|Introduction & Specifications|
|Dell has something for everyone with its Venue 8 tablets, which come in both Android and Windows 8.1 flavors. The Venue 8 is the Android-based model, while the Venue 8 Pro runs the full version of Windows 8.1. Dell isn’t the first to put Windows 8.1 in an 8-inch form factor, but the field is still relatively new and small, so the Venue 8 Pro has been getting a fair share of attention. We checked out both models to see how they compare to each other and their competition.
Android) sells for $179.99, while the Venue 8 Pro (Windows 8.1) rings in at $299.99, not including the optional stylus or case. Let’s take a look at the hardware that sets them apart.
The Dell Venue 8 has an Intel Atom Z2580 dual-core processor running at 2.0GHz, whereas the Venue 8 Pro has a quad-core Intel Atom Z3740D running at 1.8GHz. Both tablets have 2MB of memory, but they differ on storage. The Venue 8 has up to 32GB of storage and the Venue 8 Pro boasts up to 64GB. Both of the models we tested came with 32GB of storage included. Each tablet also includes a micro SD card slot.
The tablets share the same 8-inch, WXGA 1280 x 800 display. That’s an HD resolution, and the Venue isn’t the only tablet in town sporting it (the Lenovo Miix 2 has the same resolution, for example), but there are other small tablets that offer full 1080p (like the Nexus 7) or even higher resolutions. The iPad mini boasts Apple’s Retina display with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 on a 7.9-inch screen. Of course, the iPad min with Retina display will set you back $399, fully $100 more than even the Venue 8 Pro. Both Venues have IPS panels though, which makes the tablets easy to see from almost any angle. That’s an important feature for any mobile device, but tablets in particular.
Both tablets have 5MP rear cameras, but the Venue 8 has a 2MP front camera and the Venue 8 Pro has a 1.2MP front camera. On the connectivity side of things, the tablets have Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n, but the Venue 8 Pro has a dual-band Dell Wireless 1538 controller that makes it a little more versatile.
Dell estimates battery life under normal use to be about 7.9 hours for the Venue 8 and 9.9 hours for the Venue 8 Pro. Both tablets have a one-year warranty, but the Venue 8 has only a limited hardware warranty. The Venue 8 Pro, on the other hand, has a one-year Rapid Return warranty: once the tablet’s problem is diagnosed over the phone, Dell pays to have the tablet sent in via 3-5 business-day shipping for repair. These are base warranties, though – you can upgrade them during your purchase if you like.
|Design & User Experience|
|The Venue 8 is a mere 0.38 inches (9.75mm) thick, ever so slightly bigger than the 0.35-inch thick Venue 8 Pro. Neither tablet is as thin as, say, an iPad mini, but both devices are clearly very slim. They’re light, too: 0.82 and 0.87 pounds for the Venue 8 and 8 Pro, respectively. Holding either tablet in one hand is easy and so is keeping your grip, thanks to the almost-smooth finish on the back.
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.
The Venue 8 Pro is also free of bloatware. Dell added some of its branded applications, which are small utilities that will either prove to be handy or at least stay out of your way. My Dell, for example, brings together tools for installing drivers, system backup, and troubleshooting.
|Performance: CPU & Web Browsing|
|Thanks to cross-platform benchmarks, we can compare Android, iOS, and Windows tablets in several performance categories. Based on hardware alone, we expect the Venue 8 Pro to be particularly competitive.
The Android-based Dell Venue 8 handled itself just fine in the Linpack test. Apple’s tablets are hard to beat here, but the Venue 8 easily outmatched the Google Nexus 7 (2013 version).
Version 1.0.2 of SunSpider is available now, so we put both tablets through the new test, as well. These are the first tablets we’ve tested with the new SunSpider and we weren’t surprised to find that the scores were noticeably different from the older version. The Dell Venue 8 scored 744.1, while the Venue 8 Pro scored 426.5 milliseconds.
Next, we put our Venue tablets through the Rightware BrowserMark test, and the Venues landed about where we expected them to, providing reasonable scores for their hardware, but landing behind the iOS-based tablets. Let’s take a look at how the tablets handled our graphics benchmarks.
