I just dumped some content onto my Windows Phone, I say some because I couldn’t put my rough 40GB of music all on there. But with this tablet I know that much of my PC-stored music can be cloud-matched by Microsoft, so at least ¾ of my music collection is able to be streamed or downloaded from the cloud. If I run out of the free part of the 32GB storage I can also pop in a microSD card for anything not cloud-matched.

Sure, it’s not as portable as the Classic but it’s do-able for me and I’ll still store some songs on my phone, even though I’m in love with Nokia MixRadio which has made me not bother!

Secondly, my gratis ultrabook died within a year and the manufacturer won’t help me fix it as I obviously have no proof of purchase, and seeing as that proved useful away from the desk, I wanted something again to be able to be entertained by and be creative with, so I got the Venue 8 Pro, which is astonishingly an ace tablet for the price category.

Though similar to the iPad Mini, the Venue 8 Pro has a more wider aspect ratio and works better for films and lets you scroll less of any document in portrait mode. It runs FULL Windows 8.1 so, though it only has one micro USB port, with some extra gadgetry you could hook up a full keyboard, mouse and monitor. The Intel Atom processor here has come a long way from the netbook days and is very zippy. To me, it’s faster than an iPad! Having Windows 8.1 (not RT, which does not run desktop-mode apps) means you have a better library of software in addition to what’s available in the growing Windows Store. This plus also means you’ll need antivirus software but Defender is there, and as it won’t be anyone’s primary computing device this should be enough, though you can substitute it if you wish.

Having a Windows 8.1 PC already meant that a lot of settings were pulled from my Microsoft account, so getting going didn’t take long. My desktop wallpaper, theme colour, app selection and program settings were all ushered in. I just had to work out what the touch screen equivalents were of some mouse gestures.
When seeing Windows 8.1 on a tablet you begin to see Microsoft’s gamble of a unified OS pay off as it works smooth on a desktop or tablet.

Though the screen is 8” it’s only 2” less diagonally than a full-sized tablet, so it doesn’t feel too small for a surfing session like on a smartphone, yet is more portable than a 10”. It’s a Goldilocks-sized tablet. Build quality is sturdy too with a rubberised back for easy grip. The home/Windows button isn’t on the front like on an iPad but on the top (or accessed by accessing Charms by a left swipe-in from the right of the screen) which helps inadvertently pressing it when holding it with both hands.

Though not a Retina display it is HD with an IPS screen, so it’s still really nice to look and you’d find it hard to make out a pixel framework without pushing it right against your nose!

You can also use it with a special stylus, and a dedicated Bluetooth keyboard which functions as a smartcover is also around the corner.

If you want something that fills the gap between a phone and a traditional computer, want to save a bit and are fine with Windows, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this.