Dell's first 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet hits the market

With Windows 8.1 unleashed by Microsoft a couple of weeks ago, it’s about time we started seeing some new hardware. One of the big new areas for Microsoft is in the 8-inch tablet range, where Apple and Android have been fighting it out for some time now.

Sure, Microsoft had the Acer W3 but with its craptacular display, they needed some more finesse from their other OEMs.

Enter Dell with their recently announced Venue 8 Pro tablet. Running full Windows 8.1 with an Atom processor, we have to wonder if the device has what it takes. Head past the break to see our unboxing video and first impressions!

Dell Venue 8 Pro - $299/$350

  • Windows 8.1 (32-bit)
  • 8” IPS HD touch display (1280x800)
  • Intel Atom Quad-Core processor (Z3740D); 2MB cache, up to 1.8 GHz
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of internal storage (64 GB optional); microSD expansion
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Office Home and Student 2013 Tablet Edition
  • Integrated Intel HD graphics
  • 5 MP rear camera; 1.2 MP front facing camera
  • 18WHr battery (Rated for 10 hours)
  • Thickness – 0.35” (9mm)
  • Weight: 0.87 lbs (395g)

On paper, the specs are respectable and in real life, they seem to hold up. Windows 8.1, built for smaller devices and optimized for Atom processors, handles just fine in our initial tests. The Quad-Core Atom processor should give an edge in performance over the Acer W3 and other early Windows 8 tablets, which only had a Dual-Core.

Dell Venue 8 Pro back

The feel of the device is solid. It’s not too heavy, relatively thin and easy to handle in one hand. Interestingly, 8-inch tablets and Windows 8.1 lends itself to using it in portrait mode rather than landscape.

The real story here though is regards to the display, which is quite fantastic. As others have pointed out, you’ll want to disable the auto-brightness in Settings, otherwise it will seem too dim. Once manual control is empowered, the display is a real charmer. Great viewing angles, bright and suitable color rendition. It’s night and day between it and the W3.

Dell Venue 8 Pro camera

The rear camera gets filed under “okay” as it will get the job done. It's muddy, not too sharp and the colors are bland. Same with the front facing camera. The Surface 2 is much better here, but we’re not expecting too much for such a small device anyway.

The one speaker seems to crank with little distortion. While not stereo, it should suffice for most uses on the Venue 8.

Dell Venue 8 Pro Windows Key
Oddly placed Windows key

The one complaint we have is that there is no front facing Windows key. Instead, there is one at the top of the device, similar to a power button. It’s awkward to use and you’ll find yourself using the Charms Windows key more often to navigate back to the Start menu. We’re not sure why Dell could not have put either a physical or capacitive key on the front bezel. It’s strange, but not a deal killer.

The device comes with an optional digitizer pen (not Wacom), though ours hasn’t showed up just yet to evaluate.

Dell Venue 8 Pro display
An excellent IPS display

For $299, we’re quite impressed with the Dell Venue 8 Pro. It’s priced right, feels great in the hand and the display is top notch. Will Lenovo best Dell? It’s hard to say but so far, we like what we see here.

The Dell Venue 8 Pro is now available direct from Dell for$299. A 64 GB version is also available for $50 more.