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Dell Venue 10 Pro review

Hot on the heels of the disappointing Acer switch 10 I bought this one. The Acer was an ok device but it felt sluggish and the keyboard had a nasty bug that it dropped the first character every time it woke up. I also hated the Acer keyboard layout.

To frame this review, I am working at finding a Windows replacement for my Android Asus TF701. That’s a tall order. The TF701 is an excellent device. Fast, instant on, great battery life, high resolution, very usable keyboard but it has one HUGE limitation. Android. Web sites that don’t display right, constantly getting the modile version of the site, no decent Microsoft Office solution, clumsy multi tasking, clumsy cut and paste as well as RDP issues etc left me wanting to return to Windows. The fact that I could live on Android as long as I did as my main device speaks volumes of either my patience or how far Android has come. And those that know me know the possibility of it being my patience is slim to none and slim left the building a long time ago 🙂 Moving on …

Honestly I don’t need a Windows tablet. Windows actually sucks (IMHO) as a tablet OS. The OS itself is not great as a touch interface (outside of Metro) and the apps are even worse. Metro is awkward, and the onscreen keyboard could not have been implemented worse if they tried (and I am sure they did). What I really wanted was an Atom powered netbook with 2-4G of memory, an SSD and a touch screen, reasonably priced. Believe it or not one does not exist. And so I saw this one. It is very similarly designed to the Acer switch.

Specs
Intel Atom Processor Z3735F (2M Cache, up to 1.83 GHz)
2GB DDR3L-RS
64GB SSD (mine is a hynix hcg8e emmc)
10.1 inch 1920×1200 IPS Multitouch Display with Wacom active stylus digitizer
Broadcom AH691A-2×2 (802.11 a/b/g/n)
optional keyboard

Dimensions
279.8 X 10.75 X 176.4 mm 437g

Port wise there is microHDMI, microSD, microUSB (for charging and USB OTG), full size USB 2.0 (according to the docs), 3.5mm audio jack, volume up/down, and a a windows key on the side of the display

The tablet itself is kind of square around the edges. Not sharp like the Acer Switch but square none the less. There is an almost rubber feet to the edges. The tablet feels solidly built in spite of being very plasticy.

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The optional keyboard has no ports whatsoever and does not have a secondary battery. It’s a keyboard and a keyboard only. The keyboard has good feel and all the keys are where they belong, however as is common with Windows 8 machines the keyboard has delegated the standard PF keys to alternate functions and requires a FN key to be a PF key. Something I’d love to find a way to turn off. I prefer it the other way around.

It has a multi touch enabled touch pad. There are quick keys to disable the touchpad, yay! The tablet can be put forward or backwards to the keyboard to allow you to have a number of orientations. The hinge can be bent right back allowing the keyboard to be attached and facing the back of the tablet in what Dell call clamshell. The hinge itself is stiff. So stiff in fact that it flexes the connection between the tablet and keyboard to the point that the contacts between the keyboard/tablet would connect and disconnect. The bottom of the keyboard has a sharp rubber piece that works well at keeping the tablet in place on hard surfaces but is uncomfortable on the lap. So much so that it left impressions on my leg. If I was to keep the keyboard I’d find a way to remove these.
hinge

The latches that hold the keyboard in place have a click that locks it in place but all in all the feeling is not great. As great as the keyboard is to type on, it really is poorly designed. The tablet literally wobbles in the keyboard so much that it connects and disconnects from the tablet. I had the keyboard replaced under warranty and the next one was as bad or worse.

There are suppose to be LTE versions but if there are in the Canadian web site I can’t find them

venue-8.1
The 64G SSD is reasonably quick at 66.2 and 81.6 MB/s (write/read), Vs 47/93 for the Acer Switch 10, and 25/46 for the Asus Vivotab Note 8.
As always the SSD provides quick start up and resume as well as good swapping. SSDs are the way to go!

The hi-res display is a huge step forward from the ubiquitous 1366Ă—768 you see on so many other devices in this category. Puts the device a step above the crowd.

The charger is a standard micro USB with 5V 2A or 10 watts. One of the challenges with using a standard microUSB charger is slow charging. Convenience comes with a cost. This one charged the device 65% in a little over 4 hours for a projected full charge from dead in 6.4 hours.

Connected standy numbers are pretty good. In just under 10 hours it dropped 13% or 1.32%/hr with the keyboard connected and down 6% in just over 14 hours for 0.42% per hour. It compares well to past tablets but of course below Microsoft requirements which say “Connected Standby systems must drain less than 5% of system battery capacity over a 16-hour idle period” (0.3%/hr). Worked reasonably hard typing this article, general surfing etc the battery dropped 51% (on Win 10) in 3.5 hours which would project out to almost 6 hours battery life.

The microUSB charge port as mentioned above can be a USB OTG port for use as a second USB port. The full size USB port is indeed only USB 2 (as it says in the docs). I wish it was USB 3. The microHDMI port is (for me) a must.

Overall responsiveness of the system is excellent including exceptionally fast resume.

I tried repeatedly using the keyboard to get into the EFI bios only to discover the only way to do it was to use an external keyboard and press F2 (or press the power and volume down button. Booting from an external USB device also required an external keyboard and F12. Odd that the optional keyboard doesn’t get paid attention to.

The tablet has a Wacom digitizer. I tried my passive pens from my Samsung Notes and they were completely ignored. The pen Dell sells is an active stylus. I also tried an active pen from a Microsoft Surface 3 and it too was ignored. Eventually I gave in and bought the Dell pen and it works well feels nice in the hand is a very pleasant writing experience. At 10″ I am not going to be lugging the tablet around a whole lot to take notes when I have 8″ tablets but it is an option and I can see uses for it. Like students.

Overall software load is light which is great. The 64G SSD leaves lots of space (about 40G free). I was able to partition the hard drive and load Windows 10 32 bit preview. I had to manually load all the Windows 8 drivers from the Dell web site to get the system usable (touch screen didn’t work, video was jerky and numerous devices not detected etc). Win 10 runs well on this device and is a huge step forward from Win8. A lot of the clumsiness I always find with Win 8 is much improved on Win 10. I can’t wait to see the final version.

In the end, like the Acer Dell have failed to properly design the interface between to the keyboard and tablet. A shame really. It was a nice device. I contacted Dell and returned it for a full refund. If their design dept get’s a knock, their customer service get’s full marks!

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April 20, 2015 - Posted by | Windows tablets

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