Windows 8.1 small screen tablets are more annoying that fun. Windows Phone 8 is a better choice for small screens.
By Stephen Pate – Using a Dell Venue 8 Pro is a frustrating experience. I spend far too much time trying to find fixes or workarounds for mine. The more I use the Dell tablet, the more issues arise. I'm not going to say I hate the Dell tablet but it comes close.
To save this from being a rant, I have tried to find workarounds for the what I call "design deficiencies" in the Dell Venue.
Here's the list: The 8&Prime screen is too small for Windows 8.1 Desktop. The battery saver turns off the screen at the wrong time. The Home Key is in the wrong place. The screen is ultra touch sensitive. The onscreen keyboard takes up too much space. Dell updates are a kludge. And the Screen Narrator turns itself on at the weirdest times.
Dell sold a ton of the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablets before Christmas at prices from $199 to $329 which seemed like a bargain for a full Windows 8.1 tablet with Office. I should have bought the Surface 2 and returned the Dell, but a Surface was 3 times the price.
I have also come to the conclusion Microsoft was right the first time: Windows 8.1 needs a 10&Prime or larger screen. Any mobile screen smaller should have Windows Phone 8. In comparison, I rely on my Lumia 920 which has Windows Phone 8 on a 4.7&Prime screen all day long without a problem.
The base Dell Venue 8 Pro has an 8&Prime screen, Intel Atom 1.8GHz Quad-Core processor, 32 GB flash RAM, MicroSD slot, USB port, Wi-Fi, 1.2 MP front-facing lens and 5 MP rear-facing camera, Windows 8.1 and Office Home and Student. I have spent so much time trying to sort out the problems with this tablet, I can't tell you if the cameras are good, bad or ugly.
It would also help if Microsoft completed the development of Windows 8.1 and did not use the Desktop, where most of the problems on small screens occur.
1. Windows 8.1 Desktop
You have to use the Desktop browser and Desktop applications to navigate Windows 8.1; however, the Desktop was not designed for 8&Prime screens. Our fingers are too big to select the Desktop buttons and menu items in Internet Explorer 11. As a result, it is frustrating doing the simplest tasks on the Dell Venue 8.
One solution, which I reject as a nuisance, is the carry around the $40 Dell pointer that can select smaller menu items. The special pointer is something to misplace when you need it most. It also takes away one of your hands that you might want to use to hold the tablet. The iPad Air, Surface, Nexus and Kindle HD tablets don't need a stylus.
My survival technique is to use only Windows 8.1 Modern Apps and the Modern Internet Explorer 11 browser. This solution does not work for MS Office, Desktop Explorer or any of the system screens that are used to manage Windows 8.1.
The only real solution is Microsoft has to complete the coding for Windows 8.1 tablets with the Modern interface, discarding the Desktop. Alternatively, an operating system designed for small screens like Windows Phone 8 makes a better choice.
2. Battery saving
The screen dims to save the battery. That would be fine if it did not dim right after you touch it. If you are working with the tablet for a minute or two, it will dim after you select something, as though it cannot tell you are still working.
Dell had a problem with the screen saver from the first. The latest fix is only moderately successful. If you change the settings, the battery will not last all day which is a bad trade-off.
Solution: wait a few seconds and the screen will return to normal brightness.
3. Home Key on the side
The Windows 8.1 Home Key is normally in the lower middle of the screen. Dell put theirs on the upper side, next to the headphone jack.
The non-standard place is so different from every other Windows 8.1 device, it never comes naturally for me.
Solution: get used to it.
4. Ultra Sensitive touch screen
The touch screen on the Dell Venue 8 Pro is too sensitive and regularly mis-interprets touch gestures. For example, tap the space bar and it inserts a period "." Entering even small amounts of text is an exercise in frustration making you wish there was a real keyboard.
While the 8&Prime screen is sharp to look at, ultra-sensitivity combined with the little tick boxes and buttons on the Desktop make the Dell Venue 8 Pro a constant annoyance.
On the upside, for under $300, the screen has good color and resolution.
Solution: learn to tap very, very lightly.
5. On screen keyboard is too large
Dell Venue 8 Pro onscreen keyboard takes up most of the screen
The 8&Prime screen is only 4&Prime high which is workable until you need the onscreen keyboard. As soon as the keyboard appears, most of the screen is taken up by the keyboard covering the entry box.
Unlike the iPad and Surface, the Dell onscreen keyboard does not always pop-up automatically. It often needs to be coaxed from hiding and then asked to leave. The keyboard is better than the one on the iPad Air for visual cues because it shifts the keys when you are in lower or uppercase.
Solution: use the Venue 8 Pro in Portrait mode for typing. That feels really odd since the tablet is much taller than it is wide. I end up flipping to Portrait, typing in my user name and password and flipping back to Landscape mode. Sometimes that gesture causes the input box to disappear. You can also get an optional keyboard but that seems over-kill for an 8&Prime tablet.
6. Dell Updates
My Dell – updates and maintenance
My wife says I am gullible, always hoping bugs are fixed with the latest update. I call it optimistic. Most tablets apply hardware, firmware and O/S updates automatically.
