Dell Venue 11 Pro with Travel Dock: Outstanding laptop

Dell Venue 11 Pro with Travel Dock: Outstanding laptop

Summary: Most Windows hybrids are reasonable laptop substitutes with a keyboard dock. The Venue 11 Pro is a genuine laptop replacement with Dell’s dock.

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  • Take a tablet and throw in a keyboard dock and you have a Windows hybrid. The tablet part is obvious, and plugging it into a keyboard dock that looks like a laptop turns it into a sort of notebook computer. How well it replaces the laptop varies from one model to another. In the case of the Dell Venue 11 Pro it is a genuine laptop replacement.

    Dell has constructed one of the most solid tablets available in the Venue 11 Pro. It is fairly light for a 10.8-inch slate, with quality design through and through. It packs some unique features inside the thin form, most notably a battery that can be swapped out by the owner.

    Hardware specs as reviewed:

    Processor Intel Atom Z3770, 1.46GHz
    Display 10.8-inch, 1,920 x 1,080, IPS
    Memory 2GB (up to 4GB)
    Storage 64GB (up to 256GB)
    Communications Wi-fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; NFC
    Cameras Front: 2MP, Rear: 8MP
    Ports Audio, Full USB 3.0, miniHDMI, microSD
    Battery 30Whr, 10 hours, user swappable
    Dimensions 6.96 x 11.72 x 0.4 inches; 177 x 297.7 x 10.2 mm
    Weight 1.57 lbs

    Take one tablet and call me in the morning

    Holding the Venue 11 Pro in the hand is a reassuring experience. Everything feels solidly built and although it is on the fringe of what I prefer for the weight of a tablet, it is comfortable to hold. The material covering the back is textured to provide a good grip.

    The IPS display is a good resolution, 1,920 x 1,080, and is nice and bright once you turn off the auto-brightness control. This is on by default and the Windows setup process was hard to read as the screen was far too dim. Turning the control off is done in Settings once Windows 8.1 boots the first time.

    While 10.8 inches is pretty big for a tablet, it doesn’t feel to be so in the hand. The weight distribution is just right and it is easy to use in either portrait or landscape orientation.

    Using it in portrait points out a glaring design miscue that is found on many Windows tablets. Dell has put a touch operated Windows button on the bezel, and using the Venue 11 Pro in portrait results in frequent unintended hitting of the button. I really wish Microsoft would forbid using anything but physical Windows buttons on tablets.

    The optional stylus leverages the pen input on Windows 8. The Venue 11 Pro is almost too heavy to use for taking notes with the pen but it’s comfortable for short periods.

    Splitting the Atom

    The Venue 11 Pro can be configured with the Atom Bay Trail processor as reviewed, or with a Core i3 or i5. The performance with the Atom has been outstanding in my testing, and many should find it stout enough. It is significant that the Atom processor runs the system properly, as that’s what makes the 10 hours of battery life possible.

    That’s all-day battery life already, but frequent business travelers will appreciate the second battery in the Travel Dock covered later in this article.

    See related: The dirty little secret of Windows 8: It runs on lesser hardware really well | ThinkPad 10 (review): Great Windows tablet, good laptop

    Power users will want one of the Core processors, but as I’ve covered in a recent article the current generation Atom processor with Bay Trail technology is leaps and bounds above previous generation Atoms.

    The Venue 11 Pro is blazingly fast, and you’d almost believe it has a fast Core processor inside. Even with multiple heavy apps running at the same time the Venue keeps up with it all handily. Graphics are fast and smooth, too. It is impressive how fast and fluidly Windows operates.

    What makes it particularly impressive about the good performance of the Atom is the unit I’m testing only has two GB of RAM. That is enough as I’ve not experienced laggy performance even once.

    Travel Dock and laptop usage

    The first thing you notice about the optional Travel Dock for the Venue 11 Pro is how solid it feels. It is well constructed and looks exactly like a laptop without the screen. When you snap the screen into the dock on the hinge the illusion is complete. It looks just like a laptop, unlike most hybrids with docks.

