Dell Venue 8 Pro Windows 8.1 HD Tablet Review by #UAE #Tech #Blogger

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The Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet gives you full power of Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro and Office Home & Student 2013 wherever you go with an 8″ HD screen, a quad-core Intel® Atom™ processor, dual cameras and an optional keyboard. At a price that makes it a good value for your hard-earned money.

I have been using the Windows platform on every computer I have ever owned. Yet, when it comes to smartphones and tablets, my experience so far has been on Blackberry’s proprietary OS, Google’s open source Android and Apple’s iOS. No Windows!

When I was offered an opportunity to try out the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet that comes with Windows 8.1, I agreed without any hesitation at all. The Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet was hand delivered at my doorstep soon after.

(Dell Venue 8 Pro Image courtesy of Dell Inc.)

Being a Windows PC user for ages, I thought how different could it be – why not try Windows on a tablet? I was in for a surprise!

The very first thing I had to do to get the most out of the device was create a Microsoft ID.

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Once you create an ID, you can log in to the tablet using that ID. Or, you can log in by creating a 4-digit pin for quick access or even a picture password.

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I found that the device had been loaded with lots of apps that I might find useful from social media apps like Facebook and Twitter to regional apps like those of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, TimeOut Dubai and Sharaf DG.

These choices were spot on. However, the device was locked (I subsequently called to get the password from the agency) and each app needed re-installation for some reason so it took me quite a while to get going with the tablet.

Getting started with the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet
The Dell Venue 8 Pro, with Windows 8.1, ushered me into a very different world of user experience, even though I have been on the Windows platform for ages.

The Dell venue 8 Pro offers you two ways to navigate and operate – the traditional Windows desktop view (which was easy for me to figure out as it is exactly like the PC desktop), and the highly customisable tiled interface which works through swipe and tap gestures. You can easily switch between the two as you find convenient.

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If you choose to use the Windows desktop view of the Dell Venue 8 Pro, the interface and navigation specially if you are using a mouse should make you completely at home – it feels just like using a PC.

Here’s what surprised me most – if all your Windows experience has been on PCs, you should easily catch on with desktop interface on the Dell Venue 8 Pro.

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I found the icons and menus in the desktop mode super tiny for my fingers – a wireless mouse should hopefully can fix that.

If like me you have only used Windows on the PC before you move to this tablet, you might not intuitively figure out how the swipes and taps work if you prefer to navigate visually through tiles rather than the desktop version. Even though I am a geek and gadget-lover, I couldn’t. Till I read the tips… for taps.

Swipes, taps and navigation – it’s all in the Windows 8.1 Help+Tips feature

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To get me started with the visual navigation using touch, the ‘Help+Tips’ feature in the device which is written in an easy-to-understand style and comes with video tutorials is perfect. Going through it I saw how the swipe commands and menus in the visual navigation mode work.

Swiping from left to right brings up the last app used. Swiping down to up brings up the menu options of the app you are using. Swiping from up to down closes an app (mostly). Taps open up things. Long taps help you customise. Swiping from right to left brings up the settings and options of whatever is on screen. It takes getting used to, but once you get the hand of it, you just swipe away!

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Even in the tile mode, you will spot the usual features, settings and options found in Windows… Character Map, Control Panel, Command Prompt, and so on…

The Hardware on the Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet
Now that I had the device up and running, I could focus more on the hardware details.

DELL Venue 8 Pro Review Dubai UAE tech blogger

The Dell Venue Pro 8 has a slender body, a textured anti-slip back surface, and weight varies in different markets starting from around 400 gms onwards.

I wouldn’t say it is a single hand use device but it is definitely is sleek and fits into the palm of a medium sized hand with a thickness of only 9 mm, width of 13 cm and height of 21.6 cm.

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The Windows button is placed on the top right bezel of the device right next to the audio jack – it helps you toggle between the visual tiles menu and the traditional Windows desktop interface.

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On the right hand side bezel in portrait mode, you find the Power button, the volume buttons and the port to plug in the proprietary USB charger cable.

