Dell's Venue 11 Pro is the right idea for mobile workers, and it has a range of useful accessories and some decent specifications, but it is let down by build quality and software problems. Performance is admirable and its removable battery is a big selling point.
Removable battery, range of accessories, mobile data an optional extra, clear focus on business users
Screen is mediocre, unsuitable keyboard dock angle and software glitches hinder the experience
Model: Dell Venue 11 Pro
Display: 10.8in IPS full HD with Corning Gorilla Glass
Processor: Intel Atom Z3770 quad-core 2.4GHz, plus Core i3 and i5 options
RAM: 2GB DDR3
Storage: 32 GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB SSD
Wireless connections: 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth
Ports: USB 3.0, micro HDMI, SD card, headset jack, docking connector (desktop dock: Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3.0)
Camera: 8MP rear-facing, 2MP front-facing
Dimensions: 28x18x1.02-1.54cm, depending on model
Battery: 2-cell 30Wh/37Wh swappable battery, depending on model
Weight: 1.4kg (docked); 726g (tablet only)
The Dell Venue 11 Pro is intended to be highly flexible and is targeted at businesses whose workers are often on the move between meetings and the office. The portable tablet device comes with a host of additional extras to make this possible, including a Tablet Dock and Tablet Keyboard, which turn the device into a fully fledged netbook equivalent for longer desk-based use.
The device we reviewed is the cheapest in the range, suited for widespread corporate rollouts. But the standalone tablet price is not a lot compared with the price you'll have to pay if you want the device to be remotely useful.
Naturally, all of the Venue 11 Pro's vital components are encased within the tablet itself, meaning it works as a standalone tablet running on Windows 8.1 Pro. This gives you access to all of Windows' legacy app support as well as its Modern UI interface more suited for touchscreens.
Perhaps the tablet's biggest asset is its removable backplate, which, when opened, reveals a replaceable battery, a feature often missing from work-focused tablets.
Variations of the Venue 11 Pro come with 3G and 4G mobile data support, although our review model was WiFi only.
The Dell Venue 11 Pro comes with a 10.8in full HD in-plane switching (1920x1080) touchscreen display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. The display is fairly bright, although the colours are somewhat muted and it does not handle greasy fingers particularly well. The screen is fairly reflective, meaning glare can be an issue in bright light.
Despite boasting full HD specifications, the screen's size does not lend well to reading text, meaning we were often forced to boost the magnification of web pages and increase the font sizes of documents we were working on. Text at default size can best be described as "fuzzy". In addition, a software glitch resulted in Intel's HD graphics drivers crashing multiple times per day, sending us to a black screen for several seconds before it recovered.
The touchscreen was noticeably inconsistent in its registering of our prods and taps. There seemed to be no reason why some of our inputs were ignored by the Venue Pro 11, and problems occurred in both in the Windows 8 Modern UI and in Desktop mode. Touch inputs in the Desktop mode are a particularly haphazard undertaking as the resolution of the screen makes buttons incredibly small, making for a frustrating, hit-and-miss experience.
By far the worst feature of the screen, however, was its constant flickering. Every single cursor movement – or any other on-screen movement – resulted in a change of brightness. This was an incredibly distracting trait, and we are surprised it made it through quality assurance. We tested two identical Venue Pro 11s to check it wasn't a one-off, and both behaved in exactly the same way.
The Venue 11 Pro feels fairly solid to hold, with its base weight starting at 726g. At a little over 1cm thick, it is fairly comfortable in the hand, although use over an extended period is likely to cause wrist ache.
Our review device was Dell's cheapest option, with a quad-core Intel Atom Z3770 processor running at 2.4GHz. The processor was backed up by 2GB of DDR3 memory and a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD) for storage. The disadvantage of choosing the Atom chipset is that it doesn't have Intel's vPro technology, used by some IT departments for enhanced security. It is however present on the model with the highest-powered Core i5 4300Y processor.
On the left side of the device you will find a volume rocker, a micro USB port for charging the device and a full-size USB 3.0 port. Present on the top of the tablet is a power/sleep button as well as the Venue's internal microphone. On the right is the micro SD card slot, a Kensington Lock slot and a micro HDMI port. The device's bottom side features connectors for the device's docks.
Next: Keyboard and desktop docks