T he Venue 11 Pro 7000 won’t win any awards for groundbreaking design. Dell has barely deviated from the format of previous Venue 11 Pro models, save for moving a few ports around the tablet’s edges, and it’s fair to say the look remains more “functional business tool” than “funky Windows hybrid”; between this and the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, there’s no contest in terms of looks.
It’s well built, though. At 757g, it’s light enough to wield in one hand, and the rubberised plastic rear stops it slipping. It feels like a quality device, and, if our Venue 11 Pro from last year is anything to go by, it should be more than capable of surviving day-to-day knocks and scrapes.
As ever, the Venue 11 Pro’s high point is its Full HD display, which gives the Surface Pro 3 a run for its money. Maximum brightness is down on last year’s model, but 398cd/m2 is still bright enough for outdoor use, and a contrast ratio of 886:1 ensures images have plenty of pop. Colour is good, too: the Dell’s IPS panel covers 91.7% of the sRGB colour gamut with a decent level of accuracy. The only sticking point is that greyscales are tinted with a slight greenish cast.
Behind the display, a dual-core Intel Core M processor now takes pride of place. Gone are the ultra-low-voltage Y-class Core i3 and Core i5 Haswell chips of previous models: instead the device is equipped with a 800MHz Core M-5Y10 CPU. That speed may sound fairly slow, but the Core M-5Y10 boosts up to 2GHz when required.
As a result, the Venue 11 Pro delivers nippy performance. Our review unit partnered the Core M-5Y10 with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB M.2 SanDisk SSD, achieving a respectable 0.56 in our Real World Benchmarks. That’s a little behind the 0.59 scored by the HP Envy x2 13 (see p42), but the trade-off is a smaller, thinner chassis.
Battery life is good too, besting even last year’s Atom-based model. With the screen set to 75cd/m2 and Wi-Fi turned off, the Venue 11 Pro’s 38Wh battery lasted 11hrs 21mins in our light-use browser test – almost an hour longer than its predecessor.
We remain impressed by the Venue 11 Pro’s connectivity options, too. On the wireless front, it has dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4, Miracast and an optional 4G module. There’s also video output via a micro-HDMI port, plus a single full-sized USB 3 port and micro-USB for charging.
A final nice touch – and one that IT departments in particular will appreciate – is that you can lever off the Venue 11 Pro’s plastic rear to access and replace both the internal battery and the SSD. There’s also an optional tablet keyboard with a secondary 28Wh battery; in our tests, this almost doubled the Venue 11 Pro’s battery life.
The Dell doesn’t get everything right. The Surface Pro’s 3:2-ratio screen feels more comfortable in both landscape and portrait orientations, and it offers a higher resolution, too. In addition, the Venue 11 Pro provides nowhere to stash the stylus and, while the tablet keyboard provides a comfy, usable keyboard and touchpad, it’s annoying that you can’t tilt back the display very far.
On the other hand, the Venue 11 Pro not only serves as a very likeable tablet, but it can also transform into a pleasingly compact ultraportable, and even a desktop PC replacement. Of course, the requisite accessories come as optional extras, so you’ll have to shell out $109 for the tablet keyboard, while prices for the stylus and dock weren’t available at review time, but it will be an additional cost overall.
Thankfully, the tablet itself isn’t too pricey, especially if you can make do with a 64GB SSD.
The entry-level model throws in a slim, clip-on keyboard for $999 – comparing very favourably with the Surface Pro 3. If you’re after a nippy, long lasting and multitalented Windows tablet, the Venue 11 Pro hits the mark.