The Dell Venue 8 Pro was perhaps the only truly excellent Windows 8.1 mini-tablet. And with the PC maker now shipping the long-awaited Windows 10 version of this device, a looming question awaits: Is it any good?
It’s a reasonable question, and on two levels. For starters, a great many people who bought into Windows 8.1 on tablets do not like the changes Microsoft has made in Windows 10. And mini-tablets are clearly not the driving force they once were: While there were dozens of Windows 8.1-based mini-tablets, only a handful of models have shown up running Windows 10. And only one of those—HP’s impressive ENVY 8 Note Tablet—is truly excellent.
So does the new Dell Venue 8 Pro measure up?
On paper, yes. Now ponderously named the Dell Venue 8 Pro 5000 Series (64GB), Dell’s new mini-tablet comes in at $449 and up, which is just a tad more expensive than that ENVY 8. (It can be had for $399 with Windows 10 Home, however, which is what HP offers.) But the specs are a bit better too.
Yes, as you would/should expect of a Windows 10 (as opposed to Windows 10 Mobile) mini-tablet, the new Dell Venue 8 Pro is saddled with an Atom processor, the mid-level x5-Z8500, a quad core design that is clocked at 2.24 GHz. That’s an improvement over the HP’s 1.44 GHz Atom x5-Z8300 processor.
RAM is a delightful (but non-expandable) 4 GB, a welcome change from the 1 GB/2 GB norm on this type of device, and kudos to Dell for that. The HP has just 2 GB of RAM (also non-expandable), though to be fair that is probably enough for tablet-only usage scenarios.
Storage? As indicated by that name, the new Dell has 64 GB of eMMC storage, compared to 32 GB on the HP. Both are expandable via microSD. For the Windows 10 generation of devices, I feel that 32 GB is the absolute minimum for built-in storage: As I noted in Windows 10: A Tale of Two Mini-Tablets, “16 GB simply is not enough storage for a Windows tablet. Period. And that’s true even if you upgrade the storage with microSD, which you will need to do on any 16 GB system.”
The screen gets a nice upgrade, too: Where the original Dell Venue 8 Pro sported a basic but nice 1280 x 800 display, the new version ships with a 16:10 WUXGA (1920 x 1200) resolution display, the same as the HP.
Size/weight/thickness appear similar to the HP as you’d expect. The Dell is a hair heavier and thicker than the HP. It’s not clear looking at the specs if anyone would really notice a difference.
Where HP surpasses the Dell is in industrial design—the ENVY 8 is clad in high-quality aluminum, not cheap plastic—and versatility, thanks to the included (and high quality) keyboard base. Dell does not appear to offer any keyboard solutions that are unique to the new Venue 8 Pro.
If you’re looking for a pure mini-tablet experience, let’s just be honest with each other: Windows 10 simply doesn’t make any sense. Get an iPad (of whatever ilk) or an Android tablet instead.
If you’re looking for a hybrid device that will sometimes be docked/used like a real PC, then the HP ENVY 8 comes out of the box with everything you need. But it also has the lesser specs overall.
I’ve ordered a Venue 8 Pro 5000 Series (64GB) to see whether Dell has taken the best Windows 8.1 mini-tablet successfully into the Windows 10 generation. But my heart tells me this is a fool’s errand. Am I missing something?