With everyone kvetching about its controversial interface, one thing Windows 8 perhaps hasn’t gotten enough credit for is its efficient performance on lesser hardware. Windows devices used to demand much more CPU horsepower and memory, and hence higher prices, than Android. Today, only $70 separates Dell’s Android-based Venue 8 tablet ($229) from the Windows Venue 8 Pro ($299), each with an Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM.
Granted, the two slates don’t use the same Atom processor—the Venue 8 packs an older “Clover Trail” chip, while the Venue 8 Pro features the faster “Bay Trail” iteration of the Atom. The latter offers performance that, while not in the same league, is at least worthy of discussing in the same sentence as Intel’s Core laptop CPUs.
That makes Dell’s flagship tablet, the Venue 11 Pro reviewed here, particularly interesting. Aside from its larger 10.8-inch, full HD screen, our $499 test unit’s “Bay Trail” Atom and 2GB of RAM make it resemble the Venue 8 Pro. But if you crave a truly laptop-class computing experience, you can get a Venue 11 Pro with a Core i3 ($799) or Core i5 ($849) processor. Those models come with 4GB of memory and 128GB of solid-state storage, double the amounts of our “Bay Trail” version.
Whichever Venue 11 Pro version you choose, Dell offers some handy optional peripherals, such as a detachable keyboard that turns the tablet into a de facto laptop and a docking station that, when teamed with your own keyboard and mouse, lets you use the slate as a desktop PC.
From left to right, the Venue 11 Pro’s three operating modes—desktop, laptop, and tablet. The first two require optional docking add-ons, and the stylus for the third is optional as well.
An advantage of purchasing the Atom-based model over one of the Core tablets is that the former comes with a fully licensed copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote). That’s a $139 value.
However, as we noted in our review of the Lenovo Miix 2 8, there’s a disadvantage to purchasing a current Atom tablet, as well: Today’s “Bay Trail” Atoms ship with 32-bit, not 64-bit, Windows 8.1 and can’t access more than 4GB of RAM (the reason devices using them typically come with just 2GB). Heavyweight apps like Autodesk’s 3D Max or some in Adobe’s Creative Suite CS6 collection need more memory than that to execute some processes successfully. Intel is due to ship 64-bit Atoms soon—HP has already announced it’ll offer a tablet with one, the ElitePad 1000, in March. So shoppers who want to run such potent programs may wish to wait.
But who wants to run high-end multimedia editing applications on a tablet? The “Bay Trail” Venue 11 Pro is perfectly fine for productivity work and enjoying your multimedia collection, especially considering that you can turn it into a relatively well-performing laptop with the add-on keyboard—and if you do require sumo-sized content creation apps, you can buy the Core i3 or Core i5 version, something you can’t do with the Venue 8 Pro or Miix 2 8. That makes the Venue 11 Pro a viable alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2.
We suspect, however, that you probably don’t need to run high-end 64-bit programs. And in that case, we suggest that you put this Venue on your short list.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.