While in the USA, I picked up this Windows 8.1 8” tablet at Fry’s in Renton, just south of Bellevue/Redmond in Washington State. My intention is to use a Windows 8.1 tablet as a presentation device for the next few years. It would connect via Miracast to a Viewsonic WPG-370, which then outputs via VHA or HDMI to a display device such as a projector.
I got the tablet. It’s a little thicker than a mid-level Android tablet, such as the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8, or an iPad Mini, but I forgive that because it is a Bay Trail device running Windows 8.1 (not RT). The texture of the back is nice for holding. Performance seemed much better than Clover Trail devices of the previous generation. The display seemed fine. Battery is on the weaker side, promising up to 10 hours, but offering less than that if you turn off the ever annoying auto screen brightness.
And so that leads me to the problem. You need to charge this device. I tried to charge it on Wednesday morning. Nothing. No indications in Windows. No lights. In fact … the centre receiver in the micro/mini-USB port in the tablet felt a little loose. I double checked everything by using another power socket, lead, and charger. Nothing. I had enough just left to run hardware tests and update the firmware. Nothing. This tablet already had an issue.
In the end, I had to sit in traffic for 2 hours to return the device on the Thursday night after my final meetings. Luckily (I’ll get to that) Fry’s didn’t have any more of this model in stock and I got the credit returned to my card.
Why luckily? In my experience, the hardware problem that I had indicates a manufacturing or design flaw. I have seen this sort of thing before in disk caddies. The central receiver in the port is not soldered sufficiently enough to the board to sustain normal wear and tear. It becomes lose and then won’t pass power to the board. This makes me think that the Dell Venue 8 Pro has a serious design/manufacturing flaw that will lead to lots of returned devices in the coming months. This is bad for Windows because this was only the second device of this type to become generally available after the widely disliked Acer W3 tablet (awful screen). This gives a false impression that Windows 8.1 mini tablets cannot be good hardware. Fortunately for Microsoft, Dell are not yet shipping the Venue 8 Pro worldwide. It was restricted to the USA (and in limited numbers) this time last week when I last checked.
As I said, I will be switching to a Toshiba Encore. That device will be shipping very soon and is of a much higher spec. Note the “up to 14 hours” battery life, meaning with non-adjusted screen brightness you might get 10-12 hours which is the sweet spot. I know that Toshiba see this as a very important device and they have not rushed it out. I look forward to spending some time on it.