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12/7/2013
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Microsoft Sells Dell's Venue 8 Pro Tablet For $99

You're unlikely to find a better Windows 8 tablet deal. How does Dell's tablet stack up to the iPad?

On Monday, for one day only, Microsoft's online store and retail locations will sell Dell's Venue 8 Pro Windows 8.1 tablet for $99, an eye-opening $200 off the new device's regular price. If you've been on the fence about buying a Windows tablet this holiday season, you're unlikely to find many deals better than this one.

Dell's 8-inch slate isn't the first mini-tablet to run the full version of Windows, including desktop apps. But earlier efforts, such as Acer's Iconia W3, were hampered by cheap hardware and slow processors, to say nothing of Windows 8's rough edges and infamous learning curve. Dell's Venue line, in contrast, has been generally well-received. Forrester analyst David Johnson told InformationWeek in October that the devices are compelling options that compare favorably to more expensive and ballyhooed options, such as Microsoft's Surface tablets.

But you'll have to act fast if you want in on this deal. The offer is good only on Monday, and each Microsoft location will sell only twenty Venue 8 Pros at $99. After that, the devices will sell for $199 - still a pretty good deal - until inventory is depleted. Microsoft's online store will offer the Venue 8 Pro for $99 to the first 100 customers. After that, the cost shifts to $199 for the rest of the day or while supplies last.

[ Buying a tablet this holiday season? Read Tablet Shopping Guide: 8 Tips. ]

The promotion is available only to customers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Each customer is also limited to one device.

In limited use, I've found the Venue 8 Pro to be snappy and responsive. Its quad-core "Bay Trail" processor is a noticeable improvement over previous Intel Atom chips, and though its screen doesn't boast the resolution of some competing options, the device's 1200x800-pixel display is still quite decent.  

Dell's Venue 8 Pro supports stylus and keyboard accessories.
Dell's Venue 8 Pro supports stylus and keyboard accessories.

Windows 8.1 is also a major improvement over Windows 8. The update's app-snapping multi-tasking function is particularly welcome on an 8-inch display because it allows users to split the screen evenly between two apps. In the original version of Windows 8, one app had to occupy three-quarters of the display, which made multi-tasking impractical on smaller tablets.

Other Venue 8 Pro appeals include a preloaded copy of Office Home & Student 2013, 32 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM. It also includes a Micro USB port and can run for up to 10 hours between charges.

Are there any reasons not to take advantage of this sale? A few.

For starters, buying a Windows 8.1 tablet isn't the same as buying an Android or iOS tablet. They're all fine for accessing the Web, sending email or watching Netflix, but if you're looking for an expanded ecosystem of touch-first apps, iOS and Android still set the standard. Windows 8.1's app store isn't as impoverished as it was once, but the Venue 8 Pro's major sales draw isn't touch apps; it's support for desktop software, particularly Microsoft Office.

Does this make the Venue 8 Pro more productive than an iPad? It depends. The Venue 8 Pro offers stylus support and can connect to third-party keyboards via Bluetooth. Dell also plans to release its own keyboard accessory soon. These tools will be useful to some, but desktop software will provide only so much utility running on such a small form factor. The Venue 8 Pro won't replace a laptop, but it could be a terrific secondary device for work.

Display resolution might be another concern. The Venue 8 Pro's screen is serviceable-- but it's also put to shame by the new iPad Mini's 2048x1536-pixel Retina display. Some might also be bothered by the awkward placement of the Start button; many Windows tablets place the button beneath the screen, in the middle of the bottom bezel, but Dell counter-intuitively positioned the button on the device's top-right edge. Other might be peeved that the device's 10-hour battery life can only be achieved if the screen brightness is turned down; otherwise, the battery runs closer to eight hours. The Venue 8 Pro also lacks an HDMI port for connecting the tablet to a monitor or television, though Windows 8.1's native Miracast support somewhat mitigates this concern.

But given that the device is being offered at such extreme discounts, most of these concerns are minor quibbles.

And if you miss out on the Venue 8 Pro 8, don't despair. Monday's promotion is the kickoff of Microsoft's "12 Days of Deals" campaign, with new discounts offered each day.

Consumerization 1.0 was "we don't need IT." Today we need IT to bridge the gap between consumer and business tech. Also in the Consumerization 2.0 issue of InformationWeek: Stop worrying about the role of the CIO. (Free registration required.)

