I’ve owned the Dell Venue 8 Pro for about a week now.
And overall, its mainly held up to my initial impression of being a solid tablet. It’s easily pocketable either in a rear or cargo pocket, has outstanding battery life, has a great screen, and is perfectly sized. Even the Windows UI and touch gestures are pretty solid; swipe from the left to see the app switcher, swipe right for the ‘charms’ bar (yes its a stupid name, but whatever :p), swipe up for more options, swipe down to close an app.
Today I’m planning to get a bit more in detail about specific device features, including the camera, and highlight some quality applications for a device like this.
Normally, I would tell you not to take pictures with a tablet; that’s for people buying the 72-pack of cheap toilet paper at Wal-Mart.
This tablet, however, actually has a pretty decent camera. I took a series of photos with the Venue, my iPhone, my Asus Transformer Pad, and my Sony DSLR for comparison’s sake.
Dell Venue 8 Pro
This is actually a pretty okay picture for a tablet camera. Its missing detail, but its nice and crisp and you can tell what you’re looking at (peanut butter cookies, in this case)
Asus Transformer Pad
Here’s a great example of how tablets aren’t really meant for photos. Its dark, missing a lot of detail, and generally looks bad. Note: This is under the same lighting conditions as every other picture in this set.
iPhones have long been noted as having seriously good cameras for the market, and the 5S continues that trend. Textures are texture-y, the entire image is evenly lit, the image detail is nice and crisp, and there’s even a slight macro affect going on.
This is from the Sony NEX-5R and is basically the ‘control group’ picture.
Below is a screenshot with the ‘more info’ pane for each photo, for those of you interested in such things.
The speaker, located parallel to the headphone jack on the opposite end of the device, is actually quite good. It’s loud enough to easily hear and has good, crisp sound, which are about my only two requirements for a speaker. It’s definitely better than the equivalent speaker on my Transformer Pad, which is located on the back side of the tablet and is quite hard to hear.
Problems: It wouldn’t be Windows if it wasn’t weird sometimes
As I said at the top, I’ve owned this tablet about a week now, which has been long enough to discover some oddities. There’s only two so far, but I’ll post if I find more.
1. Apps sometimes suddenly crash and keep crashing for no apparent reason. I’ve had this problem on iOS and Android as well, and have no idea what causes it to be honest.
2. Airplane mode. I flipped airplane mode on a few times over the weekend to slow down battery use, and wi-fi simply does not come back on when you turn Airplane off without a manual restart. Not sure what is causing this and I hope Microsoft/Dell issues a fix.
Neither of these is exactly a world-ending problem; still, the airplane issue is aggravating, and hopefully gets fixed soon.
Some good applications to try
I listed the Google apps I found in the last post; here’s some more quality applications to try out:
This is one of several Feedly-based RSS applications in the Windows Store, and is a pretty decent implementation of that. It shares to most of the major social networks, has an easy user interface, and syncs up easily and quickly.
I tried out about five drawing apps on the Venue before settling on the Wacom Bamboo Page. It’s simple and easy to use, and pretty featured for a free app-more so than Sketchbook Express, at any rate. It works well with the optional active stylus for the Venue.
Nerokwik is a photo-sharing application; it can sync photos from Flickr, Google Plus, and Facebook, and share them to which applications are using Windows’ native Sharing menu, as seen below:
Kumoprint is a Google Cloud Print application. For those of you who don’t know what that is, its a way to remotely print from the web or files stored on your computer or phone/tablet from anywhere you have an internet connection. I don’t use it terribly often, but it is quite handy-especially being able to save files to Google’s Drive cloud storage.
Windows hardware awesomeness
One of the better aspects of Windows 8.1 and small tablets is that since 8.1 is an evolution of Windows, most of the PC peripherals you already own work with it. A great example of that is this:
Personally, I don’t have a quad-monitor set up, but this tablet just working with no hassle with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard I already own is fantastic. You’ll need a USB on the go cable to use USB accessories, but those cost about 2 dollars on Amazon.
The Venue 8 Pro is a solid device, hardware-wise in particular; the Atom processor doesn’t seem to have problems with any app I’ve downloaded so far, and the camera and battery life are fantastic. The Windows Store is still coming together-honestly, it reminds me of the iOS App Store in 2009 or so with mostly third party applications for major services and a lot of “?” apps-but Windows 8.1 is a great operating system that gets a lot of things right. It’s my hope that Microsoft expands the special treatment web browsers get-they’re able to run in Metro without coming from the Windows store-to other kinds of applications, but that seems rather doubtful. If I were to sum up this list with some sustains and improves for the device and 8.1 in general, it’d look about like this:
1. The OS. It’s great-combines a simple, well-thought-out app switcher, start screen, and settings/sharing features, and all of them are a swipe away.
2. Sharing. There’s a bunch of applications that tie into the native sharing menu of 8.1. More are wanted, as there’s a few things I can’t share to yet.
3. Hardware/software integration. I had my doubts about the Atom processor and relatively small amount of RAM really being able to handle an OS that still’s got a lot of stuff from XP/Vista/7 hanging out in the desktop portion of the OS, but it does fine. This is, so far, one of the smoothest-running tablets I’ve ever owned.
4. Battery life. This device just won’t die! Even tethered to my phone it easily lasts twelve hours, with roughly 40% of the battery left.
1. The Airplane mode wifi issue. Airplane mode is meant to be temporary, not something you need to reboot to clear entirely. Not sure whether its a device or software problem, though.
2. Google. These two companies seem to be relatively at each other’s throats and its not really good for anybody. Metro Chrome is about as touch-friendly as a bag of broken glass, and the developer’s channel release of Chrome doesn’t really improve this, and it’s far too resource-intensive for an Atom processor and a couple GBs of RAM (especially with a bunch of extensions going), which is the hardware spec for at least five (Dell Venue 8 and 11, Asus T100, and Lenovo Miix 8 and 10) new W8.1 devices this year. The “toolbox” Google Search app with its web apps to Google Drive/Gmail/etc works well, but… y’know..it’s not quite as quality as what iOS users get in terms of Google apps and that’s a shame. That W8.1 supports a full web browser and has a really excellent one in the form of the Firefox Nightly channel (link below) makes up for a lot of app issues, but its irritating knowing that the main reason W8 hasn’t seen Google apps is the hostility between Google and Microsoft.
3. It’s not cool for tablets to have a bunch of ports, but I’d love for this thing to have a Displayport (or, awesomeness of awesomeness, a Thunderbolt port someday if/when Atom supports that) out in addition to its USB port.
I think maybe, eventually, I’ll get that dock detailed in the video; being able to hook up a monitor and my Leapmotion to this thing would be pretty killer. I’ll be posting a one-month review next, so stay tuned.