With the Venue 11 Pro (link is a PDF file), Dell is taking a novel approach to the laptop-tablet hybrid: Let users figure out what kind of device they want.
The Venue 11 Pro is a tablet with a 10.8-inch, 1080p display, and users get to choose what kind of processor goes inside. The cheapest model, starting at $500, uses an Intel Bay Trail processor and 2 GB of RAM, which isn’t super powerful but allows for a thickness of 0.4 inches, a weight of 1.57 pounds and a 10-hour battery, according to PCWorld.
Users who want more power can choose from several Intel Haswell-based processors, up to a Core i5-4300Y, plus either 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM. The trade-off is a thicker and heavier tablet, weighing 1.76 pounds and measuring 0.6 inches thick, PCWorld reports. The Verge says that these chips will also cut the battery life down to eight hours. These configurations will probably cost more as well, though Dell isn’t talking prices yet.
The choices don’t end there. To turn the Venue 11 Pro into a laptop, users can get a “Slim Keyboard” cover, which looks a lot like the Type Cover of Microsoft’s Surface. The main difference is that the kickstand is built into the cover, rather than the tablet itself. If you want something more traditional, a “Mobile Keyboard” turns the Venue Pro 11 into a full-blown laptop that you can fold shut like a clamshell. This keyboard also has its own battery that extends the life of the device to 16 hours, according to Engadget. Dell hasn’t said what the prices will be for these accessories.
And in another nod to Microsoft‘s Surface, Dell will also sell a $100 desktop dock for the Venue 11 Pro, with dual monitor support through HDMI and DisplayPort, three USB ports and an Ethernet jack.
Other specs for the Venue 11 Pro include a minimum 32 GB of storage (or as much as 256 GB), an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front camera, a full-sized USB port, HDMI output and a microSD card slot. The battery is removable, and a pressure-sensitive stylus is optional.
I haven’t tried the Venue 11 Pro, but I’ve played around with the Surface Pro 2 at my nearest Microsoft Store, which has a pre-production unit for shoppers to try. The Surface’s design is still pretty slick, and the company has managed to cram in a more powerful processor than any of Dell’s configurations. For those reasons, it’s going to be tough for Dell to outdo Microsoft on the high end.
But for the cheaper Surface 2, Microsoft is still sticking with Windows RT, which is limited by its inability to install desktop applications. Dell has a chance to offer more power and a full version of Windows at prices that rival those of Surface. We’ll have to see how complete pricing looks when Dell releases the Venue 11 Pro in November. In any case, it’s one more option for users in search of a hybrid that’s just right.