Fondle: Dell Venue 8 Pro Windows 8.1 Tablet


If the success of Windows depended on the quality of a tablet, the Dell Venue 8 Pro would do it.

This is one the lightest tablets I’ve ever held. It’s lighter than the Android-based Dell Venue 8, which is a puzzle.

Build quality is excellent. The buttons are responsive, sturdy, with good feedback. The ribbed rubber-like back feels lush. The screen is sharp and gorgeous and touch is very responsive.

The screen is so good I could even read the web-based version of Twitter in the browser fine:




Unfortunately, hardware quality alone cannot save Windows. Only Windows can save Windows.

And what does Windows mean?

Windows means this:



That’s all the stuff that’s running in Windows.

That’s the dreaded Task Manager.

Why do I bring up that horror?

Because at one point — and I wish I hadn’t been so stunned that I neglected to take a photo — I got a dialog box saying that performance was suffering and I should shut down some things. And the dialog had a prompt to open Task Manager!

What? The?

In a tablet? Still? In 2013?


Let me say that I wasn’t experiencing any performance issues. There was no lag or stuttering, nothing that made me expect such a dialog.

But let’s put that to the side.

Surprisingly, even running the classic Desktop mode of Windows, I had few problems with hitting targets, such as a Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons. I was very surprised, having had problems when the screens were lower res and the targets four times as large in the old UMPC days.

The tablet felt snappy, morseo than the Android-based Dell Venue 8. Another puzzle.

And yet another puzzle: I thought that swiping down from the top would give me an alphabetical list of installed apps. Maybe I have that wrong. But repeated attempts — both in portrait and landscape mode — got me nothing.

Also, isn’t there supposed to be a Screensnap charm in the sidebar that pops out when swiping in from the right? Well, it wasn’t on this tablet. Again, maybe that’s just my ignorance. My only encounter with the latest Windows is when I get to fondle it on modern hardware.

Let me give you something positive. The back camera looks to do exquisite hi-def video:

Compare that to the sample video from the Android-based Dell Venue 8.

If you want the original unmolested MP4 file, download it from my Google Docs.

I didn’t try still photos. I tried to do a headphone test, but there weren’t any music samples on the tablet — or at least any that Windows could find. It seemed to want to reach out to the Cloud and asked me to log in or register or something. A shame.

My entire interest in this device was for reading the massive PDFs from Google Books.

So how did it do?

It did poorly:

That’s worse than what I recall from testing Google Books PDFs on the first-generation of Atom-based Windows tablets from Asus (here and here).

That’s also worse than the Android-based Dell Venue 8 does — and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 just outright shames it.

Sure, I can cut it some slack by saying that’s just something built-in, software that’s really unoptimized and not as good as something that might be in the Windows Store. But still, it’s all I had. And for it to perform worse than my first Asus experience is just plain sad.

But there might be a reason behind it performing worse.



Just 1.33Ghz? I thought this was supposed to be a full 2GHz.

In my Asus report, I noted that the Asus Vivo Tab Smart was running at 1.8GHz. Could that account for it?

At any rate… I really wanted to like this tablet. I do like this tablet. I just don’t like Windows.

When I think about how I might use this tablet, I keep envisioning having to use Desktop mode and doing the same kind of frustrating UI stuff I’m doing at my current (XP-based) desktop. That’s not what I want to do. I’m sick of doing that.

And I think most people are sick of it too. Which is why the iPad — and Android tablets — have supplanted Windows and will continue to do so until Microsoft can get enough Metro Modern WTF-it’s-called un-Desktop-like apps for people to use.

This tablet is wonderful. The software less so.

As for the stylus, I found it to be light, nice to hold, and things like hover worked well. I didn’t have the inclination to dig through the clutter of Windows to find a way to do handwriting recognition. Which is another flaw of the software — too little is apparent. You must dig — and why the hell should people have to do that?

The bottom line is, if you’re a Windows user who has pined for a small quality tablet, the Dell Venue 8 Pro is probably the best. Unlike the Lenovo Miix2, it has an active digitizer. Also unlike the Mii2, it’s placed the Windows button on the edge, where you won’t accidentally hit it and Death Thumb yourself out of what you were doing. Really, the Windows button is in a good spot. You will love it being there.

