When TechRadar Pro reviewed the original Dell Venue 11 Pro 7130 in April, we praised it for its versatility and power. The machine, which we gave a rare 4.5 out of 5 stars, stood toe-to-toe with the best enterprise tablet on the market at the time - Microsoft's Surface Pro 2.
Since that review, Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 3 (starting at $799, £495, AU$900) and Apple launched the iPad Air 2 (starting at $499, £399, AU$620), two near-perfect machines that will force enterprises to rethink whether or not to convert from laptop to tablet fleets.
Not to be undone, Dell has updated the Venue 11 Pro with a faster and lighter model capable of holding more information. The new tablet, the 10.8-inch Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140, (starting at $699, £430, AU$795) which will launch on November 11, features improved battery life and nearly inaudible fan-less performance.
Dell's enterprise devices
When you think of sexy devices for work and play, Dell probably doesn't pop into your head. The company's CEO and namesake Michael Dell, who famously proclaimed Dell "no longer a PC company" in 2012, has dramatically shifted Dell's focus from PC powerhouse to back-end enterprise solutions provider. From 2001-2006 Dell was the big dog in the PC market, with its market share hovering around 17%. Today, Dell is lucky to crack 12%.
None of these devices receives higher marks than the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 - an ideal tablet capable of outgunning the best enterprise laptops and tablets on the market.
Speed and quiet
The first thing users will notice is how much lighter the 7140 is compared to its earlier counterpart. The original model, which weighed 1.70 pounds, featured a Core i5 processor that required cooling fans to regulate temperature. The updated model, which weighs only 1.55 pounds, is packed with an Intel Core M Broadwell processor. Core M processors don't require fans, which not only reduces the heft associated with tablets, it also reduces the noise you'll hear. I tested this device for an hour and never heard a peep.
The weight reduction puts the Venue 11 Pro in rarified company among elite enterprise-capable tablets. The Surface Pro 3 and Lenovo's Yoga 3 Pro, for example, weigh-in at 1.75 and 2.6 pounds, respectively. The Venue 11 Pro doesn't even come close to being the lightest business-ready tablet on the market: the iPad Air 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 weigh in at 0.96 pounds and 1.03 pounds, respectively.
Cons and early verdict
The device, when coupled with Dell's Tablet Keyboard, can run for approximately 18 hours (nine hours for the tablet and nine hours with the accompanying keyboard). This is a dramatic improvement over the original Venue 11 Pro, which ran for a measly 3 hours and 54 minutes sans keyboard and 7 hours and 2 minutes with the keyboard. However, the new device is still neck-and-neck with the Surface Pro 3 and iPad Air 2, which feature isolated battery lives of 9 and 10 hours, respectively.
The updated Venue 11 Pro offers excellent port access for a tablet, even without the Dell Tablet Docking Station. As a standalone model, users have access to a Full USB 3.0 port, a Micro USB port, a Micro HDMI port and a Full SD card slot.
When we reviewed the 7130 in April, we weren't happy with the 2 megapixel front camera. Unfortunately, nothing has changed with the update. Because of its awful quality, the front camera should not be used for snapping pics. As our reviewer noted in April, users are best advised to use the front camera for video calls only. The 7140, like the 7130, features an 8 megapixel camera on the backside of the device, which is industry standard.
One thing we loved about the 7130 was its removable rear panel, which gave users access to a removable battery, and SSD and wireless chips. We'd never seen a feature like this prior to the 7130 … and it looks like we'll never see one again. Dell decided to scrap the removable panel. So long, do-it-yourself battery replacement. Hello, field service calls. Bad choice, Dell.
Other than these two gripes, users will absolutely love the 7140. The screen - like the 7130 - is crisp at 1920 X 1080 resolution (although it doesn't compare to the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2's 2560 X 1900 resolution).
The MaxxAudio by Waves-powered audio produces powerful volume and bass (as tested by Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance) and the touchscreen keyboard is full-width, with perfectly spaced keys that make grizzled tech journalists gleeful.
Applications respond immediately when activated, and the machine's soft-touch plastic and magnesium alloy build make it a pleasure to handle.
As with any enterprise-ready Dell device, the Venue 11 Pro 7140 comes equipped with Dell's industry-leading security tools. The 7140 features Dell's Data Protection and Encryption and Dell's Trusted Platform Module (TPM).
The Data Protection tool will help your IT department enforce encryption policies for sensitive information that lives in a system drive or in external media. TPM is ideal for businesses that are trying to fend off hackers looking to capture passwords and encryption keys, which should be top-of-mind for any business with a large digital presence.
Dell may not have surpassed the iPad Air 2 and the Surface Pro 3 in terms of quality and performance just yet. But the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140, like its predecessor, puts Dell among the highest ranks of enterprise-ready tablets. If you want something designed specifically for the business user (as opposed to the consumer-focused iPad Air 2), but you don't want to spend $100 extra bucks on the Surface Pro 3, then you can't go wrong with the Venue 11 Pro 7140.