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Dell Venue 8 Pro – Unboxing and first impression of the 8-inch Windows tablet

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 (opens in new tab) for$299. A 64 GB version is also available for $50 more.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • THIS....WILL...BE...MINE....
  • Who wants DELL when Godnovo is releasing their 8th world wonder Miix 2?
  • Because Dell, unlike "Godnovo", had the sensible decision to include support for an active digitizer, as opposed to a capacitive one.  I will never buy a tablet without support for an active digitizer.
  • But dat build quality though. :-o  And the start button at such an awkward placement. 
  • If it is built anything like my Latitude 10, then there should be no issues. Also, the start button is fine where it is, to me, out of the way.
  • Exactly.  I think people that poo-poo Dell do not buy Latitudes... they are buying cheap Inspirons and comparing them to more expensive Lenovos.  Dell can make excellent quality.
  • I feel that is a general problem with the PC industry. Everyone says Dell, HP, Acer, etc are all horrible and make cheap shit. And yes, they do make some cheap shit. But they also make some high quality expensive stuff. But when people compare them to the likes of Apple, they only focus on the cheapest mainstream options.
  • Well said Aaron. I agree completely.
  • From experience, you can buy a $300 HP or a $1500 HP and you will still get shitty costumer service. I hear Dell is even worse than HP.
  • Dell have nothing but stellar customer service in my experience bro...
  • Customer support ratings are overblown.  I don't think I have ever called a customer support tech for any of my Dells or HPs in the past.  That's probably the best customer support service you can buy.
  • No. They can't. Dell has never, ever made a good PC, not even by accident. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. I have had multiple Dells (both Latitudes) catch on in the computer itself and one in the power brick. They suck. That is all.
  • You're full of crap. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. You suck. That is all.
  • Huh.  I've been working with Dells almost exclusively since the 486 days and have found the Optiplex and Latitude lines to be absolutely bulletproof.   I've probably bought close to 1,000 Dell desktops and laptops over the years, both new and used, even off of eBay, and not one lemon in the batch.  They typically outlive their usefullness.  I can easily get 7 solid years of regular use in a business environment before they become too slow to use, compared to modern hardware. They did have a recall for Latitude AC adapters for that very reason, about 8 years ago.  Didn't you get yours swapped out at no cost like everyone else?
  • Fully agree! If you stick to Optiplex and Latitude, then Dell is as good as it gets. I hope this Venue 8 Pro holds up to that standard....and not their other crap.
  • This is months later than your post, but I still had to respond. Sorry about the poor experiences you've had, but mine are just the opposite. I've only bought Dell's higher end devices: the Latitude and the XPS and had very positive experiences. The best computer I've ever owned is my XPS One 27. I've never had the slightest problem with this device. My only experience with Dell customer service has been when they called me a couple of weeks after the computer arrived to see if I was happy with it. That was impressive. I was interested in the Venue 8 Pro when it was released but wanted to see and touch it before I ordered it. I played with one at the Microsoft Store near me and bought on the spot once I experienced the build quality and the performance.
  • Charms...???
  • What puts the Lenovo one ahead of dell for you? I did read there may possibly be LTE, which after the TMobile announcement of 200MB free data, might be a requirement for my future tablet.
  • I'm currently looking to buy an 8 inch tablet that supports a full windows 8 system, the Lenovo miix 2 is nice with more working hours and LTE SIM support, however with a daul core processor and no,support of a digitizer pen, it kills the functionality as I do intend to use this as a media and surfing tablet plus a memo pad I can write stuff on on the go
  • On the Lenovo site says the Miix 2 is a Quad-Core Atom and they do sell an optional stylus for it. Not sure if it's a digitizer pen though.
  • I refuse to purchase any tablet that isn't engineered by fake actor Ashton Kutcher.
  • Its not really that great for a tablet. It does not have GPS, NFC or any other sensors that I would expect as standard on a tablet. I don't care about a mobile antenna (LTE) but I do care about GPS and other sensors that are key to a tablet you want to use on the go. I think many OEMs are not realising the difference between a tablet and a netbook/notebook setup. The only OEM who gets it right so far is Nokia who have included all of these sensors in the Lumia 2520 tablet, though that one is only an RT one.  
