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Dell Venue 11 Pro Shows Promise of Broadwell Tablets

About two months ago, I purchased a Dell Venue 11 Pro model 7130, when I read that it featured a Broadwell “M” class CPU in a compact 11″ format. By the time all was said and done I spent around $1,300 to get a tablet with an Intel i5-4210Y (1.5 GHz) processor, 8GB RAM, a 10.8″ IPS 1920×1080 touch display, and a 256 GB SSD with a snap-in external keyboard with rotating hinge that essentially turns the tablet into a small format notebook PC. The unit includes no additional ports on the keyboard deck, but that deck does add an extra battery that doubles battery life from a respectable 5-7 hours depending on usage patterns, to a device that easily delivers 10 or more hours of battery for all-day use — on my unit BatteryBar Pro rates total battery life at 12:06 with both batteries, and at 6:01 with the internal battery only.

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The matt-finish plastic backing on the unit is non-slip, resists fingerprints, and feels good in the hand.

The tablet itself offers a single USB 3.0 port, headphone/microphone combo jack, and a mini HDMI jack. Near Field Communications (NFC) circuitry comes standard, and the networking interface is a Dell 1537 802.11 a/g/n adapter. There’s also a micro SD slot that accommodates SDXC memory cards (I’ve tested it with a 128 GB unit and it works fine; I’m using a 64 GB SanDisk unit in that slot at the moment because I don’t really need that much extra storage). The rear deck is easily removable, and provides access to the NIC, an unoccupied WWAN slot (for which both 3G/HSPA+ and LTE/HSPA/EVDO options are available), and the removable battery (you can buy spares, and swap them easily in the field to literally buy extra battery life without buying the keyboard dock).

Total weight of the tablet is 796g/1 lb 12 oz by itself, and the keyboard/battery unit weighs 670g/just under 1 lb 8 oz, for a combined weight of 1466g/3lb 4 oz. Overall it’s pretty portable, fairly friendly in the hand, solidly constructed, and user friendly. I’m running Windows 10 on it and except for some issues with sleep (losing network connectivity, occasional loss of keyboard/touchpad upon wake or after removal/reinsertion when the tablet is running) it works like a champ.

So far, I’ve used it as a light-duty general purpose PC (surfing the net, reading e-mail, light writing activity) and also as a personal entertainment PC (watching TV/movies, reading books, playing low-grade Web-based games). It seems to function pretty darn well in either role, and it makes for dandy in-bed viewing and reading, with 3-4 hours of battery life while binge-watching The Wire on Amazon Prime lately, and up to 5 hours when using the Kindle Reader. I learned all this from actual experience over the holiday break while laid up with a nasty sinus infection, which is perhaps not the recommended way to gain such experience.

Now that I’ve lived with the unit long enough to get familiar with it, I find it a much better value than the Fujitsu Q704 i7 tablet I bought at the beginning of 2014, and perhaps even a better deal and user experience that the i7 Surface Pro 3 that replaced the Q704 in September/October of 2014. It’s not as fast, nor can it run as many applications simultaneously, but I don’t really benefit much from that capability on a 10.8″ screen anyway. The only time I really notice the lesser performance of the i5 is when I remote into the machine from my production desktop to try to exercise its capabilities more thoroughly. Methinks this is not something most users will be interested in doing. I find the Venue 11 Pro to represent a good set of price/performance tradeoffs, though I would like it even more if the rig as it stands cost $1,000 instead of the $1,292.48 I just found on the Dell invoice for this unit (including 8.25% sales tax). Nevertheless, the Venue 11 Pro is well worth checking out, and for many personal and business users, probably also worth owning.

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