Dell's Venue 11 Pro is the first Atom-powered computer that I can picture as a replacement for my current laptop. With its two optional accessories, this 10.8-inch tablet can transform into either a small notebook or a diminutive all-in-one PC. The two-day battery life — with the optional keyboard dock — is amazing. But I do wish it had more memory and storage.
The model reviewed here is powered by an Intel Atom Z3770 processor (Bay Trail class) paired with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD. Most of the tablets I've had my hands on recently are based on the Atom Z3740, and the bump up to the Z3770 seems to make a difference. This might be more perception than reality: The Venue 11 Pro's WorldBench scores are only modestly higher than what Asus's Z3740-powered Transformer Book T100 delivered. Still, with the Venue 11 Pro, I felt like I wasn't waiting as long for things to happen.
Video-game performance isn't counted as part of the WorldBench 9 score either, but I just had to see if the Venue 11 Pro could run Sims 3 (my guilty pleasure). Most Atom tablets will launch the game, but frame rates are frustratingly slow, and background calculations bog down the gameplay even more. To my delight (and the delay of finishing this review), the game ran smoothly at medium settings.
Atom-based tablets are typically saddled with lower-resolution screens (1280 by 800 being the most common). To its credit, Dell outfits the Venue 11 Pro with a full 1080p panel. Netflix movies look great on this device, and Windows 8's modern UI and apps scale nicely. The text in Chrome looked a little fuzzy, though.
The entry-level Venue 11 Pro is outfitted with just 2GB of DDR3/1066 memory and 64GB of storage. While the norm among cheaper tablets is just 32GB, 64GB still doesn't quite suffice if this were to be my only computer. You do have options, of course: You can supplement with a microSD card, store data in the cloud, or use something like SanDisk's clever Ultra Dual USB Drive. Two gigs of RAM, on the other hand, is a limitation that can't be mitigated. Each time I ended a session of Sims 3, a notice on the desktop informed me I was running out of memory.
Still, 11 inches is a lot of tablet. You'll need both hands to hold it in tablet mode, but the improved readability of the large, high-res screen fully justifies the 1.57-pound weight, especially when you're looking at it from a desktop or in your lap.
The touch screen is responsive for navigation, but it registered double taps with annoying frequency when I used its on-screen keyboard. The $160 keyboard is an essential accessory for writing longer emails and documents — in fact, that's how I used the Venue 11 Pro most of the time.
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