Neither tablet knocked it out of the park in the GFXBench Off Screen test. The Venue 8 is a value-priced tablet, so you shouldn’t expect it to be a graphics powerhouse, but the Venue 8 Pro’s price tag makes its graphics performance in this benchmark a little more disappointing.
3DMark Ice Storm Extreme tells a similar story. The tablets outmatched the Galaxy Notes that we’ve tested, but fell behind the new Nexus 7 and, of course, the Apple iPad Air and mini. In 3DMark: Ice Storm's Unlimited setting, the Venue 8 scored 7738 and the Venue 8 Pro rolled in with 15508.
We put the Android-based Venue 8 through a few tests that aren’t available for Windows tablets. The Venue 8’s scores here are more of the same: it’s a fairly inexpensive tablet that can handle itself, but isn’t built for screaming graphics performance.
|Performance: Battery Life|
|Dell estimates battery life under normal use to be about 7.9 hours for the Venue 8 and 9.9 hours for the Venue 8 Pro. Having used both tablets for weeks that sounds about right. And as you’ll see, the Venue 8 Pro’s battery life rocked our Web browsing test.
The Dell Venue 8 landed a little behind most of the other Android tablets we’ve tested with AnTuTu’s battery test with about 6.73 hours of battery life. On the other hand, the Dell Venue 8 Pro knocked it out of the park in our Web browsing test, which refreshes a Web page regularly until the battery is exhausted. The Dell Venue 8 Pro lasted 14.1 hours, topping even the Microsoft Surface 2.
Dell Venue 8
Dell Venue 8 Pro
As we mentioned earlier, the Venue 8 and Venue 8 Pro have front and back cameras. We particularly liked the 5MP back cameras. In both cases, the camera software handles auto-focus during the shot and provides basic photo-editing tools afterwards. The shots here are unedited indoor and outdoor photos from the tablets.
|We like both of Dell’s Venue 8 tablets, but they’re entirely different devices, with different hardware and operating systems. They’re likely to appeal to different segments of the market, too. So, while our HotHardware Approved award applies to both tablets, we’re separating our conclusions here.
Dell Venue 8
The Dell Venue 8 provides a nice balance of quality and performance for $179.99. The screen is eight inches of IPS, HD goodness, and although there are plenty of tablets with higher resolutions, we found the Venue 8’s display to be plenty bright and crisp for ordinary use. And while some of its hardware isn’t high-end, the Venue 8 covers the bases: it has solid front and back cameras, standard wireless connectivity options, and reasonable internal storage, with support for expanded storage (in the form of micro SD cards).
The Venue 8’s shortcomings aren’t surprises, given the price point. For one thing, it doesn’t offer the performance that we see in systems with higher price tags. The battery life, on the other hand, is an area where the Venue 8 could stand to improve.
The Venue 8 faces stiff competition from the Nexus 7, which sells for around $229. For a bit more, the Nexus 7 is better performer in our benchmarks and has a 1080p screen – not to mention a more recent version of Android.
Dell Venue 8 Pro
Windows 8.1 looks good on the Dell Venue 8 Pro’s 8-inch screen. The display is easy to see from most angles and its multi-touch responsiveness is very good. Unless you absolutely insist on having a physical or in-bezel Start button on the front of your tablet, you’ll probably find the Venue 8 Pro to be well-designed and fun to use. It’s light enough for one hand, even when covered by the Folio case.
The quad-core Intel Atom Z3740D processor is a good choice, and the Venue 8 Pro performed well in normal usage benchmarks, but the tablet isn’t a graphics hero. If you’re a heavy duty entertainment buff, that might pose a problem, and a tablet with more graphics power and a higher resolution might be what you’re looking for.
The tablet carries a higher price tag than its Android-based cousin, but at $299.99, it’s not even a dollar more expensive than one of its close rivals, the new 8-inch Lenovo Miix 2, which has the same screen resolution and similar specs. Overall, the Venue 8 Pro has a lot to like. Its battery life is excellent and the tablet’s dual-band wireless chip means you can enjoy faster connections on dual-band networks than tablets with ordinary Wi-Fi. Not bad.