DELL VENUE PRO 8 TABLET – UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Not long ago, I chronicled my adventure with Dell Customer Disservice and Dell Technical nonSupport. A few days later, I wrote ASK A SIMPLE QUESTION, GET A SIMPLE — WRONG — ANSWER. The following day, my Dell Venue Pro 8 tablet arrived. Such a little package. Well, what did I expect? It’s just a wee bit bigger than a Kindle.

dell-venue-8-pro

Why Do I Always Have Be the Fixer?

Yesterday was computer fixing day. My son used to be a professional computer repair guy but has apparently forgotten everything he ever knew. He handed me his laptop. Seven hours later, it was running pretty well, though it could use a full reload of the OS which I’m not going to do. Still, I think it’s at least a working computer.

With all the jokes they make about Old People and computers, how come I’m the ONLY one in this 3-generation household who understands how computers work? How come, huh? I wanted to beat the kid (all 6’4″ 240 lbs of nearly bald 44-year-old kid) to death with that 15″ laptop. I’m definitely getting old and cranky.

Back to the Review (Already In Progress)

The Dell Venue Pro 8 is well-built. It has a lovely, solid, silky feel. It easily connected to the Kindle application and Netflix. Without a hiccup. Chrome, on the other hand, would not work and I gave up. Some battles aren’t worth the effort. The (free) copy of MS Office installed without a hitch too. Eventually I found a variety of other useful applications, a reasonable version of Solitaire, a clock, calendar, alarm and stopwatch and installed them too. I uninstalled a few things I didn’t have any use for. Installation and uninstallation is really easy. And fast.

The tablet wasn’t working quite as it should. It dropped its Internet connection each time it went to sleep and it wasn’t sensitive enough to touch.

This meant – OMG!!!! – another call to Dell’s tech support. I didn’t hesitate. I have learned that thinking about it will make the inevitably horrible experience even worse. Moreover, I have no intention of keeping the tablet if it isn’t going to work properly.

The problems weren’t big ones, but they were annoying. Mostly I like the tablet. Good speakers, exceptional graphics. Watched “Jack Reacher” on Netflix. Not bad. The sound isn’t as loud as I might like, but the quality is excellent and it has an earphone jack. The cameras (1 front, 1 back) work pretty well, even in low light. I haven’t tried the video camera or the voice recorder yet. Overall, it’s got a lot of bells and whistles I might really use (be still my heart).

Tech Support Again (Oy)

I am not going to go into details. Suffice to say, I was on the phone with this doofus for 4-1/2 hours. When the conversation started I had 2 relatively minor issues. After he fixed things (reinstalling the drivers, etc.), the tablet was dead. Unresponsive. He said he wanted to try one more thing. It was getting late, past dinner time and I said, “No, I’ve had enough. Either you put me on with someone who actually knows what needs to be done and can speak English well enough for us to understand each other (this guy not only didn’t speak English, he didn’t understand it either) or I swear I will return this tablet to Dell, explain that YOU are the reason why and never, ever buy anything from Dell again in this lifetime.” Which, if I didn’t get my blood pressure under control, might not be very long.

He threw in the towel and passed me to a Supervisor. Who spoke and understood English. And knew how to get the tablet up and running.

The secret of getting a dead Windows 8 computer up and running is 3 successive cold reboots. Third time, it goes into “self-repair and diagnostic mode” — the new version of Safe Mode.  Which doesn’t require a password. So finally, I was able to adjust the setting after which it began to connect automatically to WiFi. Problem solved.

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Next, I insisted I make the table NOT password protected. Which is when I discovered Windows 8.1 is still — as all Windows have been — a hack over DOS. It was comforting in a weird way. There was the old DOS prompt in its little black window, like an old friend. It meant I was not really learning a new OS. I was just learning to work around the changed GUI. I felt better.

Eliminating Password Protection

For anyone who wants to get rid of password protection in Windows 8.1, here’s how to do it:

(1) Use Search to find the command prompt. Start typing “Command” and before you hit the second “m,” you’ll see command prompt as a clickable link. Click it.

