Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Choice Tablet - Dell Venue Pro 8

Like so many others, after agonizing over the myriad of available choices across OS, form factor, features, brand etc., finally, last week I ordered two Dell Venue Pro 8 tablets, one for my self and another for my college going niece. Both of us need a tablet, not just for content consumption/entertainment, but also for everyday productivity as well. I am looking for a tablet that I can take on an occasional business trip/office visit, or my niece to a class room on a daily basis, and for getting some work done, while relaxing on a sofa. Also, all my book purchases in recent years on Amazon, as well as most of my local library borrowings, both are in Kindle format. I also subscribe to Zinio monthly service for magazines. So, I need a light weight tab that fits easily in one hand, and allows me to read comfortably in bed. My previous 10" tab isn't very convenient for heavy reading.  Given these specific needs, after weighing pros and cons, an 8", light weight, windows productivity, with light note taking capability seemed the way to go. Finally, I did not want to spend too much on one device, and be stuck with it for too long, but rather let my 4 years old upgrade to this from his current Acer Iconia A500 tab :-)

Dell Venue Pro 8 has great reviews and recommendations everywhere, except for it's early issues with stylus. But after it's initial release, Dell released a new improved stylus and firmware fixes and addressed this. Other than that, Venue Pro 8 seem to stand out tall in every other aspect compared to many other popular choices out there. Currently, Microsoft store is selling it for $229,  and at that price, I think this tab is a great bargain, especially given it reportedly feels like a premium device even when compared to many others including Nexus and Galaxys (as reported by others). Many reviewers really seem to like the quality of its display within its spec category  (still non-1080p though).

Key Strengths I care about for my needs:

  • Windows 8.1 (Install any 32 bit windows exe you want -  iTunes)
  • MS Office Home & Student 2013 (Free license, not a trial) 
  • Hand writing support with active stylus (additional purchase)
  • High display and overall build quality
  • Light weight
  • Not expensive
  • 8" form factor (I like this WAY better over 7")

Weaknesses that I don't care too much about:
  • Missing HDMI port ( would have been great to have for work presentations. However, I don't care for connecting to TV though, as there are many other options for viewing media on TV)  
  • Average camera
In the end, when it comes to selecting a tablet, there is no one that is best for everyone's need. At present this is the best device I found for my needs.

If you happen to purchase this tablet: Don't forget to goto Dell site and update drivers (specially the display touchscreen one)! There is a huge difference in stylus experience once after I have updated the system with the latest driver.

Here are few additional accessories that I happened to purchase as well:

I think this is one of the best tabs in 8" class right now, and I highly recommend it to anyone with similar needs as mine :)

Quick Update on Stylus (04/18): As expected, I had serious issues with stylus and they went away once I updated drivers:

Issue: Poor overall writing quality/performance.
Solution: Install the latest firmware for the touchscreen (5830_Firmware_8T9WD_WN_1.0.4.2_A02.exe)

Issue: Simply hovering over the screen generating random clicks. What a pain! Also sometimes tablet wouldn't recognize the click, unless I tap repeatedly. However, both issues got resolved once I have updated the BIOS and chipset with the following files based on the advise from Dell Tech support.

BIOS update (simply download and run the exe) : 5830A05.exe
Intel Chipset Update: Intel_Chipset_WW48_PR5.1_A03_ZPE.exe

With the above updates, stylus too is working great! Overall, I like this tablet.  

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