The Dell Venue Pro is an 8-inch, Windows 8.1 tablet that like the Toshiba Encore, the Acer W4 and the Lenovo MiiX2, gives you a full version of Microsoft's latest operating system so you can reap the benefits of having a PC without the extra bulk.
After our numerous grievances with the Encore, we were hoping that Dell's offering could restore some optimism that Windows in an iPad mini 2 Retina or Nexus 7 2-sized body can actually work. Fortunately, we have a more glowing report about the Venue Pro 8. It's by far the most impressive 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet we've seen so far.
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Watch our Dell Venue Pro 8 review video
Sat next to Apple's 7.9-inch tablet or the Nexus 7, the Venue Pro 8 doesn't exactly break the design mould for a small tablet. But when you compare it to other 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets, it's by far the best-looking and nicest to hold in the hand.
The front looks like your run of the mill Android tablet with a black bezel that narrows down the sides of the 8-inch display. When you flip it over, the soft plastic back with raised concentric circles gives it a Nexus 7-feel and provides greater friction than the flat smooth surfaces on the Encore and the W4 tablets. It does have a habit of trapping fluff, but we think this gives the Venue Pro 8 something a bit different compared to other portable Windows tablets.
At just 9mm thick, it’s not as chunky as the Encore either and other rival 8-inch Windows 8.1 slates. It weighs just 395g, making it heavier than the iPad mini 2 Retina Wi-Fi (331g), but it’s more than comfortable to use one-handed and gives it a profile well suited to using in two hands.
Everything from the chrome buttons to the unibody design is well constructed and fills us with enough confidence that it's able to withstand the rigours of daily use. For £250, we are happy with what Dell has served up here.
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Looking around the tablet you’ll find the 5-megapixel main camera on the back and front-facing camera in the top right on the bezel. Down the right edge of the you’ll find the MicroSD card slot concealed by a latch. If you opt for the 3G/Wi-Fi version, the micro SIM slot will also be hidden away here. Further up is the chrome-style volume rocker and on/off button.
The microUSB charging port also doubles as a USB host and means you can connect other peripherals, although you'll need to invest in OTG cable. There’s no HDMI so hooking it up to a TV has to be done wirelessly over Miracast and will of course mean you need a compatible TV.
On the top edge is the headphone/mic port and bizarrely the Windows Home button. Most other tablets include this at the bottom of tablet and whether this is Dell’s way of trying to be different or genuinely believing that it’s better positioned, our numerous times spent hitting it thinking it was the on/off button suggests it was a bad move.
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The Dell Venue Pro 8 features an 8-inch 1,280 x 800 pixel IPS touchscreen display with a widescreen aspect ratio that effectively matches Toshiba Encore and the original Nexus 7. In comparison to the Nexus 7 2 and the Kindle Fire HDX 7 though, the cheaper Android tablets offer more pixels and more impressive resolution.
That’s not to say that the screen is terrible. For everyday tasks like watching video and reading web pages it’s perfectly acceptable. You don't get the full HD treatment. although the screen is nice and sharp and colours are slightly more punchy than the Encore.
Viewing angles are good thanks to the IPS display technology, though it suffers like most other tablets with some reflection in bright outdoors. Our only real issue is that the auto brightness out of the box is set very low, so we would suggest jumping into the settings and disabling the auto-brightness otherwise you are going to find it a very unsatisfying experience.
In terms of screen responsiveness, the Venue Pro 8’s display supports 10-point multitouch and shows little signs of struggle registering swipes, selecting apps or pinching and zooming your way through a web page where the font is a little on the small side. The tablet does also support its own digitiser stylus that Dell is calling the 'Active' pen. Unfortunately, once again, this needs to be purchased separately and we didn’t have one to try doodling with.
The speaker on the bottom of the edge of the tablet is certainly nice and loud, just don’t expect booming, rich audio to fill your ears. The louder it gets the more noticeable the distortion becomes. It’s more than suitable for watching films and gaming but it's underwhelming for blasting out Spotify playlists.