(2) Type: control userpasswords2

(3) Up comes a little window, a little window you’ve seen on every version of Windows since 3.1.

(4) UNCHECK “require all users to have a password,” then enter your password as requested. Exit all the way out and reboot. That should do it. Sometimes you have to do it twice.

Win 8.1 has the identical sub-structure as every version of Windows. Control panel, menus, SysConfig, Uninstall. It’s all there, buried a level deeper under a new — pointless and unattractive — user interface. You can change the interface using “Personalize” and make it less ugly.

My over all opinion of Windows 8.1 remains unchanged. It is not an improvement over 7. If anything, it’s a step backward. It requires significant relearning without offering any noticeable advantage to users. After you get the hang of it, it’s not hard to work with, but it’s unnecessary and adds an unfamiliar layer to what ought to be simple.

Summary

What I like:

  • Great graphics
  • Excellent sound
  • Surprisingly good camera and video
  • Useful apps that work and most of them are free
  • Feels nice to the touch with a fine build quality
  • Good battery life.

What I don’t like:

  • The cord is much too short. Really, would it have broken the bank to add a foot and make it reach my desk from the electrical outlet? This is a serious inconvenience, not a quibble
  • Horrible documentation. I’ve seen the PDF and it isn’t much more informative than the leaflet. It’s not that Win 8 is difficult. The documentation is totally inadequate
  • I don’t like Windows 8.1. Now that I can use it, it’s a lot of flash and dash. It isn’t an improvement over Windows 7 — quite the opposite. Sorry dudes. I still don’t understand why you took a good OS (Win 7) and made it harder to use
  • The graphical Interface is neither tablet or user-friendly. It doesn’t feel integrated or smooth. More like a bunch of pieces stuck together without a cohesive concept.


Categories: Computers, Reviews, Software, Technology, Windows

Tags: , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. There was mention somewhere here about the future of customer service being taken over by computers; I have had the ‘opportunity’ to not only deal with one but use some VERY choice “sailor” language with one and it didn’t even hang up on me! 😉

    Like

  2. I’ve never understood my resistance to electronic gadgets. We surely are in a time of electronic wonders with something new coming every week (day?). Imagine getting out of jail after a 20 year sentence and being confronted by all this ???
    I believe my attitude is due to many peoples dependence and zombie-like addiction to this stuff. (Like me and my computer)
    I also find it extremely annoying when I watch the news and nearly every Newscast they profile some new gadget – as if it’s News. Thereby giving these guys millions of dollars of free advertising. But the same could be said Sports.
    I better stop now …

    Like

    • I don’t have a lot of gadgets. I have cameras and computers and a Kindle. All of which I use. Otherwise, all gadgets do is complicate your life. I believe in using technology that improves your world but avoiding anything that’s just extra baggage.

      Like

  3. Will it take one of those big SD cards you were talking about before, though?
    Last time I called Dell support it redirected me to a number which didn’t even exist! That’s one way of dealing with customers, I suppose.

    Like

    • No, it will NOT take one of the full size SD cards NOR will it take a micro-sim card. The micro-sim slot is in their advertising and some units may (in the future) have a slot for them, but I was assured that any such slot is not connected to anything and nothing put in it would work. At all. The tablets do not support the technology.

      Fortunately, it does take a micro SDXC card, up to 128 GB. Because these units are designed to store everything unless you direct it otherwise on Microsoft’s and Dell’s cloud servers, the only thing you need memory for are embedded applications and things, like documents, you may particularly WANT to keep locally. They also will attach multiple blue tooth devices from keyboards to mouses to speakers to external drives.

      Dell has, in the past, directly me to numbers that were either completely wrong or non-existent. They keep saying they’ve improved their customer service, but they keep hiring people who don’t know anything and don’t understand English — or speak it. They don’t TRAIN people. AND they don’t include documentation. No company includes real documentaiton anymore. I became obsolete years ago when the industry decided no one reads manuals, so fire all the tech writers, put some crap online and let the telephones deal with the rest. And so we come to the present situation. You can’t say they didn’t have a plan.

