Dell Venue 11 Pro Hands-on: Who Needs a Surface 2?

The Surface 2 has serious competition from Dell. At $499, the Venue 11 Pro costs only $50 more than the Surface 2 but runs a full version of Windows 8.1 instead of just Windows RT. That means you can run Windows Store apps and desktop apps. Plus, like the new Surface, you can choose from a thinner Slim Keyboard or a beefier keyboard with a built in battery that promises up to 17 hours of battery life.

We spent some hands-on time with the Venue Pro and came away impressed with its design, but you’ll need to buy extra accessories to mine the product’s 2-in-1 potential.

MORE: Top 8 Windows Tablet-Laptop Hybrids

The Venue 11 Pro sports a full HD 10.8-inch display with IPS technology that offers wide viewing angles and rich colors. The 1.6-pound design feels somewhat hefty, but we like the soft touch finish on the back. The Surface 2 weighs a lighter 1.5 pounds, but the Surface Pro 2 weighs in at a whopping 2 pounds.

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Shoppers will be able to choose from an Intel Bay Trail CPU (2.4-GHz quad core Atom), 1.2-GHz Pentium chip and fourth-generation Core i3 and Core i5 processors. There’s also a wide range of storage options (32GB all the way up to 256GB).

The Venue 11 Pro’s Slim Keyboard (price TBD) is versatile in that it doubles as a cover with a kickstand on the back. It folds out Origami style. The keyboard itself is flat but has more tactile feel than Microsoft’s Touch Cover. This cover also has a holster for the Venue Pro 11’s active stylus (also optional).

DellVenue11Pro (14).JPG

Those looking for true notebook laptop functionality will want to step up to the $99 Dell Mobile Keyboard with integrated battery. This accessory offers much better travel than the Slim Keyboard. A separate tablet desktop dock delivers USB 3.0 ports and dual display out ports for extending your display. As far as we know, the dock for the Surface Pro 2 only supports one monitor.

DellVenue11Pro (11) 670x376

The Venue 11 Pro itself has a micro HDMI port, USB 3.0, headphone jack, as well as a microSD card reader.

It’s really hard to say whether the Venue 11 Pro will be a good alternative to the Surface Pro 2 until we know the prices of all of the accessories, as well as the prices for the versions with higher-end CPUs than Atom. We’d like to see Dell include the slim keyboard for the base price, especially since the company is marketing this as a 2-in-1 device. But at the very least the Venue 11 Pro looks to be a better value than the $50 cheaper Surface 2 with Windows RT.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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