Small Windows 8 Tablets: Can You Spot the Differences?

New tablets from Acer, Dell and Lenovo look an awful lot alike.

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Acer, Lenovo, Dell

As promised back in May, the small Windows 8 tablets are coming. You’ll be able to take your pick of 8-inch Windows tablets from Acer, Dell and Lenovo later this month.

But good luck telling them apart.

You have to look pretty closely at Dell’s Venue 8 Pro ($300), Lenovo’s Miix 2 ($300) and Acer’s Iconia W4 ($330) to figure out their distinguishing features. On paper, they look like three very similar tablets, with almost identical tech specs and similar price tags

Here’s a rundown of what all three of these tablets have in common, with any minor differences noted:

  • 8-inch, 1280-by-800 resolution display
  • Intel Bay Trail quad-core processor
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of minimum storage
  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera
  • 2-megapixel rear facing camera (except for Dell’s Venue 8 Pro, with 1.2 megapixels)
  • 8 to 10 hours of battery life (except Lenovo’s Miix 8, which advertises 7 hours)
  • Micro-USB and micro-SD (Acer’s W4 has a micro-HDMI port as well.)
acerw4

Acer

All three tablets have optional keyboards, which have some small differences between them: Lenovo’s Miix 2 has a keyboard that doubles as a cover and stand, similar to the ZAGGfolio for iPad. Acer also has a keyboard-stand accessory, plus another cover that folds up like origami and pairs with an ever larger keyboard. Dell keeps the keyboard and cover stand as separate accessories.

How would you decide between three similar Windows 8 tablets? You’d have to pick out the little things that matter to you. The Acer tablet is $30 pricer than the others, at $330, but it’s the only one with micro-HDMI output and a larger keyboard option. Lenovo’s tablet is the thinnest and lightest of the bunch, at 0.77 pounds and 0.32 inches thick, but the advertised battery life is a little less than the competition. Dell’s tablet is the only one with an optional active digitizer stylus, but the side placement of the Windows button is kind of weird.

lenovomiix8

Lenovo

Overall, these are minor points of distinction, and maybe that’s a good thing if you’re just looking for a generic Windows 8 tablet. But what I’d really like to see is the same kind of creativity that PC makers have shown with their larger Windows 8 hybrids. Where’s the small Windows tablet with a slide-out keyboard, akin to Sony’s Vaio Duo 13? Or how about one with an attachable keyboard shell that extends the tablet’s battery life? Perhaps there’s even an opportunity for a gaming-focused small Windows tablet with a snap-on controller. (Bay Trail’s gaming chops are supposedly not terrible, at least for some older or indie games.)

Of course, this is just the first wave of these smaller Windows tablets, and last year’s larger hybrids had similar problems with generic, uninspired designs. I hope that as hardware improves and PC makers have more time to experiment, we’ll see more more small tablets that stand out.

16 comments
sjmarcus
sjmarcus

If the audio volume matters to you (and it is critically important to me), the Dell Venue 8 Pro is extremely loud, the Acer W4 is just reasonable and the Toshiba Encore is barely audible.

seanbullman
seanbullman

"Lenovo’s Miix 2 has a keyboard that doubles as a cover and stand..."

The Miix 2 doesn't appear to have a keyboard/stand, but the Miix 10 does. And the Miix 10 costs +$180 for the device, and +$100 for the keyboard.

One caveat: the Miix 2 has not yet been released in the US. Info will be available on the website and from Lenovo sales on 11/21 or 11/22, however, so we'll know for sure very soon.

Also, like others, I'm surprised there's so little mention of GPS technology in these tablets!

scott41863
scott41863

Having owned and sold a 1st gen Nexus 7 I won't buy another small tablet no matter who makes it. The apps work OK in a smaller form mainly because those apps are also used on smartphones. But trying to use a browser to surf the web on a small tablet is filled with zooming, scrolling and slow page loading. I use my tablet mostly for entertainment and I just do not find a small tablet has enough screen to really enjoy media on it. I do however think 8" is a noticeable step but if your buying a 8" tablet, why not just buy a 10" tablet with better hardware?

forcemajeure
forcemajeure

Some corrections.


