Anyway, I enjoyed Windows 8 so much I thought I would get a Windows 8 RT mobile device. How much different could it be? Well, it turns out it's a lot different. I purchased a Asus VivoTab RT. I love the Android Transformer line and thought that this machine would be a worthy upgrade. Unfortunately, the product was not at all what I needed. Being stuck with laggy internals and a version of Windows which was crippled and pretty useless, I quickly grew tired of the (expensive) machine and got a Chromebook n Craigslist.
Jump forward with me about 6 months. Microsoft just announced Windows 8.1 and the new Surface tablets with upgraded internals. Intel has also introduced the Bay Trail processors - the upgraded Intel Atom line promising incredible battery life, improved performance and at a bargain price.
At this point, two things caught my eye: the first, a contest, and the second, the new line of Dell tablets. Surface was having a twitter contest to win a new Surface 2, which I entered. At the end of October, I received a notification that I may be a winner of Surface's Twitter contest. At about that same time, the Dell Venue Pro 8 went on sale and I purchased one (after selling my Chromebook for no loss!). At the beginning of November, due to the vague message from Surface, I knew that I was going to have a Dell Venue 8 Pro.
Just last week I got the notification that my Dell was in stock and shipping to me later in the week. I also was notified that the Surface was actually shipping to me and I ended up getting both on Monday of this week. After a full day of updates on both, I have started really using these machines. I have to admit, I really like both devices.
The Surface - I will start with the one that blows me away the least. I really didn't like Windows RT a year ago. It was slow and limited. The Asus had a great keyboard, but that was really the only thing it had going for it. The new Microsoft Surface 2 changes almost everything I didn't like about the Asus and Windows 8 RT.
First thing I noticed is the speed. This tablet is night and day when compared to the first gen RT devices. It's much faster. Websites take much less time to load and I can actually use Word and Excel without exploding with rage over a choppy experience (it was so bad that I had to just assume I was correct and that the tab would catch up eventually). I also am in love with the inclusion of Outlook. The old mail app was definitely a mobile-centric mail app. As something I wanted to use as an email device, I was severely let down. Now with Outlook, I can compose emails and manage my inbox much better.
I am using the old generation of touch keyboards as my cover. It's actually not terrible. I am using it to type this blog post and it's keeping up magnificiently. It has taken some time to get used to. The tactile response of just hitting a pad and the layout were really weird and slow at first. I still miss keys more frequently than I would want, but it's much less annoying than typing on the Windows 8 RT, and at the rate I'm improving, I think this will almost completely disappear.
The gripe I have with Windows RT is that every experience that's not Microsoft Office feels crippled. I understand that Internet Explorer has come leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, but it's still not Google Chrome. I think the UI and speed of Chrome are far superior to Internet Explorer. I also can't use Java on the Surface 2, and therefore cannot use it completely for work. Give me a better internet experience, and I will love this tablet. I am sometimes limited by the apps available, but that's growing leaps and bounds too.
Now on to the Dell Venue Pro 8. Holy cow - let's take a minute to consider this device before I let you know what I think of it. It's a widescreen 8" tablet that is just under a centimeter thick and weighs in at .87 lb. It has a quad-core Intel processor with 2GB of RAM and 64GB of hard drive space. It's running full Windows 8.1 and the battery life is more than 8 hours. The device retails for $350. Let that sink in. To compare, I went to college with a laptop running Windows XP with a single core processor, 100GB of HDD space. It had 1GB of RAM and the battery lasted less than 2 hours. This laptop weighed in at 6.2 lbs and the price on that machine was $999... and we're beginning to understand why I'm blown away that this device exists.
The first thing that impressed me about the tablet is that it is running a full, unabridged Windows 8.1 with Microsoft Office Home and Student with the price of $350. If I wanted to build a machine with those two features, I would have to spend around $200 on just that. Turning the machine on gave me more surprising results - it's nimble. The Intel Atom line doesn't hold the device back at all. The processor has no problem keeping up with the tasks I give it. Google Chrome runs like a dream, as do my Windows 8 apps and the Office suite. After running all this for a while, I realized I hadn't charged it. Here's a feature that's underrated, but to be able to charge my phone and my Windows machine once a day and from the same charger is incredible. I only take one micro USB cable and wall plug with me and both devices will have battery. Speaking of battery, you'll be hard pressed to kill this guy in a day of regular use. It's supremely efficient and it has more than enough juice.
As with every device, there are features I wish it had. I have spent a lot of time considering how I could turn this little guy into a docked desktop. That's doable, but not necessary, so I'll spare those. I do, however, wish it included a display out port and perhaps a dedicated USB OTG port as well. You can plug USB devices into the micro USB port with an adapter, but it would be nice to be able to access that feature while charging. I also love streaming movies, but not all apps are supported on all devices, so streaming my desktop would allow me to play my movies on a larger screen without messing around with the muddy Miracast standard.
I will note that both have the micro SD card slot to increase storage space if you want.
If you understand the limitations of these two devices and think either meets your needs, I highly recommend both devices. They are well made machines. Any reservations about buying a RT or Atom device because of performance issues should be gone. They are snappy machines that do Windows well.
Bonus: if you are a college student looking for a lightweight and inexpensive laptop, check out the Asus T100. It's using the new Bay Trail Atom processor with the full version of Windows 8.1. Check it out and see if that device is for you!
Update 1/6/14: I no longer have the Surface tablet. After getting some time with the Asus T100, it was foolish to keep it around. I haven't replaced it yet, but I will post an update when I do.