Pick up the Venue 8 Pro and you’ll be immediately impressed by a few things. First, this Windows 8.1 tablet is light (.87 pounds) and sports a sleek textured finish. This slate also boasts a colorful 8-inch HD IPS display, which makes those Live Tiles pop. But then you start searching for the Start button, and things start to go downhill.
Unlike most Windows 8 tablets, you won’t find a Start button beneath the display. Instead, Dell decided to place this button on the top edge of the screen. (The power button is on the right edge along with the volume controls.) Dell made this call to make the device as thin as possible, but we don’t think the gamble paid off.
Having to reach to the top of the device each time you want to return to the Start menu is a fail. And even though you can swipe in from the right side to launch the Start menu, that’s an extra step. At least the display is nice, offering 1280 x 800 resolution and a much brighter picture than the Acer Iconia W3.
Otherwise, the Venue 8 Pro has a lot going for it. The 1.8-GHz Atom processor provided snappy performance during our brief hands-on time, and you should expect up to 8 hours of battery life. That’s pretty good for a device that can run both Windows Store apps and desktop apps. That includes Office, which is bundled for free.
The 5-MP camera snapped photos quickly in our tests, and the results looked fairly sharp. Up front you get 1.2-MP camera. The Venue 8 Pro includes 32GB of storage standard along with 2GB of RAM. LTE capability will also be available.
In terms of accessories, Dell has users covered with an optional active stylus, and a protective cover (with a stylus holster) that comes with a wireless keyboard. You’ll have to wait to find out the pricing.
Dell keeps things fairly clean with the software load, focusing mostly on Pocket Cloud for syncing files between devices and remote desktop access. With Facebook and Flipboard on the way for Windows 8, we’re hoping the app selection will be robust enough come launch.
If you can get past the odd Start button placement on this tablet, the Venue 8 Pro could satisfy buyers looking for a work-and-play device. We’re just not sure you’ll want to get used to it.