Dell Venue 8 Pro review

Can 8-inch tablets bring more consumers to the Windows 8 fold?

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The Venue 8 Pro is a solid small tablet: it's got a bright, accurate screen, decent battery life, superb build quality and the latest technology inside. It's also better than its closest rival, the Acer Iconia W4, when business use is concerned: certain Dell models are more expensive, sure, but they have more storage and mobile broadband, and there are more extensive accessories and service options.


The Dell, though, also suffers in the same areas as the Iconia. Bay Trail might be the latest hardware from Intel's foundries, but it doesn't have the power to run high-end work software – and, in our tests, it sometimes struggled to handle more basic tasks too. Tablets that run Android and iOS are much smoother.

There's also the question of future-proofing, as more impressive hardware will soon arrive: Lenovo's ThinkPad 8 will have a Full HD screen, a faster processor, and up to twice the storage space. That's not to mention other small tablets that will arrive with 64-bit processors and more RAM.

We liked

The Dell's screen is one of the brightest we've seen on any tablet, and it works well as a touchscreen. Connectivity options are broad, including mobile broadband on more expensive models, and the Venue 8 Pro's exterior is consistently impressive: it looks good and feels strong.

Windows 8 doesn't have the app selection of Android or iOS, but the desktop mode included in this OS means that the Dell can run legacy applications – a potential boon for business. And, with the cheapest Venue 8 Pro available for £239, it's a little cheaper than the Iconie.

We disliked

Performance isn't exactly the Dell's strong point. Its benchmark results lag behind larger Windows-based machines, and real-world tests illustrate mixed speed: basic software and Start screen apps run smoothly, but the OS occasionally struggled, and intensive work applications are beyond the Dell's abilities.

The 32GB of storage in our sample is tight, too, and you'll have to pay at least £329 to double the amount of memory.

The speakers are poor, the screen's resolution isn't as high as many other machines – including the forthcoming Lenovo – and the mobile broadband is locked to one network.

The Venue 8 Pro is one of the best small Windows 8 tablets on the market, and it's got the power to run basic desktop software, older applications and Start screen apps, but tablets like the iPad mini and Nexus 7 have better screens, smoother operating systems, superior longevity and a much broader selection of native apps – and, in the Nexus 7's case, it's cheaper too.

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If you need a Windows machine for working, this is a better bet than the Acer – but we'd consider whether we needed Windows at all before dropping cash on the Venue 8 Pro.