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RobertoD295
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RobertoD295,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/26/2013 | 5:54:37 AM
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rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
12/13/2013 | 8:25:10 PM
Re: Good deal at $99, otherwise...
Try a device with one of the latest Atoms before judging them.  Your credentials could be impressive depending on where and what you've been doing but if you express opinion without experience... well, let's not go there.

I don't know what Intel did but the graphics and CPU are impressive... it even impressed my 10 year old running Minecraft on it.  He's accustomed to an unlocked 2nd gen i-5 overclocked to 4.5Ghz with a 6xx series nVidia GTX.

It was very also very snappy running Eclipse, which by no means is easy on underpowered devices.  The key limiters are the 2GB of RAM and local disk performance.  The eMMC flask disk is considerably slower than my laptop's 500MB/s SSD and seems to be easily overwhelmed when running a development DB server.  The RAM is also single channel which limits bandwidth.

The Windows 8.1 experience index (it's still there if you know where to look), rates the device 4.1.  This sounds slow but the memory score is capped at 5.5 because the unit only has 2GB RAM.  The CPU sub-score is a respectable 6.3!  For comparison my 2nd gen core i-5 2.4Ghz laptop (single core turbo to ~3Ghz) is 7.0.

 
ricegf
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ricegf,
User Rank: Guru
12/13/2013 | 5:57:31 PM
Re: Good deal at $99, otherwise...
Actually, Intel's Atom is essentially a BayTrail Celeron - lower power, but actually slower than (say) the higher frequency Ivy Bridge Celerons. But we'll call it Atom-class if you insist, and it won't change my point. Anyone running high-end CAD applications on an Atom processor will not be productive. And no, with 30 years experience in corporate IT, I don't need your permission to offer my professional opinion on a blog! ;-)
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
12/13/2013 | 5:06:05 PM
Re: Good deal at $99, otherwise...
Try a device with one of the latest Atom processors.  A Celeron it is not.

This is not necessarily directed at you but the misinformation in these comments is astonishing.

I have this device and if you don't have it, don't comment on what you think it is and is not.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 2:51:03 PM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
Thanks for responding-- and I'm glad you like your device! I hadn't heard about vouchers being handed out after stocks were depleted, though I know some U.S. Microsoft stores received additional inventory later in the day, which allowed them to extend the $199 deal.

Did anyone else have an experience like this?
anon2794336259
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anon2794336259,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 2:39:15 PM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
After the first 20, they actually had vouchers for the people that were left so they could get it later in the afternoon or the next day. I dunno if they gave them at 99, but at the very least they got it at 199. They promised everybody at the line would have their tablet that day or next day as the latest. Regarding the device, im truly happy with it. It has wonderful performance and now im looking for keyboard options. Games work well and emulators run perfectly. Wordament is fun too. I have small hands so using desktop mlde is very easy for me. I even cheked the BIOS out to tweak some settings. Its wonderful.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
12/13/2013 | 2:30:04 PM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm curious: After the $99 tablets had sold out, how many people went ahead and bought the device at $199? Did some of the people in line leave after the heaviest discounts were off the table?

And how are you liking the device? Among Windows mini-tablets (not necessarily tablets in general), it seems like one of the nicer options. Windows tablets rely on Office for a lot of their appeal-- but as I indicated in the article, I'm not sure how appealing people will find Office on such a small screen.
xavierpr14
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xavierpr14,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 12:49:34 PM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
Well I got 2 tablets that morning. But here in Puerto Rico not many people knew about the promotion. Still, the line was huge 2 hours before the store opened. I got there so early i was #13 in the line.
Alienfire
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Alienfire,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2013 | 12:45:25 AM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
Please count me as one who did not like the way it was handled.  This form of 'loss leader strategies' is much like the car advertisements where they publish a price for a brand of car, but that price only exists on a single car.  I am sure it works and is legal but it feels dirty to me.
latuya2
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latuya2,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2013 | 12:08:46 AM
Re: Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet (32 GB)
It was all completely b*******from Microsoft a big lie, they never put it on sale for $99 and if they did it was probably to the employees I didn't even sleep I was checking the whole time I'm very disappointed because that to me was false advertisement
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