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Why I chose the Dell Venue 8 Pro over the Surface Pro 2

On the Surface, (Ha! get it?)  the Surface Pro 2 seems like it is a great compromise in regards to the sum of its parts.  At 10.6 inches, you get a good amount of laptop with some tablet mixed in.  Just shy of a month ago, I took a trip to the Microsoft store, excited to buy the Surface Pro 2.  It was to replace my aging Acer Aspire 1810TZ, which all things considered, is still not a terrible laptop.  So why did I end up with the Dell Venue 8 Pro instead?  Read on to find out.

First, let us compare the basic differences.  The most obvious is the price difference.  The Dell Venue Pro 8 is $299 for the 64GB version while the Surface Pro with the same amount of storage is $899.  The Dell tops out at 64GB, while the Surface Pro 2 tops out at 512GB.  The problem is that high capacity version costs a ridiculous $1,799.99 without a keyboard.

Maybe I am picky, but honestly, even 512GB on a computer is anemic in this day and age.  I understand that it's faster flash storage, but the price is insulting.  Luckily, both hybrids have micro SD card slots to expand their storage.  If you have to carry a spare hard drive with you, then in my opinion, you are defeating the purpose of a tablet in the first place.

Comparing processors, we're looking at an Intel i5 in the Surface Pro 2 VS the new Atom chip in the Dell Venue 8 Pro.  In a pure benchmarking comparison, the superior i5 will blow away the Atom.  However, both chips are more than capable of running desktop programs with ease.  Ditto with video playback.  If you enjoy 1080p videos from your personal collection, Netflix, or Youtube, then both machines have more than enough power to play both with ease.   Switching to the "Modern UI" interface, both machines run that interface and its apps smoothly and without problems.

Both even have enough horsepower to run some actual Windows games.  Yes, your Steam games will work on both machines.  They'll of course start up faster and have better framerates on the Surface Pro 2, but the problem is that both machines only come with integrated Intel graphics.  While these GPU's have certainly come a long way in the last couple of years, they are still a bottleneck when compared with a real GPU.  For a low priced machine like the Dell Venue 8 Pro, it makes sense.  In Microsofts case, for what they are charging, they really should be providing a far better GPU, especially in the higher end models.

As mentioned earlier, neither of these machines come with a keyboard. The Dell keyboard and case will set you back between $70 - $100 depending on whatever sale they are having.  Microsoft offers you two options which are the touch cover, which is $119, and the type cover, which is $129.  The week that I was about to buy the Surface Pro 2, there was a sale where you got the Touch cover free with a purchase of any Surface. Seeing as their is only a $10 difference between the two covers, I asked if I could pay the difference and was told that it was not possible.  Too bad, I personally find the type cover to be an excellent accessory.  The touch cover should normally be free with purchase for what Microsoft charges for the Surface Pro.  The Type cover is definitely worth paying a premium for, however, I find that $129 for something that does not include any additional power is overpriced.  There is a power cover as well, but that will set you back $199.99 and dramatically affect the weight and thickness of your Surface Pro 2.

In the case of portability, neither machine is easily pocketable.  The 8 inch Dell can fit in a ladies purse, while the 10.6 inch Surface Pro 2 will likely need its own laptop bag.  This is one area where Google got things right with the Nexus 7.  It's a perfect device to carry around in your jacket or jeans.  Unfortunately, if you need Windows programs then that won't be an option.

Speaking of full Windows, as laptop replacements, both machines are fine as long as you have a keyboard,  mouse, and a table of some kind.  I don't think that most people will want to do hours of work on either an 8 inch or 10 inch screen, and neither machine is really lap friendly.  It can be done, but it's not a great experience.

As tablets however, the Dell has the clear advantage in size and weight.  It's far easier to use with one hand, and as mentioned earlier, will run just about anything that the Surface Pro will run.  The problem is that as tablet replacements, Windows 8.1 still has a lot of work to do.  While the Windows store has improved with a few high profile apps like Facebook, Netflix, and Flipboard, it is still leagues behind what Apple and Google have in their app stores.  It doesn't take much scrolling to start seeing the crapfest that is the Windows store.  I feel like at this point, Microsoft is allowing just about any "app" in just to inflate their numbers, many which have questionable legality.  An app store search should not mirror a seedy Google search.

Don't even think of finding HBO GO in the Windows store.
What about the desktop ecosystem?  Yes, once you add the desktop programs, you do have a TON more options, the issue is that almost no desktop apps are touch optimized like the Windows store apps are.  Those Steam games that I mentioned earlier?  You will need the physical keyboard with most of them.  Even games that have tablet equivalents in most cases.  Microsoft, nor most developers have optimized their software to make the software keyboard work with Direct X games.  There are some solutions out there, but they are clunky and still in beta stages.

So as tablets, the Dell is better suited since Windows 8 is still not a fully baked tablet OS.  As a laptop, both have relatively small screens that will not suit any real type of serious work.  As gaming machines, both use under-powered Intel graphic chips that are best suited for Modern UI games of which there are not many, and the desktop games that can run usually need additional equipment to run.  On top of that, both machines have very little storage for these types of things.  You can add peripherals to both machines via the built in USB 3.0 port on the Surface Pro 2, or the micro USB (2.0) port on the Dell Venue 8 pro with a cheap USB OTG cable from Amazon.  Great for home use.  Not so much for on the road use.  It's great to have options though.  At home, you can also connect the Surface Pro 2 to your TV or monitor through its built in displayport.  The Dell can connect through Miracast.  The latter is decent for office work, but terrible for gaming as covered in one of my prior articles.


For the price that Microsoft is asking, the Surface Pro 2 just has way too many compromises.  Coming in at a hefty $2000 (512GB with type keyboard) for a machine that is relatively limited by the subpar graphics, a small screen, anemic storage, an OS that is still not quite optimized for small screens in either desktop or modern modes, too heavy for long term tablet use, and not completely lap friendly, I just went ahead with the Dell.  For it's price and performance ratio, it seemed like a no brainer.

You can buy a Dell Venue Pro 8, a real laptop, and a basic desktop and still pay less than what it would cost you to get a Surface Pro 2, with far less compromises.

Or just go with the Dell and a Miracast adapter if you just need a basic tablet for fun and some light office work.

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  1. using adaptor can work normally once take out the Window Surface Pro 4 will shut down
    this a cause


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