The Dell Venue 8 Pro is powered by a quad-core Intel® Atom™ processor and an 18Whr (4830mAh), 2-cell battery.

Playing a graphics heavy game is a breeze I felt – with the processor flexing its muscles well in such a scenario.

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You get a sharp and bright 8.0 inch IPS Display with HD resolution (WXGA 1280 x 800) and wide viewing angles supported by Intel® HD Graphics.

The device runs on 2GB RAM with a 32GB or 64GB eMMC hard drive. The inbuilt Micro-SD Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC) supports up to 128GB. Audio input and output is through a headphone and microphone combojack.

The software on the Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet – big bang for your bucks
The Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet comes with the full Windows 8.1 OS, not just a light, mobile version.

Connect it via its advanced WiFi feature to a good monitor, hook up a keyboard and a mouse and you might perhaps forget that you are working on a little tablet.

DELL Venue 8 Pro Review Dubai UAE Wireless Screen

Microsoft has worked extra hard in the 8.1 version to create a seamless Windows experience when you are using multiple devices.

Some of the new features include the following:
• You can now pin Windows Store apps to the taskbar — alongside desktop apps and your favorite websites – for immediate access to the apps and sites that are most important to you.
• Instantly access the taskbar with the mouse from any screen, including Start or a Windows Store app, so you can quickly switch between open apps and launch apps you’ve pinned to the taskbar.

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• The Windows Store comes pinned to your taskbar so it’s always one click or tap away, speeding your discovery of great new apps.
• With Bing Smart Search, Windows Store apps are faster to find. When you start typing your search request, apps are now included in the list of dynamic suggestions. And, in your search results, apps are a lot more noticeable — instantly find and install apps that match your query.

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Swiping from the right corner of the screen draws out the ‘charms’ menu with Search, Share, Devices and Settings options and gives you one touch access to these features. Once inside an app, the right-to-left swipe opens up the settings and options of that app.

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You can input text in the Dell Venue 8 Pro using a pop-up keyboard or an onscreen keyboard. The unit I received is Arabic enabled although I did not try typing in Arabic 🙂

DELL Venue 8 Pro Review Dubai UAE tech blogger

I tried the handwriting input option with my finger (ideal using a stylus) by writing the word ‘Hello’ with my finger… it seemed to work fine and the word was quickly recognised by the device although writing in long hand felt slower to me than tapping the keyboard.

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The tiles on the screen can be resized as per one’s comfort and many of the apps show a live preview within the tile – Facebook, Messaging, Weather updates for example…

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For me, the extraordinary value of this device lies in the fact that it comes with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 version.

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You can create, edit and collaborate via the OneDrive cloud solution on Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents. I do not own any other gadget other than a PC that does that for me. With the Dell Venue 8 Pro, you get the 2013 versions of these applications with amazing new features like the ability to insert online images and video, edit PDfs, and more!

Using the easy Wi-Fi setup options, projecting your Dell Venue screen onto a larger display will make your forget you are dealing with a tablet, and make working on presentations and documents quite interesting…

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The official communication states that a Windows powered tablet with Office offers the full power of a PC but with all of the mobility expected of a tablet. And this, I would agree with since most of the world still uses MS Office docs while most smartphones can mostly only read them, not create or edit them.

“The story continues…” as Microsoft likes to say these days, as they expand their range of hardware partners and devices, capitalising on a number of new features like Cortana (like Siri) which will be rolled out in phases across the world.

Apps, apps and more apps
Many new great apps are added each day every day to the Windows Phone Store, now with more than 245,000 titles.

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The majority of top apps are already on the Windows platforms including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Flipboard, Instagram, Vine, Mint, Trip Advisor and Asphalt 8: Airborne.

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The apps menu on the Dell Venue 8 Pro is easy to access and well categorised. I found numerous regional and UAE brands on the Windows Store and the numbers and most of the apps I use.