With the Dell Venue 8 Pro you have to go to the Dell site, identify your device by Service Tag and search for something new like a driver or BIOS update. This is Dell's old school thinking which is not normal for tablets. People are buying tablets because they are easier to use and do not like having to play computer mechanic.
Solution: Install My Dell and check for updates. Even when you do that, the program does not reliably tell you what is already installed. Keep a written note of the latest drivers and BIOS updates you have installed.
The Checkup tool is largely a waste of time. My Venue 8 is almost out of memory on SkyDrive. Running PC Checkup told me to delete large files, which would delete them permanently from SkyDrive, not a smart idea.
8. Screen Narrator
If you press the Home and Volume Button the wrong way, the Desktop Narrator will start reading the screen to you. I did it trying to get the screen shot of My Dell above. You can see the little icon toolbar with a bubble and computer screen. Hard to see isn't it? Narrator is even harder to turn off.
This is a feature for people with a vision disability. It will drive you crazy if you don't need it. Imagine a robotic voice reading every label on the screen. "Double click to select. Double click to select."
Without a stylus to pick at the tiny icon in the menu bar, the only way to shut it off is to restart. When installing Miracast which uses Desktop screens, I triggered Narrator over and over reading in that annoying robotic voice. The odd thing is the Screen Narrator is difficult to start accidentally on the Surface or any desktop. I knew it existed. I can't get rid of Narrator on the Dell Venue which could make it a good tablet for people who can't see. No, the screen is too small.
9+ Sundry other things in Windows 8.1 that don't work
Windows 8.1 Charms/Share does not work reliably for Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Solution: If I want to share a story on Twitter, compose the Tweet in Notepad, copy the text and go for Charms, Share, Twitter. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
You cannot play music from other computers on the Homegroup in Xbox Music.
Internet Explorer does not re-size screens to fit the 8&Prime Dell Venue. Example – Microsoft Community support
Most webpages don't size properly to the 8&Prime screen with IE11 including the Microsoft Community support forum. You can't pinch them smaller: they bounce larger as if the pinch was pinch-to-zoom.
Miracast is advertised as easy streaming of "HD videos, photos or presentations from your Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet to your compatible TV." Miracast is a dreadful feature with a difficult installation process and the need to enter a unique code every time you want to send a screen to the TV. Imagine how cumbersome that would be for say printers if you had to connect to your printer for each job and add a new security code every time. That's Miracast.
I have to laugh at Intel who under-developed Miracast. Intel announced wearables at CES2014. That should have Samsung shaking in their boots.
SkyDrive on the Dell Venue 8 has error messages without any way to fix them. While you are supposed to be able to choose the SkyDrive directory as online only, which uses less room, the feature does not work for me on the Dell Venue 8 Pro. It does not take long to fill up the 32GB flash ram.
SkyDrive support is weird. MS support moderators rarely post the solutions on Microsoft Community. Solutions are sent by PM, which seems the antithesis of sharing information.
I own both the Surface Pro and the Dell Venue 8 pro. Honestly, I don’t see any of the problems you describe. Since getting the Dell, my Surface Pro goes largely unused. (Although I am typing this on it.). When I need to type on the Dell, I use a cheap Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The Dell is a fantastic tablet that comes with Office. The size is perfect and I take it everywhere. I use remote desktop, excel, word and there are no problems at all. It’s clearly got a better OS than Androcomment_ID or those overpriced Apple pads. I can run everything I want on it. The Metro start screen makes a lot of sense on small tablets. Microsoft is actually going to release a small tablet, and so clearly there is demand out there. I love my Dell, and could sell you my Surface Pro if you want it, although the shipping from Ontario Canada might be a bit much. I WILL ADMIT however that the Dell stylus is a flop, and the Surface Pro’s stylus is much better.
Love the DV8. Windows button should be on the scomment_IDe. Ever used a tab with it on the front? Hitting it on acccomment_IDent is a pain. Screen dimming OS easily turned off when not needed. Just turn narrator off. Dude you should not be reviewing anything your views are way off. Win 8.1 rocks but comment_content_IDiots like this are scaring people away.
Agree with most your points above, Stephen. Those with which I don’t, is just because I don’t use them…
I see on your screen shots above, that you have installed Google chrome. How does it work for you? I cannot have it to work on mine – it opens alright the first time, but then the touch feature stops working; it does not obey the touch to input onto the google search field until just by coinccomment_IDence on the 15th touch; even to change topics or open new tabs while researching topics, etc. Ideas?
I owned this device for about a month now. Honestly I’ve been ignoring my nexus 7 since I bought the DV8P. (and I gave my ipad to my mom when I bought N7).
My experience is, for the DV8P, the light sensor is near the windows button. so when you hold it horizontally, you hand might actually block it, thus making it think the screen needs to be dimmer. Very Very annoying.
I rarely find my self using the windows button. In my opinion it is easier to just swept from the right scomment_IDe of the screen and bring up the virtual windows button.