    What sets the Travel Dock apart from much of the competition is the inclusion of a second battery inside. Dell claims it adds 50 percent battery life to the Venue 11 Pro, and while I haven’t done extensive testing it seems to be close. That’s an additional five hours of time away from an outlet, which combined with the 10 hours of the tablet is a respectable 15 hours unplugged. That's essentially a two day business trip without the charger.

    The keyboard is very, very good. The keys feel solid with just the right amount of resistance, and fast touch typing is supported. All of the keys are where you expect them, and just like a laptop there is a CAPS LOCK indicator on the left of the keyboard.

    Opening the laptop tilts the back of the keyboard up slightly, a nice ergonomic touch.

    The trackpad is very responsive and big enough to be useful. It feels as good and responsive as trackpads on laptops much more expensive than this combination.

    The Travel Dock is currently $140 from Dell.

    The skinny

    I really like the Venue 11 Pro as a tablet, and especially as a laptop with the Travel Dock. Out of the 20-plus Windows laptops and hybrids I have tested, the Dell Venue 11 Pro is the best, by far. It’s just the right size as a tablet, and indistinguishable from a “real” laptop with the Travel Dock. Dell has nailed it perfectly.

    I don’t make recommendations often, but I strongly suggest those looking for a hybrid should not overlook the Dell Venue 11 Pro. Pricing starts at $429.99 from Dell.

    Pros:

    Good size

    Nice performance even with the Atom

    Outstanding as a laptop with the Travel Dock

    Cons:

    Touch-operated Windows button on the bezel

    Almost, but not quite too heavy as a tablet

    Auto-brightness control is too dim, should be off by default

    Reviewer’s rating: 9.5 out of 10

  • Venue 11 Pro tablet screen

    The 1,920 x 1,080 resolution screen is a good fit for 10.8 inches.

Topics: Mobility, Dell, Laptops, Reviews, Tablets, Windows 8

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20 comments
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  • Does size matter anymore?

    I can remember not long ago in the netbook era of small screens, that small was out and the 15 inch laptop became the staple of portable computing. Then we saw the age of 60" or better TV's and the mega 30" PC desktop monitor. Now we have gone back to that netbook age of cheap ,small and weak. Is this the same thing that happens with cars? When times are good we buy SUV's and trucks. When it all goes south we buy hybrids and electrics or small shoe box cars.
    Yes I bought a small 11.6" Chromebook because it was cheap, so I am guilty of letting my slimmer wallet decide my purchase. Now I really have buyers remorse and wished I had bought something bigger and more powerful. Nothing wrong with the Dell, except how long will a Atom CPU and 10.8" screen really satisfy? Far as speed? The Atom is certainly faster then those single cores in the netbooks. But its all relative, and I know myself, when I get a little money. I am going back to that bigger laptop.
    JohnnyES-25227553276394558534412264934521
    • Cheap is not the main reason to buy 'small'

      I have a number of 15" laptops of the highest caliber, all Dells, and many other machines. Yet for travel and overall casual and even relaxed usage, I still prefer my 8.9" 2008-vintage Acer netbooks. Not because they are cheap, but because they are easier to use. I see no performance difference, even though the Acers are XP, and the old Atom processor. They are more FUN, frankly. Tablets? I'm not a fan of them, want the keyboard.

      This review makes me consider Dell for a hybrid, despite the fact I hate Windows 8. I can't think of a time I'd want to use it as a tablet, but the option sounds worth having. Else, like another netbook, but with a slightly larger screen. Not too large, since travel depends on size a lot more than it depends on weight. Now if only they'd make a tablet on a lanyard, so I could just drop my hand when needed; or, make it with some kind of wristband.. but hey, that's dreaming.
      brainout
    • Yes and no...

      As a purchaser for many mobile users, I don't think 15" was the preferred form factor as much it was the preferred price. I had many users who'd had preferred the 14" or 13", but the sweet spot in price was the 15.x" size. Generally, the smaller units (not netbooks) were $100 - $300 more depending on specs.

