Review: Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 is king of the 2-in-1 laptops

dell venue 11 pro 7140

Faster, skinnier, and fanless, the new version of the Dell Venue 11 Pro is a lean, mean desktop replacement


After using the Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 for two months in myriad ways -- on my desk, on the road, in front of the TV, docked, keyboard attached, tablet only, with a wireless keyboard, with two big high-res monitors -- I’m tempted to throw away my hunkering desktop machine. With performance that approaches Core i7 level and battery life that tips the charts, this little beauty packs a punch. But it isn’t cheap, in any sense of the term.

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The entry-level version ($699) comes with a respectable Intel Core M-5Y10 Broadwell  processor (with performance similar to the Core i5-4200U), 4GB of memory, 64GB solid-state drive, an excellent 10.8-inch 1,920-by-1,080 IPS touchscreen, the new Intel HD Graphics 5300 chip, 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Miracast support, the obligatory 2-megapixel front and 8-megapixel back cameras, a full-size USB 3.0 port, micro HDMI, and a microSD card slot. With 64-bit Windows 8.1 Pro installed, there’s 75GB available on the SSD. Pop in a 64GB microSD card, and you’re covered for nearly any task.

The top-end unit I tested ($1,260) came fully stroked and bored: Intel’s latest Core M-5Y71 vPro processor, running up to 2.9GHz. It’s the top-of-the-line, fifth-generation Broadwell chip, with performance better than the M-Y510, but not quite up to the Core i7-4650U. Intel’s business-friendly vPro technology enables IT management at the hardware level. There’s a TPM chip for hardware-based encryption. There’s NFC for syncing your smartphone. There’s 8GB of LPDDR3 memory and 128GB of SSD storage. There’s a good stylus, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and a battery-toting, snap-on mobile keyboard. There's also the Dell Tablet Dock with three USB 3.0 ports, an audio port, an Ethernet port, and full-size HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.

When I reviewed this unit’s predecessor last year, I gave it high marks for the eye-pleasing screen, the enterprise-class computing oomph, the keyboard options and docking station, excellent build quality, and outstanding battery life. In this incarnation, you get a considerably faster processor and graphics unit, even better battery life, the same glorious screen, and build quality second to none.

Thanks to the Broadwell chip, there’s no fan -- it isn’t necessary. Even when the Venue 11 Pro 7140 was immersed in my standard battery-life test, the cover never heated beyond warm to the touch. Running my usual give-it-hell battery test -- 70 percent screen brightness, no sound, no Wi-Fi, looping on the Windows 7 wilderness.wmv video -- the unit with attached mobile keyboard ran an unprecedented 12 hours. The tablet alone, without the battery-stuffed keyboard, ran eight hours. Even with the 1,920-by-1,080 screen running full-tilt boogie, the Broadwell chip sips power.

Like its earlier cousin, this machine has a removable back (don’t overlook the tiny Philips set screw next to the microSD card) that gives you access to the fully replaceable battery, SSD, modem, and Wi-Fi chips. You won’t find that kind of accessibility on any competing two-in-one.

The Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU can support up to 3,840-by-2,160 resolution; using the DisplayPort 1.2 port, you get 3,840 by 2,160 at full 60Hz refresh (the HDMI 1.4a port at 4K maxes out at 24Hz). I ran two monitors simultaneously at 2,560 by 1,440, using the dock, and the Venue 11 Pro kept up with typical business use -- sliding documents between screens, using browsers and spreadsheets, and displaying presentations with speaker notes.

Gaming’s a different story. Clocking site says that when running Resident Evil 5 at 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, the HD Graphics 5300 sputters out at 10.3 frames per second. I would hesitate to run resource-intensive games on the Pro 7140, but in business situations it works fine.

The screen hasn’t changed in more than a year, but that’s OK. While other manufacturers are peddling higher-res displays, the benefits of resolutions exceeding 1,920 by 1,080 on a 10.8-inch screen are arguable at best. I found the screen on the new machine as delightful as the screen on the previous model. Unfortunately, the screen is still glossy and throws off an unfortunate amount of glare.

The keyboard hasn’t changed in more than a year, and that’s good. It’s a great keyboard with sizable throw, a firm tray that takes a pounding, and solid feedback on the trackpad. While many two-in-ones feel like they’re about to tip over when the keyboard’s out, the battery in the Venue 11 Pro’s Mobile Keyboard and a subtle rise in the base when the case is open help maintain balance. You won’t have any trouble at all typing on your lap -- although, I confess, it would be nice if you could push the screen a little farther back.

If you plan to use the Venue Pro 11 7140 for business, you should count on buying the $160 Mobile Keyboard. Worthy of note: All of the Latitude and Venue peripherals built for the 10.8-inch form factor work with this machine.

If you want a bigger screen at a higher resolution -- and don’t mind the shorter battery life, the whining fan, or the price -- go for a Surface Pro 3. But for something that’s easy to toss into a bag or a backpack (with a solid keyboard that doesn’t flap in the wind), docks adroitly, and drives a big monitor, the Venue 11 Pro 7140 can’t be beat. Among two-in-ones, it gets my vote for current king of the hill.

This story, "Review: Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 is king of the 2-in-1 laptops" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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