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If you are into news… there is CNN, New York Times, GCC newspapers…

DELL Venue 8 Pro Review Dubai UAE 18If you’re looking for financial apps, you have apps for that…

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If you are an entrepreneur and consultant like me, pressed for time round the clock, try out the productivity apps…

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No app store can be complete without its collection of games – Windows Store has loads of them too…

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Bing Apps on the Dell Venue 8 Pro – An Outstanding Selection

I was highly impressed with the Bing Apps I used on my Dell Venue 8 Pro – the depth of the content, the intuitive navigation, the charming interface… here are a few shots of the Bing apps I liked…

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Bing Weather with live weather of favourite cities, moving maps of hourly weather conditions (like the ones you see on TV with clouds moving over the planet, etc. are a fascinating sight.

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I tried out the Bing Maps app and it zoomed in pretty accurately to my location. I browsed around in satellite view for some familiar landmarks and liked the renditions pretty much…

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You can mark your favourite places, get directions, and do various things that one does on a maps application.

The Bing Health and Fitness app has so many features – I spent a great deal of time exploring it and have a feeling might be using it a lot on my Dell Venue. Starting with the health and fitness articles…

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One can keep track of one’s calories by putting in what they are eating through the day, browse loads and loads of exercises and workouts by category…

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The 3D Human Body feature helps you unravel the miracle of the human body, part by part, and the HD display makes the experience surreal… great for kids with a passion for biology and anatomy…

DELL Venue 8 Pro Review Dubai UAE 11There is also a feature to diagnose through symptoms but many tries by me did not lead to any conclusive results. Thankfully.

Even the most routine apps have a classy design I felt – pleasing to the eyes and funky too.

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See above how fancy the alarm setting design is? And the colourful stopwatch design below…

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A very useful and practical feature for me is also the multi-window feature that helps you see and use multiple apps simultaneously on the screen… below you can see my Gmail on the left and my Facebook profile on the right.

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When using the full screen, I find the size of the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablets suited to reading digital books – so did not lose much time installing Kindle… and it worked perfectly fine…

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Photography using the Dell Venue 8 Pro – Camera, Capture and Editing Options

Being a photography enthusiast, one feature I always spend the most time with whether it is smartphones or tablets is… the camera!

There are two cameras – a 1.2 MP front-facing camera and 5 MP rear-facing camera.

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The camera feature comes with just a few options, no zoom and no pre-set modes for shooting. Here is what the basic camera options offer… (see options menu below)

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Photo quality in a device at this price I feel should be a notch higher than what I saw in the Dell Venue Pro. Grain and artefacts were high in low light.

Close up in indoor light

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Close up – document – in indoor light

Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet Camera Review UAE-24Medium distance – light colours food shot in indoor light

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Vivid coloured fabrics in showroom light

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Outdoor – sunlight in background, subject in shade

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Outdoor – camera facing sky

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Indirect daylight – contrast

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Same location – 3 different exposure levels chosen in-camera

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Outdoor grass, sea, sky in bright day light

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Using Dell Venue Pro 8 Camera Editing features fully… a demonstration…

The post capture photo editing features on the Dell Venue 8 Pro include usual features like cropping, rotation, straightening, red-eye removal; auto-fixes; adjustment of brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows; tweaking of temperature, tint, saturation; and, vignette and selective focus effects.

Indoor – mosque with mixed lighting – unedited image

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Indoor – mosque with mixed lighting – with slight in-camera editing

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Indoor low light – raw image without any edits

Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet Camera Review UAE-22Photo editing options being used on the Dell Venue 8 Pro… the colour enhance tool on the cat’s fur in photo

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Indoor low light – raw image after multiple editing features being used as well as effects in-camera

Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet Camera Review UAE-21So, while photo edits may enhance images – no device whether a phone or a PC or a tablet these days can be complete without a killer camera and I am sure a little more work on camera quality will go a long way for this promising tablet, even if one sees this more as a mobile-PC.

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There are ample camera apps available on the Windows platform for the enthusiasts.

Dell Venue 8 Pro Accessories

The Dell Venue 8 Pro accessories include a mini-keyboard, case and stylus. I am sure that with a mouse, the screen projected on to a bigger screen, a keyboard and a stylus – it would be a whole new experience. I was unable to find the Dell keyboard and stylus at the time of writing this review and had been informed that they aren’t available in the UAE yet.