The Encore and Acer W4 has the z3740 SoC while the Dell only has the single-channel memory  z3740D version, with slightly higher power consumption. The Lenovo seems to be available with either z3740 or the more powerful z3770, though.

The z3740D single-channel is the reason why the Dell is not on my list.

According to Toshiba's webpage, the Encore has dual band:
- Connectivity: 1x Micro-USB 2.0, 1x Micro-HDMI®, Micro-SD (up to 64GB), dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth®

The Toshiba with Micro-HDMI and Lenovo Miix2 seems to be the best ones, but I'm not so sure about the screen on the Toshiba, it's not IPS but, AutoBrite™ 1280 x 800 HFFS wide view angle LCD display with 5-point multi-touch support.

closeloop
closeloop

There is a major difference in WiFi spec among the four 8" Window 8.1 tablets announced so far.

Dell Venue 8 Pro is the only 8" Windows 8.1 tablet that has dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 2x2 MIMO WiFi.   The other three 8" Windows 8.1 tablets, Toshiba Encore and Lenovo Miix2 use single band (2.4GHz only) 1x1 11n WiFi.   Acer Iconia W4 has not disclosed its WiFi spec, but it is likely to be single band 1x1 11n WiFi as well.

Yesterday Apple highlighted that both the new iPad Air and the new iPad Mini With Retina display will have dual band  2x2 MIMO WiFi.    2x2 MIMO WiFi achieves twice the communication speed of 1x1 WiFi, while at the same time provides a much longer range and signal reliability.     Also for the new Miracast feature (wireless display)  introduced in Windows 8.1,  2x2 MIMO WiFi provides a much better Miracast video quality than 1x1 WiFi because of the speed and signal reliability. 


2.4GHz band is a very "crowded".   5GHz band gives you a lot more selection of channels and is free from a lot of the interferences.   Dual band gives user the choice of using 2.4GHz or 5GHz.


Since WiFi is the only communication medium in most of the tablets,  a good WiFi really enhances the user experience whether you are at home, at work, at the airport, or at the Starbucks.

cipnrkorvo
cipnrkorvo

a few more little differences, to help you choose:

- the Toshiba Encore has a dual microphone, so will record sound with better quality

- Acer Iconia W4 should have a longer battery life (8 to 12 hours depending on sources)

- Acer Iconia W4 is a tiny bit lighter (412g vs 445g)

- Toshiba's Bay Trail processor is slightly more powerful (A3770)

- Toshiba Encore can read micro-SD cards up to 64GB (as compared to 32GB with the others)

- Acer Iconia W4 has a 5MP camera, while Toshiba Encore has 8MB, But the Iconia W4 has autofocus, while it seems the Toshiba Encore does not. and autofocus makes a big difference. While the number of MP is really not that important. I'm hoping to see more advanced features in these tablet/smartphone cameras in the future. instead of having more MP, they should have things like Macro mode, to take photos of very very upclose objects. and flash.

cipnrkorvo
cipnrkorvo

(and yes i agree with tristan: ubuntu come now to the small tablet/phone world!)

cipnrkorvo
cipnrkorvo

go for the Acer Iconia W4 or the Toshiba Encore. They both have HDMI. How can the others have left out HDMI?

Acer iconia W4 should be easier to read outside ("zero air gap screen"). But Toshiba encore has GPS.

Those 2 are the best right now, but I'd be willing to bet in less than a year, there will be the same thing, which will also function as a smartphone (the Ultimate phone-tablet-computer merger!)

tristan.vaillancourt
tristan.vaillancourt

Before I launch into what might be seen as Microsoft Fanboyism, let me just state that:

"I just hope Ubuntu gets it's act together soon, because it'll miss the x86 mobile boat. Lower Ubuntu cost of ownership coupled with bay trail and a nice form factor like a smart phone, small tablet or pc-on-a-stick, or better yet, all of it ... that would rule.  Don't let THIS ship sail, again, Linux community, jeez."  

