Pairing your tablet with a keyboard sounds like a good way to turn a basic mobile device into a productivity machine. The trouble is finding a good way to prop the slate up while you're typing. Manufacturers have been trying to solve that issue, mostly with rigid hinges that don't allow you to adjust the viewing angle, or kickstands that aren't very stable on your lap.
Dell's new Venue 10 7000 – set to launch in May, with a starting price of $499 for the slate alone, or $629 with the keyboard -- offers the best solution I've seen yet. The 10.5-inch, Android-powered tablet makes clever use of a magnetic barrel hinge to securely link the device to its keyboard, creating a fully adjustable hinge with no need for a kickstand.
The barrel hinge isn't exactly a new idea. Lenovo has already produced a variety of tablets in its Yoga line that link to keyboards via a magnetic cylinder along one edge. The difference is that those slates need to be propped up by a small, flip-out kickstand, so they're highly unstable when balanced on your lap. With the Venue 10 7000, Dell has produced a tablet with a strong enough magnetic connection to its keyboard – and good enough balance between tablet and keyboard – to eliminate those stability issues.
Keyboard aside, the Venue 10 7000 is an impressive piece of hardware. The slate has a sharp 2560 x 1600-pixel OLED display and is powered by a zippy Intel Atom processor with 2GB of RAM. If it performs like its smaller sibling, the Venue 8 7000, you can expect fast performance. And since the barrel hinge conceals a beefy battery, it should provide impressive battery life.
While Android may not seem like the ideal operating system for work, Dell is packing in some software extras to entice business users. The slate comes with Android for Work enabled, which creates separate profiles for home and work, ensuring that work files stay private. Dell is also including Microsoft's Office for Android apps, including full mobile versions of Excel, Word and PowerPoint, to help you stay productive on the go.
The Venue 10 7000 is powered by Android 5.0 Lollipop, the latest version of Google's mobile-operating system, which has some nice perks for business users. Those include new security features such as automatic data encryption, plus new ways to manage and respond to incoming alerts and notifications.
Dell's tablet looks luxurious, but it will face some stiff competition next month from the Microsoft's Surface 3 – a more affordable, slightly smaller version of the Surface Pro 3 model – which offers similar performance, a keyboard dock and better stylus support than the Venue 10 7000, at the same price point.