Here’s how it all looks together…

(Dell Venue 8 Pro Image with keyboard and stylus courtesy of Dell Inc.)

Dell Venue 8 Pro tablets come with a one-year limited hardware warranty with the option to upgrade to Dell’s Premium Phone Support and Accidental Damage Service.

Dell Venue 8 Pro – Strengths and features I feel are worth appreciating

  1. Good value for Windows users: You get full pre-loaded Windows 8.1 in an easy to carry tablet (separately priced at  $119.99 on Microsoft Store, free license with this device)
  2. Great value for MS Office users: You get full pre-loaded MS Office Home & Student 2013 with Word, Excel and PowerPoint (separately priced at  $139.99 on Microsoft Store, free license with this device)
  3. Sturdy and simple form factor: Smooth and strong scratch-resistant glass on the front, rubberized and rugged back. buttons away from areas where they could have been accidentally pressed
  4. Choice of traditional Windows Desktop interface as well as visually scrolling tiled interface: Navigate easily using the visual interface, toggle back to desktop mode whenever needed
  5. Windows Store and apps: More and more apps are available on the Windows platform – more than 245,000 titles and on average 500 news apps are added each day. I personally love Bing apps too that are on my device.
  6. WiFi display mirroring: Although the ability to display a screen on another is now getting common – The Windows 8.1 tiles as well as PowerPoint presentation running on the Dell Venue 8 Pro are quite a sight – WiFi mirroring on a larger screen was a breeze to set up – even though I di not use the much talked about Miracast technology that is inbuilt in th device to pair with compatible devices.
  7. Seamless transition to multiple Windows devices: This is where Microsoft seems to be focusing a lot and should be a strength and a great convenience too – One Windows!
  8. Keyboard, stylus and case: I think I would like the Dell Venue 8 Pro even more when I can use it with an external keyboard, mouse and stylus – but these are not yet available in my city I have been told – so we will wait!
  9. Processing power: I opened up apps that slow down PCs and phones, and even did so in multiple Windows, played graphic heavy games, watched videos… but so far haven’t seen any drop in performance or slowdown. I think for normal usage, the tablet packs a punch.

Dell Venue 8 Pro – Areas that need improvement and can make the newer versions better

  1. Better camera: It should not be too difficult to take the optics up a notch – smartphones smaller than this tablet take photos many times sharper and with less grain – a few more editing options and zoom ability would be nice too. Also, no common application seems to be able to open the .pano files of panoramic photos taken with the camera so far.
  2. More stable software: In around a couple of months since I received the device, I had to uninstall and reinstall every pre-loaded app again to begin with, run system recovery twice, restart the device when the screen rotation lock button went missing from the options and… stare at the blue screen of death once. Also faced frequent errors where pictures wouldn’t show in the gallery and throw up errors, and then come back again after a while. I have also not found a way to close the camera app after taking a picture if its is used from the lock-screen. These are most likely software bugs here and there that can be addressed in the evolution of this product.
  3. More storage, less bloat: I have just begun using the device and most of its memory is already taken up by Windows, MS Office and pre-loaded apps. Haven’t even downloaded many apps or taken photos and videos yet. A memory card will extend that capacity but still, feels like I would have to keep emptying the device too often.
  4. Full mobility: There is no place for a SIM card in the Dell Venue 8 Pro I have. So, if there’s no WiFi, most apps wouldn’t work. How does one then enjoy the device’s amazing features on the move? I think this feature might be coming soon.
  5. Better availability of accessories: Tried to find the keyboard and stylus but no luck so far – it should be easier to find accessories for a product you wish to spend a lot of time with. I just can’t wait to get my hands on these if I could get them here in the UAE.

Verdict: Good value for money considering that it comes with Windows 8.1 and MS Office Home & Student 2013 full editions. It’s like a portable PC in your bag – might even replace your Windows laptop for shorter trips if you don’t feel the need for a SIM-enabled device. The Windows desktop view works great on a bigger screen through WiFi and the tiled interface is enjoyable on the tablet with swipes and taps.

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