      They had a plan. A bad one. It’s everywhere. Try to get someone on the phone from Apple tech support. They will tell you you MUST come to their nearest location … for us that’s 40+ miles away. Then you get to stand around waiting till someone comes to find out why you’re there (“but I had an appointment” you cry) and then tries to find the one guy in the store who actually knows something about fixing it. It only takes a minute to fix the problem. It takes half a day to get to the guy who can. And that’s IN the good ‘ole USA.

      My professional roots are in customer service, albeit from the writing end. Which makes me even angrier and more impatient with the bad service. I’d say this was a problem with Dell … but I know for a fact it’s typical of all so-called customer services. Including hospitals, utilities, doctors’ offices. You name it and customer service/tech support stinks.

      It’s SO universal that you give up because it doesn’t matter where you buy “it” — it will be the same crappy service there, too.

      Like

  4. I know it’s expensive but the Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth Speaker would make your new tablet sound like a concert hall. I’ve owned the original iPad for years. I have the Google Nexus 7 2013 table now that uses the android operating system. Sony’s ios blows away android IMHO. I hate dealing with customer support, especially if they have an Indian accent. Good luck with your new tablet & thanks for posting a review.

    Like

    • I might get those speakers for my big desktop because that’s where I listen music, usually. It’s going to have to wait for the arrival of some money. I just bought the tablet. Next comes the paying for it part. I like the buying better! At this point, Sony may be the only OS I havent used. I actually like the google IOS. But I was looking for a LITTLE tablet when the new version of the Kindle was too flawed for even my generous guidelines. I will not pay Apple’s price and I am totally underwhelmed by the iPhones Garry and I have. Talk about miserable sound quality! You can’t make a phone call on an iPhone. They forgot about audio. Whatever it’s good for? Hearing sounds isn’t it.

      The speakers in this little unit are really good. Both audio and video quality are amazing, actually. The sound just isn’t very loud. You have to be close to hear it, otherwise you need earphones. Which I have … a pretty good compact (folding) Sony headset and a better, but definitely not compact pair of Sennheisers. I’m not a big fan of headphones. I wear eyeglasses and the headphones and my eyeglasses together tend to hurt my earflaps. Too much stuff going on at the same time.

      But in my office, I have just a pair of cheesy Logitech speakers I bought for under $10. They provide sound. But not GOOD sound. Not even close, so when I have a few bucks …. well, I’ve always yearned for Bose speakers. Just never could afford them.

      Like

  5. Hi Marilyn. Thanks for the link to my post. Also thanks for passing on all this techie stuff (sorry about the Dell experience), because it saves my brain even going there. I appreciate the pain you have gone through to keep us properly informed on these matters!!!!

    Like

    • You have to have perspective on the tech support issue. It’s not like a different company will have much better customer support. They are ALL bad these days, even the ones that used to be good … and Dell WAS one of the good ones until, like everyone else, they exported it all to far eastern countries to avoid paying first world salaries. Sometimes, you get lucky and the guy or gal you connect with actually knows the product and you think “Wow, that wasn’t bad! Maybe it’s getting better.” Then the next, it’s the same old, same old.

      We pay these people pennies and don’t train them at all … and we get what we pay for. Well, you and me don’t pay them pennies, but you get the idea. For India and Pakistan and Malaysia and other poor countries, our exported job base has been a kind of salvation, but for consumers, it’s been an ongoing nightmare. The last bastion of local high quality customer service was AT&T … and that’s ending now, too. There’s no escape.

      Dell is just a prime example of what has happened industry wide, here and there. Wherever the law requires that people get paid something like a living wage, jobs are moving to places where it’s not true.

      By the way … I LOVE your site and I love pictures and writing and perspective, so putting you in my links would have happened sooner, but I forget to update links a lot of time … I should have done it sooner!

      Like

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