  • The 2520 would be a kickass tablet if it had Bay Trail and ran full Windows 8.1
  • I wish Nokia would release an 8-inch, $350 tablet with NFC, GPS, and a digitizer.
  • I agree 100%. I also don't care about LTE, but a 3G slot, GPS, NFC, etc etc are standard for a mobile computing device.   And I thought I'd never say this, but RT is actually looking better and better for me. Running Office, Putty and Flash on it, I just need a video out to plug into a projector, an RT version of Paint.NET and Balsamiq and I'm there! :)   (I assume Eclipse RT is quite a way off or I'd add that too :) )
  • What doesn't have GPS, the Dell?  You've been misinformed if you think that.  My 32Gb has many sensors (GPS, accelerometer, gyro) that are "standard" to a tablet.  It doesn't have a SIM so no 3g etc, nor does it have a barometer (afaik) or NFC but those aren't deal-breakers IMO.  
  • better hope it doesnt smell like cat piss.
  • Looks really awesome. Digging the size!
  • Took me a while to realize, but Daniel hands are huuuuge.  I almost thought he was holding a phone or something.
  • I love this size too. On an unrelated note, why don't people choose the setting on Metro to have more tiles. It's in the charms bar under Tiles. Then you have 4 rows instead of 3
  • I tried it and for some reason didn't like it.
  • Finally dell will come and save MS tablet sector with what the majority has been waiting for. Great job Dell. I'll be getting one just for shits and giggles to go along with my SP2.
  • I've been ignoring this tablet but the article picture made me go, "How You doin'?"  8 inch is the perfect size for a tablet.  Kind of like the paperweight Blackberry Playbook I have. ;)   EDIT:  Thanks for the unboxing Dan!
  • I was so ready to get this, but the screen resolution isn't high enough for me. I've taken a look at similar sized/resolution displays and I'd like something a little higher. Shame too because I really like everything else about this device.
  • What more could you possible expect for $300?
  • I would be perfectly happy to pay a bit more to get a version with a 1080p screen. I understand that was a compromise Dell had to make to reach that price point. I just wish there was a BTO option for 1080p like the Venue Pro 11 will have to upgrade to a full i-series processsor rather than Bay Trail (which the base model will include).
  • 1080p on tiny tablets is still pretty dang rare...
  • 1. 7-8 inch range should be considered the same segment. Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HDX 7 are both competitors in this segment, and are both 1920*1200.
    2. Nokia 2520 is about 11", not 8".
    3. Both iOS and Android have high PPI small tablet. Windows deserves less, just like we have so many 1366*768 laptops. It's a shame that PC OEMs started copying Apple to make high-res laptops. Let's avoid the same mistake in tablet market. /sarcasm/
  • That's why I'm waiting. If the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HDX, and retina iPad mini can have 1080p or better screen resolutions at a similar size and price point, then I don't think it's unreasonable for us to get better resolution screens in Windows tablets of this size. Personally I'd be okay with the price being slightly higher than the competition since we're getting full Windows 8.1, a Bay Trail processor, and support for an active digitiser.
  • New iPad mini is $400 for 16GB or $500 for 32GB.  Nexus 7 is cheap though but that's because they are more or less not earning anything from them.
  • I think you are also forgetting the fact that you have a full blown x86 machine capable of both consuming AND creating content with the Dell Venue Pro  as opposed to the Apple and Android tablets that are running OS's designed for consumption only. What you dont have in resolution you more than make up for with versatility and power.
  • You don't really want 1080, you want somthing higher.  A 16:9 8 inch tablet wouldn't be all that useful, in my opinion anyway.
  • Nexus 7 and Kindle use Android with ARM architecture processors. They can't run office or any of your desktop apps. They are a lot cheaper by design. The Venue runs x86 architecture processors and runs all of your desktop apps along with tablet specific ones. A full x86 tablet requires a lot more hardware wise and lore expensive to make. I really don't see how you can possibly begin to compare a full Windows 8 tablet with a stripped down and gimped Android one. Having this class of computer in that price range is amazing.
  • Most laptops have a 768 res screen and that's acceptable, why do people feel the need to require 1080p on 5-8" devices!?
  • It's less than $300 and runs full fat Windows. You either need to lower your expectations or raise your budget.
