Review of the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station with the Dell Venue 8 Pro

I bought the Dell Venue 8 Pro a while back off of Swappa.com.  That’s the new XDA buy and sell service which is pretty nice.  If you have a cell phone or tablet you need to get rid of, Swappa is a great way to do that; not the only way, but a great way to get honest offers for your gear.

I was tinkering with the Dell Venue 8 and was just wondering what I could do with it besides just use it as a tablet.  As you probably know, the Dell Venue 8 Pro is a Windows 8.1 tablet.  It’s a full fledge Windows tablet running a full version of Windows 8.1.  So, you have a minicomputer in your hand that is really much more1427396818_thumb.jpeg capable than just being a handheld tablet.  I bought the latest stylus for the Venue 8 since I heard they had finally fixed it to work properly.  This is the latest version of this stylus has a black lower barrel and a silver upper (Manufacturer Part# : K5J52 | Dell Part# : 750-AAGN).  It works just great.  I don’t know what was wrong with the previous stylus since I never had one, but this one is a must for this tablet.

I also bought and installed a 64GB MicroSD card.  You’re definitely going to need one.   The Venue 8 Pro I bought comes with only 32GB of storage memory which after installing Windows leaves at best 5 or 6GB unless you want to mess with removing the Recovery Partition and gain back about 10GB. I did that and I’m glad I did, but how to do that is another story.  Just say you’re going to need more storage space.

2015-03-26 12.14.08In my research on improving the memory situation, I found an article that discussed the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station ( http://plugable.com)  This dock allows you to finally power the Dell Venue 8 while at the same time, plug in thumb drives or other USB storage devices, an ethernet cable and a DVI monitor.  It obviously comes with its own power brick, but this is about the only way you’re going to be able power the Dell Venue and anything else at the same time.  The Dell Venue has only one MicroUSB port and that’s intended for power, nothing else.  Yes, you can buy an OTG cable, even one from Dell, but you won’t get the monitor ability.

So, I 2015-03-26 12.14.13bought the Plugable and started hooking it up.  I bought a cheap Dell ST2010 HDMI/VGA monitor at a local discount PC store for about $100.  It’s a 20 inch LCD and looks great.  I took an HDMI cable which I had laying around and plugged it into the back of the monitor.  Then I added a DVI-to-HDMI adapter that was in the Plugable box (very convenient) and plugged that into the back of the Plugable unit.  Then I used the special MicroUSB-to-MicroUSB cable also provided by Plugable to hook up the Dell Venue with the Plugable device.

There are 4-USB 2.0 ports, two-front and two-back, on the Plugable.  I happened to have a Western Digital 320GB hard drive in an enclosure that wasn’t getting much use.  I wondered if this would work with the Plugable since it was a  USB enclosure.  The thing is, this enclosure only had the one USB connection and no power.   Apparently, the Plugable couldn’t power the hard drive and use it for data with the same USB port.  So, again, I had another enclosure that had a USB 3.0 Plugable_with_USB_2_0_hard_drivecable output, but the other end had two USB connectors.  Using the two USB 2.0 ports at the back of the Plugable, I hooked this drive up.  Now remember that Windows doesn’t like hot-swapping USB devices.  So you have to turn off everything and then hook your USB devices up and then restart.

Upon restart, I checked my storage devices, and there was the 320GB hard drive ready for use!  I also had two ports on the front for two thumb drives which I immediately used one by plugging in a Sandisk 64GB Cruiser.  That did show up immediately.  Now I think all my storage needs should be met!

Ok, I remember the instructions about the Plugable Dock saying that the DVI cable doesn’t provide sound so I had to hook an audio cable from the front of the Plugable to the Dell Speaker bar that I also happened to have laying around.  (Yeah, I know, I got a lot of stuff just lying around!)  Now I had sound and turning on the monitor, I had a Windows 8.1 desktop!

Getting out my Logitech Tablet Keyboard that’s Bluetooth and using  a previously bought Logitech Bluetooth mouse, I paired both to the Dell Venue 8 tablet and away I went.  The tablet and mouse work just great.  2015-03-26 12.12.47

So, now I have a complete desktop computer setup.  Of course, there are some limitations.  The Dell Venue 8 has only 2GB of ram and you’re using a USB video signal via DisplayLink to run the graphics.  That means you’re not going to get blazing graphics at least for most games.  I can play Civ V but slowly, but Half Life 2 though Steam seems very playable.  I tired Fallout New Vegas, but it wouldn’t even start!  Still, for everything else, this works fine.

I have to admit, the Dell screen is just gorgeous.  It’s a 16:9 screen with a resolution of 1600 X 900.  I’m only using this setup to troubleshoot Windows 8.1 problems because my wife insists on using her Window PC!  I’m a Mac guy and wouldn’t think of using this or any Windows for my main PC.  How horrible that would be.  Been there, done that.  I will try Windows 10 out on this setup when it’s available.

So there you go.  That’s my setup with the Plugable Pro8 Docking Station.  It was all remarkably easy to hook up once you have all the parts and pieces. It works just great for my purposes.  If you buy one, I think you’ll be very happy with it.