      I think the key to all these tablet reviews are simply the value of the tablet factor. There are basically 3 users: home/multi-media, typists, note-takers. For home/media, the tablet is really nice. That's why the iPads took off and why my wife, my daughter, and I spend way too much time ignoring each other for the tablets. (I have an earlier Dell tablet). The typists will understandably want the nice keyboards and my not have much desire for the tablet. The note takers may like the tablet, but unless they have a good digitizer, they may still prefer the keyboard. Of course, there's also the kids and cool people who want the newest cool thing.

      Personally, I love the tablet and I like to have an add-on keyboard. As an older of a previous model Dell tablet, I love the Dell take, the Windows 8.x OS (on touch), and the tablet FF. The only hard part to swallow is the compared value of an actual laptop - despite size. But you still have that convenience of reaching over in the bed, picking up the lighter tablet and not fighting with the keyboard just to read the news or look at some picts.
      tech_e
  • Dell

    Dell has delivered some solid Windows 8 offerings... it is a shame their customer support is brutal.
    SovereignTechnology
    • I'm hoping

      Mr. Dell buying them out again means that customer service as well as hardware will continue to improve
      theoilman
    • my ideal unit is a device between Surface2, Surface Pro3, and Dell Venue 11

      I looked at the Dell Venue 11 pro and it has some nice features but not quite there

      the Venue specs are listed above in the article, for reference surface specs are:
      Surface Pro 3 Dimensions: 11.5 x 7.93 x .36 in • Weight: 1.76 lbs
      292.1 x 201.4 x 9.14 mm. 798.3 grams
      12 " screen 2160 x 1440
      46314 3D Mark Sccore with i5 4300U 8GB RAM.

      Surface 2 Dimensions: 10.81 x 6.81 x 0.35 in Weight: 1.49 lbs
      274.5 x 172.9 x 8.89 mm. 650. grams
      10.6 " screen 1920 x 1080
      14150 3D Mark Score with Tegra4 2GB RAM

      ideal unit 11.15 X 7.37 X 0.276 in 1.19 LBS
      283.2 X 187.2 X 7.0 mm 540.0 grams

      11.75 " screen 2560x1600 16:10 aspect ratio (9.96x6.23 screen area)
      4GB RAM
      96GB - 256GB storage + 128GB microSD card support
      25000 3D Mark Score.

      The Dell Venue 11 Pro with Atom scores in the 156xx range on 3D Mark.

      The Surface 2 and Dell Venue have 16:9 aspect ratio
      Surface Pro 3 has 3:2 aspect ratio
      after using these albeit briefly on Surface Pro 3 I think the 16:10 aspect ratio would be the sweet spot.

      The Dell Venue performance is marginally better than Surface 2 with the Atom although an I3 would probably be in the very good range and the i5 on Surface Pro 3 is outstandingly snappy, zero lag. Id imagine a similarly configured Venue would be pretty similar however I didn't lookup published performance data on that config.

      bottom line I like the bigger screen and feel slightly squeezed by 16:9 and 16:10 with dimensions I mentioned above would be right in between the 2 surface models. plus at the 11.15 " width you can fit a 99.9% full size keyboard on with space for a decent track pad. my main complaint about 10.1 size is the kybd is too scrunched as well as the screen... and anything smaller is too deep into the suboptimal (sucks).
      greywolf7
  • More legitimate laptop replacement than the Surface Pro 3!

    I used the Dell Venue Pro 11 for quite a while, it feels much more of a legitimate laptop replacement than the Surface Pro 3 does. The main reason is like the Asus Transformer series, the keyboard and touchpad dock is hard, thus it gives a better laptop feel (especially when typing).
    Pollo Pazzo
    • Use case

      It all boils down to use case. I have tried the Transformer series of devices but prefer the Surface form factor. For me it boils down to instant transitions between a notebook and a tablet and back again over and over again. I spend my days going from meeting to meeting and working on a desktop in between and being able to flip the keyboard back is just fantastic.

