Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 review
The Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 has its work cut out. Landing in the PC Pro offices amidst news of Microsoft’s holographic augmented reality goggles and 84in Surface Hub, a mere Windows tablet – and even one of the calibre of the Venue 11 Pro – seems like yesterday’s news. But while Dell’s tablet is unlikely to snatch any headlines, there is one area where it really is cutting-edge: this excellent 10.8in business tablet is now powered by Intel’s Core M processors.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000: design
If you’ve seen, or indeed own, one of the previous Venue 11 Pro models then you know what to expect. Dell has barely tweaked the design, save for moving a few ports around the tablet’s edges, and it’s fair to say the Venue 11 Pro remains more functional business tool than funky Windows hybrid; between this and the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 then there’s no contest in the looks department.
At 757g it isn’t the lightest tablet, either, but it’s as solidly built as we could ask for. Pick it up, and it remains light enough to wield in one hand, and the rubberised plastic rear provides enough grip to stop it slipping out of your hand. It feels like a quality device and, if our Venue 11 Pro from last year is anything to go by, the design is more than capable of surviving day-to-day knocks and scrapes.
As ever, the Venue 11 Pro’s Full HD display is a high point. It even 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 the contrast ratio of 886:1 ensures images have plenty of pop. Colour reproduction remains good, too, and the Dell’s IPS panel covers 91.7% of the sRGB colour gamut with a decent level of accuracy. Colours are largely accurate across the board, and the only sticking point is that greyscales are tinted with a slight greenish cast.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000: performance
Behind the display, Intel’s Core M processors now take pride of place. Gone are the ultra-low voltage Y-class Core i3 and Core i5 Haswell chips of the previous models, and in their stead stand the the 800Mhz Core M 5Y10 and the 1.2GHz Core M 5Y71. Both are dual-core CPUs which, judging by their nominal clockspeeds, look fairly slow. They’re anything but, however, with the Core M 5Y10 boosting up to 2GHz when required, and the Core M 5Y71 reaching 2.9GHz.
As a result, the Venue 11 Pro delivers a nippy, responsive performance. Our review unit partnered the Core M 5Y10 with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB M.2 Sandisk SSD, and achieved a very respectable 0.53 in our Real World Benchmarks. That is a little behind the 0.59 scored by the very similar roster of hardware in the HP Envy X2 13, but given the size of the HP that comes as little surprise – the Dell’s smaller, thinner chassis struggles to dissipate the same amount of heat, preventing the Core M CPU from raising its clockspeeds as high and as often.
As if to prove the point, we found the Dell gave the best benchmark scores while docked into its optional keyboard. Lying flat on a desk, the rear of the Venue 11 Pro got noticeably hotter during our benchmark tests.
We didn’t test the Core i3 or Core i5 versions of the first Venue 11 Pro, so we can’t comment on whether Core M brings any performance benefits over the Haswell generation, but battery life is good, besting even last year’s Bay Trail Atom model. With the screen dimmed down to 75cd/m2 and Wi-Fi off, the Venue 11 Pro’s 38Wh battery lasted 11hrs 21mins in our light-use browser test, nearly an hour longer than its predecessor.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000: usability and ergonomics
We remain impressed with the Dell Venue 11 Pro’s connectivity. On the wireless front, it has dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4 and an optional 4G module. Dell has replaced the mini-HDMI output of previous models with a micro-HDMI port, but the single full-sized USB 3 and micro-USB ports for charging duties remain present and correct.
Another nice touch, and one that IT departments will particularly appreciate, is that you can actually get at the Venue 11 Pro’s internal battery. Lever off the plastic rear and it’s possible to remove both the internal battery and M.2 SSD. And if you don’t fancy rooting around inside the tablet to swap batteries, you can always shell out for the optional Tablet Keyboard with its secondary 28Wh battery – in our tests, it almost doubled the Venue 11 Pro’s battery life.
In usability terms, we still like the Venue 11 Pro – we like it a lot, in fact. The range of accessories make it possible to transform its capabilities from pure tablet to a pleasingly compact ultraportable, all the way to a desktop PC replacement. Those accessories all come as optional extras, though, so you’ll have to shell out £29 for the active stylus, £160 for the Tablet Keyboard (which unlike and £139 for the docking station.
There are some areas where the Venue 11 Pro does give away some ground to the Surface Pro 3: the Surface Pro 3’s 3:2 ratio, high-DPI screen is a much better fit for a hybrid tablet/laptop device – the squared-off rather than rectangular display is much more pleasant to use in both landscape and portrait orientations, and feels much more spacious in either scenario. Image fidelity is a touch better than the Venue due to the increased resolution, too.
And in other respects, the Venue 11 Pro suffers from some of the same niggles as rival devices. There’s nowhere to stash the stylus, for instance, and while the Tablet Keyboard does some things brilliantly, both doubling the Venue 11 Pro’s battery life and providing a comfy, usable keyboard and touchpad, it is annoying that you can’t tilt the display very far back.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000: verdict
It isn’t perfect, then, but the Venue 11 Pro remains a great tablet, especially when you consider the price. If you can make do with a 64GB SSD, the entry-level model throws in a slim, clip-on keyboard for £559 inc VAT, and even if you crave the top-end model with the faster CPU and 128GB SSD, it still costs a reasonable £639 inc VAT, albeit without a keyboard. That compares very favourably with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.
Whether it’s for work or play, if you’re after a nippy, long-lasting and multi-talented Windows tablet, the Venue 11 Pro hits the mark.