I want to like the Dell Venue 8 Pro. I really do. It’s nicely built, comfortable to use, has an excellent screen, and performs admirably. At the same time, while I’m liking Windows 8.1 on tablets in general, the continued reliance on desktop mode for some things means that the 8” form factor is just too small for comfortable use. For me, at least.
The biggest problem I’ve experienced with the Venue 8 Pro is that Chrome, Evernote, and some other desktop Windows apps are simply too difficult to use via touch on such a small screen. Even using scaling (and Chrome is notoriously bad in this department), buttons can be hard to press, scrolling can sometimes be a challenge (particularly in Evernote), and in general the desktop interface is just not comfortable to navigate.
I can’t tell if some of this is Dell’s fault, because there might be some issues with the touchscreen that cause it to fail to recognize taps every now and then. Even so, I don’t think that makes a difference. The lack of a full range of modern UI touch-based apps means that the desktop is still too necessary, and the Venue 8 Pro is just to small for its use to be comfortable. If you read my posts and tweets, you’ll find that I’ve gone back and forth on this a bit, but I’ve come out on the side of Windows 8.1 needing at least a 10” screen or so to be fully useful.
Toss in the fact that the active stylus doesn’t help, and you have a device that is oh-so-tantalizing and yet incredibly frustrating. My bottom line is this: if you have small fingers and great eyes, and can put up with some wonkiness in desktop mode, then the Dell Venue 8 Pro is an attractively priced and well-built machine. In fact, here’s my Amazon Affilliates link if you want to buy one and add a few bucks to the tip jar: Dell Venue 8 Pro 64 GB Tablet (Windows 8.1).
One caveat: if you plan on using the device with a keyboard and mouse, then it becomes a highly portable Windows 8.1 machine. Its lack of a mini-HDMI port means that you have to go to some lengths to connect it to an external monitor, but even on its own it could make for a productivity device that could easily be carried from one stationary office to another. In fact, when I gave my original thoughts on the device, that’s really how I saw its value—not so much as a tablet, but as a kind of mini-desktop.
I’m going to leave it at that, and likely not write a full review, because I don’t have much to contribute that many other sites haven’t already put out there. My final conclusion is this: the Dell Venue 8 Pro is nice enough to make me seriously consider the Dell Venue 11 Pro. With a larger screen (and the Venue 11 Pro’s 10.8” full HD screen looks pretty good), I think that Windows 8.1 on tablets is a real contender. Toss in a battery-packed keyboard dock, and we’re talking about something that could be pretty special.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Update: By the way, I’ve been noticing more and more lately that the touchscreen is also a bit wonky. I’m experiencing way too many inadvertant clicks when touch-scrolling through apps, on both the desktop and in modern UI apps. I’m trying out the Dell Venue 11 Pro soon, to see if the screen size makes as much of a difference as I think it will, and I’m hoping they’ve tweaked the touchscreen to be a little more predictable.