Dell Venue 8 Pro review:

An inexpensive 8-inch tablet with a premium feel

Dell Venue 8 Pro
Video None
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 Micro-USB 2.0, microSD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery
Apple's iPad gets away with minimal connectivity in a tablet, but everyone else really should aim to be more inclusive. The micro versions of a USB port and SD card slot at least give you basic connectivity, but keep in mind that the USB port also doubles as the AC adapter port for the mobile phone style charger included with the system.

There's only one basic configuration for the Venue 8 Pro, but Dell offers a few different packages, built around accessories. There's no discount for bundling, so just know that the folio case, which can be used as a stand, is $39.99, and the active stylus is $29.99. The folio case feels like vinyl, and includes an elastic loop for the stylus.

In benchmark testing, the Venue 8 Pro was very closely matched with the Asus T100, which is a similar system with similar components. The more expensive AMD-powered Toshiba Click was much slower, even though it aims at the same price-conscious tablet audience. Of course, if you go with a full Core i-series tablet, such as the Sony Vaio Tap 11 or Microsoft Surface Pro 2, the performance there will dwarf any of these systems.

Sarah Tew/CNET

However, if you're thinking the use of an Intel Atom processor relegates this to lumbering Netbook status, note that this is one of the first systems to use the latest generation of Atoms, also known by the code name Bay Trail. I'm pleased to say, at least on a smaller product such as the Venue 8 Pro where your expectations are more modest than on a full-size laptop, the 1.3GHz Intel Atom 3740D CPU feels fast enough for everyday use, with no slowdown or stuttering (the excellently optimized Windows 8 interface and IE11 help, as well).

Even better, the new Atoms are turning in Haswell-like battery life scores. The Venue 8 Pro ran for 7 hours and 30 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's longer than most full Core i-series tablets we've tested, but the very similar Asus T100 ran for about 2 hours longer.

I've been waiting for the perfect 8-inch Windows 8 tablet, offering just the right design, features, and price. I'm still waiting, but the Dell Venue 8 Pro gets closer than anything else has to date. If Dell made it available from Day One with its paired keyboard accessory, put the Windows button back where it belongs, and could find a way to scale certain Windows functions better to the small screen, it would be a real winner.

As it is, as long as you're already making some sacrifices, it's hard not to suggest you look at the Asus T100, which pairs a slightly larger 10-inch tablet with an attachable keyboard dock, twice the storage space, and better battery life, all for about $50 more.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations
Dell Venue 8 Pro
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom 3740D; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 32GB Samsung SSD

Toshiba Click W35Dt-A
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1GHz AMD A4 1200 APU; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 8180 Graphics; 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive

Acer Iconia W3
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 1,003MB (shared) Intel GMA, 64GB SSD

Sony Vaio Tap 11
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,739MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Asus Transformer Book T100
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z2370; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SanDisk SSD

What you'll pay

    Visit manufacturer site for details.

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