- Review Date: 3/4/2014
- Bottom line: With its great battery life, 1080p IPS screen, and flexible mobile and desktop docking systems, the Dell Venue 11 Pro slate tablet means business.
- Pros: All-day battery life. Bright, 1080p HD IPS touch display. Uses microUSB charging. Optional keyboard dock adds battery power. Windows 8.1 Pro. Has desktop dock option. Swappable battery.
- Cons: Keyboard docks cost extra. Stylus not included. Aggressive default screen dimming. Only one USB 3.0 port.
The Dell Venue 11 Pro ($499.99 direct, as tested) is a flexible slate tablet built for business. It comes with many work-oriented features, including Windows 8.1 Pro, a removable battery, and a variety of docking solutions. We looked at the entry-level Intel Atom-powered version of the system, but IT buyers can spec out the Venue 11 Pro with Intel Core i3 or i5 ultrabook-class processors. As configured here, the system impresses us enough to earn our latest Editors' Choice for business Windows 8 slate tablets.
Design and Features
The Venue 11 Pro is built around a 10.8-inch screen. It's quite thin, measuring 7 by 11 by 0.4 inches (HWD). By itself, the tablet weighs 1.65 pounds, making it light enough to be a daily companion. It uses a microUSB port exclusively for charging (an AC adapter is included), which solves the AC adapter confusion of the previous EC for business slate tablets, the Dell Latitude 10. (The Latitude 10 had two charging methods: microUSB and a proprietary charger.) We were able to charge the Venue 11 Pro using a generic USB 2 Amp charger, so if you have any other tablet chargers lying around and can't find the one that came with the Venue Pro 11, you'll be fine. Like the Dell Latitude 10 and Dell Venue 8 Pro, the Venue 11 Pro runs the full Windows 8.1 Pro OS, which is better for work than the Windows 8.1 RT operating system found on the Microsoft Surface 2. This means that it can run all your x86-based internal apps, including necessary third-party browser plug-ins, or legacy apps that have been in use at your company since the late 1990s.
The 10.8-inch, 10-point touch screen is bright and clear, thanks to its IPS panel. There's a digitizer behind the screen, but the stylus is optional. The screen has a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, which not only allows you to see all the pixels in a 1080p HD video, but also lets you view many more cells in your company's spreadsheets than the 1,366-by-768-resolutions display on the Dell Latitude 10 and on our consumer-grade entry-level hybrid tablet Editors' Choice Asus Transformer Book T100TA (64GB). The Venue 11 Pro played back 1080p HD videos quickly and smoothly, even when viewing quick snap cuts and edits on trailers from action movies. If there's one nit we have about the screen, it's that Dell has aggressive settings on its ambient light detection: You'll need to disable adaptive brightness if you use the Venue 11 Pro outside of a dark room.
The Venue 11 Pro can be equipped with an optional desktop dock ($139.99 direct), or mobile keyboard dock ($159.99 direct). Both docks increase the system's usability. The desktop dock has three additional USB 3.0 ports (one in front, two in back), an Ethernet port, HDMI, and DisplayPort. This allows the Venue 11 Pro to offer multi-monitor support, and the system can be used on your network if your office only has wired Ethernet connectivity. The mobile keyboard dock adds a full sized keyboard, multi-touch trackpad, and quite a few hours of battery life to the system (more on that below).
The Venue 11 Pro with keyboard dock weighs 3.12 pounds, which is still very portable. There's also a Slim Tablet Keyboard case available ($129.99 list), similar to Microsoft's Surface Type Covers. The mobile keyboard dock has good key feel and latches on in a similar fashion to the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix. One difference between the Venue 11 Pro and the Lenovo Helix is that the latter will lock into its keyboard dock when flipped around 180 degrees (screen facing out). You can physically push the Venue 11 Pro onto the keyboard dock this way, but it won't securely lock there, which means the tablet could fall off if you turn it over. Not a deal-breaker, but certainly worth noting.
The tablet comes with a single USB 3.0 port, mini-HDMI port, headset jack, and a micoSD card slot that works like the SIM tray on most mobile phones. This is somewhat inconvenient to swap, but it also means that your microSD card is secure and won't pop out of the tablet while it's in use. The 64GB solid-state drive (SSD) in our review unit had 37.5GB available after the initial setup. This should be enough free space for a few programs and local files, and should be sufficient if your business has centralized servers. You can of course add to the storage with a microSD card. Built in 802.11 a/b/g/n WI-Fi keeps the Venue 11 Pro connected, and you can use the built in NFC reader if your company supports smart tags.
Our review unit came with a swappable 32Wh battery. This is a business must, and differentiates Dell's Venue and Latitude tablets from others like the Lenovo Helix and Acer Iconia W3 (64GB). The back panel pops off, and you can swap the battery after pushing a couple of latches. It takes a bit longer than on the Latitude 10, but once you get the hang of it, it's quite easy. The Venue 11 Pro comes with a standard one-year warranty with in home/office service.
Our review unit came with an Intel Atom Z3770 processor with Intel HD Graphics, 2GB of memory, and 64GB SSD. This makes the Venue 11 Pro one of the fastest Atom-powered tablets we've reviewed. And while the 2GB of memory limits which benchmark tests run (particularly Photoshop CS6), the system is measurably faster than others running older-generation Atom processors like the Acer W3 and Dell Latitude 10. This can be seen in the PCMark 7 test, where the Venue 11 Pro scored 2,692 points, topping the Dell Latitude 10 (1,291) and Acer W3 (1,454). Similar results were seen on the Handbrake test, where the Venue 11 Pro scored 2 minutes 19 seconds, which is significantly faster than the Dell Latitude 10 (6:27) and Acer W3 (8:48). The Venue 11 Pro won't completely replace an ultrabook-class laptop with Core i5 power, but it isn't a slouch like older Atom tablets were.
Of course, an Atom-powered anything is worthless without phenomenal battery life, and the Venue 11 Pro has it in spades. It ran for a remarkable 9 hours 1 minute with the standard 32Whr battery, and an impressive 18 hours flat with the keyboard dock. This is enough for most business days, especially when you consider that the tablet is easily charged via a high-powered USB charger. The Dell Latitude 10 has a bit more battery life in our tests, but it's also significantly more expensive.
The Dell Venue 11 Pro is certainly a challenge to the "bring your own device" mantra that has developed over the past few years. The Venue 11 Pro has the chops to replace both a mobile tablet and a business docking laptop for daily Office tasks. It has full Windows 8.1 Pro compatibility going for it, along with business friendly docks and swappable batteries. Its pricing, feature set, and performance are much better than our former Editors' Choice Dell Latitude 10 and its Enhanced Security brother. All this earns the Dell Venue 11 Pro our nod for Editors' Choice for business Windows 8 slate tablets.