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.
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.
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).
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.
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.