Design

Dell’s previous model of the Venue 11 Pro 7000 included a Core i5 processor, which meant it was thicker and heavier than this year’s model. The outgoing model also included the necessary fans to keep the Core i5 cool. The move to Broadwell-Y, or Core M as it is known, changes all of this. The device is now passively cooled, and acts much more like a tablet than before. The weight has also been slimmed down a bit, with the new model coming in at 723 grams. That is a bit under the 800 grams of the Surface Pro 3, although that device is also a bit bigger with its 12 inch 3:2 display.

The display in the Venue 11 is a 1920x1080 IPS model, and that defines the initial tablet experience. It includes generous bezels, which make it easy to hold the device without accidentally touching the display, and the bezels make using Windows 8’s edge gestures a snap. Dell moved to their “Infinity Display” which has minimal bezels on their Venue 8 Android tablet, and while it looks fantastic, it can cause usability issues with the tablet, so keeping the display bezels on this tablet is a good thing.

There seems to be some movement away from 16:9 displays, especially in the tablet space. Apple of course uses a much more square 4:3 ratio on their tablets, which make them a lot easier to use in portrait mode. 16:10 would be better for this tablet, or even squarer like the 3:2 of the Surface Pro 3 and just announced Surface 3 might improve ergonomics of this tablet. When using it in portrait mode, it is incredibly tall and a bit awkward. In landscape, it is a lot better, but still some more vertical height in that mode would be appreciated to help balance the weight when holding it in one hand.

The styling of the Venue 11 is a bit pedestrian, but is nonetheless functional. The glass front has an accurate touch digitizer, and includes the stylus support. The sides are nicely rounded and comfortable in the hand. The power button is on the top right corner, and the volume rocker is on the top left. One questionable port location is the full sized USB port, which is on the bottom left size. If you have something plugged into the USB port, you could not be able to hold onto the device with your left hand. The micro USB power connector is only slightly higher, and can certainly cause an issue if you are holding the device while it is being charged. It would be nicer to see both of these ports moved up on future models. The right side of the tablet has a covered slot for a micro SD card, as well as a chassis lock.

The back of the Dell is covered in a soft-touch coating, which makes it very easy to hang on to and you never feel like it is going to slip out of your hands like some other devices. The rear also houses the 8 Megapixel camera, which is angled a bit to make it a bit easier to use when the tablet is tilted.

Overall, Dell has crafted a sturdy and comfortable successor to their previous Venue 11 Pro, and with the move to Core M it is a much better tablet than before. There are a few issues which may bother some people, such as the display ratio and location of the charging and USB ports, but in the end it is a reasonably thin and light tablet with enough power to be a laptop replacement for many people.

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  • duriel - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    The GPU comparison looks a bit strange, since Core M does quite a bit better at 3DMark than at GfxBench. Both Manhattan and IceStorm run for a couple of minutes, so I don't buy the argument that GfxBench is slower because it runs longer (although that might be true for actual games like Dota). Perhaps it is a driver / application optimization issue. I wonder if GfxBench uses OpenGL or DirectX on Windows. Intel is generally known to have better DX drivers than OGL. Too bad we don't have more cross platform graphics benchmarks. Reply
  • lilmoe - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    I've seen other reviews around too, and I don't base my judgements on benchmarks alone. It really seams that the GPU is not up to task. How much could they mess up the driver? This isn't Intel's first attempt at iGPUs... Reply
  • thunng8 - Friday, April 17, 2015 - link

    Ice Storm is a fair bit shorter than gfxBench benchmarks and IMO gfxBench graphically looks much better especially Manhattan Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    I hope they keep pushing these thigns out. When we go into the next recession these things will be all over slickdeals for $400 maybe even $300. At around $400 this is a very compelling product. Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    I was part of the validation process for these Venue Pros and other tablet/2-in-1s for work and we decided not to use these in favor of the Surface Pro 3 mixed in with some Yoga Pros and Transformer T300s (for users who wanted more of a 2-in-1 experience).

    There were a number of major problems with the Venue Pro that we ran into compared to the competitors and really only one positive.

    Pros: Take care of this easy one first, it has a built-in SC Reader. It works poorly, but it is there. This is an important feature for any Enterprise that does business with the Government or has the highest security standards.

    Cons:
    -1080p 16:9 aspect ratio is terrible for tablet portrait usage. Works OK on a smartphone because that's all we've ever known, but for web content and even most documents, 16:9 just doesn't work and often forces you to scroll LR on a page, especially if there is a menu/banner on either side.
    -Heavy and thick. Just feels really heavy. Maybe its due to the stocky dimensions, but it just feels heavy in the hand and it is considerably thicker than the SP3. It feels even worst as a tablet than the original Surface Pro and Pro 2.
    -Dock. Price and overall build quality on the dock is good, but attaching it is not as easy as the SP3 dock and you also can't attach the keyboard while docked like you can with the SP3's dock. Also not as many connectivity options but overall the dock is good especially for the price.
    -Folio Keyboard. This thing is awful, can't even be compared to the SP3's dock and it is also unnecessarily thick due to the multiple manifolds required for its stand-up folio action. The keyboard itself feels awful, almost no key travel it is more like the touchpads that also double as buttons for your entire keyboard. Also, in "laptop" mode it just doesn't work well because the tablet is SO much heavier than the keyboard and the only support you have is the flexible folio back kickstand. If you want a 2-in-1 spring for the new rigid typepad/battery accessory or look at the Asus Transformer T300 or Yoga Pro 3.
    -Probably no longer an issue with this Core M variant, but the i5 unit I had the fan would ramp up and it would get LOUD.

    So yeah, would definitely check this one out in person before you buy, from my testing and time spent validating multiple of these options, I would spend a bit more and go with a Surface Pro 3 i5 variant with 4GB/128GB or 8GB/256GB or one of the higher-end Surface 3 (non-Pro). Surface Pro line is probably due for an update soon anyways, I would expect to see a Core M variant replacing the low-end i3.
    Reply
  • Brett Howse - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    So just to clarify, your experience is with the older model then? Obviously this one is quiet since it is passively cooled. It's great to hear from people who have a lot of experience with these devices. Reply
  • chizow - Friday, April 17, 2015 - link

    Yeah it was the older i5 model but I figured Core M would quiet it down which is great to hear. I did also go back and read the parts of the review on the dimensions and it does look like they addressed the thickness and weight concerns somewhat, but I am not sure they've done enough to address the 2-in-1 and screen size/aspect ratio concerns.

    In any case I do laud Dell for taking a chance on this segment but like the Surface Pro line, I think more iterations and improvements are needed for this product to do well.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    We bought a bunch of these @ work. Absolute junk. Do yourself a favor and look at the Lenovo Helix. Reply
  • lilmoe - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    Mind sharing your experience? Was it performance or overall quality? Reply
  • Azurael - Thursday, April 16, 2015 - link

    Was that the previous 7130 model? They launched with a shedload of issues after receiving numerous positive reviews. The screen would freeze frequently unless panel self refresh was disabled, the touch screens would register double taps constantly, the stylus was basically useless and the SSDs got laggy over time. After several BIOS updates and firmware updates for almost every component I could imagine having updateable firmware (and not just the touch controller, but the LCD panel itself) it works great. I think Dell really dropped the ball, I assume businesses had already given up on them by that point which is good for me, because refurbs are numerous and cheap :) Reply

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