Dell Venue 11 Pro review: This Atom-powered Windows tablet goes full-HD

One reason the Venue 11 Pro stands out from other small Windows tablets is that it includes a full-HD 1,920x1,080-pixel 10.8-inch display. This is an IPS display, so it looks good from even wide angles, and the screen isn't so glossy that you're constantly fighting glare. Sound from the built-in dual speakers is predictably thin, but good enough for casual video viewing or Skype calls.

Dell Venue 11 Pro
Video micro-HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 USB 3.0, microSD card reader
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery
For a slim, lightweight tablet, the Venue 11 Pro manages to pack in a decent amount of connectivity. The HDMI and SD card slots are of the micro variety, useless without an adapter or dongle, so keep that in mind if you like to travel light.

Dell sells a docking station, which costs $140, and it looks and feels like one previously sold with an older Inspiron tablet. The tablet slots into the top at a fixed angle, and you get three USB 3.0 ports, DisplayPort and HDMI, and an Ethernet jack. The dock is a heavy aluminum piece and will stay where you put it. With the USB ports, you could add a full-size keyboard and mouse, and even connect an external monitor -- although you should keep the low-power Atom processor and small 64GB SSD in mind before you make this your main work machine.

Having a laptop or netbook with an Intel Atom processor used to threaten poor performance for everything from Web surfing to video playback. Today's Atom CPUs are so different from the classic netbook-era ones of several years ago, they really should have a different name. For everyday use, something like the 1.46GHz Intel Atom Z3770 is perfectly fine, and can handle social media, HD video playback, Web browsing, and office documents. It can even deal with some basic games, such as those found in Microsoft's Windows 8 app store. These are closer to mobile phone or iPad games than PC ones, but games such as Halo: Spartan Assault are still impressive on the Venue 11 Pro.

Of course, a full Core i-series CPU will offer better performance, and you can even configure the Venue 11 Pro with a current-gen Core i3 or i5 CPU, albeit at a much higher cost ($849 for the Core i5 model).

When using a low-power chip such as the Atom, you'd be right to expect excellent battery life. The base $499 Venue 11 Pro ran for 6 hours and 30 minutes on video playback battery drain test. That's a decent score, although heavy Wi-Fi use will shorten your performance. The real interesting number comes from the second battery built into the keyboard dock. Using both batteries together, we got a combined run of 14 hours and 5 minutes, which is more than double the standalone time. If you need a small laptop that definitely won't die during a cross-country or transatlantic flight, the 11 Pro plus keyboard dock should be more than enough.

Conclusion
The Dell Venue 11 Pro takes the Atom-powered small form factor tablet/hybrid idea and pushes the boundaries toward a more upscale, professional product. The solid construction, high-res display, well-made keyboard, and long battery life all point to a low-power Windows tablet that can do nearly all an ultraportable laptop can.

My main concern is price. You're paying a definite premium for these features, starting with $499 just for the tablet itself. That the price on the keyboard dock actually rose since we started testing the Venue 11 Pro is mind-boggling, and asking anyone to pay $160 for a clip-on keyboard, even one with a built-in battery, is a stretch.

Multimedia Multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Video playback battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations
Dell Venue 11 Pro

Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.46GHz Intel Atom Z3770; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB Sasmung SSD

Toshiba Click W35Dt-A
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1GHz AMD A4 1200 APU; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 8180 Graphics; 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive

Acer Iconia W3
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 1003MB (shared) Intel GMA, 64GB SSD

Sony Vaio Tap 11
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 1739MB (Sharedl) Intel HD Graphics 4200; 128GB Tosiba SSD

Asus Transformer Book T100
Windows 8.1 (32-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Atom Z3740; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics; 64GB SanDisk SSD

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11n
    Bluetooth 4.0
  • Type Microsoft Windows 8.1
  • Weight 1.6 lbs
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