Dell Venue 8 Pro–Four Months On

While plenty of people seem think that we are in a post-tablet era (meaning that pretty much everything we need to do can be done on a phone), I happen to think that tablets still make sense, with some caveats.  I do tend to agree that for the vast majority of the marketplace, a tablet probably doesn’t make a ton of sense.  Lots of websites, including this one, are based on responsive design, and so they scale well to the smaller screen of a smartphone. As screens get larger (as the iPhone 6’s rumored larger sizes suggests) it will be even easier to read content on those screens.  Written communication is easy enough to accomplish with a smartphone, and indeed, is faster than using a tablet because the throws are so much longer on a tablet. It may not be as fast as typing (in other words, I wouldn’t want to necessarily write a 600 word blog post on a phone) but it gets the job done.  You don’t need a tablet for that sort of stuff.  Streaming content is just as easily consumed on a smartphone as it is on a tablet, and if you hold your screen close enough to your face, it seems like a bigger screen anyway.

Tablets are useful, though, especially for taking notes with a stylus, and honestly, a tablet that doesn’t at least offer the option for stylus input is a non-starter to me, and doesn’t to my mind, make a lot of sense. First, psychological science will tell you, taking notes by hand leads to better retention than taking notes by keyboard. Second, I find the sound of typing to be distracting to the person telling his story, so whipping out a keyboard at an initial client meeting is a no-go.  The screen, too, creates a barrier to a freer flow of conversation.  And trying to take notes on a smartphone…? Yeah, that doesn’t work too well.

I have a tablet, the Dell Venue 8 Pro, and I like it. A lot. Does it have limitations? Absolutely. Does it replace a laptop or desktop? Not a chance. Has it been problem-free? Nope.  (I just got it back from the repair center because the stupid micro-USB port came loose in its housing, which meant that it couldn’t charge. Luckily, it was under warranty and Dell fixed it for me.) But it works quite well for what it’s really designed to be: a low-powered note taker. And at that, despite a ton of hiccups for early adopters, it is excellent.

I have been able to interview clients and take notes with the stylus, while looking up information about their cases. Rather than having a stack of documents sprawled out in front of me while discussing a case, I have a little tablet. It’s very convenient. And the handwriting recognition is amazing. Somehow, Windows is able to decipher my chicken-scratch and I can find information across notebooks using search queries.  For a guy whose first computer was an Apple IIe back in the 1980s, and played the original Test Drive on a green-screen 8088 PC, it’s mind-boggling that technology has progressed to the point that this stuff is possible. And for less than $200 in a lot of places.

Would I rather have a Surface Pro 3? Maybe. It’s much more powerful. It’s also much, much more expensive, and while it’s true that it could potentially replace a laptop, I’m not sure what I would think about it trying to replace the functionality of my desktop setup. It probably wouldn’t excel in that arrangement. (Though it does have that fancy dock, so maybe that helps…)

Over time, I’ll continue to look at using technology in the law office, and I’ll post things like this as a way to add my two cents to the conversation.