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!
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:
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.