      The styles does not mean much for me but again, not my use case.
      Rann Xeroxx
  • testing one for company

    Works great since 8.1 update and a bios update. Love it. Have a microSD, cloud storage, and external hd, so 64 gb no problem.
    Use as a laptop most of the time, "desktop" some,and occasionally a tablet. Love the HDMI adapter, and when in desktop mode, I use second monitor.
    Also have a Venue Pro 8 for personal use. Just can't quit it, even though I'm an Apple fanboy.
    ray746
  • Wow...9.5 out of 10

    Honestly I didn't expect such high marks; thought those were reserved for Apple wares on this site. Joking aside, this is one of Windows' advantages. Flexibility that comes from low system requirements. OSX by comparison couldn't possible run on an Atom.

    This device also proves that it is possible to make something of quality but at the same time inexpensive. I also remember this was one of the arguments Apple used defending its high prices.

    PS: Amazing that a "lowly" Dell comes with a full HD IPS multitouch display and a "superior" MBA comes with a relatively atrocious 1366x768 TN display.
    Ghest
    • So where does it refer to OS X in this article ?

      .
      5735guy
  • The Windows Button

    I had a Asus Transformer Book and loved it except the hard drive was to small. So I got a Surface Pro. The battery life sucks but I needed more room and a stylus. The one thing I really liked was the start button on the side of the Transformer Book. It was perfectly placed, the windows button on the Surface and the Dell are such a pain when in portrait mode. I wish I could disable it.
    2ndtryagain
  • So $570 for tablet and dock with Atom...

    still seems a touch high. When they go on sale, they will probably be a bit more attractive. Still some what cheaper than Surface Pro 3 but getting closer to the prices of discounter Surface Pro 2 if you factor in i5 pricing.
    jkohut
    • right when it launched

      back in November last year was when I got it, and it was on sale then. I picked up the combo for $450. I'm sure it'll be on sale again soon enough.
      theoilman
  • love mine

    I find I use it as a laptop 90% of the time... I don't think I'm a huge fan of tablets after all. I'd probably use the tablet mode more if the pen worked but word is it doesn't. this thing is still an amazing laptop though- all day battery life and great portability.
    theoilman
    • Ah yes, the pen

      I like mine a lot exactly for the portability. But the damn stylus works for a few minutes then stops. After using the Galaxy Note 3 stylus, I found I loved written notes and being able to make quick sketches and bought the DVP 11 precisely for the stylus capability. After a month and a half, am still trying to get Dell to make it work.
      kcams
  • I told you so

    I told you this thing was unbeatable in the Atom tabtop category :)
    warboat
  • Screen Position

    This is a little off topic - but I have been looking for somewhere to raise this question ---
    The general advice on where to set a desktop monitor is with the top of the screen at eye level. Of course no laptop does this. My wife has found pragmatically that working daily with a laptop on the dining room table is bad for her posture, and has now lifted the whole thing about 2.5". This still does not put the screen where it 'should' be, but higher turns uncomfortable typing into near impossible typing. Fortunately she does not have to type extensively. I should note that she has tried using 10" - 11" screens and finds them unusable. Lastly the whole thing is packed away every night onto a small shelf that just holds her 15.6" laptop nicely - so lots of pieces would be a pain. Really lastly - she travels very rarely.

    So I keep looking for something that has a 14" - 16" screen that can be mounted separately (Bluetooth) from the keyboard to get both at the right height, mouse enabled, easy pack away - and oh yes - good (replaceable) battery life would be nice so there does not have to be a power lead under the dogs feet all day. However we seem to be alone in this quest as no one makes anything even close!

    Comments?
    petermat@...
  • Portrait mode

    I'm glad to see a photo with the device being held in portrait mode. Although landscape is good for videos and other things, I like using my tab (Venue 8 Pro) in portrait but for tabs 10+ inches, it's awkward because of their landscape-like design. I think the upcoming ThinkPad 10 may be a little better for use in portrait mode and the Surface Pro 3 is certainly better in that regard but, with the exception of the iPad (and the Kindle Fire?), it seems that larger tab designs are more suited for landscape usage. A minor issue for most I'm sure, but still annoying.
    omahapianist
    • I love Portrait on 16:9 tablets

      especially with full 5 row onscreen keyboard and still have plenty of screen left
      warboat