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Dell Venue 8 Pro review

Packing Intel's latest Atom processor and plenty of business features, is this the best Windows 8.1 tablet?

Tablets live and die by screen quality, a lesson Dell learned with the Venue 8 Pro. Early hardware shipped with dim screens, and a firmware update was issued to fix this. The screen's revised brightness level of 399cd/m2 is superb, but it can't compete with the Nexus 7's 540cd/m2 panel. But the Venue does have a better 1,663:1 contrast ratio than the Nexus 7 (1,058:1).

The Dell delivered a colourful, punchy and accurate image. Its IPS technology provided great viewing angles too. But the Venue fell short when it cames to resolution. The 1,280 x 800 screen had 189 pixels-per-inch, falling behind the Nexus 7 (323 ppi) and the iPad (326 ppi). The Dell's screen is fine, but competing panels are sharper - look closely and you'll spot individual pixels.

This is a business machine, so Dell pulls ahead of rivals with support for an active stylus. You'll need to buy this 29 accessory, and it's not available right now. 

Under the hood

Our review sample included a meagre 32GB SSD, with 23.2GB of available space. Storage can be expanded with an SDXC slot. Cards up to 128GB in size are supported. But it might be wise to invest in the tablet with 64GB of on-board storage if you are planning on using large files and installing lots of Metro apps.

Business users will be pleased the Venue 8 Pro supports Bluetooth 4.0 and TPM 2.0. Mobile broadband is available in the most expensive model but it's locked to O2.

The Venue 8 Pro also falls short in other connectivity departments. We normally like dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, but the card installed here was a 2x2 MIMO model. It performed slower than the 4x4 MIMO adapter installed in the iPad Mini.

The Dell's single speaker pumped out music at a high volume but lacked quality. The Nexus 7 and iPad Mini have better audio credentials.

Options, services and accessories

Dell sells three Venue 8 Pro models. All include the same Atom processor, Windows 8.1, the screen and 2GB of memory.

The cheapest model (239 inc VAT) includes a 32GB hard disk and standard one-year warranty. The middle machine costs 263 and doubles the size of the SSD to 64GB. For 323 you get the 64GB SSD, mobile broadband, and a year of ProSupport warranty with Rapid Collect and Return service.

Two and three year warranties cost 65 and 100 respectively, and the standard deal can be upgraded to different ProSupport packages.

Dell's basic folio case is priced at 38. A wireless keyboard will set you back 70, and a Targus rugged case costs 46. A 3M anti-glare screen protector is 28.

Verdict

The Venue 8 Pro is the first small Windows 8.1 tablet we've seen. Its Atom processor has enough grunt to beat rivals in Geekbench as well as handle Start screen apps and low-end desktop applications. Stylus support, a range of business-centric service options and other accessories also make this a capable business machine.

However, Android and iOS devices have a greater selection of apps, better screens, and are slimmer and lighter. The Nexus 7 is cheaper too. 

The Venue 8 Pro is a good product, but we can only recommend it if full Windows-compatibility is a must. The cheaper Nexus 7 remains the best all-round sub-10in tablet.

Verdict

Dell proves there is life in 8in Windows 8.x devices. There are advantages to having a small tablet which can support all Windows applications, but the screen and specification could be better.

Processor: 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740D

GPU: Intel HD Graphics

Memory: 2GB 1,600MHz DDR3

Storage: 32GB SSD

Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4

Ports: microUSB, microSDXC, 1 x headphone

Dimensions: 216 x 130 x 9mm

Weight: 395g

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