  • Right. There's really no pleasing some people.
  • Amen
  • Totally agree!
  • I already have budget higher than $300, where is the 8" full HD Windows tablet I can buy? Why developing 1020/1520, when 520 is the best selling Windows Phone? Because there are different market segments. All small size Windows tablets have low resolution, there is no choice.
  • I'm with you, everything is great for me except the screen resolution. I know its fine for the price, but a 1080p screen offered for a bit more money would be necessary for me to bite.
  • I agree. I'd be willing to pay more for 1080p. When there are 7" 1080p tablets out there, I'm holding out for an 8" Windows tablet that is 1080p.
  • 1080p would suck cause it's 16:9 instead of 16:10 like this one.
  • 1728x1080 then, and use the saved pixels money for a front facing Windows button.
  • What is it with the windows button?  I have the sp2 and never use the button.  In fact with the old ipad the thing I hated most was the home button.  Always hitting it when I didn't want to.  Windows is much better able to work without the button.  I'm fine with it at the top.  Ordered my dell venue 8 pro within hour of availability and still not word on when it will ship.
  • Actually, I kinda agree. Before selling my Surface RT, one thing I noticed is when using it in portrait mode my hand would always accidentally catch the capacitive start button. And I always used the charms bar on that because since it's a tablet and all, my hands were already in the correct positions (holding it on the sides) to do that. I just needed to swipe a thumb from the side and hit start; no hand adjustments required.
  • I LOVE the position. With W8.1 there is no need for it really. Edit: And you won't have to worry about hitting it or your kids accidentally hitting it when playing.
  • You know when it was first announced, I was going to do the samething, but when it said the ship date would be the 25th of Nov I cancelled the order and checked back on Wednesday. To my pleasant surprise it said the ship date would be 11/6, so I went ahead with the order and put 2 day shipping and now I am expecting a delivery later on today, folio and all. I cant wait :)
  • No, 1920*1200 please.
  • 1920x1200 then... but they should at least include a Windows sticker.
  • "1728x1080 then, and use the saved pixels money for a front facing Windows button."   This comment just made my daysuck slightly less.
  • Nice review Daniel, as usual. I'll wait to see your reaction on the Lenovo, and then decide by myself, we have some time until christmas.
  • Like the portrait mode. My Surface 2 just can't do that.
  • Hows the Surface 2 coming along!? Hows that tegra 4 cpu?? Can you please explain why the Surface 2 just cant do portrait mode like this Dell? I am looking to pick up my first tablet this Christmas, and the 4 tablets im leaning towards include both of these devices, I would love to hear your thoughts, thank you in advance :)
  • Really? I checked the surface 2 and pro 2 and both could do portrait.. Maybe an update is needed?
  • All Surface can do portrait. It must be locked. Swipe charms > Settings > Screen > Lock/Unlock
  • I meant, can't do portrait well. It's just too wide (long) to look right in portrait mode. I'm ok with that because I use it with the keyboard mostly. I would only like portrait for reading magazines and books.
  • ^
    This. It was very awkward on my surface rt, and now my pro 2, for portrait. I mean I usually use landscape, but portrait stinks on 16:9.
  • I love 16:9 in portrait as I am able to see more content.
  • Yea people don't seem t o realize that portrait mode is great for news sites, tumblers, blogs. More reading, less scrolling
  • And comics. Comics are closer to HD than not.
  • Others have stated that the active stylus is not the best. Dont get it expecting it to be of wacom quality. ITs stil lgood for such a cheap tablet though.
  • I am hoping that they can find some way to improve the stylus. Unfortunately, it sounds as though it's border line unusable. I don't think people were expecting Wacom quality, but it was somewhat of a defining factor.
  • IF I were to get it it would be for quick notes at work. I am not i nschool anymore and as long as I can read the notes in one note it would be good for me.
  • I would love to hear how this compares to the Surface 2 performance wise. Can it play Windows Store games as well as the Surface 2, web browsing, app launching, etc. I like the look of this one a lot.
  • YES. Right here. I would love to see a video comparison of Surface 2, and this Dell (or Lenovo's offering)
  • I'm waiting on a 1080P version.
