I'm going to rush this one out because I know a lot of people are waiting on it: My Dell Venue 8 Pro arrived today. This is Dell's new 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablet, in case you wondering. And it's already quite apparent that this device is a dramatic improvement over the Acer Iconia W3 that shipped earlier this year.
You can read more about Acer's disastrous first attempt at a Windows mini-tablet in Acer Iconia W3 First Impressions and Photos and Acer Iconia W3 Review. Long story short: This device made it clear that a Windows mini-tablet could work, but the horrible screen and surprisingly thick and heavy form factor did it in.
But this holiday season, more choice emerges. And one of the first real Windows 8.1 mini-tablets to emerge is Dell's Venue 8 Pro, which improves on the W3 in some meaningful ways.
Dell Venue 8 Pro (top) and Acer Iconia W3 (bottom)
Like the Acer, it features an Atom processor, but this time around it's a quad-core "Bay Trail" processor, not a dual-core and previous generation "Clover Trail" processor. Like the Acer, it features an 8-inch 1280 x 800 screen, but the Dell's display is a vastly superior IPS unit with none of the horrible artifacting that doomed the W3. It's thinner. It's lighter. It gets a reported 10 hour of battery life (which I'll be testing.) And it starts at just $300.
Folks, your Windows mini-tablet has finally arrived. I think.
Obviously, I'll need to really use this thing over many days before I can be sure. But where the W3 was immediately disappointing, the Venue 8 Pro is immediately delightful. The device itself is beautiful, thin and light, and the back is a nice grippy texture. The charger is micro-USB (and not a proprietary unit) and there's a micro-SD slot for expansion.
It ain't perfect. The Windows button is a tiny hub on the top edge of the device (top being top in portrait view, by the way; this is a mini-tablet), and there's no video-out that I can see. The display isn't super-bright. (Update: You can fix this by disabling adaptive display in Power Options, though this will likely impact battery life.) But ... hm. This is what a Windows mini-tablet is supposed to be, methinks. This looks solid.
I literally just received the Venue 8 Pro, so I need more time. But again, I know you can't wait. So here are a few more pictures.