updated 05:22 pm EST, Fri November 22, 2013
Dell delivers a surprisingly suitable tablet so far
We've made no secret of the fact that we're fans of mobile devices with styluses, as evidenced by our raves about Samsung's Galaxy Note series. So it should come as no surprise that we were interested in checking out Dell's new Venue 8 Pro device and its active stylus. The 8-inch tablet runs Windows 8.1 - the full Windows - so we're also interested to see how well Microsoft's struggling platform works on an 8-inch slate form factor. Dell sent us a review unit, and you can check out our initial impressions by clicking on through.
We're a bit shocked to say this, but we're finding ourselves a bit taken by the design of the Venue 8. We were a bit underwhelmed with the look of the Android-based Venue tablet we got our hands on last week, but the case is different with the Windows 8 Venue.
The rubberized rear casing feels surprisingly good to the touch, and it is quite grippy, to boot. Dell has imprinted the rear case with a series of ridges radiating out from the center of the Dell logo. The overall effect is quite classy, as are the silvery accents for the power, Windows, and volume buttons, as well as the Dell logo.
One perplexing note is the placement of the aforementioned physical Windows button. Dell has left the facade of the device blank, with the front camera and light sensors the only elements interrupting it. The Windows button sits on the top edge of the device, just above the front camera, where many other devices would place the power button. In practice, this likely will not prove too big a complaint about the Venue 8, but we're curious as to why Dell simply didn't put a capacitive button on the facade, making it more readily accessible while in operation.
The Venue 8 has an 8-inch IPS HD display outputting at 1280x800. It's capable recognizing 10 simultaneous touch inputs, but we're not expecting many people will get too much use out of that feature, considering the tablet's size.
In terms of looks, the Venue 8's display gets the job done. At 1280x800, it's in the league of, say, last year's Nexus 7, as opposed to the eye-searing screens on this year's devices. That's more than okay, though, for what the Venue 8 will likely be used for. Video, so far, displays crisply on Dell's tablet, an text is equally sharp. So far, we've had no problems reading anything on the device, and we don't expect that that will change.
As with other Dell devices, we're expecting that this will be targeted specifically at the enterprise. There is a certain expectation of performance in that segment; not as high as, say, your gamer population, but with its own standard. In our initial tests of the device, the Venue 8 has performed quite well. Windows 8.1 is positively snappy on our review unit. That, no doubt, is thanks to the 1.33GHz Atom processor from Intel that's packed inside, as well as the 2GB of RAM.
Screen transitions on the device are remarkably speedy. It really is impressive to see the Venue 8 at work. It actually performs faster than some desktops we've run across, at least in terms of navigating Microsoft's platform. How it does in other aspects will have to wait until our full review.
Active Stylus and Case
In terms of design, we're fans of the Venue 8's Active Stylus. Quite simply, it looks like a pen, and it even has a clasp for easy placement in a pocket. The case that Dell included with our demo unit also has a holder for the stylus - a nice touch, and one that is quite useful.
In terms of performance, the stylus hasn't blown us away. We are, of course, spoiled by Samsung's Note series, but our initial impression is that it doesn't feel quite as good to write on the screen with Dell's stylus as it does on Note devices. We're still exploring its functionality, though, so we may discover more positive things that we didn't see initially. We've got high hopes for this aspect of the device in particular, and we'll let you know how it pans out in our full review, which will come shortly.