  • Thank god there's no capacitive button on the front. I don't need another device with constant accidental button presses.
  • Totally agree!
  • Too bad no GPS. Looks good though.
  • Looks good on paper but early reports shows the stylus is poor and miracast doesn't work reliably. People may want to hold off till those issues are resolved, if they can be.
  • Pretty cool. I'm interested to see how this compares to the Acer W4.
  • meh... Transformer Book T100 still on my Xmas shopping list.
  • Me too, 10in with similar screen quality, its a no-brainer. Plus gotta be able to read my comics on a big screen. Maybe time to upgrade my Kindle Fire HD 8.9in to Windows 8. Decisions, decisions.
  • Dell has a 10 inch version coming out later in the month with a 1920 x 1080p screen.
  • Daniel  - Amazon currently sells the 32GB version for $291 and the 64GB version for $327. 
  • If it had a keyboard option like the surface then i would probably move to it.  i just want to be more productive than a typical tablet offers
  • I am of the same openion.
    It got three out of five from me (size, price and full Windows 8.1), missing on keyboard and (performance), well I need to see it run programs I use to see how it performs.
  • There is a keyboard cover available, my friend has it on order alongside his Venue Pro 8... but it doesn't match the sleakness of the Surface ones.
  • Dell has always had issues with accessories for their products.  I have an XPS10 and if you don't like the case that they sell for it, you're SOL.  The keyboard dock is awesome, but too expensive (work bought it for me) and no longer sold or even findable on the Dell site, as of 2 weeks ago.
  • I actually cancelled my order for this to get a Miix2 instead, but the Dell is definitely the more aestetically pleasing tablet. Anyone tried using these Bay Trail tablets with W8.1 on Miracast yet?
  • What swayed you toward the Lenovo one? And yes please someone mention how well these work with miracast.
  • I originally wanted the Dell because of the stylus. The Lenovo is just a little thinner/lighter, should be a wee bit faster (dual channel RAM), has GPS if you plan on taking it around. I'm no IT expert, so someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I was hoping the Miix2 would work better with Miracast/WIDI, since it can support a higher resolution. I was hoping to use my big screen at home as a second screen.
  • Thanks for the info. That has me leaning toward Lenovo now.
  • I'm thinking about cancelling my order as well. I love the cover/stand on the Miix 2, and the stylus, even though capacitive, will probably work better than the synaptics on on the Dell. The Youtube demonstration I saw was horrible.
  • Where is the Miix available to order, not showing up for me.
  • I don't think it's available yet. On Lenovo's site, they currently have a blank page for the Miix2. If I recall correctly, the Miix2 was supposed to be available "later this month".
  • Ok, thanks. I guess we'll see all the other 8" tablets in November.
  • Im leaning towards the Miix2 now as well after seeing how bad the digitizer is on the dell. Also, the Dells MicroSD slot appears to have a bottleneck somewhere because card read speeds max out around 23MB/s which is a shame since high end cards are significantly faster then that now. Im hoping the Miix2 has a faster microsd reader or the 128GB version becomes available.
  • Ultimately, is it junky loose plastic or well put together?
  • I like it much better than the surface. I like the fact that it is 8" and will fit in my pocket. I currently have an iPad mini that i slip into my pocket and take everywhere, but I would gladly trade someone for the Dell Venue 8 Pro any day of the week. I am a Windows Phone/ Windows 8 dev and it would be awesome to be able to code on the go using a small tablet vs having to tote my laptop around. Feel free to send me one for Xmas :-)
  • Good first impression Daniel. If I can make a request though. I would love to see some comparisons of performance between these baytrail tablets, the tegra 4 surface 2, and the Qualcomm Nokia 2520.
  • only two words explains why this device is absolutely useless: RAM Resolution   Why manufacturers produce tablets with resolution, which is similar to lumia 920 on 4x smaller screen? Why them makes tablets with amount of RAM, which is good just only for smooth running of empty OS, not with another aplications together?  
  • Have you actually used a Windows tablet? Try it first before spouting BS.
  • The resolution on my 23" monitor is barely higher than this, and I have no problem with it. I think the reason they're staying with this resolution is the graphics processing on the bay trail will suffer, plus the desktop would be WAY too small.
  • I don't think there's a performance issue with