For me, I think I will have to pass. Anyone is welcome to buy it, get a PDF app from the Windows Store, and record a video showing me excellent Google Books PDF performance. That still wouldn’t sell me, but it’d make me more favorably inclined towards this wonderful little tablet that is handicapped by software that isn’t yet there.

We all know how Microsoft has worked. It was Windows 3.0 that popularized the WIMP first brought to the general public by the Macintosh. The next rev of Windows — and tablets with more powerful Intel Atom processors — could finally move Microsoft’s ambitions forward. But there’s much work still to be done.



Filed under Video, Windows Tablets

35 responses to “Fondle: Dell Venue 8 Pro Windows 8.1 Tablet

  1. M Webb

    1.8ghz is the turbo mode which activates on demand. The WEI page would reveal better performance stats and if you could report them, I’d be greatful. In terms of overall performance try deleting crapware and let the device finish all its updates probably running in background. P

  2. Yes. That is the problem. On one of the guys on here had a paragraph on Intel Atom processors. He said stay away from Atoms with the D suffix. They are cripples. Thanks for the well done post. I went to Staples this morning. No joy. Did not stock.

  3. JohnG

    Did you get a chance to use the stylus in apps made for note taking? If so, how responsive was program response to your stylus strokes?

  4. JR

    It should do a lot better than that with the PDFs… My old first gen single core Atom netbook does better. Was that PDF saved on the tablet? It looks like it was downloading while you where scrolling. Slow / bad connection?

    The CPU in that tablet is 1.33GHz but will go up to 1.86GHz when needed, depending on heat & power settings.

    ” I got a dialog box saying that performance was suffering”

    “Let me say that I wasn’t experiencing any performance issues. There was no lag or stuttering, nothing that made me expect such a dialog.”

    I’ve had that before on my i7-SBe desktop and not because of something like a program not responding but because of a video driver issue with a program I was using and the program itself worked with out issues and the message stopped popping up randomly after a driver update.

    Anyways, overall it looks like a decent tablet. Not perfect but still seems to have a lot of potential.

    • mikecane

      The PDF was on the device itself. Google Books PDFs are not typical PDFs. They are JPEG scans of the book/magazine and also seem to be put together in an unusual way — see other tests where software could display the text from a page but not an image.

      • Stephen

        Was that the built-in Reader application or the Adobe Reader app, if you can recall? I’m sure the Adobe app would present better results, and it’s free.

      • mikecane

        I don’t know what it was. Win 8 presents only an icon with a turning page without the app’s name.

  5. kevin

    well u cant judge a tablet by just because it sux at viewing pdf docs

    the main selling point for this tab is dat it hav the full windows in a 8 inch form factor, imagine having a 8 inch tablet dat can run all full windows programs. its so light and thin n it performs like a full computer running full computer apps. long gone the days of carrying big huge laptops around, nw u cn jz carry an 8 inch tablet which function as both a tablet and a full personal computer. hook it up to a monitor and bluetooth keyboard and mouse and bingo, u hav a fully functional windows desktop, awesome!

    imagine dis, u just woke up, needing to check your social media feeds, u just take this tablet and check all your social media feeds and some light surfing while stil lying on ur bed, and holding this ultra light tablet is not a problem. then u wake up, needing to do some serious work with a computer, u connect this tablet to a monitor and a wireless mouse n keyboard, and u get a full desktop. After your work, you want to have some entertainment, you disconnect the tab frm ur monitor and proceed to connect it to your HDTV at your living hall and u get a full windows media center connected to your HDTV.

    all these done with only 1 device instead of 3 devices and only for 299$? wat a deal! combining both full PC and tablet in 1 device and it worked flawlessly,

  6. Mullen

    I think maybe it’s because you were using the built-in reader, which is slow for large pdf file. If you could try Adobe Reader app, or the desktop version of Adobe Reader (also has touch mode), the speed should be faster.

