Dec 15, 2013
Continuing with my coverage of 10-11 inch Windows tablets, a quick look at the Dell Venue 11 Pro. I mentioned this tablet first in this post, and it looks like the Bay Trail version of it just started shipping. The Haswell version has been shipping a bit longer. You’ll see below that I think neither looks like a great choice.
Why My Obsession
As an aside, in case anyone is wondering why I am obsessing on lightweight 10-11 inch Windows tablets, it’s because by far most of my readers and clients are folks who use my MYN system on Windows Outlook. If you want to do that on a true tablet (iPad-sized tablets are all the rage these days), then in my mind a lightweight 10-11 inch Windows tablet is the only way to go. Any smaller and Outlook is unusable. Any larger and the unit will be too heavy to be a true tablet.
A Line of Tablets
Anyway, the Dell Venue 11 Pro is an interesting tablet. Actually, it’s a line of tablets, some with Bay Trail, some with Haswell. In other words, some compete with Surface 2 and some compete with Surface 2 Pro. The idea is that you spec the processor and storage yourself on the Dell site per your needs. Given the extra requirements of Haswell (normally a laptop chip), you’d think that would lead to a huge difference in size and weight across the line, but not really. The Venue 11 Bay Trail model is 0.4-inches thick and 1.68 pounds and the Haswell model is 0.48 inches thick and 1.75 pounds. So pretty similar.
Bay Trail Version On Heavy Side
Unfortunately, that means the Bay Trail version is quite a bit heavier than comparable tablets. It’s almost half a pound heavier than the Asus Transformer Pad T100 (or the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, though that is not yet out with Bay Trail). And an extra half pound is a big deal if you are shooting for a lightweight tablet. So this tablet with Bay Trail not my recommendation.
Read more about the Bay Trail version of this Dell here.
Surface 2 Pro Competitor?
On the other hand, if you are looking for a Surface 2 Pro competitor, the Haswell version of the Dell could be a contender since it’s smaller and lighter: the Surface Pro 2 is 0.53 inches thick and 2 pounds, so it’s quit a bit bigger. And the Dell is better priced.
Unfortunately, Dell chose a cheap pen digitizer, and various online tablet forums are full of reports saying the pen is unusable for note taking–it’s too inaccurate. Some say perhaps it’s just a driver problem or a pen-hardware problem and so are hoping maybe it will be fixed. We’ll see. Assuming not, that tells me that if you are looking for a Surface 2 Pro competitor, and want a good pen (why settle for a bad one?), the Sony VAIO Tap 11 might be a better choice. It’s similar in price, specs, and size to the Haswell version of the Dell Venue 11 Pro, but reportedly has a good pen.
Conclusion: neither version fits the bill
That means neither the Bay Trail nor Haswell version of the Dell Venue 11 Pro tablets are on my tablet buying list right now. If they fix the pen, that might change. And there reportedly are so many Bay Trail Windows tablets about to come out, the whole game is still in flux and perhaps worth waiting on. If you can’t wait, and don’t need a good pen, my recommendation for now is to get the Asus Transformer T100. It’s fast and cheap and you could sell it on eBay later when your dream tablet finally comes out.