If you want a small Windows 8 tablet for work or play, the Dell Venue 8 Pro delivers the full Windows 8.1 operating system in a portable -- and almost pocket-sized -- package.
Hitting the Bay Trail. Forget everything you think you know about Intel's Atom processor. The Dell Venue 8 Pro is powered by a Bay Trail technology, quad-core Atom CPU that delivers plenty of power for everyday tasks, blowing away its predecessor in test after test. The tablet ships with 2 GB of memory and either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage. Most experts say to splurge and opt for the larger-capacity configuration; otherwise, the demands of Windows and Microsoft Office (the Home and Student edition is included free) can leave you with relatively little space for other apps and data. The upgrade adds about $50 to the bottom line, and you can also supplement storage via a microSD card.
The 10-point multitouch display is fast and responsive. It has a resolution of only 1,280 by 800 pixels, but the screen looks crisp and bright. An issue with an over-aggressive auto-brightness feature is fixed with a software patch released after most reviews were written, or you can simply turn that feature off. Battery life falls a little short of some other Bay Trail devices, but still keeps the tablet running for most of the day: 7.5 hours in testing at CNET, for example.
Bad button placement. The major usability complaint with the Dell Venue 8 Pro is its very odd location for the Windows button. "While most tablets have a home button at the bottom of the bezel for easy thumb use, the Venue 8 Pro's home key sits on the slate's top right edge, which will certainly take some time getting used to," says Laptop Magazine. The 8-inch size is otherwise convenient for one-handed operation for tasks like media consumption. The display is a little small for serious work, however, especially if you use the virtual keyboard and not an external Bluetooth one from either Dell or one of a number of accessory vendors.
Instantly familiar. The Dell Venue 8 Pro doesn't break any new ground in terms of design, but that's not a bad thing. One major plus is that the back of this Windows 8 tablet is coated with a rubberized, ridged treatment that makes it easy to hold and fingerprint-resistant. Those who address build quality have few complaints, with some going so far as to say that this Dell tablet has a premium look and feel.
Some struggles. As a company, Dell has struggled at times to provide great customer support, although things are improving. Certainly, the brand received tons of criticism from Laptop Magazine in regard to its customer service policies in 2012, but it addressed enough of those issues to see a markedly better score in 2013. Dell tablets haven't been winners thus far when it comes to Readers' Choice awards. Satisfaction finished near the bottom in 2013, just ahead of HP, but user feedback for the Dell Venue 8 Pro is encouraging. Customer complaints are far from rare, but the tablet is much more likely to receive praise from owners posting at Amazon.com and Dell.com, with 82 percent at the latter site saying they would recommend it.
Falling prices help, a lot. Initial reviews dinged the Dell Venue 8 Pro a bit on the value front. It suffered in comparison to theAsus Transformer Book T100TA-C1-GR (Est. $400) , which includes a physical keyboard, a 10-inch form factor that makes it more practical for productivity and a price tag that is only a little higher. However, prices have dropped on the Venue 8 Pro while the Asus Windows tablet hybrid has become hard to find and often sells at a premium. Other shortfalls -- such as the lack of a keyboard (a Dell accessory model is now offered) and the aforementioned auto-brightness bug -- have been addressed. The bottom line? If you need the most portable yet full-powered Windows 8 tablet you can buy, the Dell Venue 8 Pro is a terrific choice.
CNET says the "the Dell Venue 8 Pro comes close to being a great pocket-size mini-PC." Some quirks in Windows 8 and some missteps by Dell, like the placement of the Windows button, hold things back, but the tablet still provides a good balance of value, performance, design and usability, Dan Ackerman says.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro Review: An Inexpensive 8-inch Tablet With a Premium Feel, Dan Ackerman, Nov. 26 , 2013
Although PCMag.com doesn't think the Dell Venue 8 Pro is quite ready to take on your full-sized laptop, it finds a lot to like on the way to awarding it 4 stars out of 5. Those include good portability, ergonomics, battery life and pricing.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro, Joel Santo Domingo, Dec. 5, 2013
3. Laptop Magazine
The placement of the Windows home button is an annoyance. But if you can get past that, "With smooth performance, built-in Office and a comfortable lightweight design, the $299 Dell Venue 8 Pro is a dependable device for taking Windows 8.1 on the road," Michael Andronico reports.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro Review, Michael Andronico, Dec. 2, 2013
HotHardware.com provides the most in-depth coverage of the Dell Venue Pro 8, giving it its Approved award. Good performance for normal use and excellent battery life are among the positives noted.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro and Venue 8 Do Windows and Android, Joshua Gulick, Jan. 15, 2014
5. PC World
Michelle Mastin concedes that the Dell Venue 8 Pro isn't a replacement for your full-sized laptop, but adds that it's not supposed to be. "For $300, you get full Windows in a mini tablet, and despite the low price, it's not cheaply done," she says. PCWorld gives the tablet 4 stars out of 5.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro Review: Windows 8.1 in a Pint-sized Package, Michelle Mastin, Dec. 6, 2013
6. The Verge
Tom Warren calls the Dell Venue 8 Pro "certainly the best Windows-based 8-inch tablet I've used so far." At the same time, he wishes that Dell had taken the extra steps to create a Windows 8 mini tablet that could take on and replace his iPad Mini with Retina Display.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro Review, Tom Warren, Nov. 20, 2013
More than 600 owners post feedback on the 32 GB and 64 GB versions of the Dell Venue 8 Pro, and it earns a score of 4.1 stars out of 5. Most users are happy, but some are not. Complaints are varied and sometimes non-specific, although mention of challenges with charging or Wi-Fi do crop up.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro 32 GB Tablet (Windows 8.1), Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2014
There's a bit less feedback here than at Amazon.com, but the pattern of satisfaction is roughly similar, with 82 percent saying they would recommend the Dell Venue 8 Pro to a friend. Reviewers are asked to share how long they have owned the tablet, their level of expertise and more, and most are verified to be actual buyers, which lends credibility to these posts.
Review: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet, Contributors to Dell.com, As of January 2014