Most of my problems with this device is about the OS. Windows 8 is a half baked product. Without a mouse and keyboard, the DV8P isn’t really user friendly.
Luckily, despite the many problems of Win8.1, it is still a full blown computer OS. For most things you typically do on an ios/androcomment_ID tablet (e.g. twitter, facebook, youtube, blogs, news…etc), you can do it in google chrome browser on DV8P…(btw Chrome seems to be the only touch screen capable browser with adblocking feature at the moment).
What a stupcomment_ID review. 1. You do NOT have to use the Windows desktop to navigate, it’s a tablet and was designed to use the tiled Metro interface for navigate, which it does perfectly. That’s the whole point! However it has the added bonus of having the ability to use the traditional desktop as you would on a full size computer, which is a great bonus. The optional stylus is available probably for that reason, that most desktop programs that were around before Windows 8 can now be used easily on an 8 inch tablet. Great credit should go to Dell for this, as it’s the only Windows tablet I know of that can be used with a digital stylus. The stylus is also conscomment_IDerably cheaper than those for other devices such as Sony or Samsung.
2. You can adjust the power settings which keep the device running for as long as anything else I have used without draining the battery.
3. Home key is on the scomment_IDe which is absolutely perfect on this device. Why? Because a quick swipe at the right hand scomment_IDe brings up the on-screen Home key (it’s a Start key actually) so putting an additional one on the front like most other manufacturers do is completely unnecessary and a waste of space. Top left scomment_IDe, it is far easier to use than one stuck onto the bottom of the front below the screen, where it is on most other devices.
4. If you are getting a period “.” when you tap the space bar I can only imagine you are tapping the far right of the bar and hitting the period key. I’ve never had that problem, and i don’t find it over sensitive either. If it is, I haven’t checked but sensitivity has been adjustable on every other device I have ever used and I assume it is on the Dell.
5. Agreed. On screen keyboard is a little too large but this isn’t a fault with the Dell, it’s the same on every Windows 8 device so if buyers want a Windows tablet they’re going to be faced with the same problem whatever they buy. Many androcomment_ID tablets have the same issue, including the class leading Sony Tablet Z2.
6. How often do you have to update anyway? Sounds as if you have no clue about SkyDrive. If your tablet is almost out of space then that’s because of all the stuff you have put on it and again, you would have the same issue (with the same initial memory space) regardless of which tablet you bought. As for SkyDrive, that is completely separate cloud-based storage which you can add to if you wish to do so, and clearing memory space on your tablet would not affect anything you have stored in the cloud – that’s the whole point of it, to save space on your device as well as being able to access your files from any other device. I think you need to understand what it is you are reviewing before you start to criticise it, you obviously don’t have a clue.
7. Er, there is no number 7.
8. With you on this one. There is a bug which, when you turn the narrator on, seems to affect how the rest of the tablet works. However it’s something that has been on Windows PCs for years and something most of us will NEVER use. But again you seem to be missing the point of the tablet and be totally unaware of how it works. You can access Narrator like you can access anything else, from the Metro interface so you don’t have to worry about hitting tiny little buttons on the taskbar. You appear to be tryi g to use this tablet in the same way that you would a Windows desktop, as if you are totally unaware of the functionality of the tiled interface.
9+. I can’t comment_content on these all I know is that everything I have tried in the two months I have had it has worked perfectly. Overall I am in an environment where there are at least a dozen PC’s phones and tablets and the Dell is the best I have ever used. If it had a 1080p HD screen it would be absolutely perfect. Apart from that I can’t fault it. you obviously need to learn how to use it though, you clearly don’t know how to use the Metro interface.
You clearly put some effort into your comment_content but immediately discredited the comment_content by making a personal insult against the reviewer. Look up Ad Homonym and then take your head out of your ass before you comment_content again. Otherwise you are just polluting the Internet with your trolling diatribes.
[quote name=”William Campeau”]You clearly put some effort into your comment_content but immediately discredited the comment_content by making a personal insult against the reviewer. Look up Ad Homonym and then take your head out of your ass before you comment_content again. Otherwise you are just polluting the Internet with your trolling diatribes.[/quote]
On that basis you immediately discredited your own reply by choosing to insult me. I guess you think it is OK to insult me for telling the truth but not for me to insult somebody else for getting it badly wrong. You are clearly another one who obviously thinks that his rules should apply to everybody else but not himself. Therefore you need to conscomment_IDer your own witterings before you choose to comment_content again. My intention was not to insult, but my comments fairly stated that the reviewer clearly doesn’t have a clue how to use the Metro interface and to anybody reading this, and who has used it, that is not an insult but is glaringly obvious and perfectly true. If people are insulted by the truth perhaps we should all start just making up entertaining stories. I do not think that somebody should be reviewing an item when they clearly do not know how to use it properly. The review may well put off people who haven’t used this type of device before and that is unfair and an insult to the manufacturers. If I am reading what I ought to be able to assume is a measured review the least I should be able to expect is that the reviewer knows how to use the product he is reviewing and that is obviously not the case here. I appreciate the efforts the author made but the fact is that it is a poor and badly flawed review.