    • mikecane

      If you get the tablet, download that GBooks PDF, and video it working with Adobe. I couldn’t download anything onto the tablet at the Dell Venue pop-up store in NYC.

  7. Keith

    Do you know if you can connect a USB memory stick to this tablet (into the micro USB using a connector of some kind)?

    • mikecane

      Looking at Dell’s specs, there’s no USB Host mentioned or USB On The Go, so I don’t know. I really wanted to bring my pocket hard drive to test but didn’t have a compatible cable. I suggest contacting Dell directly.

    • Pete

      Yes, it can with microUSB adapter.

  8. niranjan

    hey mike i was wondering when you are going to post about dell venue 8 pro full review..

  9. Bob

    Might be a good idea to learn how to use the OS before you do reviews on products that feature it. This whole “review” is littered with questions and ignorant gripes on how to use Windows 8.

    • mikecane

      Maybe you should first learn to read blog post titles. The title is FONDLE, not REVIEW.

      • Pete

        He has a point. It takes about 5 minutes to learn how to use Windows 8.1. If that’s too much to ask, you should probably refrain from complaining about it, regardless of what you name your article.

      • mikecane

        >>> It takes about 5 minutes to learn how to use Windows 8.1

        In your imagination.

  10. David

    Windows 8 is definitely an acquired taste. I have a Nokia Lumia 1020, an iphone 5, an ipad 3, a Dell Alienware 14 running 8.1, a Dell XPS 11 running Windows 8, a Samsung Note 3, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, and a Samsung Tab. I have played with and given away both a Surface RT and a Surface Pro. Yes I use these devices through out the week. My PC’s get used the most, followed by the iPad, iphone, Nokia, Note, Kindle and last the Tab. The Windows products are definitely the most different. Given that Microsoft HAD to take into account the billions of Windows users in their legacy install based vs. the Android and Apple solution was to build a new OS with no baggage, it is hard to compare the two. When an application crashes on my ipad or iphone, I don’t know why or when. When I have ipad performance issues, I have to go in and close applications or delete files to make space. Microsoft telling what happened, why and importantly warning about a pending problem is goodness to me. By the way, the “performance” warning I believe is a Windows 8.1 bug for sure. I am running the latest Alienware technology loaded with both SSD and SATA HD, 16GB RAM etc. and only got this “warning” after I upgraded to 8.1. Hopefully Microsoft will fix this soon.

    In the end, Windows will appeal to business users vs. consumers. It will also be appealing to gamers, and anyone with specific needs that go beyond what Android and iOS (but not Mac OS). I love my ipad for reading, movies, Kindle, and browsing. When I need to do more, I boot up my PC – in 10 seconds from a cold boot, 2 seconds from Sleep – and love a keyboard. I like shortcuts which don’t require me to swipe and tap for everything. The tiles were suppose to be more useful and could become something powerful once developers starting tapping them.

    • mikecane

      As I said, I didn’t see anything slowing down on the tablet.

      And MS will probably finally get things right with the next version. Right now, too many things are ambiguous and they are competing against iOS and Android where most everything is immediately apparent.

      And if someone does a video to show me excellent PDF performance with Google Books, I might even be swayed to buy one.

  11. Tony
    I’m thinking about using windows 7 instead of 8. I am writing a home theater program and I am not interested in pushing a bunch of colored blocks on the tablet. Any opinions about using Windows 7?

    • M Webb

      I downgraded an Asus 1015e netbook from 8 to 7 and it was tricky finding drivers – and that was with a pretty well-established chipset, not the new Clover Trail in this tablet. Generally 8 and 8.1 drivers should be backwards compatible with 7, but someone needs to try it. Do you think you will save any space? Gain any performance? Obviously 8.1 has a longer future shelf-life…

  12. How to close an application like camera, picture or music? The Venue 8 Pro doesn’t provide a close “x” button for these kinds of application except to other function in windows or in MS Office where the “x” button is located at the upper right corner. Somebody help please…thanks

    • I don’t own the tablet so can’t say for sure. Shouldn’t you be able to call up the list at the left of the screen and close whatever apps are open from there? Swipe quickly back and forth at left to display the list of open apps.

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