Edit 6/28/14 - See this blog post for a Kickstarter project for a dock that does this.
Edit 9/26/14 - Dell released an official Data and Charging Dongle.
Edit 11/18/2014: The Plugable dock can now be purchased directly from Amazon
A couple of months ago, because of my addiction to gadgets and all things shiny, I bought a Dell Venue 8 Pro (affectionately referred to as the “DV8”). It’s an 8” tablet running a full version of Windows 8.1. You can read Paul Thurrott’s review here. It’s been a fun little mini-tablet, fitting somewhere between my Nokia 920 phone and my Surface Pro 2 in functionality. One of its biggest frustrations has been that it’s not possible to charge the DV8 and connect USB devices like a thumb drive to it. The DV8 has a single USB port, and it’s a USB OTG port. This means a single USB port is used to charge the DV8 and hook up peripherals. To charge the DV8, simply plug in any old USB charger into the USB port. Violà, it’s charging! If you want to hook any kind of USB device to it, a thumb drive, a keyboard, a rocket launcher, you need a USB OTG cable. If you have a DV8, it’s worth it to order a handful of these. They’re cheap enough, and it’s good to have one around when you need one. Unfortunately you can’t connect both, so you have to choose; juice or peripherals. Normally when I’m told something isn’t possible, I shrug my shoulders and then go off and eat some cookies. This time, I rolled up my sleeves, headed out to the Internet, and found a solution.
Before we dig in, let me be clear, I didn’t figure this out. I saw a post on a forum somewhere and ordered the cables from there. It was probably on WP Central or XDA Developers. Either way, I can’t find it now. If someone finds the post or thread, leave it in a comment below and I’ll link it up. Thanks to a comment left below, I believe the original place I saw this was on a thread on TabletReview.
The DV8 isn’t the only device with a USB OTG port. Many Android tablets and phones have one too. With the help of special splitter cables, they’re able to charge while devices are connected. Those cables alone won’t work with the DV8. There is a handshake that the DV8 does when a device is connected to the USB OTG port and the DV8 chooses to ignore devices if it sees the charger handshake. With a handful of cables and adapters we’re able to trick the DV8 into seeing the charger, then not seeing the charger. Kind of like the old “quarter behind the ear” trick I do with my kids. Here’s the pieces you’ll need:
#1 - USB Male to Micro USB Male Charging Data Cable w/ Switch for Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 - Black (100 CM)
#2 - CY U2-166 USB Female to Micro USB Female + Micro USB Male Adapter Cable - Black (15cm)
#3 - USB Female to Micro USB Female Adapter – Black
Deal Extreme is the only place I could find these three cables. Be warned, it took three weeks (yikes!) for me to get my cables. Together they cost less than $10, so go ahead and order them now. Sometime, right after three weeks or so I’m guessing, you’ll wish that you had.
Cable #1 has a switch to switch between Charge and Data. It’s the piece that makes this all work. When we connect this whole contraption to our DV8 it needs to be in the Charge position. The DV8 will see the Charge signal and start charging. The key is that it doesn’t continue to check for the Charge signal. After it starts charging we can flip the switch to the Data side and it will recognize any USB devices connected to #3. #2 sits between them and splits out the charging and data sides. Here are the steps:
- Switch the Charge / Data switch on #1 to Charge
- Plug the charger into the female micro USB connector on #2
- Plug #3 into the male micro USB connector on #2 if it’s not already
- Plug in the charger to the wall
- Plug your USB device to #3 (it should power up)
- Plug #1 into your DV8
- Verify that the DV8 is charging, if it’s not, unplug #1 from the DV8 and plug it back in
- Once the DV8 is charging, flip the switch on #1 to Data
Here is a picture of it all connected:
If you look closely you’ll see my awesome SharePoint 2007 USB drive is attached to cable #2 and the whole shebang is connected to the DV8. Here’s a screenshot to prove it’s both charging and reading my SharePoint 2007 USB drive:
You can hook any kind of USB device to #3, including a hub. If you use this contraption you’ll have to use a USB charger to power the USB devices. If you unplug the charger all the devices go away too. If that happens, switch #1 into Charge and plug it all back in again.
This has been one of my biggest frustrations with the Dell Venue 8 Pro. I’m glad some anonymous person on the Internet was able to find a solution. Thanks anonymous Internet person!
Edit 3/12/2014: Added link to original thread