When it comes to buttons and ports, the Venue 8 keeps things simple. It has a power button and headphone jack at the top, while the volume buttons are on its right side (by your left hand), near the top. The speaker is at the other end of the device. It’s a tried-and true setup: the speaker ends up closest to you whenever you use it in orientation mode. The display is reasonably bright and handled our taps and swipes without a problem. Multi-touch gestures also worked fine.
The Venue 8 Pro’s power and volume buttons are on its left side (by your right hand in portrait mode). Being a Windows tablet, it has a Start button too. It’s at the top of the device (in portrait mode), rather than near the bottom of the screen, where it is on most tablets. The placement has annoyed some users, but it didn’t strike us as a big deal: we used the physical Start button and the on-screen button (swipe inward from the side to see it) for weeks with equal comfort.
Dell also let us try out the Dell Folio and Dell Active Stylus, both of which are designed for the Venue 8 Pro. The Folio, which sells for $39.99, is a slick case that can prop up your tablet for easy viewing. The black exterior picks up fingerprints over time, but it’s easy to clean. It has openings for most ports and the back camera, but it completely blocks the micro SD port. We used the Stylus when the tablet was in Desktop mode, but found that we were usually more comfortable working without it.
Both Venues come in red or black colors. The red models look sharp in the images we’ve seen and they don’t cost any more than the black Venues, but we haven’t seen them up close, as we tested the standard black units.
As for software, the Dell Venue 8 runs Android 4.2.2, which is a recent - but not the most recent – version of Google’s mobile operating system. The tablet isn’t loaded down with many extra apps, but it does come with PocketCloud, an app that lets you connect remotely to your Windows or Mac desktop and access their contents.
The Dell Venue 8's Android apps on are on the left. The right image is from the Dell Venue 8 Pro, which runs Windows 8.1.