Dell is betting big on the future of the Windows tablet with the recent announcement of the Dell Venue 11 Pro and the Venue 8 Pro. At the announcement event, I had some brief hands-on time with the Venue 11 Pro, and I came away intrigued by the new tablet.
The Dell Venue 11 Pro is moving in on Microsoft's territory with a Windows 8.1 tablet built to rival the Surface Pro 2, complete with a bunch of accessories.
The Dell Venue 11 Pro boasts a wide range of processing options, from a fourth-generation Intel Atom (Bay Trail) processor up to Intel Core i3 and Core i5 options. That processor selection means that you'll be able to get the Venue 11 Pro's features and accessories whether you want an affordable tablet for watching videos and browsing the web, or a potent tablet PC that can be used for school or work. A third option is a business-focused model equipped with enhanced security tools, like firmware TPM and Dell Data Protection and Encryption Security for business users.
Storage is available in several capacities, with 32, 64, 128, or 256GB options, with a microSD card slot supporting up to 64GB of additional storage. The tablet is also equipped with several wireless option, including 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Near Field Communication (NFC).
For traditional wired peripherals and drives, however, there is a full-size USB 3.0 port, a microHDMI port, and a combination headphone and microphone jack. The 10.8in display features a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution with 10-finger capacitive touch, letting you make the most of Windows 8.1 and enjoy your media in 1080p.
In our short time with the tablet, its design seemed fairly well built, though it lacked the luxurious feel of magnesium found on the Surface Pro 2. The real draw of the tablet, however, is the flexibility to be used as a desktop or laptop PC with a few simple accessories. A desktop dock provides a simple stand for the tablet, connecting with a hinged docking port that lets the tablet plug straight in and then recline at an angle for more comfortable viewing.
The desktop dock features an array of ports (USB, HDMI, headphone, and power connections) and lets you easily connect several accessories and peripherals – like a monitor, keyboard, and mouse – for use as a work machine, then easily detach from all these devices without hassle for after-hours play.
A docking keyboard offers laptop-style usability, with a full-size chiclet keyboard, wide trackpad, and a secondary battery that stretches the on-the-go battery life from most of the day to all day – up to 18 hours, according to Dell.
Last, but far from least, there is a portfolio cover that features a folding magnetic stand and a slim keyboard, similar to the Microsoft Surface TypeCover. The keys provide slight but noticeable tactile feedback for more comfortable typing, and the keyboard is slim enough to serve as a screen cover when not in use.
Even with all the hardware and accessory options, the most impressive feature may be the price. The Dell Venue 11 Pro starts at £419 and is set to go on sale on 7 November.