Let's just start out with the fact that I'm a hardcore computer user. I program on a remote server over SSH using nano. I multitask. I type. I do a lot of things on my computer that doesn't involve consuming media. But I'm also a fan of Netflix. And Hulu. And I am a websurfer. Tablets have never really had an appeal to me. They're slightly too big to carrying around. By the time I'm carrying a 10-inch iPad, I might as well be carrying my MacBook Air. It has loads more power, as well, which makes it a preferable choice.
But for $200, I couldn't resist the Nexus 7. I purchased one of the original Nexus 7 devices from Google after hearing lots of good things from friends and co-workers. I enjoyed the device for the first few days and weeks, but the novelty quickly wore off. The device sat idle on a shelf gathering dust as I returned to my trusty notebook. There were a few things that I didn't like about the Nexus 7. To start off, the system seemed to quickly slow down after a few days' use. It was no longer a speedy system. Instead, apps took seconds to load and getting back to the homescreen was a chore. Another issue is the fact that none of my software--Photoshop, Office, programming tools--would run on the Android/ARM system. The Nexus 7 is a toy in my eyes.
I've since sold the Nexus 7 to a friend who purchased it for his mom. Since then, I've been a bit hesitant to get back into the tablet game, but with the new x86 Windows 8 tablets that are hitting the market, I've started to give them another look. Before jumping in and purchasing my own, I asked a friend to borrow his Dell Venue 8 Pro, a Bay Trail Atom-powered 8-inch tablet.
The 32GB Venue 8 Pro retails for $300, but can be had for as little as $250 on Amazon. For that price, I was tempted to buy one, but my previous experiences with Atom left much to be desired. I owned one of the original netbooks with an early generation Atom processor. Back then, the Atom truly was a pretty wimpy processor. After that experience, I was quite surprised when I picked up the Venue 8 Pro and discovered a snappy Windows 8 experience.
Netflix played flawlessly, but I wasn't going to be happy just having another media consuming device. The quad-core Bay Trail Atom was able to run multiple windows in Chrome, including a Netflix tab, and still run quite speedily. Satisfied with the day-to-day subjective feeling, I turned to my usual set of benchmark programs. I selected a small subset of the usual array used on notebooks and set to testing. The results are quite surprising.
The bottom line is, no, the Venue 8 Pro with a quad-core Atom is not going to beat your entry-level Ultrabook, but you're going to get some kickass battery life and portability that you wouldn't get with the Ultrabook. Take a look at the numbers for yourself:
But not everything is rosy in the Windows tablet department. One of the major issues that confronts Windows 8 tablets is the lack of software designed for a touch interface. Unlike the iOS and Android platforms, the Windows Store has a much smaller selection of apps to choose from. One of the good things about having excellent and affordable Windows tablet hardware, such as the Venue 8 Pro, is that this should spark development interest in the platform. I also disliked not having a physical keyboard as the on-screen keyboard was less than amazing. Additionally, selecting items with my finger would sometimes prove difficult. Ultimately, this problem could be solved by a Bluetooth keyboard, something that already exists, but something that I don't currently have.
I'll hopefully get my hands on more Windows 8 tablets and be able to go into more detail--full review, anyone?--in the coming weeks and months. But until then, the Dell Venue 8 Pro is looking like an attractive purchase, one that I might have to go out and make. If I don't purchase the Venue 8 Pro, it looks like a Windows 8 tablet is in my future.