The idea of an active digitizer stylus certainly appeals to me , but loosing the hdmi port is unfortunate. Dell is looking like the better tablet to me. Great for doodling, and since it's a real OS with thriving app ecosystem, it will support fun programs like ArtRage, and The Gimp, as well as some not-so-fun programs like Excel.

These bay trail tablets might just kill 7" Android tablets for me. I won't risk bringing my Surface Pro out to the backyard, or to work, but at aprox 300$, and easy to tuck away, the Dell with Stylus is really looking like it's heralding the obsolescence of my 7" android tablet. (I bought it a month ago, so that prediction might be pre-mature ... nonetheless ... )

10 inch Android tablets, and Android TV pc-on-a-stick devices still have a place as far as  my entertainment needs are concerned, for now.

However, instead of all these gadgets, of which android and those apple pads (wayyyy to expensive for toys) certainly qualify, I would much rather have a "big" windows machine, and a "smaller" windows machine.    

Yes yes, my Surface Pro is more than an Apple pad thing, but my Surface Pro is a work computer, so I can justify it's cost.  I would never blow 800$ on an Apple pad thing, that's just a big waste of money. Toys for people with too much money. Android is just as good, despite what some brainswashed weirdos may think.

So as far as Windows tablets are concerned, for me anyways, they all need to support active digitizers, need to be Windows 8 pro, need SkyDrive access and essentially live as extensions of each other. (SkyDrive is on Android btw, so that's cool)

And games? .. well ..  games aren't exactly a concern, they are utter luxury.  A tegra based Android tablet is fine for Games, until the Windows tablets catch up.  (Then again, what good is a tablet if you can't have a bit of fun with it right?)

I also would love an x86 based Windows 8 pro smart phone .. which certainly is coming.  Then I'll have no need at all for Android.

Apple is too proud to do an about face and ship MacOS on a tablet .. or are they? .. I guess that's what Microsoft is banking on in the short term anyways.



ET3D
ET3D

Frankly for now I'd rather have exactly this kind of tablet - a normal tablet plus a matching keyboard. Same as what I already have, but running full Windows.

The_Man
The_Man

What no mention of the Toshiba Encore with its 8mp camera and gps?    It also has the micro hdmi (^_^).  

sjmarcus
sjmarcus

@scott41863 I find that on 8" Windows tablets, that browsing the web in landscape mode is perfectly fine. 1280 x 800 is good enough to make the experience enjoyable. The only exception being the Acer W3 (but because of its amazingly bad screen, not the resolution of the bad screen).

On the iPad mini the web browsing experience is very poor, but on the iPad mini retina it is fantastic.

JoseCanseco
JoseCanseco

@cipnrkorvo don't forget the W4 also still has that crappy feeling mechanical windows button instead of a touch one like literally every other windows tablet.

legacyreaper32
legacyreaper32

@tristan.vaillancourt I agree with the sentiment.  Also I would like to add, given the choice between an iPad mini or one of these 3 windows tablets., I will take anyone of these 3 "mobile PC".  Anyone of these 3 windows tablets are capable of running a full blown CAD software such as AutoCAD, Solidworks, Pro Engineer or CATIA. Just opt for a 64 GB or 128 GB though. 

cipnrkorvo
cipnrkorvo

yes that's true. the Dell Venue 8 Pro isn't a bad choice. it doesn't have GPS, though, and doesn't have an HDMI port (which means if you want to plug it into a bigger screen or your TV when you're at home, you need to do it through the micro-USB port, and can't charge it at the same time).

the best would be if one had 2 micro-USB ports, instead of micro-USB and micro-HDMI. but this doesn't exist yet.